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Canada agrees to help buy land near Juno Beach, ending condo dispute

The site of the proposed condo development at Juno Beach, with the Juno Beach Centre museum visible near the bottom-left of the frame. (Foncim)

The site of the proposed condo development at Juno Beach, with the Juno Beach Centre museum visible near the bottom-left of the frame. (Foncim)

Photo: (Foncim)

RCI

Ottawa will partner with local government in northern France to buy land from developer

The federal government has agreed to help buy land from a developer that was planning to build condos near the historic Juno Beach landing site in France.

The land borders the Juno Beach Centre, a privately operated Canadian museum that, for nearly 20 years, has commemorated the Second World War D-Day landing which claimed the lives of hundreds of Canadian soldiers.

For more than two years, the museum has been engaged in a legal battle with French developer Foncim, which planned to construct two buildings, with 66 condos, near the beach. Construction was set to begin as early as this fall.

But last week, the local council of Courseulles-Sur-Mer decided to purchase the land back with the Canadian government in order to preserve the site. Canada's contribution will be about $4 million.

It was a step too far for Canadians, said Cindy Clegg, of the Save Juno Beach campaign. Our efforts to save Juno Beach from development told Canadians what was happening in France, at a time when authorities were looking the other way. It should never have gotten to this point.

Canadians make a promise every Remembrance Day to never forget the sacrifices made for future generations. And this year, we forced our government to step up and protect the legacy and reputation of our country as an ally and force for good in a war-torn world.

The dispute between the developer and the Juno Beach Centre was largely about the use of a road — Voie des Français Libres — constructed and operated by the museum.

Foncim planned to use the road during the construction. The museum tried to block access to the developer on the grounds that construction — which it called an existential threat — would disrupt access to the site.

In April, Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay vowed to do everything possible to resolve the dispute after meeting with the mayor of Courseulles-sur-Mer and the French minister delegate for remembrance and veterans to stress the importance of commemorating the Canadians who died at Juno.

My job is to indicate how important paying respect and commemoration is, and, of course, to indicate how important Juno Beach is to Canada, because a lot of our blood has been spilled here, MacAulay said at the time.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Second World War veteran Al Roy as he visits Juno Beach. The interaction followed a 75th anniversary D-Day ceremony at Juno Beach in Courseulles-Sur-Mer, France, on June 6, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay looks on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Second World War veteran Al Roy as he visits Juno Beach. The interaction followed a 75th anniversary D-Day ceremony at Juno Beach in Courseulles-Sur-Mer, France, on June 6, 2019.

Photo:  (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

On the day MacAulay made that statement, then-Conservative veterans affairs critic Frank Caputo and NDP veterans affairs critic Rachel Blaney also toured the museum in a show of support.

On Friday, MacAulay called the battle at Juno Beach one of the most ambitious military operations the world has ever seen, saying that protecting it for posterity is important for not only for Canada, but for France as well.

The story of Juno Beach and the Battle of Normandy, and the brave folks who fought there, represent a vitally important chapter in our history. This agreement will safeguard and preserve this portion of Juno Beach for future generations, he said. 

But following the announcement, Caputo took to Twitter to criticize MacAulay for not acting sooner.

That it took pressure from thousands of Canadians, a mandate from the Veterans Affairs committee and petitions from myself and other members of Parliament while standing on Juno Beach itself for the minister to make this common-sense decision is a sad reality, he said in a tweet.

The dispute received the attention of many Canadians, including those who formed the group Save Juno Beach to oppose the condo project.

The mayor of Courseulles-sur-Mer, Anne-Marie Philippeaux, said her government moved to help protect the site to ensure it would be there for future generations.

By purchasing this land in the Juno sector, with the intent to make it available to Canadians, the elected officials of Courseulles-sur-Mer are continuing the commitment of the elected officials who, on Nov. 10, 2001, made land available to the Juno Beach Centre … in honour of all those who served in the Canadian military during the Second World War, she said in a statement.

Darren Major (new window) · CBC News

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