POLITICS
02/16/2012 06:10 EST | Updated 04/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Halifax plans solemn tributes to mark 100 years since Titanic sank

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government has planned a series of solemn tributes and tourism marketing strategies to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic.

The signature events include a candlelight procession through downtown Halifax on April 14, and an interfaith memorial service on April 15 — the day the luxury liner sank after striking an iceberg south of the Grand Banks, killing 1,500 of the 2,200 people aboard.

Visitors from around the world are expected to come to Halifax to mark the grim anniversary, Tourism Minister Percy Paris told a news conference Thursday at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

"Our Maritime heritage and culture make us uniquely able to mark this historic, solemn occasion, and tell the world about our important role in the tragic story," Paris said.

The procession through Halifax will make its way past several Titanic-related sites and end at the Grand Parade, the public square in front of Halifax City Hall.

After a series of presentations and live performances, there will be a moment of silence at 12:20 a.m. Churches in the city will ring their bells and ships in the harbour will sound their horns.

The interfaith service, which will include a wreath laying and musical performances, will take place at the Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax on April 15 at 3 p.m. More than 120 victims of the sinking are buried at the cemetery. Another 30 victims are buried at two other cemeteries in the city.

"While we recognize the pop culture stature of the famous ship as a global icon, we in Nova Scotia understand that this was a disaster ... in which many individuals lost their lives," Paris said.

However, the minister went on to suggest the anniversary will boost tourism.

In the United States, the all-news channel CNN and the Lonely Planet travel guides have both named Nova Scotia one of the top places to visit in 2012, he said.

"With the eyes of the world on Nova Scotia during the anniversary, we are exploring innovative opportunities to promote the province ... as a premier travel destination," Paris said.

The province has already struck a deal to show tourism ads following trailers for the 3-D reissue of the 1997 film "Titanic" in theatres in the United Kingdom and Germany.

The provincial government will also roll out a social media strategy that will include using Twitter to transmit the Titanic's final emergency messages.

Asked if it was appropriate for the province to make money from such a tragic event, Paris said: "There will be people who will be coming from all over the world. I think one of the things is that we also want to be respectful of the time and the money and the effort they are investing to get here."

In the fall, the province plans to install a permanent monument on the Halifax waterfront, refurbish the three Titanic cemeteries and build a tour route called the "Titanic Trail." No details were released on these projects.

Paris said he didn't know how much public money would be spent on the events and memorials.

RMS Titanic, built in Belfast, Ireland, left Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, and was scheduled to arrive a week later in New York on April 17.

The White Star Line ship sank within hours of hitting an iceberg in the North Atlantic, dropping about 3,800 metres to the ocean floor in the early hours of April 15.

An international team led by oceanographer Robert Ballard located the wreckage in 1985, about 645 kilometres southeast of Newfoundland.