Weep for us, Mother Canada. We are officially out of original thoughts. Our self image has gone grandiose and it doesn’t suit us at all. I wanted to come visit you at the Vimy Ridge memorial to pay my respects but on that day, the French had found a massive unexploded bomb in the area so they cancelled all of the trains. I’ve regretted not trying again. I’ve been thinking of you now that a group called Never Forgotten, who have the full support of our current government, want to enlarge and clone you so you can look out over the Atlantic toward the green fields of France. Never Forgotten’s mission statement is “If only we could have brought you home”, meaning every one of the fallen. Since that didn’t happen, they’re resolved to build your towering stone duplicate to honour them anew, with her giant arms outstretched to the sea in a beautiful yet isolated part of the country, for all of the wrong reasons.
They’re going to make her a star attraction. Flight paths of airplanes carrying the fallen will be redirected so they can pass over her. All ships returning from the sea will be required to do a sail past hundreds of miles off course just so they can salute her mournful face and weep patriotic tears at the sight of her. Your double will find her way on to a special stamp or commemorative silver dollar or she will be the woman they will put on the $10 bill. She’ll be our knockoff Lady Liberty, our surrogate Lenin’s tomb. But she’ll always be an ostentatious phoney through and through, contrived by capital. This is the monument you get from people whose hearts are glowing from the reflection of their gold watches. Something a budget Donald Trump would cook up to create a legacy. A honking great ego stroking cement based marvel with completely contrived meaning, which renders it meaningless.
They want to put her in a Federal Park, one of the places that is an ingrained part of our national identity. Many see these places as sacred. Our national parks have managed to survive despite having millions of dollars chopped from their budgets in the past few years. Ottawa tried to pull the usual double speak trick by putting money back in that was previously slashed and calling it an increase. We’re not buying that bullshit anymore, Mother. We never really did. Somehow, when purely private money shakes loose for a “We See Thee Rise Observation Deck” or a “Commemorative Ring of True Patriot Love”, the current regime goes into nationalistic paroxysms. Stick another twonie into the jingo machine! Someone at the top has been reading North Korean Propaganda Techniques for Dummies and is passing as an expert now. No doubt they will get to expense absolutely everything, including exploratory trips to the north of France and the book itself. Suddenly, it’s raining millions as if by magic. Full pensions for all on completion!
The mainstream media will dutifully enable all of this of course. Never Forgotten has an interesting collection of Honourary Patrons on their Board of Directors including Peter Mansbridge, Lisa LaFlamme, Rex Murphy and Lloyd Robertson. How long will it be until a fully prepared canned story about the big, brassy, new and improved Mother Canada finds it’s way into one of their mouths, passing as news? Perhaps this has already happened but I have a tough time listening to most old media lately. They seem to be reaching a Dean Del Mastro-in-leg-irons level of scandal in some departments these days. I would gladly contribute to any artist or foundation wishing to cast that memorable incident in bronze to be displayed in front of the Peterborough courthouse as a memorial, so that the rife corruption we’ve seen in early 21st century politics is Never Forgotten.
Thankfully there are still plenty of journos out there who can’t been bought. The original stone Mother Canada’s true given name is Canada Bereft. She wasn’t put in place to be a propaganda tool and Katie Daubs of the Toronto Star realized this while on a tour to report on the centennial commemoration of the start of the First World War. Daubs wrote: “(Canada Bereft) is not celebrating a victory that changed military fortunes, a victory that would be forever enshrined in the national psyche. She is only looking at the tomb below, for all of Canada, mourning her fallen sons.” Thousands couldn’t come home because there was no physical trace of their existence left. Repatriation of the bodies complete with pomp and bagpipes was not only impractical, it was impossible. There would be no parade down the Highway of Heroes to be greeted by folks on bridges waving flags. The grim reality of Vimy Ridge is that it’s actually a 200 acre mass grave of lost Canadians, never to be disturbed. That can’t be rewritten. Mother Canada has her assignment and she should not be repurposed for someone else’s flamboyant dreams of glory. To do so dishonours the fallen and this nation.