If we weren’t such devoted and devout followers of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his beloved Conservative government, we might have to admit that not only is he depressingly anti-democratic, and a fetishist or fascist about terror and crime, but a dolt without a drop of cultural taste. His aesthetic appreciation seldom rises above the level of a family Selfie.
Having slashed cultural and communications budgets over his decade (it feels like a century) in office, when he does make an artsy proposal, it turns out to be “offensively tasteless,” “Stalinist” and the mother of all ugliness. We’re referring, of course, to the proposed Mother Canada 10-storey-high statue slated to be placed on the shore of Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia. The cloaked and nun-like female figure with its arms stretched out towards the Atlantic Ocean is meant to honour Canada’s soldiers who died overseas.
The project, a $30-million private venture, fast-tracked by Harper, is the brainchild of a well-meaning Toronto businessman, Tony Trigiani, who was inspired by a visit to a Canadian war cemetary in Italy to set up the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation. The foundation hopes to raise $25 million to complete the scheme by selling corporate sponsorships that will be acknowledged on the site. In addition to the statue, the memorial will include the Commemorative Ring of True Patriot Love, the True North Square and the With Glowing Hearts National Sanctuary. (Excuse us for a sec, gotta upchuck.)
Local opponents of the plan, the Friends of Green Cove, call the Mother Canada proposal a “kitsch glorification of war.” Cape Breton resident, 93-year-old Valerie Bird, a World War II veteran, says, “It is vulgar and ostentatious. It certainly doesn’t belong in a national park and I don’t think it’s going to do a darn thing for veterans… This is a monstrosity.”
A Globe and Mail editorial said the giant statue was “a hubristically arrogant act of unoriginality. The bigger is better approach is best left to Stalinist tyrants, theme park entrepreneurs, and insecure municipalities hoping to waylay bored drive-by tourists.” The latest argument against the scheme, reported in the Sydney, Nova Scotia Cape Breton Post (July 9, 2015), is that the Green Cove location is a significant Mi’Kmaq aboriginal cultural and spiritual site. Even cartoonists have been lampooning Mother Canada.
Gee, maybe beauty isn’t in the eye of the political beholder.