A group of 28 former senior Parks Canada managers have written a scathing letter to the federal environment minister voicing their opposition to a controversial eight-storey war memorial proposed for Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
In the letter to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, the managers argue the statue goes against the "ecological integrity" of the park and they are "very much opposed to the plan."
"Any proposed developments in a national park must be for the purpose of enhancing ecological integrity of the park and not for the sake of development," says the open letter, dated June 4.
The letter's signatories include people who have held top positions with the agency across the country, including Tom Lee, former Parks Canada CEO, Carol Whitfield, the former field unit superintendent in Cape Breton and Tim Reynolds, the former Cape Breton Highlands National Park superintendent.
Nikita Lopoukhine, the former chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas and a retired Parks Canada director general, says it's very unusual for former staffers to take a stand.
"We have here three former director generals, a former chief financial officer, operational officer, the former CEO of Parks Canada, so this has really struck a chord," he says.
The plan, proposed by the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation and approved by Parks Canada, is to build the war memorial on a nearly one-hectare piece of land in Green Cove, N.S.
The memorial's centrepiece is a statue dubbed Mother Canada. It would be 24 metres high and feature a woman with her arms outstretched toward Europe. The plan also includes parking for 300 vehicles, a restaurant, souvenir shop and an interpretive centre.
It's scheduled to be completed in 2017.
'Decisions are being imposed on Parks Canada'
The former Parks Canada managers wrote they would have no problem with developers setting up the statue in another location.
"It is not only inappropriate in a national park it is in violation of the site's wilderness zone designation as detailed in the management plan for the park," reads the letter.
The group says there are "shortcomings" in the assessment of the impact of the proposed memorial, parking lot, interpretive centre and restaurant. They are calling for more public input — in line with what's set out under the National Parks Act — at the local, provincial and national levels.
"This one project seems to be on a fast-track despite the lack of broad based public support. It certainly gives the appearance that decisions are being imposed on Parks Canada in opposition to its governing legislation and policies," the letter states.
A public consultation period on the controversial plans ended Sunday.