CPAWS-NS statement regarding proposed Mother Canada statue in Cape Breton Highlands National Park


Summary

The Nova Scotia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-NS) is deeply concerned about the proposal to build the Mother Canada statue inside Cape Breton Highlands National Park, as well as the unusual process that Parks Canada seems to be using for this project. The national park is an inappropriate site for the proposed Never Forgotten National Memorial and the site selection process has been flawed by lack of genuine and proper public consultation. The specific site seems to have been announced before the public had the opportunity to comment. The proposed memorial does not suit the site.

Image: Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation

Background

In August 2013, Parks Canada announced that a very large statue, named the Never Forgotten National Memorial, was proposed for Green Cove in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Green Cove lies on the eastern edge of the park and includes a small granite headland which would be almost entirely devoted to the proposed memorial. A narrow boardwalk at the site currently takes visitors to a viewpoint on the heath-covered headland providing gorgeous vistas of the Cape Breton Highlands and the dramatic coastline.

The proposed statue, named Mother Canada by its proponents, would look out over the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is planned to be very tall (7 storeys). The proposal includes a large parking lot, and a range of associated facilities such as restaurant and interpretive center. The proposal also suggests bringing soil annually to the site from gravesites around the world. Funds for the memorial are being sought by the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, which is a registered charity. The project has been estimated to cost $30-60 million.

Ecological Integrity

The National Parks Act requires Parks Canada to manage national parks for “ecological integrity” as a first priority, and to be the over-riding concern for the development and implementation of park management plans. When any major change is made in any national park across Canada, the concern about ecological integrity must be addressed.  As far as we are aware, this has not occurred for the Mother Canada statue proposal for Cape Breton Highlands National Park and it is hard to imagine how such a large statue located in such a sensitive coastal headland will not have an impact.  If Parks Canada has determined there is indeed no impact on ecological integrity from this proposal, the agency needs to make this information public and provide a clear rationale for its thinking.  This determination would need to come before any decision is made about approving such a proposal.

Project concerns

The proposed Mother Canada statue is very large and is not appropriate for the park. It is imposing on the landscape and conflicts with the beautiful natural aesthetic of the Green Cove site.  Proposed associated facilities also expand the footprint on the site, including parking lots and an interpretive facility.  The proposal to import soil samples from other countries is also a concern because of the pathogens and organisms they may contain. To meet park management goals, soils brought to the site from around the world would have to be sterilized to eliminate exotic organisms, and this might damage the memorial integrity of the samples.

Process concerns

The process being used by Parks Canada to approve this project is concerning, particularly the lack of transparency in how decisions are being made and the appearance of consultation after-the-fact. Wide-scale consultation is normal in Parks Canada's park management processes, and is required for park management plans. Remarkably, in this instance there does not appear to have been any public consultation prior to the announcement by Parks Canada that the Mother Canada statue is moving ahead. It is neither clear how decisions are being made by Parks Canada nor how the public or stakeholders can genuinely participate in this process. Parks Canada needs to have a clear process in place for the public to provide feedback, and given that this is a national park and a proposed memorial for fallen soldiers from all across Canada, this consultation needs to be undertaken at multiple scales, including local, provincial, and federal.

Alternative sites

Alternative sites for a memorial, outside of the national park and provincial protected areas, should be considered.  In Nova Scotia, there are no shortages of coastal sites facing eastward that might be more appropriate than Green Cove.  A proper discussion of suitable alternate locations has not occurred.

Information sources:

Parks Canada

Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation

Globe and Mail

Contrarian

Contact:

Martin Willison,CPAWS-Nova Scotia, willison@dal.ca