There’s something about pristine, mountainous landscapes that has inspired some of the tackiest public monuments in recent decades. Arkansas’s ginormous Christ of the Ozarks and Montana’s even bigger Lady of the Rockies are just a couple of examples in the United States, though the trend extends far outside our borders. Now, at long last, it’s the nice, quiet Canadians who are saying no.
According to the Guardian, a plan to erect a nine-story statue in honor of Canada’s fallen soldiers in Cape Breton Highlands National Park has provoked passionate opposition. Renderings of the Never Forgotten National Memorial show an effigy of a cloaked woman standing on a granite cliff and stretching her arms out toward Europe. The statue closely resembles an earlier memorial to Mother Canada dedicated to the country’s WWI veterans in Vimy, France, though it’s much, much bigger.
“It is vulgar and ostentatious,” 93-year-old Valerie Bird, who served in the Canada’s royal air force during World War II, told the newspaper. “It certainly doesn’t belong in a national park, and I don’t think it’s going to do a darn thing for veterans.”
An online petition against the statue has so far gathered 937 signatures. “It is a spectacle and not worthy of those fallen,” signatory David Margolis, a resident of Vancouver, said. “People will gawk at the size, buy an ice cream and drive away.”
The Ontario newspaper Globe and Mail also threw its weight against the plan in a scathing editorial last Tuesday. “The bigger-is-better approach to art is best left to Stalinist tyrants, theme-park entrepreneurs and insecure municipalities hoping to waylay bored drive-by tourists,” the editors wrote.
The memorial’s planners seem to have envisioned it as a spot where tourists might also stretch their legs. The area is set to include large walkways like the “Commemorative Ring of True Patriot Love,” the “True North Commemorative Square,” and the “With Glowing Hearts National Sanctuary” — all named after lyrics from the Canadian national anthem.
The activist organization Friends of Green Cove says that aside from being a “kitsch glorification of war,” the development will damage the setting’s ecology and obscure its unique granite geology. Their campaign has received letters of support from the Sierra Club Canada, the Ecology Action Centre, and Voice of Women for Peace. “We’re pleased with the momentum,” Sean Howard, spokesman for Friends of Green Cove, told the Guardian. “What we don’t know is how much time we have. Our worst fear is that they’re going to send the bulldozers in before the federal election this fall.”
The project already has the support of the government, which has promised the land, along with $100,000 from the public parks budget, to Toronto developer Tony Trigiani’s Never the Forgotten National Memorial Foundation. Trigiani hopes to raise the remaining $25 million required through private individuals and corporate sponsorships.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.