In a letter to Russell Clarke of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Memory Club, dated June 27, Department of National Defence corporate secretary Jane Lang said the century-old armoury has been declared surplus and the department’s plan is to divest itself of the building.
“As you many know, critical repairs were undertaken in 2010 to stabilize the building and other measures including limiting access to portions of the building were implemented to ensure health and safety,” Lang said in the letter. “There are no plans to undertake further repairs as the intention is to dispose of the property.”
No timeline was given for any potential closure.
The building was opened during the early stages of the First World War in 1915 and was the birthplace of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, who lost 486 members during the Second World War.
Lang said the Highlanders will be consolidating into the Truro, Springhill and Pictou armouries and the battalion will determine what to do with the artifacts currently displayed at the Amherst museum.
“They may choose to display them at the Truro, Springhill and Pictou locations,” Lang said in the letter.
That’s bad news for Clarke, who has been lobbying the federal government for more than a decade to restore the building so it can be used by community and preserve the museum that commemorates the role the North Nova Scotia Highlanders played in the Second World War.
“This is very disappointing news,” said Clarke, a Second World War veteran who joined the North Novies before being transferred to the Royal Canadian Artillery later in the war. “This is an important piece of our community’s history, it’s very upsetting. You can’t seem to get any action from anybody. They all say it shouldn’t happen but they go away and forget it. It’s just something else that will leave the community.
“If this were Cape Breton they’d have people out in front of that (building) making all sorts of noise.”
Clarke began writing letters in 2006 asking for the building to repaired and the regimental museum preserved.
He’s concerned the artifacts, he feels are worth at least $1 million, will leave the community for ever.
Lang said the department is considering the impact divestiture would have on the three cadet corps that use the facility. While it’s not mandated to provide accommodations to cadets, she said the department will work to mitigate the impact of divestments on cadet units and provide assistance in identifying alternatives where possible.
Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey said he is disappointed with the department’s decision but understands it would cost several million dollars to repair a building it has no use for.
He said his priority moving forward is finding a new home for the museum.
“I’m prepared to work with anyone to find another location in the community. Those artifacts were collected by veterans in this community and they must remain in Cumberland County. That’s where they belong,” Casey said.
Casey has long lobbied to preserve the building and the museum as an important piece of Amherst history.