Nova Scotia

Mother Canada project brings in thousands of comments

Parks Canada is sifting through more than 6,000 comments from the public about the controversial Mother Canada statue proposed for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park as part of its environmental assessment of the project.

8-storey memorial planned for Cape Breton Highlands National Park stirring controversy

The Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation wants to build a statue called Mother Canada in the Cape Breton Highlands Park. (Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation)

Parks Canada is sifting through more than 6,000 comments from the public about the controversial Mother Canada statue, proposed for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park as part of its environmental assessment of the project.

"There's quite a lot," said Eddie Kennedy, the Parks Canada project manger associated with the memorial.

"But it's not unusual in a project of this nature. Some of them are quite detailed and some are just a one-sentence statement but, they all have to be gone through."

The Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation wants to build a $25 million memorial to Canada's war dead on a stretch of the trail between Ingonish and Neils Harbour. 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.

Parks Canada now has to sort through all those comments and highlight issues it feels has to be addressed. It will then be up to the foundation to respond to them.

Kennedy says while the assessment will mainly look at the environmental impacts, it will also examine the look of the project.

"Comments that come in talking about the overall aesthetics and how the current design fits within the national park will be taken into consideration," he said.

'Bring it on'

The project manager says it's too early to speculate if the foundation would move the statue somewhere else.

"I know it doesn't seem early to people, but it is fairly early still in the process as far as where this is at, before it can move forward. There's this environmental assessment and there is the success of the foundation to actually raise the money to proceed with the project as well," said Kennedy. 

"At this time, until those outstanding factors are addressed, it's hard to say yes or no to whether it will go forward."

People had two weeks to submit their comments until the survey ended Sunday.

A recently-launched community group made up of made up of scientists, activists and people who live in the Highlands, called for two more months of consultation and for Parks Canada to hold a public meeting where people can state their views. 

Kennedy says that's not going to happen.

Liberal MP Mark Eyking said he doesn't know if the government isn't open to more consultation.

"I think they're making a mistake by not taking their time. I think it's in the government's interest to say 'Bring it on'," he said.

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