Friends Amis North Hatley – fanhca.org – had its roots in the petition, 130, trois et beau, that gathered over 350 signatures from people who know and love North Hatley to request a less dense, lower and more harmonious project than the one presented to the public in August, 2014.
On September 8, 2014, the results of the petition were formally presented to the Mayor of North Hatley, Mr Michael Page, at a public meeting of citizens and the Town Council. Replying to an email to Communications North Hatley, the Village’s communications address, Councillor Pauline Farrugia* acknowledged the petition but rejected the numbers, stating, “The petition of 350 signatures is actually a petition of about half that. This is because many people who signed the petition are not North Hatley residents and many others did not actually sign.”
On September 17, 2014, the Mayor and Council were provided with a list of the ties which certain people who signed the petition but indicated an out of town address might have with North Hatley.
Replying to my email sent to the Communications North Hatley, asking what significance the petition would have, Councillor Farrugia* replied on December 11, 2014, ”When the petition was officially presented to us at September’s public meeting, we said at that time that we will be taking it under advisement. This is indeed what we have done. .. We read it and are keeping it in mind.”
However, at the public Town Council meeting earlier in the fall, when each council member was asked individually about whether their views on the acceptability of the project had been affected by the petition, one councillor said she had not been influenced, that the petition had been signed by non-residents, and that it wasn’t possible to know how many people in the town were in favour of the project.
To a degree, Council is correct saying that many who signed are not North Hatley residents but what they ignore is that many who signed the petition who are not North Hatley residents come from as nearby as Hatley, the Canton de Hatley and Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, and have a close relationship with the Village, use its services, and care about its future. They form an integral part of the life of the village.
More significantly, others come from further afield: Montreal, Toronto, New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the Caribbean, Europe and elsewhere. These aren’t just casual tourists who happen to have once set foot in our beautiful village – many are the sons, daughters and extended families of current residents who will inherit these properties and will have more interest in the on-going structure of the village than perhaps their parents or current members of the council. But, in the eyes of Council, these people don’t count.
Perhaps there’s a deeper reason why Council is eager to discount these 200 or so petitioners. Councillor Farrugia continues, in her December 11th reply, “..a certain number of people think that (the project as presented in August, 2014) is fine just the way it was presented. Just as we are not ignoring the people who signed the petition, we are also not ignoring the people who have told us the opposite.”
Council is vague on the numbers of those they feel are in favour of the project as presented in August, 2014, and, while it insists that it claims to represent the population that counts in its eyes – that is the “real” residents of North Hatley – it has all but rejected the possibility of a referendum on the subject. To date, the petition remains the most direct expression of dissatisfaction with the proposed project and, in particular, with its proposed size and density, by a quantifiable number of people. As such, the petition must be respected. Only a referendum would prove otherwise.
fanhca.org continues to offer a public forum on which citizens and groups can meet to exchange concerns and opinions regarding the future of the Village of North Hatley. We invite all citizens of North Hatley and beyond to avail themselves of this open and unedited forum to express their concerns and opinions and to respond to those of others. Let us not forget that this project, if it is built, in whatever form it takes, will drastically and forever change the face of North Hatley, one of the most beautiful villages of Quebec.
*In an earlier version these comments were erroneously attributed to Council as an entity. They are, in fact, the personal opinion of Councillor Farrugia. Council has not commented on the significance of the fanhca petition.