The Hanlon Creek watershed flows through southern Guelph, and is a survivor of many decades of industrial growth. It’s seven tributaries flow into the Speed River, which in turn flows into the Grand River, one of the most vital watershed regions in Southern Ontario. One of these seven tributaries was the subject of intense attention this year, as the City of Guelph sought to begin construction of a business park with a long history of opposition.
At dawn on Monday July 26, the last coldwater creek of the Hanlon Creek watershed became a flashpoint of resistance. When the City of Guelph tried beginning construction for the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP), 60 people converged to occupy the site for 19 days, attracting hundreds of supporters and creating a huge legal and political battle that continues today.
This fall and winter, land defenders from this important struggle are traveling to other cities and towns to meet, network, and share tales of protecting the earth with others who believe that without a healthy landbase, we can’t have healthy communities. We hope to build support to prevent the HCBP in Guelph, and just as importantly, we are looking to expand upon a grassroots network of resistance to development.
We are looking for help organizing events in your area in the next couple months. We are looking to set up public events for a multimedia presentation and discussion, talks with local environmental and social justice groups, school and faith groups, and smaller and more personal networking opportunities. If you are interested in organizing a stop for us in your community and/or hosting us, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For details about the HCBP project, the occupation, and the legal struggle, check out hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com.
With loving solidarity,
The proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park would cover more than 75% of the 675-acre site, which is presently inhabited by rolling meadows, wetlands, and some of the last old growth forest in the area. The site is home to two amphibians classified as ‘threatened,’ and is also home to many other reptiles and amphibians, as well as deer, coyotes, foxes, rodents, swarms of insects, fish, and more than 110 bird species – including Blue Herons who still feed in the stretch of creek that would be covered by a road if no one had intervened. Several hundred-year-old Cedar trees have already been cut, and it was around their stumps that the land defence camp was established.
Since the summer’s end, our precedent-setting legal struggle ended with us getting sold out by the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the federal government bailing out the city to cover the contract we stopped. The City announced a $150,000 lawsuit against 5 individuals, they continue to take advantage of loopholes to speed up construction, and their recent attempt at a ‘groundbreaking ceremony’ led to a raucous and theatrical ‘grave-digging ceremony.’ Long story short, the Hanlon Creek is still threatened with destruction, and without significant public pressure, the city of Guelph will continue to destroy this area.
The struggle to protect the Hanlon Creek is not an isolated struggle. Throughout southern Ontario and the rest of Turtle Island, people are struggling against development and destruction of the wild. Downriver, Indigenous land defenders from Six Nations of the Grand River have shut down hundreds of millions of dollars worth of developments on their territory. An untold number of gravel pits in south-western Ontario face opposition, and crucial wetlands and moraines are increasingly being defended.
The struggle to protect the Hanlon Creek is one example of many where non-Natives act in solidarity with Indigenous people to protect the land. In eastern Ontario at Sharbot Lake, Native and non-Native people took part in blockades to stop a uranium mine. On Six Nations territory at Cayuga, Native and non-Native people have repeatedly stood on the road to stop garbage trucks from entering a contested dump. The same happened at Site 41 north of Barrie to prevent a new garbage dump. What makes Guelph’s occupation unique is that non-Native people didn’t wait for Native folks to take the first stand, but rather we took to the land and faced the consequences.
What emerged from the HCBP occupation and related events is a grassroots network that sees the need to take action when the political system fails us. Years of dedicated activism have tried to protect the Hanlon Creek watershed, and when that system failed to respond adequately, people came together and took to the land. We want this speaking & networking tour to give new life to the lessons we’ve learned, so that actions like this can become more effective and more frequent.
Contact us at email@example.com. For more information see hcbpoccupation.wordpress.com.