Man behind monument not giving up
Still thinks Green Cove best site for Mother Canada monument
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.