OTTAWA — I have gotten into a routine thrice weekly, when I go to a regular appointment in the downtown core of our nation’s capital. Every time, I’m reminded of some small, and some mighty pieces of Canada’s history that stand tall in this beautiful city.
First, I stop at the Château Laurier Hotel, just above the entrance to the Byward Market, and admire the statue of Yousuf Karsh, the great Canadian portrait photographer who made the landmark hotel his home for decades. Inside the hotel are many examples of his world-famous portraits, including the World War II portrait of Sir Winston Churchill, taken steps away in the Parliament Buildings.
I love this statue, and its quirkiness — the top part of Karsh’s body is composed of an old box camera.
Then, when I turn down Elgin St., I spot a tribute to legendary Canadian jazzman Oscar Peterson — a larger-than-life statue of Peterson sitting at his famed piano. Recordings of his classical jazz renditions play continuously on one corner of the National Arts Centre.
Above: The Queen, Terry Fox and hockey legend Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, all honoured with statues in the capital.
From my personal experience, visitors to Ottawa seem to congregate around certain unheralded statues, such as those mentioned, which don’t normally appear in guide books. And they are all located close enough to each other that you can easily visit them by bike or on foot.
For instance, in front of the Parliament Buildings, statues of both Sir Galahad and Terry Fox stand guard near the main gates.
Sir Galahad, the chivalrous Medieval knight, honours Henry Harper, a young man who drowned in 1901 trying to rescue a local girl.
Terry Fox needs no explanation — people around the world honour him in annual charity runs for cancer research. I have been brought to tears as people I’ve met abroad recounted Terry’s exploits.
On west Wellington St., I pass the Supreme Court of Canada and stop at the neighbouring National Archives. On the front steps of that impressive building, sitting on a bench, is a beloved statue of two young lovers that has become a favourite with locals, who have been known to borrow it from time to time.
Thankfully, it’s always returned to its rightful place.
Heading west across Du Portage Bridge or Booth St., I find even more statues on the Québec side of the Ottawa River, in Gatineau.
Just kiddie corner to the Canadian Museum of History is the kind of statue you’re likely only to find in Canada — hockey legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard in full flight, hair and hockey sweater trailing behind.
As I cross the old Alexander Bridge back to Ottawa, I stop and take a photo of the Parliament Buildings. That’s right, the best photos of Ottawa’s national landmark are from the Québec side.
You’ll know you’re back in Ottawa when you see throngs of visitors grouped around Louise Bourgeois’ giant spider sculpture, which stands in front of the National Art Gallery and draws lots of attention from visitors around the world.
Above: Statue left honours those who fought for women's rights, while spider statue stands outside National Art Gallery.
Down Sussex Dr., towards the Prime Minister’s official residence, a modest statue to John McCrea, author of the stirring wartime poem ‘In Flanders Field’ is located just before the Rideau Falls. I take a break and observe the falls from atop (most visitors only see the falls from afar by boat on the Ottawa River).
Standing between the two buildings where Canada’s Global Affairs ministry is headquartered, resides one of my favourite statues — a massive slab of rock configured in the form of the hills surrounding Hong Kong. Here, the many Canadian soldiers who died protecting Hong Kong in World War II are remembered.
Where better to find a statue of the Queen than Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada’s Governor General, Her Majesty’s representative in Canada.
The Queen looks regal perched atop one of her favourite horses and the two have become the focal point of a tiny traffic roundabout that sits just in front of the main gates to Rideau Hall.
Back on Elgin St., is Ottawa’s most unique statue — a dog and horse in Confederation Park, near Ottawa’s City Hall. The animals’ sacrifices in war are commemorated in these impressive works.
Heading back up to Wellington St., I face two options: Just before I reach Parliament Hill, I can branch west to the entrance of the Sparks St. pedestrian mall where hockey fans like me delight in walking through a huge stylized version of Lord Stanley’s famous Cup. Or, I can head east at the end of Elgin St. towards the Bytown Market, where, next to the temporary home of the Canadian Senate, I can admire a statue of the Famous Five — social justice pioneers Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards — who created a petition to have women considered legally as a person, so that females could be appointed to the Senate.
Every day is a “statue-tory" holiday in Ottawa.
Above: Famed Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh is honoured left, while two lover's statue steals the show.