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Cape Breton Highlands and Mother Canada

It's been a busy few weeks for us at CPAWS responding to the proposal for a "Mother Canada" seven-story statue in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We submitted a formal response to this idea to Parks Canada (which you can read below if you're interested). The proposal has also drawn many others to respond. For example, 28 retired senior Parks Canada officials sent off their own letter widely reported in the media. And CBC has posted a "flyover" experience of what the statue at Green Cove would look like that is worth a look! If you haven't already written to Parks Canada, the official consultation period on this proposal is now over, but your opinion is still important. So I encourage you to take a moment now to express your views about whether you think this is an appropriate project to be located within Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

We've protected so little of our landscape in Canada... I am constantly asking myself why we insist on nibbling away at these few precious sanctuaries through projects like these. It boggles my mind.


CPAWS Response to the Proposal to Build a Seven-Storey Monument at Green Cove in Cape Breton Highlands National Park

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is opposed to the construction of the Never Forgotten National Memorial within the borders of the national park and we respectfully request that this project be rejected once-and‐for‐all. Quite frankly, we are concerned that such a large proposed piece of infrastructure, that so clearly is not suitable for the proposed location and that does not contribute to the protection of the natural values of the national park, has been allowed to proceed this far along the approval process.

Process failure
The Detailed Impact Analysis is not the correct process for determining if this project should proceed. It is at the wrong scale and is so limited in scope that it is ill‐suited for judging the merits of the creation of a national memorial. A preferred process would be one where the public determines up front if there is a need for this project at all, and if so, selects a location that is deemed suitable. Then, and only then, would an independent panel of experts, including and especially Veterans, be set up to develop guidelines and evaluation criteria and assess a wide range of proposals in an open‐competition. This sort of process is commonly used for the development of important memorials and can involve the public at every step of the process, rather than limiting their official comment period to two weeks at the very end of the process, as is occurring with the current Detailed Impact Analysis. The National War Memorial in Ottawa used such a process. Why should the proposed undertaking at Green Cove be allowed to skip past this more rigorous analysis and competition? Much of the feedback we have received about the statue describes it as grotesque, a monstrosity, too big, too alienating, and just plain ugly. We have not received any feedback that welcomes this development within a national park. Something is clearly broken with this project and it is generating much disdain from the general public. Please don’t ignore that.

Ecological Integrity
National parks are established to protect important areas of Canada’s natural heritage and to protect “ecological integrity” as a first priority. It seems strange for us to feel we must remind Parks Canada of this inherent responsibility, so clearly described in the National Parks Act and through the management plans for national parks across Canada. The objective of Parks Canada is:
To protect for all time representative natural areas of Canadian significance in a system of national parks, to encourage public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of this natural heritage so as to leave it unimpaired for future generations.
The proposed statue and associated structures simply do not fit within this objective and the project should be dismissed accordingly. Assessing the local environmental impacts at Green Cove through a Detailed Impact Analysis misses the point entirely. What this project does is undermine the very notion of national parks themselves. It sets a terrible precedent for private development for the sake of development inside our national parks. It risks spoiling a natural and scenic stretch of coastline in the park and, quite frankly, it cheapens our national park system. This should be deeply concerning to Parks Canada. Of course, all this goes well beyond the limited scope of the Detailed Impact Assessment, but ignoring those impacts won’t make them go away. End this spectacle now, before more harm is done.

These words are written on the modest Veteran’s Monument on French Mountain within the national park.
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.
We feel these words are stronger, and more touching, and more painful, and more real than anything we’ve seen associated with the Never Forgotten National Memorial. Please don’t forsake the national park by approving a project that, however well intentioned it may be, is nevertheless poorly thought out. Rather than bringing Canadians together, it is proving to be a divisive undertaking. Imagine that, a memorial for fallen soldiers that fails to bring people together. This project is not nearly good enough for the brave Canadian soldiers who served and died overseas defending our freedoms. It’s not too late to do the right thing.