Plaque honouring war veterans covered by dirt

Commemorative tree removed during Confederation Building renovations

Published on July 4, 2014
A plaque commemorating a tree planting honouring veterans at Confederation Building was recently found covered with gravel, with no tree nearby.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Nine years ago, in celebration of the Year of the Veteran and to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Tom Marshall stood at the corner of Confederation Building for a special tree planting.

Marshall — then minister of justice, attorney general and minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs — stood alongside veterans and other dignitaries, and spoke of honouring veterans.

“On behalf of the grateful citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador,” read the granite plaque laid next to the red maple tree. “May their sacrifices ever be remembered.”

Earlier this week, as the public gathered for July 1 celebrations nearby, the same plaque lay almost completely hidden, covered in rubble in what’s now a construction site. Only a mud-caked dent remained where the tree was planted, next to piles of building supplies.

Noticing the corner of the plaque and having brushed away the rocks and dirt to read it, The Telegram contacted the provincial government to ask what happened.

After asking for directions to the plaque, a representative from the Department of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs connected The Telegram with the Department of Transportation and Works.

“Unfortunately, the tree got damaged during the construction (on the front of Confederation Building) and had to be removed,” explained Minister Nick McGrath, adding the government is working with Pippy Park staff to keep track of trees affected by the ongoing renovation work. “What we’ll do, once they finish the reconstruction in the area, because there’s still quite a bit of construction happening, is we’ll replace (it).

“Unfortunately, it won’t be the original tree that was there, but it will be a red maple.”

When it comes to the plaque, McGrath said it’s one of many commemorative monuments in the area.

“The plaque was wrapped with protective wrapping, and the elements just happened to take that wrapping off it,” he said. “We’re going to make sure now that it’s wrapped again.

“Needless to say, as a government, we are very, very proud of what our veterans have done for us within the World Wars and wars since, and we have memories there and commemorations such as that red maple to honour what they have done for us. It’s very unfortunate that the tree was damaged, but we will be putting back a red maple in the original place.”

When contacted, a spokesman for the local Royal Canadian Legion said he preferred to speak to the government about the situation with the plaque and tree before commenting to The Telegram.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury