Since our goals of occupying the HCBP site succeeded in stopping work for this year, the City has stepped up their public relations machine and have been working carefully to try alienating us from broader support. Allegations of ‘intimidation,’ ‘sabotage,’ ‘theft,’ and the like, have been tossed around, and even though they have all been debunked by us, we fear the sentiment may stick in people’s minds.
Here is our explanation addressing these points. We hope you can take a few minutes to read it and understand that we’re not as scary or as stupid as the City would have you think.
The Intimidation Bluff
Before the City had announced the cancellation of this year’s work on the HCBP due to the occupation, some people identifying themselves as Friends of the Hanlon Creek went to the home of the owner of Drexler Construction. Drexler is contracted for the initial infrastructure work on the HCBP, and stands to profit off of the destruction of this site. These people read the person who answered the door this letter:
“To whom it may concern,
You are receiving this letter because you are somehow implicated in the proposed development of the Hanlon Creek. This also means that you have a say in the future of the project.
We are demanding that you discontinue your support of the project. It is in all of our best interest.
There has already widespread (sic) opposition of this development and there will be much more to come.
– Friends of the Hanlon Creek”
The next day the police announced a “criminal investigation of intimidation,” which is highly unusual behaviour for the police to so publicly announce such a thing. This had the result of causing many people to believe the allegations and denounce critics of the HCBP as being thugs.
Soon after, two people identified themselves and offered to turn themselves in for this, on the premise that they had done nothing illegal. At a press conference in front of the police station, they called the bluff of the police and read the letter (which had previously not been made public), and broke down every sentence to show how it contains nothing intimidating. Their lawyer was on hand to offer analysis on how this “seems like another example where the Guelph Police are taking on a political role rather than simply a law enforcement role.” Their lawyer also had on hand a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, outlining how what these two did was perfectly within their rights.
The police refused to let them in to the police station, and did not return any calls in regard to this matter, leading most people to understand that the police had never had any intention of following up on the ‘intimidation’ charges, but really just wanted to pull a public relations move to frighten away support for the occupation.
You can watch a video of this press conference here: Friends of the Hanlon Creek
The two who identified themselves have since filed a lawsuit against the Guelph Police Services Board (which both Mayor Farbridge and Councilor Kovach sit on). Their notice of action seeks $10,000 for defamation, $10,000 for breach of their Charter rights and $10,000 in aggravated and punitive damages. Their lawyer says the police “have shown contempt for freedom of expression and democracy, and one of the claimants, Julian Ichim, believes that “The police are being used as a political tool to repress dissidents.”
The HCBP is “not sprawl”
The City continues to take the stance that the HCBP is not sprawl. This has been present in various advertisements and press releases. The City’s most recent media ad states that,
“The City of Guelph knows well that preventing sprawl is an important part of protecting our environment. That’s because as people spread out into rural or natural areas, we impact the environment in many ways. The Hanlon Creek Business Park is within Guelph’s boundaries, so it does not contribute to sprawl.”
In 1993, the City annexed the land in question from Puslinch County, for the purpose of employment lands. Since that time it has been within Guelph’s boundaries, designated in city hall as awaiting the Hanlon Creek Business Park.
One must wonder when an industrial development goes from “sprawl” to “not sprawl.” Was it “sprawl” when the City of Guelph annexed it for employment purposes, even though no construction occurred for 16 years? Or was it sprawl when the Hanlon Creek Business Park became an officially named industrial project? Or was it sprawl in July 2009, when Drexler finally began bulldozing and cutting down trees?
Here are some definitions of urban sprawl from various dictionaries:
“Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is the spreading of a city and its suburbs over rural land at the fringe of an urban area.”
“The spreading of urban developments (as houses and shopping centers) on undeveloped land near a city.”
“The extension of the city into the countryside, particularly associated with improvements in mass transport.”
“Development of low-population-density settlements around high-density cities, either by emigration from the core cities or by influx of new residents from elsewhere.”
