New hope for monument in Turkey to complete trail of the caribou

1 / 2
New hope for monument in Turkey to complete trail of the caribou

There's new hope that the first place the Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought in the First World War will finally be the last place to see a caribou statue.

Internal provincial government briefing notes obtained by CBC show the idea might not be dead.

In 2015 the provincial government yanked funding to add a bronze statue at the Gallipoli site because Turkey said it wouldn't allow it.

Turkey argued there were too many monuments already in the small area, which is also a significant site in the birthplace of modern Turkey.

In May, Turkey's ambassador to Canada, Selcuk Unal, wrote the premier to say that space for a caribou monument would be set aside in a new peace park, according to a ministerial briefing note obtained through access to information.

In return Turkey wants to place a monument in this province.

The province notes that since the attempted coup in Turkey and the subsequent crackdown there's been no correspondence about the monument.

Ron Penney heads the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Committee, and met Unal several months ago to discuss the project.

"He's quite hopeful and he's been very supportive of the regiment," Penny told CBC in an interview.

Penney was told the peace park is still under consideration and hasn't been approved or rejected.

Similar caribou statues already exist at other First World War battle sites across Europe, including Beaumont Hamel.

Another identical caribou sits in Bowring Park in St. John's to commemorate the sacrifice made during the war.

'It's the final element'

Gallipoli holds special significance.

"It was our first engagement during the war, and our first loss of life, and the first battle in which we won battle honours, medals and so on for our troops," said Penney.

For Penney, the quest to complete the Trail of the Caribou is a personal one.

He has four great-uncles who fought in the war; one served at Gallipoli and was later killed in Beaumont Hamel.

"It's the final element in our commemorations of the First World War, which is so important to Newfoundland," he said.

The provincial government no longer has the money budgeted for a statue, but Penney says that obstacle will be much easier to overcome.

"I'm quite confident that if we do get permission from the government of Turkey to have a monument that we'll be able to find the funding privately," he said