In celebration of 70 years of Canadian-Greek diplomatic relations, the Canadian Embassy on Saturday inaugurated the "Park of Canada" in Thessaloniki. The park, located at the intersection of the city's Aghia Sofia and Mackenzie King streets, features an Inuit sculpture and a memorial to Mackenzie King, the prime minister of Canada during the Second World War and a noted philhellene. Funds for the sculpture and memorial were provided by the Embassy of Canada and McCain Foods, a Canadian company.
Ties between Canada and Greece's second-biggest city have been historically strong. As German troops closed in on Thessaloniki in 1941, Prime Minister King relayed his support for the Greek cause: “When the birthplace of the finest civilization the world ever experienced, the country to which we owe what makes life superior and more beautiful, faces such an attack, the place of all real people is by her side.” Canadian contributions were critical to the Greek War Relief Fund in the years 1942-1945.
Relations have remained strong since the Second World War. Today Thessaloniki and Ottawa are sister cities and direct flights between Thessaloniki and a handful of Canadian cities are expected to commence in the near future.
According to Konstantinos Zervas, Thessaloniki's deputy mayor for quality of life, “we have collaborated with another country that is a friend and with a twinned city, to enhance another corner of our country. These collaborative actions underline the outward-looking character of Thessaloniki and honor cities and countries that have been our friends throughout history and with whom we share strong ties.”
The highlight of the ceremony was the unveiling of the park's "Inukshuk" sculpture, the work of Greek architect Giorgos Pavlidis. "Inukshuk" means "in the form of a human" in Inuit, the language of an indigenous Canadian culture.
Inuit sculptures were traditionally erected to mark the spot of hunting grounds and places of worship.
The arm of Pavilidis's statue is symbolically pointed toward Ottawa.
"The inauguration of the 'Park of Canada' underscores the solidarity and friendship between Canadians and Greeks during World War II, a friendship that remains strong until today," adds Canadian Ambassador Robert W. Peck.