Based on these definitions, regardless of when the annexation occurred, and whether or not construction occurred in 1993 or 2009, building an industrial development on countryside fits the definition of sprawl.
Likely because sprawl has such a negative connotation, the City has been trying to alter the definition of sprawl to suit their public image. It seems like a rather Orwellian thing, to change the definition of a word to suit industrial interests.
There is no moraine on site
If you read the Mayor’s website, the ‘Myths and Facts’ article has various misleading points. Perhaps the strangest is this:
“MYTH: The site is part of the Paris-Galt moraine.
FACT: The property is not part of the Paris-Galt moraine. It does have important hydrological functions, which have been a priority throughout the years of planning for the site.”
The following is from the City’s own Environmental Impact Study on the HCBP:
“3.2 Geologic Setting
“The study area (the HCBP) is located on the northern base of the Paris Moraine, part of the regional Horseshoe Moraines physiographic feature. The Paris Moraine is generally comprised of the Wentworth Till, a stony sandy silt till deposit, which extends to about the southern edge of the study area. The moraine is reported to be generally “hummocky” and “hilly” in nature, ranging in elevation from about 330m to 345AMSL. The moraine forms a local ridge running east-west at the south limit of the study area.”
Besies the fact that they repeatedly refused to post our clarifications, we’re really not sure where the idea came from that there is no moraine on site. Their own reports say it is, and anyone can walk out there and see for themselves the rollings hills that define the moraine.
The Sabotage Scare
On August 30, after work had been allowed to resume again per Donna Cansfield’s decision, a Drexler crew was sent to finally fill the large trench that blocked access from McWilliams road. That same night, people went out there and re-dug it. The next day, the City issued a press release titled “Hanlon Creek Business Park site sabotaged overnight.”
From Scott Tracey’s Sept 11 article in the Guelph Mercury:
“In an over-the-top press release issued Sept. 1 — the day before the Drexler visit — the city claimed someone had “sabotaged” the site by — horrors! — re-digging a trench which had been filled in hours earlier by a Drexler work crew.
“I’m sure the trench was re-filled quickly with a bulldozer, and city engineer Colin Baker conceded to me the disruption had been minimal.
“But it gave the city a chance to crank up its hyperbole machine. How often do you get a chance to issue a press release with “sabotage” in the headline after all?”
Yes, it’s not too often anyone labels a ditch as ‘sabotage.’ Ironically, the City’s press release pointed out that the ditch was dug overnight, “the time of day when salamanders, particularly juveniles, are most vulnerable.” This is ironic to the extreme considering that the City had defied the MNR’s recommendations to halt work on the HCBP, due to the MNR’s concerns over destruction of Jefferson Salamander habitat.
That takes us to our next point about the City.
The City’s shady dealings with the MNR
For an in-depth understanding of this, please see this post: A detailed synopsis of how the City has been ignoring the MNR (while saying they’re working together)
That outlines in greater detail the timeline of events in which the City was caught misleading the public and in fact trying to force through construction that was in potential violation of the Endangered Species Act.
The site was ‘left a mess’
On August 17, just after we had left the site, Vik Kirsch wrote an article in the Guelph Mercury titled “Environmental protestors leave behind mess.” This headline was atop the front page, leaving the impression in many people’s minds that we were hypocritical and less deserving of support and credibility. But upon reading Vik’s article, the only mess he describes is a trench, large black pipes, a makeshift bridge over a stream, bales of straw, a log tower, a homemade fireplace, wooden bench, pieces of lumber, rough-hewn trees, a construction sign.
What Vik failed to report is that all these things were already there before we arrived. These materials were all either brought in by Drexler or found elsewhere on site, and we just re-arranged them into various forms – some 2x4s into a bridge, bales of straw into a simple shelter, bricks into a fireplace, logs into a log tower, etc. We had cleaned up every bit of garbage, not to mention the fact that by the time the 19 day occupation was up, there were many songbirds and fish playing in the stream that would have had a giant concrete culvert over it if we had not stepped in.