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Canadians campaign to stop condo development at D-Day landing site

A group of Canadians is petitioning the federal government to stop a proposed condo development on Juno Beach in France, where hundreds of Canadians died during the D-Day landings of the Second World War.

Cindy Clegg of the Save Juno Beach campaign spoke to CTV News Channel on Saturday about the efforts she and others are making to raise awareness about the controversial development.

French property developer Foncim plans to build a 70-unit condominium on the beach, one of five in Normandy, France, that was stormed by the Allies on D-Day, June 6, 1944, to free Nazi-occupied Europe.

Of the 45,000 Canadians who died during the Second World War, 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 381 on D-Day.

The condo development, meanwhile, could get underway as early as September.

"This is a centre of memory to the Canadians who sacrificed their lives to liberate France and to go on and liberate Europe," Clegg said.

"It's hallowed ground, it's sacred ground and there's no reason at all to be discussing anything but the fact that there should be no condos there."


The cause been championed by the Juno Beach Centre (JBC), a Canadian museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, which has described the development as "its greatest threat in nearly 20 years of existence."

In a statement released earlier this month, officials with the centre said while it is generally not opposed to these sorts of projects on former battlegrounds, adding the French "deserve to enjoy the freedoms our veterans' sacrifice brought them," the project was done without input from the community or the Juno Beach Centre.

"Today, despite local opposition, the project has advanced to the point where the developer is demanding use of the JBC's private road for access to the building site by construction vehicles and workers. We have great concern for the impact that this will have on the Juno Beach Centre," the statement reads.

It said the centre has defended itself from legal actions filed by the developer over the last two years, with one decision allowing construction vehicles to travel over the centre's road "at will."

With the project expected to last nearly 22 months, the centre is concerned about the impact the work will have on its day-to-day business.

"We are rapidly approaching a point of no return," the centre's statement says.

"This is an existential threat to the Juno Beach Centre and the Canadian memorial presence in Normandy. Without your support, the legacy that our veterans built for future generations on Juno Beach may disappear entirely."


Clegg says that while her efforts come a "little late to the game," her hope is that Canadians will become more aware of what is happening and create enough pressure to get the French government to stop the development.

The Juno Beach Centre says it has kept Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly informed of the issue and called on them to appeal to their French counterparts.

"Just as we've heard previously about the issue of COVID's impact on tourism, the Juno Beach Centre has been really hit hard in the last two years by COVID, so their numbers are really down," she said.

"And then to restrict movement of tourists into the area would be just devastating."

The goal of the campaign now is to encourage members of the public to send letters to their members of Parliament.

The campaign also is soliciting donations to help the Juno Beach Centre in its legal fight against the developer.

"Ultimately, having a memorial park on the site for everybody and to set that land aside in perpetuity would be the perfect solution," Clegg said.



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