Veterans’ House Cenotaph Project Campaign
Overview. Canada’s veterans are seeking our support for the erection of a cenotaph at Veterans’ House Ottawa located in the city’s downtown core. This cenotaph will allow the tenants, regardless of creed, gender, race or ethnicity, to find spiritual comfort and opportunities to commemorate their legacy. The Knights of Columbus in Ontario have a proud legacy of supporting our military during wartime through the Canadian Catholic Army Huts during the Great War, the Canadian Army Huts during the Second World War and now, during peacetime, with the cenotaph at a veterans’ homeless shelter in Ottawa. The completion of this project will coincide with the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus in Ontario in the Spring of 2025. Lest we forget!
Help a Veteran
State Deputy Bruce Poulin is a disabled veteran who retired from the Canadian military after 22 years of service to his country. After retiring from the military, Bruce worked for Canada’s largest veterans based not-for-profit organization where, among other tasks, he helped veterans with their disability application(s) as a result of their military service.
Perhaps the greatest challenged he faced, while working as a Service Officer, was seeking compensation for homeless veterans who, by their very nature, were transient and hard to reach and help.
Many may find it tempting to simplify the complicated things in life. This is especially true when it comes to Canada’s homeless veterans. Like most other homeless Canadians, homeless veterans suffered from poverty; a lack of affordable housing; job loss or instability; health problems; and family and marital breakdowns. To make matters worse, homeless veterans are more likely to self-medicate and become very isolated and transient as they tried to deal with the sudden loss of their military community support system while trying to adapt to a largely foreign civilian life. In other words, they find themselves stuck in an invisible prison trying to fight the additional demons of addiction by themselves.
In March 2021, Poulin read accounts of an organization called Veterans’ House in Ottawa that had opened for business on February 1, 2021. Veterans House Ottawa is an example of responding to the needs of the veterans’ homeless community. It is part of a much larger Veterans’ House Canada initiative to build permanent residences, with supportive programs, to assist a significant proportion of the 3,000 – 5,000 homeless veterans in need across Canada. Based on need and local support, cities under consideration include Halifax, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.
“In March 2021, Poulin read accounts of an organization called Veterans’ House in Ottawa that had opened for business on February 1, 2021.”
Its staff members were dedicated to helping homeless veterans recover and re-integrate into society by providing temporary shelter so that they may access the social services they need to get better. “How could we help with that” Bruce asked himself.
After all, Bruce reasoned, the Knights of Columbus in Ontario have a proud legacy of supporting military members during wartime. Why not during peacetime? Indeed, the Knights of Columbus already had a proud legacy of supporting our troops. More specifically:
- Great War (1914-18): The Ontario Knights of Columbus initiated the Canadian Catholic Army Huts program. It responded to the need for spiritual and recreational comforts expressed by member of the Knights of Columbus in Ottawa, Major Father Michael J. O’Gorman of behalf of Catholic military chaplains and the Catholic military men and women deployed overseas.
- Second World War (1939-45): Building on its success during the Great War, the Knights of Columbus in Ontario took a leading role in partnering with the Canadian government and four other not-for-profit societies to establish the Canadian Army Huts program in 1940.
After consultation with the Executive Director of Veterans House Ottawa, Suzanne Le, it was agreed that the greatest need that the Knights could help with was the erection of a cenotaph co-located with the homeless residents. Since then, our relationship with Suzanne has been invaluable.
The State Board approved the project in September 2021 and work has begun at the site. Notwithstanding COVID-19 restrictions, the completion of this project will coincide with the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus in Ontario in the Spring of 2025. The current forecasted budget for this project is $75,000. Lest we forget!
This cenotaph will allow the tenants, regardless of creed, gender, race, or ethnicity, to find spiritual comfort and opportunities to commemorate their legacy.
Seen from this perspective, on Monday, June 21, 2021, Bruce held a virtual meeting with the Executive Director of Veterans House Ottawa, Suzanne Le, and the fundraising development Chairman, Sheldon Leong, also of Veterans’ House Ottawa, to discuss opportunities to help. The aim was to reconnect the Knights of Columbus with members of the Canadian military and revive the motto: “Everyone Welcome, Everything Free.”
In that effort, Bruce noticed that the current plan for the shelter did not include a monument to allow military members in residence to commemorate wars, peace support operations, or military service in general. So, Bruce suggested erecting a cenotaph on the site. Suzanne readily agreed pointing out that the local community did not have a memorial or a cenotaph of their own and most of the homeless veterans did not have any personal means of transportation to visit a memorial or a cenotaph.
Bruce approached the State Board officers in September 2021 and the project to erect a cenotaph at the Veterans’ House in Ottawa with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony planned for April 24, 2025. The ceremony would coincide with the 125th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus in Ontario. The project was endorsed unanimously.