Mother Canada update: NS Liberals hear the other side of the story


Joliene Stockley’s Ingonish great-grandparents: Thomas Doucette and his war bride, Agnes “Lucy” Devenish

Last Thursday, Friends of Green Cove met with Nova Scotia’s Liberal caucus to outline something that ought to be obvious to them already: the case against giving Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani a priceless piece of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park—land Canada promised to protect in perpetuity—to a erect kitchy, highly commercialized, eight-storey statue in memory of soldiers killed overseas.

It would be great to see the province officially speak out about this ill-conceived, dishonestly executed scheme, but since the park lies entirely in federal jurisdiction, and since taking any position is certain to anger some constituents, discretion will probably get the better of Stephen McNeil’s valor.

Nevertheless, Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, chief spokesman for the project, met privately with the provincial Liberal caucus in late September, so the Friends of Green Cove thought it prudent to request a chance to present the other side.

Leading the group was Ingonish native Joliene Stockley, a provincial government policy analyst whose great-grandfather Tom Doucette, after being gassed at Ypres, endured a long fight for disability benefits but nevertheless supported establishment of the park even though his land was taken for it. Another of Stockley’s ancestors, paternal great grandmother Margaret Dupe, pictured below, was born at Green Cove. Also present were former park superintendent Carol Whitfield, Acadia geology professor Sandra Barr, and 93-year-old World War II veteran Valerie Bird.

The group focused on six reasons for rejecting the Mother Canada colossus. (I have edited their news release slightly for space and clarity.):

The Integrity of National Parks
Parks Canada’s mandate is, “to maintain the ecological integrity of the lands in its care and to provide opportunities for the people of Canada to understand, appreciate, and enjoy the natural heritage that is theirs.” By law, national parks are protected for public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment, while being maintained in an unimpaired state for future generations. Allowing this development is precedent setting and would allow the whittling away of our National Parks System. It would destroy the ecological integrity of Green Cove and the institutional integrity of Parks Canada.

Green Cove is part of the National Park because of its geology and other natural attributes. It is the second most popular trail in the park because of its short distance, fantastic ocean view, and its unique geological features that date back 400 million years. It is the best place to view the Black Brook Granitic Suite, a rock formation used by geology professors to teach students about geological processes. Although this suite of rocks underlies the eastern section of the CBHNP, Green Cove is its most accessible and visually stimulating outcrop.

margaret_dupe 2

Joliene Stockley’s paternal great-grandmother Margaret Dupe was born at Green Cove, slated for construction of a massive, privately owned statue.

Feedback from Canadians
Thousands of comments from coast to coast have conveyed their belief that most Canadians are opposed to the project as proposed. Dozens of letters, articles, and other feedback showed opposition to the proposed plan. Concerns have been raised by the Vimy Memorial Foundation, American tourists, parks enthusiasts, geologists, experts, scientists, academics, and former Parks Canada senior staff. [Contrarian here: Backers of the scheme claim local residents strongly support the monument, but the only independent public opinion survey on the topic showed Canadians oppose it, Atlantic Canadians most strongly. A non-scientific reader survey by the Cape Breton Post likewise turned thumbs down on the scheme.]

Lack of Consultation
It’s a national monument being proposed within a National Park, yet there has been no national consultation or dialogue, only one meeting in Ingonish. The detailed impact assessment process was severely flawed because there was no expert review of the proposal nor any public meetings held to review the detailed assessment. Some believe there is a conflict of interest as Stantec, the company that prepared the impact assessment, was thanked as a key contributor to the project’s design.

Some contend the project will bring employment opportunities and economic spin-offs, yet there has been no estimate of its true economic impact. The projected jobs may or may not exist. There is no proper business plan—cost projections have ranged from $20 million to $60million. We have not seen any marketing study, nor the methodology used for visitor projections. The project may deter more visitors than it attracts.

Mockery of Remembrance
When the Vimy Memorial Foundation raised concerns about the project’s use of the name Mother Canada, long been associated with the Canada Bereft statue at Vimy, a project lawyer responded that the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation had trademarked the name—along with hundreds of potential souvenir items. Marketing opportunities on site are not in keeping with remembering and honoring our fallen.

The scale of the proposed memorial is so large, people may focus on Mother Canada’s size rather than remembrance of our fallen soldiers. A very tasteful memorial already exists in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Its inscription reads:

“They will never know the beauty of this place, see the seasons change, enjoy nature’s chorus.
All we enjoy we owe to them, men and women who lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in the seven seas. Dedicated to the memory of Canadians who died overseas in the service of their country and so preserved our heritage.”

Public Funding
The Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation said the memorial would built entirely with private funds, yet they’ve already received about $100,000 in public funding, and they plan to apply for more through the Canada 150 Fund. A Parks Canada employee is the project manager. All the time Parks Canada staff work on this project should be considered a use of public funds. It has not been made clear whether foundation will be required to secure the funding for all phases before construction begins.

The big question now is how the new federal government will respond to the project.