Harper Blasted for ‘Offensive,’ ‘Grotesque’ Mother Canada Statue Plans


This image shows the planned “Mother Canada” monument, a controversial statue that would sit on top of a national park. (Photo: Never The Forgotten Memorial Foundation)

By Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plans to finance a massive, ten-story “Mother Canada” statue on the grounds of a national park in Nova Scotia have prompted outrage from national media outlets and environmental advocates alike.

The statue, a cloaked woman holding her arms out toward the Atlantic Ocean from a section of a coastline known as Green Cove, is an enlarged version of the statue “Canada Bereft” in the town of Vimy, France, meant to honor deceased military veterans.

Although the statue is being built by a private company, the Harper administration has given public lands and $100,000 of the government’s parks budget to support the $25 million project — another controversial move which opponents have slammed.

Critics say its problems are too numerous to be overlooked because as a memorial, it’s “redundant”; as an investment, it’s “ill-conceived”; as a monument, it’s “offensively tasteless”; and as a use of public land, it’s “ecologically-devastating.”

Those critiques are coming from several Canadian news outlets, as well as the Friends of Green Cove organization — a citizen action group that formed for the sole purpose of preventing the statue, officially titled the ‘Never Forgotten National Memorial,’ from being built.

“Mother Canada statue is hubristic, ugly and just plain wrong,” reads the headline of a Globe and Mail editorial, published Tuesday.

The newspaper elaborates further:

There are many patriotic reasons to reject the grotesque Mother Canada monument being proposed for a rocky outcrop along the shores of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

The most persuasive is that this towering Colossus of Wars, meant to memorialize Canada’s military dead through the image of a shrouded, beckoning female figure, should never be imposed on a national park.

…A brutal megalith doesn’t prompt individual introspection – it mocks it. And by defiling a quiet beauty spot with its grandiose bulk, Mother Canada will only diminish the heritage it claims to honour.

And in an interview with the Toronto Sun earlier this month, Friends of Green Cove activist Sean Howard said the problems with the statue extend beyond its size.

“Green Cove is an utterly inappropriate location for such a massive concrete-and-steel complex,” Howard said. “Green Cove would be harmed beyond measure or recovery by the construction — that is, destruction — being planned.”

The Sun continued:

A report prepared for the memorial’s organizers and Parks Canada concluded the environmental impacts of the project would be “negligible to moderate,” but Howard said the report is misleading and makes “claims that do not to stand up to scrutiny.”

…”We do think this a very odd priority for veterans. It doesn’t give any direct benefit,” Howard said.

“Silly, I know, but I would never have thought to memorialize our war dead buried abroad by building a statue of a giant woman,” journalist Rosemary Westwood wrote in an op-ed for the Toronto Metro News on Thursday. “And, you know, Mother Canada sure doesn’t look like I’d expect.”

Westwood continued:

From what I know of women’s war effort, it was a little more “welding in munitions factories.” A little less “uselessly standing on a rock.” I think they might have even worn pants.

But I get it now — she’s an echo of more patriarchic times. Our answer to Mother Russia and American gargantuanism. Our knock-off Lady Liberty.

…Never mind the fact that Parks Canada’s own employees argue that the monument violates the site’s wilderness-zone designation, or the fact that Parks Canada gave $100,000 in public money to the organization behind the project. It’s a good thing we’re getting Godzilla — sorry, Mother Canada. Now I know that we Canadians really do go in for that flashy, substance-free patriotism stuff.

And Friends of Green Cove explained their concerns this way:

Our fear now is that a political decision has already been taken to approve the development and that Green Cove will begin to be destroyed as early as this autumn. Our fight, however, will continue. We will continue to urge Parks Canada to do the right thing, reject the project and so avoid serious damage to their own reputation.

…We urge all our supporters to help spread the word about the issue across the country (and beyond), and speak out loud and clear against an ill-conceived and ecologically devastating private development on land belonging to present and future Canadian generations.

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Reprinted with permission from Common Dreams