A group of Canadians is working to stop a proposed development of seaside condominiums at Juno Beach in France, the site of Canada’s famous D-Day landings.
A questionable municipal land deal has turned over a large portion of Juno Beach to a developer who plans to build 70 seaside condos this year. It is right on the doorstep of the Juno Beach Centre (JBC) – Canada’s primary WWII site in Europe to commemorate the sacrifice of Canadians who helped liberate France and Europe.
More than 14,000 Canadian soldiers landed or parachuted into France on D-Day. The soldiers who seized Juno Beach showed an extraordinary example of Canadian military skill, reinforced by countless acts of personal courage. There were 1,096 Canadian casualties that day, including 381 killed.
The Juno Beach Centre is truly viewed as a sacred spot from Canada. This humble but beautiful Centre serves for remembrance to those who came ashore on that very beach early on June 6, 1944, It also serves as a Canadian memorial to all those that fought in Normandy, throughout the rest of France. Canadians – many were volunteers – came from the high seas to open the routes to the Normandy beaches and from the skies to clear the way for the navy and army to liberate the people of France from the brutal predations of a vicious occupying power.
The stories of their heroism and valour are wonderfully told at the Centre, with artifacts, photos, videos, guides and a love that is palpable. The lessons that these Canadians gave us are captured here so that young people from France, Canada and so many other countries, can be better prepared than the earlier generation was to deter violence, racism, genocide, mass murder and mindless adherence to extremism. The gift of freedom, human rights and democracy is constantly learned at JBC.
All of this could be destroyed by this development and could lead to the closure of the Juno Beach Centre.
For the last two years, the Juno Beach Centre, Canada’s Second World War museum, which sits on the D-Day landing beach in Normandy, has been fighting back. The developer has kept the Juno Beach Centre in court for two years at a cost of $400,000. The developer is demanding the use of the private driveway of the Juno Beach Centre that will create traffic chaos and discourage visitors. This, along with the devastating impact of COVID-19 on tourism in Normandy, means the legacy that our veterans built for future generations may disappear entirely.
Save Juno Beach organizer, Cindy Clegg, says that French officials are simply looking the other way. “There should never have been an agreement to build condos in the first place. It is an enormous insult to the memory of the incredible soldiers who conquered their fear to liberate France and a continent on that day.” She is urging Canadians to raise their voices to their Members of Parliament. “We need Canadians to speak up so our politicians will step up.”
Through the Save Juno Beach website, people can send a letter to their Member of Parliament demanding action. “Thousands of letters have been sent,” comments Clegg. “Every letter encourages the Government of Canada and the Government of France to repeal the decision to build these condominiums.”
In the meantime, the Juno Beach Centre Association needs money to continue the fight to buy the property from the developer. Ultimately, the dream is to build a public memorial park for future generations to remember and commemorate the sacrifices made by all Canadians who were part of the Allied victory in all theatres of war and about the role of Canada in preserving the freedoms we are privileged to enjoy today.
According to Clegg, we still have the opportunity to bring this development and all its related consequences to a halt before it causes permanent damage to the Juno Beach Centre, and this hallowed ground that is such an important piece of Canadian history.
“Lest We Forget “must be more than just words. The phrase means that we will do all that is necessary to honour our history, remember the valour of our soldiers who fought and died and memorialize the places that preserve the story of Canadian soldiers who put their lives on hold – or sacrificed them entirely – to fight for a better world.
Current world events remind us that some things are sacred, and we owe it to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to never forget.