No public funding for Victims of Communism, Mother Canada monuments

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The federal Liberals won’t fund the Victims of Communism or Mother Canada monuments, sources tell Global News.

Both were public-private ventures that garnered the support of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Now, it appears, both are merely private endeavours if they go forward at all.

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The proposed location of the Mother Canada statue is located in Green Cove, on the headland of the Cabot Trail on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton island. The spot was also inside the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, meaning it would need federal government approval to go forward. That’s not going to happen now.

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The Victims of Communism memorial was supposed to be beside the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa — something Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, among others, opposed.

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The $6-million monument’s design also came under fire for its lack of structural safety and “negative symbolism.”

The Liberals may offer an alternative location but won’t be putting forward half the cost, which the feds were originally going to do.

Ludwik Klimkowski, the chair of Tribute to Liberty, the group behind the Victims of Communism memorial, had no comment about the Global News story.

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A lack of federal funding could also jeopardize the Mother Canada statue, a tribute to Canadian soldiers who didn’t return home from war. The 24-metre granite statue, spearheaded by the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, was already struggling to raise the estimated $25 million in required funding.

Twenty-eight former Parks Canada managers wrote to former Environment Minister Leona Agluukaq in June expressing concerns the development would put the “ecological integrity” of the national park at risk.

The Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation, the group behind the proposed Mother Canada statue and surrounding memorial to the 114,000 war dead from Canada and Newfoundland (prior to becoming a part of Canada in 1949), said it continues to “move forward with preparations” for the project.

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“We have received the initial approvals for use of the lands at Green Cove and are currently working with Parks Canada on the required environmental assessment. We remain committed to working with Parks Canada and the Mi’kmaq (First Nations) on the approvals so that we can begin to raise the private funds required for the construction and maintenance of the memorial,” the foundation said in an email to Global News Friday afternoon.

Sean Howard of the Friends of the Green Cove campaign is encouraged by news the government may not let the project go ahead as planned.

“The direction under Harper was that it was Parks Canada’s job to make sure this project came to fruition and happened… not to independently assess it but to make sure it happened because the cabinet wanted it to.”

He said it appears now Parks Canada “can have its hands untied now and look at what impact this going to have on the park.

The Never Forgotten National Memorial at Green Cove near Ingonish, N.S., is shown in this undated artist’s rendering.
The Never Forgotten National Memorial at Green Cove near Ingonish, N.S., is shown in this undated artist’s rendering. Handout/The Canadian Press

Although the Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation, a private group, has been trying to raise money for the project, Parks Canada told Global News in June the only government money that had been committed was “to inform the proposal and ensure the public is consulted and informed of developments in the project.”

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“All we know for sure is that Parks Canada bizarrely gave the foundation a hundred thousand dollars so that they could set up a website and market a proposal that they would then submit to Parks Canada to review,” says Howard. And the public consultation, he says, has been “pathetic.”

But, the issue of whether funding could come from public coffers has been secondary to the ecological impact the project could have on Green Cove.

One of the country’s “geological jewels” would be buried under concrete, he says.

“The whole site is pristine headland,” he explains. “The rocks that are there mean a great deal to the Canadian Geological Society and geologists internationally.”

The area around the proposed site of the Mother Canada statue is home to rock features that are nearly 400 million years old.

“People go for its peace and quiet and natural beauty,” Howard said. “Obviously, the character of the place would be transformed an enormous statue and a very significant concrete and steel, rather sprawling memorial.”

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Howard says he believe that would do more to deter visitors than attract them.

He’s cautious about the report the Liberals may have derailed plans for both the Mother Canada and Victims of Communism memorials, but he says the group believes “we’ve got the wind in our sales.”

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With files from Ross Lord and The Canadian Press