June 29, 2015 7:26 pm
Updated: June 30, 2015 6:30 pm

Controversial ‘Mother Canada’ statue plan dividing Canadians

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WATCH ABOVE: The 24-metre high statue to be erected on the rocks of a section of the Cabot trail at Green Cove. The statue is meant to memorialize Canadian soldiers who didn’t return from war, but its opponents don’t believe it should be erected in a national park. Ross Lord reports.

GREEN COVE, N.S. – The turbulent ocean waters crashing against the ancient rocks at Green Cove, Cape Breton, couldn’t be more symbolic.

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Plans to erect a 24-metre behemoth of a statue, known as Mother Canada, atop the rocks – have stirred up an undercurrent of opposition.

Opponents say the development, planned by a group called the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, is a threat to the cove’s natural beauty, as a granite headland on the famous Cabot Trail.

It’s also in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which they say needs to be protected from artificial intrusions.

“It does not belong in a national park” says Sean Howard, of Friends of Green Cove.

“I think any fair reading of Parks Canada’s own mandate and its’ management plan for that park would suggest that such a private development, completely transforming Green Cove, should not be contemplated.”

A group of 28 former senior Parks Canada managers agrees.

In a June 4th letter to federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the former managers suggest the development will hurt the “ecological integrity” of the Park.

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Parks Canada’s motives are also being questioned. The agency claims to be an impartial regulator of the proposed Mother Canada development. But, it’s also donated 100,000 dollars to the cause, an apparent conflict of interest that’s accelerating calls for the plan to be stopped, or at least, moved somewhere else.

The foundation had been saying the statue and accompanying tributes (estimated price tag 25-million dollars) would be built with private funding, calling it a heartfelt tribute to 114,000 Canadians killed in conflicts outside of Canada.

Mother Canada’s arms would be out-stretched toward the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, in France, as though welcoming fallen soldiers home.

“It couldn’t be more appropriate” says retired Canadian Army General Lew MacKenzie, an honourary Ambassador with the foundation.

One of the last spots in Canada seen by hundreds of thousands of Canadian soldiers, men and women that left Halifax Harbour and sailed to World War I and World War II, and the first part of Canada seen for the lucky ones that came home.”

MacKenzie calls the funding controversy surrounding Parks Canada “irritating.”

“People should know that the fact is that was for the website. It has nothing to do with concrete or drills or anything else.”

READ MORE: Controversial monument in Ottawa for victims of communism to be smaller

The foundation’s list of supporters, or “honourary patrons” features dozens of political, business and media elites — including members of Parliament from the Conservative, New Democratic, and, Liberal parties.

In the communities on either side of Green Cove, plenty of townsfolk support it, too.

Restaurant co-owner Jason LeBlanc, in Ingonish, thinks it’s a good thing for the area.

“I think it’s an honour that someone wants to come here and put in that time and investment in a small community that’s really economically-depressed.”

Outside the Co-op grocery store, in Neil’s Harbour, Bernard Gwynn agrees.

He accuses critics of cherry-picking.

“Why don’t they look at Jasper and Banff, all commercial activity there. They’re not saying nothing about that.”

But, others struggle to see the logic, calling the statue hideous, and, an attempt to exploit Canada’s war dead for money.

Braving wind and drizzle on the rocks, Toronto resident Marcus Stevenson says it doesn’t make sense to mess with Green Cove.

“I think they should leave it as it is. To me, a National Park is about natural beauty, and adding a statue to this isn’t going to enhance that.”

The foundation is in the early stages of fund-raising, with no official start date for construction.

The worry and woe already surrounding Mother Canada could make completion by the targeted date of 2017 a tall order.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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