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

A group of Canadians is organizing to stop a proposed condo development at Juno Beach in France, the site of the D-Day landing that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Canadian soldiers.

Construction on site of Normandy landings could begin in September

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)

A group of Canadians is organizing to stop a proposed condo development at Juno Beach in France, the site of the D-Day landing that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Canadian soldiers.

"It was a remarkable battle and the examples of fearlessness and courage and bravery just were outstanding," said Cindy Clegg, a spokesperson for the group Save Juno Beach.

"And now to think that there are condos going up right next to [the beach], where people can go on holidays and hoot and holler and play their radios loud on this battlefield just made me sick to my stomach."

The site is currently home to the Juno Beach Centre, a privately operated Canadian museum that has been open for nearly 20 years.

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

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

More than 14,000 Canadian soldiers participated in the landings 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 Centre and the Canadian memorial presence in Normandy," the museum said in a statement.

'We should get together and try to stop it'

"Any action that detracts from 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 upon sacred ground."

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

"We should get together and try to stop it," Hage told CBC. "It would likely close the museum for two years as they did their construction and then they have to face all the other traffic, and it's just not made for this sort of thing."

French 'deserve to enjoy the freedoms' helped won by Canadians

Local media reports suggest the proposed condo development has been a source of controversy around Caen, the nearest city and home to the courts that have overseen the dispute.

However, a ruling in early January granted Foncim the right to begin construction later this year. A developer spokesperson told French media that construction could begin in September and last for up to two years.

'As Canadians, we promise that we will remember,' said Cindy Clegg of the group 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 site of the landings.

"We are not generally opposed to projects like these on former battlegrounds; the French deserve to enjoy the freedoms our veterans' sacrifice brought them," the Juno Beach Centre statement reads.

The dispute between the developer and the Juno Beach Centre has largely centred on the usage of a road — named la Voie des Français Libres — constructed and operated by the museum.

Foncim plans to use the road during the construction. The museum has tried to block access to the developer on the grounds that construction will disrupt access to the site.

"We have great concern for the impact that this will have on the Juno Beach Centre," the museum says.

Group says pressure from Ottawa could stop project

Clegg is urging Canadians opposed to the development itself to write to their local MPs, with the hope that the federal government could apply pressure on the French government to halt the project.

She noted that condos have not been built at the sites of other important battles in France, such as Vimy Ridge or Omaha Beach.

"The French have a duty to memory and remembering what came before is very important to their culture," Clegg said.

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


  • An earlier version of this article listed Waterloo as a location in France. The site of that battle is, in fact, in modern Belgium. The reference has been removed.
    Mar 11, 2022 1:15 PM ET

With files from the CBC's Peter Zimonjic


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