New documentary on Mother Canada statue explores how we memorialize war

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Mother Canada donations accepted long after Parks Canada's rejection

Mother Canada donations accepted long after Parks Canada's rejection

The proposal to build a giant "Mother Canada" statue in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park sparked a national debate. Now a new television documentary is taking a look at how the controversy played out in northern Cape Breton.

"Ultimately the overarching theme is taking a look at this idea of remembrance and how do we do that?" said producer Craig Jackson.

"How do we do that individually and how do we do that collectively?"

A private foundation put forward the idea to build a 24-metre high monument of a woman with outstretched arms facing France and Vimy Ridge across the Atlantic, to honour Canada's fallen soldiers.

The Harper government supported the project but when the Liberals were elected in 2015, the plan to build the monument at Green Cove in the national park was scrapped.

Jackson is a Canadian television producer who summers in Ingonish, N.S., a community close to Green Cove.

Us versus them

"I could see that there was a real 'us versus them' thing happening in Ingonish," Jackson said. "It was those two sides and that kind of debate that really interested me."

Jackson said that although he was ultimately glad the "giant concrete statue" was not built in the park, he understood those who supported it.

"They wanted to see the tourists come and they wanted something in Ingonish and rightfully so. It's tough to make a living up there."

But Jackson said that as he listened to talk in the community, he felt some of the local public consultations and town hall meetings were one-sided.

"A lot of people who were maybe not for the project had kinda been shut down and felt as though they couldn't speak out against it," he said. "When they did they were jeered and booed.

"It's either you're for it or you're against it. And if you're against it, you are against the veterans. And it was this very simplistic argument that has led to a lot of conflict."

Jackson's documentary also explores the question of whether this kind of monument was appropriate within a national park.

Foundation still wants park location

The website of the Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation, which has been the driving force behind the project, continues to accept donations for the Mother Canada statue.

When contacted by CBC News, the foundation's president Tony Trigiani said in an email: "I have never lost hope, or have I ever wavered (or should I have) on the Green Cove location nor have I ever made plans for any other sites."

Trigiani wrote that he does not want the statue to become "the victim of political stillness, environment hypocrisy and tie-dyed mindset of certain individuals." 

Jackson's documentary, Mother Canada, will be featured in April at the Toronto Hot Docs Festival and will be featured on the Bravo! channel later this year.