There weren’t enough wind turbine protesters Monday to set a new Guinness World Record, but event organizer Greg Schmalz said that wasn’t really the point anyway.
“The intent was to bring publicity to the issue,” he said in an interview as the event was wrapping up at Gobles Grove Beach in Port Elgin.
Members of the Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy (STOP) had advertised the two-hour protest against the Canadian Auto Workers’ Union wind turbine as an attempt to break a Guinness record.
But the 291 people who attended fell short of the 501 needed to beat the record for most people forming a letter. The group chose the letter H for help.
Schmalz said the record attempt was seen as a good way to attract people and the media to the rally.
“We wanted to get as much exposure as possible,” he said.
The event was held to coincide with the Labour Day parade in Port Elgin and the last day of summer break for students. A founding convention for the new union Unifor – created by the merger of the CAW and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada – was also held this weekend in Toronto.
Schmalz, a STOP spokesman, said about 20% of the rally participants were from Saugeen Shores, with the rest from across Ontario including Sault Ste. Marie and the Niagara Region.
STOP says the lone turbine in Port Elgin has been making people sick since it started operating in March.
Protesters were calling for the union to turn it off. Saugeen Shores council, which tried unsuccessfully in 2006 to stop the construction of the turbine, passed a motion last week that formally asked the CAW to shut it down.
STOP and council are now waiting for the union’s response.
A spokesperson for the union could not be reached late last week or on the weekend.
About 100 homes are within 550 metres of the turbine, which is located at the union’s Family Education Centre in Port Elgin.
STOP has been recording complaints from people who say there has been a dramatic change in their physical or mental health since the turbine’s blades started spinning.
At a Saugeen Shores council meeting last week, six families who live near the turbine told their stories of suffering.
“We have a lot of sick people here,” Schmalz said.
One of the protesters at Monday’s rally was Shawn Drennan who has hired constitutional lawyer Julian Falconer in his bid to halt the development of the new 140-turbine K-2 wind farm near his Goderich-area home.
Drennan and his wife Trisha say the process for granting approval for wind projects violates their right to security as guaranteed by Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Drennan said the case could set a precedent that could help the residents of Saugeen Shores to force the shut down of the turbine in Port Elgin.
“It would stop wind projects in the cue and, for the people that have been harmed, they would be able to use the charter win to take the government and the wind companies to court to stop the harm that’s being inflicted,” he said.
A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 13.
Schmalz said the case is very important and is one that people should support.
“It’s the case that will change wind, period,” he said.
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