Man be­hind mon­u­ment not giv­ing up

Still thinks Green Cove best site for Mother Canada mon­u­ment

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID JALA

There’s no dis­guis­ing Tony Tri­giani’s pas­sion when it comes to pre­serv­ing the mem­ory of Canada’s war dead.

A year af­ter Parks Canada nixed his dream of build­ing the Never For­got­ten Na­tional Me­mo­rial on the rocky coast­line of Green Cove in Cape Breton High­lands Na­tional Park, the Toronto busi­ness­man still bris­tles at the de­ci­sion to halt the project.

“We’ve tried to keep the light shin­ing on the project — my vi­sion, what I be­lieve in, has never changed,” said Tri­giani, who es­tab­lished a foun­da­tion to fa­cil­i­tate the ini­tia­tive in 2012, three years af­ter the idea first came to light.

“It’s a whole heart­beat, a throb­bing and liv­ing heart­beat, not a mu­seum, a heart­beat that pulses for the his­tory, hon­our and re­spect for what this coun­try is and those who helped it get here.”

Tri­giani, whose par­ents ar­rived in Canada shortly af­ter the Sec­ond World War, told the Cape Breton Post that he is dis­ap­pointed with the fac­tors that de­railed plans to con­struct the me­mo­rial, which was to in­clude a 24-me­tre Mother Canada statue. Parks Canada of­fi­cially pulled its sup­port of the project on Feb. 5, 2016, just months af­ter Justin Trudeau’s Lib­er­als sup­planted Stephen Harper’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment in Ot­tawa.

Af­ter­wards, pro­po­nents of the me­mo­rial ac­cused the then re­cently elected gov­ern­ment of us­ing the project as a po­lit­i­cal pawn.

“This isn’t po­lit­i­cal, it be­came po­lit­i­cal, but it just hap­pened to be in the mid­dle of Harper’s time in of­fice,” said Tri­giani, whose foun­da­tion had been promised a land do­na­tion in the na­tional park from the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.

Tri­giani, who has served as pres­i­dent of Norstar Cor­po­ra­tion, a Toronto-based food­pack­ag­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion firm, since 1988, also ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with the crit­i­cism that project sup­port­ers en­dured over the past few years.

“We were crit­i­cized for want­ing to trade­mark — we trade­marked against things you don’t want to get done, you trade­mark so you can stop peo­ple from mak­ing things you don’t want them to make,” he said.

“If this is a na­tional me­mo­rial, if it de­serves to see the light of day, then you want to make sure it’s pro­tected and it can be pro­tected in the sanc­tu­ary of a na­tional park. “Are you go­ing to tell me you need to take your shoes off in a na­tional park? Are you go­ing to tell me that we can’t show the 115,000 boys that are buried over­seas some form of re­spect in the sanc­tity, in the soli­tude, in the beauty of what is a na­tional park?”

Op­po­nents of the project main­tain they have never been against the erec­tion of a na­tional mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to the Cana­di­ans and New­found­lan­ders buried in for­eign coun­tries, lost at sea or oth­er­wise lost and pre­sumed dead.

Cape Breton Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Sean Howard, a one­time spokesman for the now dis­banded Friends of Green Cove, said the vo­cal and con­certed op­po­si­tion to the project was specif­i­cally aimed at the me­mo­rial’s pro­posed site in a na­tional park.

“Green Cove is a very pre­cious and spe­cial place, but it wasn’t just Green Cove, it was the fact that no lo­ca­tion in a na­tional park de­serves to fall vic­tim to that kind of pro­posal, that kind of des­e­cra­tion, that was in bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of Parks Canada’s ba­sic man­date,” said Howard, who added that he be­lieves Tri­giani was mis­led by the Harper ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Mr. Tri­giani wasn’t told that by the Harper gov­ern­ment, so I un­der­stand his con­fu­sion — I’ve al­ways re­spected where he was com­ing from, he ob­vi­ously had some­thing ap­proach­ing a vi­sion that he wanted to im­ple­ment and got greatly en­cour­aged by the gov­ern­ment of the day in a way that was most un­for­tu­nate be­cause any gov­ern­ment tak­ing Parks Canada se­ri­ously would not have en­ter­tained that pro­posal se­ri­ously.”

In the mean­time, Tri­giani has been keep­ing his vi­sion alive by send­ing in­for­ma­tive, hol­i­day-re­lated care pack­ages to key Cana­dian lead­ers in the fields of busi­ness, academia, jour­nal­ism and pol­i­tics. And the foun­da­tion’s web­site is still up and run­ning and ac­cept­ing dona­tions.

david.jala@cb­post.com

Howard

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