I suppose it is time to weigh in on the disappointing progress of the proposal to build a maudlin ten-storey statue reaching out toward the war dead in Europe from the shores of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I am not averse to man-made structures in natural settings, as I have often said here, but I do not support this initiative. I think it is useful here to reflect on the words of English designer William Morris in 1880 (later published in Hopes and Fears for Art: Five Lectures Delivered in Birmingham, London, and Nottingham, 1878 – 1881 (1882)):

If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

This stands doubly for landscape, in my opinion. I would have an easier time supporting a small-scale wind turbine on this site, which research has shown over time can accrue local acceptance, and even attachment as a result of its utility and symbolism. Meaning can be built over time to lots of useful infrastructure: lighthouses, headponds, factory stacks, or towers like the erstwhile Radio Canada International transmission site at Tantramar. Similarly, a piece of great art may be seen as consecrating such a natural site and emerge as an attraction (like now-common sculpture walks) as well as a site of local meaning. Mother Canada does not even meaningfully leverage the natural beauty like the recent construction of the Glacier Skywalk in Banff, which I also opposed.

Such developments in National Parks suggest Parks Canada is more interested in visitor numbers than conservation. I believe that attempts to impose a memorial of questionable aesthetic value or symbolism as an attraction for the purposes of local economic development are ill-advised. It will become a site where those happily employed locals can sneer at tour bus passengers, who may themselves smell the inauthenticity and see the place as just a welcome bathroom break (where is that septic going, anyhow?). Given recent federal cut-backs in veteran support, this just stinks. Use the funds to develop a wilderness retreat for returned service personnel, or the grieving families of those who did not return, and all will be better off.