Mother Canada statue not feasible for Green Cove war memorial, says firm

The company initially hired to assess the Never Forgotten War Memorial says an enormous statue planned for Green Cove, Cape Breton, isn’t feasible.

Toronto-based firm hired to assess plans of Never Forgotten War Memorial and pulled out of project in 2012

The statue proposed for the Never Forgotten War Memorial in Green Cove, Cape Breton, is currently under review by the federal government. (Rayment & Collins)

The company hired to assess the Never Forgotten War Memorial says an enormous statue planned for Green Cove, Cape Breton, isn't any more feasible than it was when the company pulled out of the project four years ago.

LANDinc, a Toronto-based landscape architecture firm, is only now speaking publicly about its involvement because Friends of Green Cove, a group opposed to the Mother Canada statue, asked the company to share what it learned before leaving the project in 2012.

Patrick Morello, a partner with LANDinc, said the project didn't start off with plans for a large statue.

"Originally, that point on the site was meant to be a place for reflection, a space for one to two individuals, and it grew from there to having a sculpture that was three, four, five metres and then it kept growing and growing," he said. 

Early signs

The Mother Canada statue has sparked controversy. Public and private opinions have been mainly split over politicsplanning, community impacts, and what's appropriate for a memorial.

The statue would stand 24 metres, with arms outstretched towards Europe. The file is under review by federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

Morello said as the statue's size kept growing, his company developed concerns about the potential impact of ice, wind and waves. 

"As the statue was getting bigger, we started to do our own investigation on the geomorphology and the movement of ice on the site," Morello said. 

"And determining that it's going to be quite an intervention to have a large base to sustain that statue and a large base for people that it might not be sustainable."

One man's vision

The Never Forgotten War Memorial is the brainchild of Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani. He envisions a site in Cape Breton looking across the ocean. 

Morello said his company never received the final 25 per cent of its payment for work on the project. 

On Tuesday, the Never Forgotten War Memorial organization said it won't comment on "personal" matters between Morello and Trigiani. 

A spokeswoman said in an email, however, that the Mother Canada statue has "always" been modelled after the Canada Bereft statue at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

Morello said Trigiani is committed to building Mother Canada, despite LANDinc's concerns.

"Once he had an image in his head he didn't want to move from it," Morello said.

Documents revealed by LANDinc show Green Cove wasn't on the original short-list of locations. Louisbourg, Keltic Lodge in Ingonish and Lakie's Head were the first three places considered. 

'This has grown out of proportion'

Walter Kehm, also with LANDinc, has studied veterans monuments for decades. 

"This has grown out of proportion now and you know size doesn't mean monumental. Monuments can be very intimate in scale, places of reflection need not be enormous," he said. 

In May 2012, Morello said his company drafted a five-page work plan with recommendations for Trigiani to hire more consultants — particularly for the environmental assessment process and to improve communications with the public.

Morello said Trigiani didn't agree. 

"There was a number of communications about our concerns through a probably six to eight-month period," Morello said. 

"But always hoping that we could be involved and help steer the project, to be involved in it to make it more sustainable. But I think it came to a point where Tony didn't like our recommendations and he thought we were sidetracking the whole project."

Cape Breton MP Mark Eyking has said he expects the federal government to either approve or reject the project by this spring.

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