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.
Since its inception more than a decade ago, the Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) has been one of the most contentious and challenged developments in the City of Guelph. In 2005, residents of the Kortright Hills Neighbourhood Association fought the City of Guelph in the Ontario Municipal Board, and won some tweaks to the overall plan that delayed it for several years. In 2008, a diverse group of people organized together to prevent the HCBP once and for all. Land Is More Important Than Sprawl (LIMITS) formed then, and organized in many ways in the community. Numerous other groups have raised serious problems with it, like the Sierra Club of Canada, the Guelph Civic League, Wellington Water Watchers, the Council of Canadians, Guelph Urban Forest Friends, and more.
But the more well-researched arguments people brought to the City, the more the City of Guelph shut down to dialogue from community members. Eventually every possible legal option had been exhausted. Ignoring concerns from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the City tried to begin construction of Phase 1 of the HCBP. People who were not associated with LIMITS had been watching all along, suspecting that the City was not interested in re-considering this industrial project.
At dawn on Monday July 26, the last coldwater creek of the Hanlon Creek watershed became a flashpoint of resistance. 60 people converged and occupied the site, right where a 4-lane culvert was supposed to be put across a tributary of the Hanlon Creek. Autonomous from any organization, a broad coalition of Land Defenders attracted hundreds of supporters from all over Guelph, Southern Ontario, and other parts of this continent. Lasting for 18 days, this action succeeded in stopping construction for 2009, and has created a huge legal and political battle that continues today.
Within four days of being on the land, the City of Guelph delivered an injunction to try and force people off the land, which would have the threat of police and imprisonment to back it up. Seven people’s names were on the injunction, including a claim for $5 million in damages. With only a weekend to prepare, a legal battle soon began, with courtrooms packed full of supporters. In the end, the occupation lasted for 18 days, eventually ending in injunctions forcing the City of Guelph to stop work and the Land Defenders to vacate the site.
Since then, the City of Guelph has maintained their lawsuit against the remaining five individuals (two of the original people were dropped). In August the City reduced their claim to $150,000, to “recover costs associated with stolen equipment and damage to the property.” Then on February 24 2010, the City changed it back to $5 million, “to ensure that the actual cost of damages incurred to date and potential future damages resulting from protestor activity can be recovered so the business park can move forward without further cost to taxpayers.”
This is a support site for these five individuals, collectively known as the Hanlon Creek 5. While there are five named individuals on this lawsuit, this is an issue that affects all of us. At stake is a 675-acre parcel of land which is important to all of us for a long list of reasons. When individuals get targeted in a SLAPP suit like this, it is intended to send a message to all of us – look what happens when you step out of line. The choice the City would leave us with is to conform to actions that don’t stop business-as-usual, but of course that makes no difference to the ongoing destruction of our planet. The success of our movements requires us to stand up for each other and support those who are targeted. Please read the other pages on this site to familiarize with this issue.
For more information about the problems associated with the Hanlon Creek Business Park, please see the following sites:
Defend the Hanlon Creek Watershed – Site for the Occupation of the HCBP and related news since then
Royal City Rag – Community radio show on CFRU 93.3fm that has focused a lot on the Hanlon Creek Watershed
Land Is More Important Than Sprawl – Community group formed to protect the Hanlon Creek Watershed from the HCBP
Wellington Water Watchers – Information on how the HCBP threatens Guelph’s water supply
Guelph Mercury new archive – Archive of all news about the HCBP