Two fierce opponents of the controversial Nation Rise Wind Farm in North Stormont were surprised Thursday morning to find out an Eastern Ontario Health Unit board meeting they wanted to attend had been cancelled.
Surprised, but not that surprised, agreed Ruby Mekker – spokesperson for the group opposed to the windmills – and Tammy McRae, a former municipal politician in North Stormont, who travelled to Cornwall and to the EOHU headquarters on Sydney Street hoping to be a part of the meeting.
“We were expecting this might be the case because they don’t want to address the seriousness of the situation,” said Mekker, who’s continued to lead the battle against the wind farm even though it’s been operational for over a year.
Standing near the main entrance to the building just before they expected the 9:30 a.m. meeting to begin, an EOHU employee came outside to tell the pair the meeting had been cancelled, information that they should have received by email last week. Both McRae and Mekker told the woman they had not received any email that contained any cancellation information.
The EOHU employee, describing her role in the situation as “just a messenger at this point,” told Mekker and McRae she had no information on when the meeting would be rescheduled, and that they should contact the EOHU’s Manon Carriere for any updates.
But Mekker quickly responded, saying “there’s no point in sending an email if the person is not going to answer. I also left three (phone messages requesting to be present at the meeting), none were returned.”
Said McRae: “You can understand our frustration with all these emails and calls – it’s like we’re being completely snubbed.”
A bit later, Mekker after the EOHU employee returned inside, produced for reporters a printout of emails and voice messages to various board members and EOHU officials from the last two weeks that appear to have mostly not been responded to.
But not long afterwards, Cornwall Coun. and EOHU board chair Syd Gardiner walked outside the building, approached the two women and had a conversation that went on for several minutes.
All parties held their ground during the cordial but moderately uncomfortable chat, Gardiner early on saying he reads the emails he receives from wind farm opponents pointing out what they say are the health ramifications associated with the turbines, and they then get sent to the deleted bin, and that he feels the electronic onslaught is a form of harassment.
McRae responded, saying “we’ve been polite. . .we just want some answers. We have ongoing proof, from continuing investigations, (copies of) letters from people experiencing health issues. You need to acknowledge us, talk to us.”
Said Gardiner: “I can’t give you an answer because I’m not a doctor.”
Gardiner shortly after the conversation began told the women the board meeting is now slated for 9 a.m. on June 23, and that he didn’t think they would be allowed to attend. Gardiner initially indicated the meeting next Thursday would be at the EOHU building, but then added that it was possible it would be a virtual meeting held over Zoom.
Mekker told Gardiner something she had said several times earlier in the morning, that it’s an issue of governance, and that “we just want to speak to the board” and should be allowed to do so.
More specifically, Mekker said wind farm opponents have wanted, since 2020, for EOHU medical officer of health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis to retract a letter he wrote several years ago to the Township of North Stormont that included the statement that there are no health risks associated with the wind farm.
The 29-turbine wind farm had construction conclude early in the spring of 2021. The project was allowed to go ahead after lengthy legal proceedings saw the permit for the operation restored after the then-minister of the environment cancelled it due to environmental concerns over the negative effects on local bat populations.
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