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Council voices support for proposed Never Forgotten National Memorial

'I can't see anything better than doing this now,' says deputy mayor; Proponents hope Bradford council's support starts groundswell across the nation

In 2013, Tony Patrick Trigiani, president of Norstar Corp. and a naturalized Canadian citizen, proposed a Never Forgotten National Memorial as a sesquicentennial project.

It would be a memorial to the more than 114,000 Canadians killed in conflicts overseas from the First World War to peacekeeping missions around the world - especially those who are buried in foreign lands, far from home.

The memorial would sit on a rocky outcrop at Green Cove, Cape Breton Island, in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and include a monumental sculpture of ‘Mother Canada.’ The 24-metre-tall figure of a woman, arms outstretched, would reach toward ‘Canada Bereft,’ the mourning figure at the Vimy Ridge memorial.

Trigiani put up to $1 million of his own money into the project, but approvals stalled. There was opposition to placing the memorial - which included a parking lot and gift shop - in a national park and to spending taxpayers' dollars on the project.

In 2016, Parks Canada withdrew its support for the project.

Now, a new champion has taken up the fight for the Never Forgotten National Memorial.

 Lt. Col. Ferguson Mobbs (Ret.) and the Bradford Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion relaunched the campaign locally, coming to Bradford West Gwillimbury Council on Tuesday night, to ask for the town’s support.

Mobbs noted that when he and his wife visited the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France and saw the white marble figure of ‘Canada Bereft,’ their first feeling was one of overwhelming sadness – followed by “a warm feeling of Canadian pride and that’s what it’s all about.”

He noted that the location of the memorial is symbolic. It will stand on what was the easternmost point of Canada in 1914, before Newfoundland joined confederation, in a direct line with Vimy Ridge.

“This location would be available to all Canadians who cannot make the trip to Vimy, France,” Mobbs told councillors.

And every year, it would be the scene of a “repatriation” ceremony, bringing a handful of the soil from Vimy Ridge to Canada “to bring our people home.”

The Bradford Legion voted unanimously to support the project.

“They are the first Legion in the Province of Ontario to pass the resolution in support,” Mobbs said, explaining that the delegation to council wasn’t asking for a financial contribution, but for a resolution in support of the memorial.

“We want Bradford West Gwillimbury to be one of the first municipalities in Ontario and possibly Canada to come out and support this project,” said Mobbs. “You can challenge every other municipality in the province to do the same.”

“I can’t see anything better than doing this now,” said Deputy Mayor James Leduc, adding that “we have a democracy today” because of the sacrifices made by Canada’s fallen soldiers.

“We can support the men and women of our armed forces, past, present and future… I look forward to moving this forward,” he said.

“It’s a wonderful project and I would be honoured to endorse this,” said Coun. Mark Contois.

Councillors unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the memorial, voting to send a copy to MP Scot Davidson, MPP Caroline Mulroney, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and “all municipalities across Ontario.”

“It’s awareness. We want other municipalities to be aware of the story,” said Mayor Rob Keffer.

“We want to move this project forward as proud Canadians,” said Leduc. 

The Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation is looking for private support for the $25-million project from businesses, organizations, agencies and individuals across Canada.