Guelph, Ont. Decade-Long Battle Against Wal-Mart Continues
Citizens in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, have been engaged in their own Olympic endurance battle against Wal-Mart for roughly ten years. On January 20th,2006, city officials rezoned land to allow a Wal-Mart to be built in Guelph. But shortly thereafter, an appeal was filed by a new coalition of groups. Here is the press release sent to Sprawl-Busters on the grounds for their appeal: "A broad multi-faith initiative is moving forward immediately seeking to quash a new by-law allowing major commercial construction near a world-renowned religious centre and two historic cemeteries. Members of many world religions, including Aboriginal, Anglican, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Daoist, Jesuit, Lutheran, and United
have now gathered to protect this sacred land, with other faith representatives continuing to come forward. Following Section 273 of the Municipal Act, an application has been filed alleging that the by-law is illegal -- in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- in that major commercial activity will directly and substantially interfere with the religious beliefs and practices of individuals of many faiths who use the Ignatius Jesuit Centre and adjoining lands. Section 273(1) of the Municipal Act states that any person can apply to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to have a municipal by-law quashed for illegality. Bill Hulet, an initiated member of the Daoist tradition, has filed the application today (Feb. 9th). "This initiative carries a very strong, completely positive message about protecting deep personal and religious values," states Hulet. "The Ignatius centre is a meeting ground where many religions intersect with one another hundreds of times each year, and with nature -- the Dao -- itself." In 1995, an application was made to the City of Guelph to change the zoning of the lands beside the religious centre and allow for major commercial construction. When this request was refused, the developer appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, resulting in legal proceedings that ended January 20, 2006. Huletıs application, in contrast, will focus directly on a wide variety of evidence and issues never considered in the last case. Witnesses will also not be bound by a previous agreement that limited evidence of physical impacts such as noise, light, and activity, which are significant sources of interference in religious practice in general -- and of the outdoor activities in particular. "This is a very different case, with a highly energized group of dedicated new participants resolved to ensure that the court makes a much more fully informed decision," emphasizes Eric Gillespie, legal counsel for the applicant. "Here we have a different party, with witnesses from many different faith traditions, a different court, a different legal test, and an opportunity for an entirely different outcome." Although Section 273(5) of the Municipal Act states that applications to quash a by-law must be made within one year after the by-law is passed, Huletıs application has been filed just 20 days after the City's by-law came into effect. The Ignatius Jesuit Centre was established in 1913, and consists of 600 acres of farmland, gardens, wetland, woodlands and walking trails. In addition to hosting the religious practices of individuals and groups from Guelph and around the world, the centre houses internship programs, the Jesuit Ecology Project, organic agriculture, an aboriginal sweat lodge complex, several hermitages, and Loyola House, a world-renown retreat centre. "
What you can do: This is probably not the kind of "faith-based initiative" that Wal-Mart would support, but this new group hopes to use more than faith to stop an incompatible land use. Clearly city officials were not concerned about the impact of intense commercial development located near a large religious center. The result is litigation and controversy. Guelph officials made this bed, now they and Wal-Mart must lie in it. For local contacts in Guelph, contact email@example.com.