‘Moments of catharsis’: Edmonton to create COVID-19 memorial

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The City of Edmonton is taking steps to remember lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic with a memorial it hopes will help the city heal.

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At a Saturday news conference in Edmonton City Hall, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi announced the city’s plans to create a permanent COVID-19 memorial in Edmonton.

“We have a duty to uphold the memory of those who have sacrificed so much, and to the hundreds of Edmontonians who lost their lives to COVID,” Sohi said, adding that while the pandemic is ongoing, the city can still begin to heal from trauma experienced over the past two years. “There are many things we can’t control with this disease, but what we can control is how we move forward together.”

The city is working with the Edmonton Arts Council to commission an artist or group of artists to create the memorial, while funding for the project will come from a public art reserve managed by the council, the mayor added.

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“This monument will serve as a public acknowledgement of the collective grief and loss, but it will also remind us of the enduring courage and the resilience of our communities,” Sohi said.

The Edmonton Arts Council doesn’t have a timeline or location for the project yet, executive director Sanjay Shahani told media after the announcement, since the council is still ironing out the details. The commissioning process is intended to give artists time to come up with something original as opposed to an assignment that might curb creativity, he added, and there is no desire to rush the project.

“We don’t want to tell the artist what to do,” Shahani explained. “What we do best is give freedom to the artist to actually imagine what the monument will be about.”

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However, he added, the council will be looking for a concept that brings the city together and helps residents remember what they’ve lost while looking forward to the future.

“Which, hopefully will be a future without something so devastating like COVID,” he said. “A future where we can come together and celebrate who we are in all our diversity as a city.”

The impetus for the project came out of a need to pay tribute to the loved ones Edmontonians lost to the disease, Sohi told media after his speech. In addition to the memorial, the city is also planning a vigil this summer to give residents time and space to find closure.

According to the Alberta government’s latest update, more than 1,570 people in the Edmonton zone with COVID-19 have died since the novel coronavirus arrived in the province.

“It is only a first step on our journey out of the pandemic,” Sohi said, “but I’m glad that we have begun to create more moments of catharsis.”



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