Canadians oppose proposed condo development at Juno Beach D-Day site

A group of Canadians organize to stop a condo development project at Juno Beach in France, the site of the D-Day landings that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Canadian soldiers.

“It was a remarkable battle and the examples of fearlessness, courage and bravery were nothing short of outstanding,” said Cindy Clegg, spokesperson for the Save Juno Beach group.

“And now to say that there are condos being built right next to [the beach]where people can go on vacation and boo and yell and put their radios on full blast on this battlefield made my stomach sick.”

The site currently houses the Juno Beach Centre, a private Canadian museum that has been in operation for nearly 20 years.

The museum has been engaged for two years in a long legal battle with French developer Focim, which plans to build two buildings near the beach, comprising a total of 66 condos.

Save Juno Beach says building condos on the site where Canadian soldiers took part in the crucial Normandy landings will dishonor the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers who stormed the beach on June 6, 1944.

More than 14,000 Canadian soldiers took part in the landing and 359 were killed, according to Veterans Affairs Canada.

“We are rapidly approaching a point of no return. This is an existential threat to the Juno Beach Center and the Canadian commemorative presence in Normandy,” the museum said in a statement.

“We should get together and try to stop it”

“Any action that undermines the sacrifices of those who served at Juno Beach is a wrong course of action,” said Nujma Bond, spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Legion.

“The Legion was disturbed to learn of this planned development and we are currently discussing next steps to respond to this potential intrusion on hallowed ground.”

Robert Hage, a retired diplomat from the Global Affairs Institute, said Canada should reach out to France on a diplomatic level to argue that Juno Beach should be preserved and the museum there should be protected from development impacts.

“We should come together and try to stop it,” Hage told CBC. “It would probably close the museum for two years because they’ve done their construction, and then they have to deal with all the rest of the traffic, and it’s just not made for that sort of thing.”

The French “deserve to enjoy the freedoms” helped by the Canadians

Local media suggest the condo development project has been a source of controversy around Caen, the nearest town and the seat of the courts that have overseen the dispute.

However, a decision issued in early January granted Focim the right to begin construction later this year. A spokesman for the developer told French media that construction could start in September and take up to two years.

“As Canadians, we promise we will remember,” said Cindy Clegg of Save Juno Beach. (Zoom)

Unlike the Save Juno Beach group, the museum says it is not categorically opposed to the possibility of construction near the landing site.

“We are not generally opposed to projects like these on former battlefields; the French deserve to enjoy the freedoms that the sacrifice of our veterans has given them,” the Juno Beach Center statement read.

The dispute between the developer and the Juno Beach Center has largely centered on the use of a road — called the Voie des Français Gratuits — built and operated by the museum.

Focim plans to use the road during construction. The museum attempted to block access to the developer on the grounds that the construction would disrupt access to the site.

“We are very concerned about the impact this will have on the Juno Beach Center,” the museum said.

Group says pressure from Ottawa could stop project

Clegg urges Canadians opposed to the development itself to write to their local MPs, in the hope that the federal government can pressure the French government to stop the project.

She noted that condos were not built on the sites of other major battles in France, such as Vimy Ridge or Omaha Beach.

“The French have a duty of memory and remembering what came before is very important for their culture,” said Clegg.

Despite the court ruling in favor of the development, she said the group still hopes the project could be canceled if enough Canadians voice their opposition.

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