Every business in the construction industry that has tried to expand its operations in the past decade has been met with a common model of community resistance: the NIMBY movement.
Not In My BackYard has become the catch-all phrase used by community members who are not prepared to deal with noise, smells, additional traffic, or any other thing that has become an irritant over the years. They stand up, scream and shout, and fight against the changes to the serene environment that they have created for themselves inside and outside of their homes.
I can relate to those people. A short time before taking this job, I learned of Dufferin Aggregates’ plan to open up a 648-hectare gravel pit in the north end of Paris, Ont. That location lies about two miles from my home in Paris. The noise, the dust and the environmental impact all directly affect me.
The biggest point of concern for area residents, like myself, surrounds the fact that the original permit was granted to Dufferin by the Ministry of Natural Resources back in 1974. The public, and members of the local council for that matter, seem outraged that the company can open a pit based on 1974 standards. But they can’t, which you know. It took Holcim Canada approximately 10 seconds at the first possible opportunity to speak to put that issue to rest, reiterating the fact that the permit only allows for the gravel removal, and does not account for the noise, road, and environmental issues involved in opening the pit.
“We know the community is concerned about the licence being granted 38 years ago,” said Andrea Bourrie, director of planning and regulatory affairs for Holcim Canada, during the first meeting of the community advisory panel in Paris on April 23. “The 1974 licence gives us the right to take the gravel. It doesn’t speak to all the other matters.”
The backlash that Dufferin had faced, before even having an opportunity to speak openly through a public forum, was not unique in the face of an expanding aggregate industry. Many communities across Canada, and around the world, are fighting to prevent the startup of gravel pit operations despite the fact that the same people are demanding the materials for improved community infrastructure.
But what is the industry doing to help educate the public? What have we done to make them understand? The obvious answer is not enough. More can and needs to be done to educate people about the aggregate industry.
Certainly more opportunities can be found to help people understand how the industry works, the benefits it provides, and the measures it takes to protect the surrounding environment.
There is an opportunity here to go beyond being good corporate citizens. There is an opportunity to create a culture of understanding. It starts with a willingness to take the time to educate. Perhaps it’s time for a national discussion on how best to provide the education.