As It Happens

The fight over Cape Breton's 'Mother Canada' statue continues

A heated argument develops between people who support a giant statue called "Mother Canada" -- and opponents, who believe proponents' enthusiasm -- and the statue itself -- are misplaced.
Mother Canada statue, proposed for Cape Breton. (Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation)
Listen7:02

It's a 10-storey, concrete war memorial known as Mother Canada — and despite it's approval by Parks Canada, it's proving to be divisive.

The statue is the centrepiece of a proposed multi-million dollar memorial to Canada's war dead. But not everyone — on Cape Breton Island and beyond — is pleased with the project's choice of location. Green Cove is located inside the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Green Cove, Cape Breton - the proposed site for the Mother Canada statue (Joan Weeks/CBC)

"Anywhere in a national park would be the wrong place [for this statue]," says Sean Howard, chair of a group called Friends of Green Cove, to As It Happens co-host Carol Off. 

His citizens group, along with a group of 28 former senior Parks Canada managers, have been vocal opponents of the plan.

Howard adds that the memorial site would be built upon a geological formation known as the Black Brook Granitic Suite, and that building there would conflict with Parks Canada's mandate to preserve and protect the land for future generations.

"It's quite clear that if you destroy this part of the [black brook] granitic suite, you destroy the main chance to scientifically study it," he says. "This will be a worldwide scientific loss if it goes ahead."

Criticism by his group has also reached some of the honorary patrons of the project, which include CBC commentator Rex Murphy, CBC National host Peter Mansbridge, CTV's Chief Anchor Lisa LaFlamme and a number of politicians.

Howard said his group reached out to some of them and asked them to withdraw their support.

Mansbridge tells As It Happens that he's looked at supporting materials from both sides and will remain an honorary patron.

"We're not saying there's a conflict of interest with their role at the CBC, unless they used that position to promote the project, which they wouldn't do," Howard says. "[We wanted] to make sure they knew about the massive environmental downside to the project and the fact that the project they're lending their name and fame to is a clear violation of Parks Canada's core mandate."

A new group is trying to stop the construction of this giant war memorial in Cape Breton. 0:28

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