Prior to Stephen Harper’s blatantly opportunistic election call on Sunday, one issue that was causing a fair bit of controversy across the country was a proposal to build a war memorial on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island.
The project’s official designation is the Never Forgotten National Memorial. It’s supposedly inspired by a smaller scale memorial called Canada Bereft at Vimy Ridge in France, and is intended to honour Canada’s war dead.
In addition to a giant 10-story statue with its arms outstretched toward Europe (artist’s rendering above), the memorial is to include an interpretive centre with such O Canada-themed amenities as the Commemorative Ring of True Patriot Love, the True North Commemorative Square and With Glowing Hearts National Sanctuary.
The $25 million project is being spearheaded by Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani, and has attracted some high profile backers, including the Harper government, which has offered financial and logistical support.
Many Canadians, though, think the idea is ludicrous. To begin with, the proposed site is in a national park and would absolutely ruin what is otherwise a scenic promontory on Cabot Trail. Critics have also lampooned the statue’s design (one popular nickname is Mother Zombie) and dismissed the project as a kitsch glorification of war straight out of the Stalinist playbook of nationalist myth-making. Trigiani also plans to sell commemorative items at the site so, in essence, it will function as a kitsch tourist attraction too.
Instead of backing such a grandiose endeavour with scarce public resources, critics further argue, the Harper government could better serve veterans by improving support services for them and their families. Here’s the Globe & Mail’s take from late June. Even the Guardian has weighed in, and some previous honourary patrons such as Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson have begun to bail on the project as opposition mounts.