Since the publication here on June 2 of “Mother of a Monument,” three things have happened that could signal the death of the private project to erect a giant war memorial at Green Cove in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia. Nicknamed “Mother Canada,” construction of the memorial, including an enormous statue of a draped female figure with arms outstretched toward the North Atlantic Ocean and supposedly Europe, is scheduled to begin this fall. The project is now in doubt, in part because of three developments in this story over the past two months.
1. Name Shame
The NFNM (Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation) proponents behind the Green Cove memorial created an elaborate site plan with many components, but the centerpiece is to be the giant Mother Canada figure. NFNM went so far as to trademark the name “Mother Canada” for use on memorabilia they’ll sell in the gift shop at the site. But the “Mother Canada” name is already taken, according to a spokesperson for the Vimy Foundation, and Vimy wants NFNM to stop using it.
There’s an important anniversary approaching; 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the WWI victory by Canadian troops at Vimy Ridge in France at the cost of over 10,000 Canadian casualties. The Vimy Foundation is concerned that the Green Cove statue will create confusion about which Ma Canada is which. Vimy supporters also worry that the public outrage against the Green Cove project that appears to be growing steadily could dampen interest in both the original “Mother Canada” at Vimy and the upcoming anniversary.
When the Vimy Foundation contacted the NFNM Foundation to request they not use the “Mother Canada” name, NFNM replied through their lawyers, saying they would do no such thing. Completion of the Green Cove memorial is slated for 2017. The dust up between the two memorial foundations has prompted Vimy to promise an advertising campaign meant to set the record straight.
2. Abandoning Ship
The heated controversy over the Green Cove memorial has driven off at least four prominent supporters in the past two months, starting with three of Canada’s best known journalists. Peter Mansbridge, anchor of CBC’s The National announced on July 6 that he had removed his name from the list on Honourary Patrons of the project. In an internal email, Mansbridge said, “I decided you can’t cover a controversy by being in one. It’s become a widespread controversy now.”
Lisa LaFlamme, senior editor of CTV National News, and former CTV news anchor Lloyd Robertson both removed their names from the list of patrons as well. Neither has commented on their decision. Other prominent Canadians remain behind the project – CBC journalist Rex Murphy, musician Ian Tyson, former Liberal Prime Minister John Turner, NDP MP and Opposition Critic for Veterans Affairs Peter Stoffer and Brian Burke, President of the Calgary Flames hockey team. These patrons and others are currently under pressure to follow the lead of the others and abandon ship.
In an open letter of June 4 to federal Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, 28 former high ranking employees of Parks Canada expressed their opposition to the Green Cove site of the memorial. The letter sites two major reasons for the group’s opposition, stating, “any proposed developments in a national park must be for the purpose of enhancing ecological integrity of the Park and not for the sake of development. It is clear that the proposed “Mother Canada” statue… will not enhance ecological integrity and the proposed associated facilities that include parking lots and an interpretive facility will only further impact the Park. We are very much opposed to the proposed location of this large memorial statue…”
The letter goes on to discuss the manner in which the Green Cove project came about. “We are also concerned about the shortcomings of the process being used to assess this project. Parks Canada is renowned worldwide for its open consultation processes. Remarkably, in this instance there does not appear to have been any significant public consultation prior to the announcement. This one project seems to be on a fast-track despite the lack of broach based public support. It certainly gives the appearance that decisions are being imposed on Parks Canada in opposition to its governing legislation and policies.”
Doomed Or Railroaded?
These recent developments in the Green Cove controversy leave the future of the project very much in doubt. With so much light being shed on the flawed process to railroad the project and on the inappropriate placement of the memorial, public opinion is now squarely against the project. A Post Media opinion poll found that 50% of respondents disapproved of the project. Only 35% expressed support. Not surprisingly, fiercest opinions are held by Atlantic Canadians with fully one third strongly opposed and another 18% saying they are somewhat opposed.
In the meantime, editorials are making a mockery of the project, the process and the politics. One of the harshest comes from Heather Mallick writing in the international journal The Guardian. In reference to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his governments appalling treatment of veterans and the upcoming Canadian election, she had this to say.
“We’re not a military nation. But Harper never shuts up about men in uniform. He fetishises the culture while abandoning its costly damaged soldiers. War is his game, his dream. These awkward structures are monuments to this strange, awkward angry man. May they go unbuilt before the autumn election that consigns him to history.”
Time will tell whether the Green Cove project is doomed to fail before the first concrete is poured over the geologically significant area or if it will be railroaded through by a Conservative Party that’s sinking in the polls and looking to consolidate its base of voters that the Party seems to assume support any and all military memorials.
Image is a screen capture from the CBC’s short video – Take a spin around Mother Canada