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Protecting Green Cove from the culture of war

by Kelly Lindenschmidt

An artist’s rendition of the Mother Canada statue at the proposed Never Forgotten National Memorial at Green Cove, Cape Breton
An artist’s rendition of the Mother Canada statue at the proposed Never Forgotten National Memorial at Green Cove, Cape Breton

This article was originally published in the Cape Breton Independent

Those opposed to the Never Forgotten National Memorial at Green Cove in Cape Breton held a press conference at Cape Breton University yesterday.

Dozens of community members came to support the grassroots group Friends of Green Cove and its campaign to prevent the construction of the giant monument. The group claims it is “defending a unique place of peace” from environmental destruction.

Dr. Sean Howard, an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at CBU, said it was important to maintain a focus on the environmental and scientific aspects of the project because “Green Cove would be harmed beyond measure or recovery by the construction” of the $25 million monument and its 10-storey tall Mother Canada statue.

The Green Cove location is on a specific part of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park where it is intended to serve as the concrete doppelgänger to the Canada Bereft statue at the Vimy Ridge memorial in France. The backers of the Green Cove project claim that, unlike Vimy, it will be accessible to all Canadians. But Dr. Howard claimed that the monument would violate the Parks Canada mandate to “ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity” of its national locales.

Dr. Deanne Van Rooyen of CBU’s geology department agreed. “Parks are in existence because they preserve entire ecosystems, they preserve whole landscapes,” she said. “And if we start carving our parks for private developments of any kind, then that is a very slippery slope to go down.” Dr. Van Rooyen claimed that, like the veterans that the monument is supposed to honor, once the natural wonders of our parks are gone they won’t come back.

One community member in attendance supports honoring Canada’s veterans but believes the Green Cove monument would overpower the area’s natural beauty. “I think a national park is a terrible place to put a monument,” she said. “And, to be honest, looking at the design, it’s horrendous.” A World War Two veteran echoed those same sentiments, claiming that “it was important to speak out because the monument is vulgar and ostentatious and doesn’t do anything for veterans.”

The Friends of Green Cove are requesting that the government extend what they call the unreasonably small window of time allowed for the public to respond to the Detailed Impact Analysis given that the report is more than 100 pages long. They are also troubled by the fact that the analysis wasn’t commissioned by Parks Canada but rather by the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, and carried out by Stantec corporation, which is one of the primary ‘friends and supporters’ of the project.

Dr. Sandra Barr, a geology professor at Acadia University, challenged claims made in the impact analysis that the land at Green Cove has already been disturbed by humans. She argued that the disturbance caused by nature walkers is minuscule compared to the impacts that will result from the giant monument. Dr. Barr said the monument would cover one of the few areas where all of the geological features are exposed rather than covered by forest, thereby impacting the capacity of geologists to study the region.

Dr. Ian Spooner, who specializes in Canadian Environmental Impact Assessment Law at Acadia University, also believes the project violates the mandate of Parks Canada, which is supposed to present and protect local cultures. These cultures include Acadian, Scottish, Irish, Gaelic and French, and Dr. Spooner suggested that these have been glossed over in order to present a homogenous culture of war. He said the problematic nature of this approach should have been reflected in the impact analysis.

The initial construction phase is to begin before full funding is secured and thereafter will proceed on an incremental basis as funds become available. Should the fundraising not go as planned, says Dr. Howard, the Federal government will most likely step in to ensure the monument is ready in time for the Grand Opening on Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. Such an occurrence would mean that taxpayers will end up footing some of the bill for this private sector initiative.

The Friends of Green Cove are calling on Canadians to visit their website and to follow the links to Park Canada’s public input page where they can voice their opinion of the project before the public consultation process closes on June 7. Their website also contains campaign news and statements of support from groups such as the Sierra Club, the Ecology Action Centre and Voices of Women for Peace.

Dr. Howard believes that if citizens fail to halt this project, it could set a precedent for “federally-sanctioned environmental vandalism” to occur elsewhere in Canada.

Author: Kelly Lindenschmidt is a member of the J. B. McLachlan Media Collective.

 


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