Residents of the Southern Grenadine island of Canouan are engaged in another battle in the decades-old struggle to maintain access to their beaches as tourism investors try to accommodate high-paying guests seeking exclusivity.

And, with the Ralph Gonsalves government having declared on Tuesday a no-anchoring or kite surfing zone in east coast Canouan and a no-anchoring and swim zone on L’ance Guyac Bay, west coast Canouan, islanders feel that they are being robbed of even more of their economic options and recreational space.

“There are more restrictions being put in those areas, and more and more is being given to the investors while the villagers get very little or nothing,” Community activist Terrance “Terry” Boyne told iWitness News.

“And, for 26 years, this has been happening to us — since this project became law. There has to be a cut off line somewhere. We are not going nowhere. We notice our children go to secondary school, they’re qualified, or they get education and come back and they just don’t get any further than making up beds in these resorts, after all these years,” he said.

Bynoe called a meeting of islanders Thursday night, two days after the Kingstown-based Maritime Administration declared what is being interpreted as exclusive zones on the island.

The Maritime Administration, which is headed by former Coast Guard commander, David Robin, said, however, that the area seaward of the swim zone remains accessible to local fishing vessel for fishing and related activities in accordance with the nation’s fishing laws.

Bynoe, along with Albert Ollivierre, president of Canouan Island Council (CIC), called Thursday’s meeting as a follow-up to one that MP for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, an opposition lawmaker, held with residents of the island some weeks ago.

Terry Bynoe wears a t-shirt he printed in 2000. In a Feb. 1, 2016 facebook post, he said: "This t-shirt was printed since the year 2000. When you just put bandage on sore foot, it never get well. Old people say so."
Terry Bynoe wears a t-shirt he printed in 2000. In a Feb. 1, 2016 facebook post, he said: “This t-shirt was printed since the year 2000. When you just put bandage on sore foot, it never get well. Old people say so.”

After the first meeting, residents used boats and swarmed the L’ance Guyac beach for a picnic.

Thursday’s meeting was also held “to discuss how we are going to move forward with situation on Canouan that keep coming up”.

Bynoe said residents told the meeting that they are concerned about the way that “the yacht people are being run from these areas and they are some of the better areas that the yatchies will enjoy when they come to Canouan.”

Yatchies, Bynoe said, provide a vital income stream for resident of Canouan.

He mentioned Marcus “Iceman” Williams whose main source of income for more than 30 years is supplying yachts with ice, water, bread and other provisions — a business in which Williams’ adult son now works.

“He has never worked with the company or the government in his life, or any private people,” Bynoe said of the older Williams.

“This is what he created. He does moorage for the yachties. So if you run the yachties, these are the people you are destroying,” Bynoe further explained.

He said that unlike resort guests, yachties come to the village, and buy things.

“There are guys, if they (yachties) want to walk, will walk around and show them the place — give them a tour. They (tour guides) will make something as well. Some of them use taxi to do island tour. So you are hampering the local people who do not get the spill off from the resort type of guests,” he said of the decisions taken by the government.

The meeting also heard complaints about access to the beaches where the resort is located.

According to the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, all beaches in the multi-island state are public, suggesting also that there must be a public access.

Bynoe said that before the developers came to Canouan, there was a public access road to L’ance Guyac beach, which is located near Canouan Resort, formerly Raffles Canouan.

“There were public roads before the lands were leased. We think if you lease the lands, the access to those beaches remain, or should remain. And if some of those access routes were diverted by the investors when they were building, they still remain as public access,” Bynoe told iWitness News.

But the investors have put up gates, and islanders are not able to get past them.

He said that while residents can access the beach by boat, “if you have elderly people, you ain’t going to put them in no small boat to try lift them in boat and lift them out to get on a beach.

“They must be able to drive down as well, just as how the investors can drive down or the police transport can drive down. Nobody is asking to rush into the people’s property and throw down their gate or run in their house.”

Thursday’s meeting decided to revamp the CIC — a registered group –- “to take these issues more seriously to the investors and the government”.

MP for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, standing, and other persons on a picnic on L'ance Guyac in January. (Photo: Margaret London/Facebook)
MP for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, standing, and other persons on a picnic on L’ance Guyac in January. (Photo: Margaret London/Facebook)

Bynoe said that islanders were not consulted before the zones were declared.

“There was no discussion about this new arrangement, none at all by anybody.”

The meeting on Thursday decided that resident will hold picnics weekly on L’ance Guyac beach.

“And we will continue to do it until somebody comes and talks to us. I don’t know if they are holding back because this is the slow season, they don’t really have any guests, but they wouldn’t like it when we keep showing up in the busy season,” Bynoe said.

Person taking part in Sunday’s picnic will go to the beach by boat, as the meeting rejected a suggestion that residents drive there.

“We managed to restrain from driving, and use the boat access again. But I am not sure we will be able to hold them back the next time from driving through,” Bynoe said.

“We are going to make it a weekly thing until somebody talks to us,” he reiterated.

He said that the beaches are special to residents of Canouan, who visit them on holidays or when relatives visit from overseas.

“You do it occasionally when you have event likes those. They are not beaches that we would have gone every Sunday, but we still want to know that we have access to them.

“We shouldn’t have to be going by a picnic by 60 or 70-something people,” he said, adding that residents want to know that they can take up a picnic basket and go to the beach for some time with their family.

“We seem not to be able to do that,” Bynoe told iWitness News. “But there are concerns and that’s why the people turn out,” he further said, adding that about 70 persons attended Thursday’s meeting.

Bynoe further said: “The only one we have left now from an island that has beaches all around it is the one in Grand Bay, which the ferries and all the Bequia boats come with all the containers and so on. It is the only one that is left, because we are being barred and banned from all the others.”

He said that his resistance to the zoning in Canouan has nothing to do with politician, noting that in 2000, under the James Mitchell New Democratic Party administration, he also protested against similar developments.

“Of course, it goes beyond politics. And The strange thing about it, in 2000, when I protested against the NDP administration, Sir Louis Straker, Dr. [Ralph] Gonsalves and Glen Jackson were the ones who came down when there were negotiations, to bring some solution and settlement to that protesting.”

Gonsalves and Straker, of the Unity labour Party, were opposition MP at the time. The ULP was elected in 2001, and Gonsalves is now Prime Minister, and Straker Deputy Prime Minister. Glenn Jackson, a journalist turned activist who became Gonsalves’ press secretary after the 2001 elections, was murdered in 2006.

8 replies on “Canouan residents not giving up fight for access to their beaches”

  1. 1. All over the world, in democratic and totalitarian countries alike, the State has the legal/constitutional right to enact zoning regulations in many different areas in regard to what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as the public good: where to build houses; where to construct apartment buildings; where to allow commercial or industrial activity; what areas to reserve for farming and fishing; etc.

    Canouan is no exception.

    2. Unless perscribed by law, the State has no obligation to consult with the citizenry on any of its activities, including new zoning areas or regulations. The only legally required consultation, even in most democracies, comes on voting day. (To be sure, many countries require referenda to decide or recommend certain issues but in SVG this is confined to constitutional changes, not zoning regulations).

    3. If the new fishing and anchoring regulations are contrary to law, the people of Canouan should launch a class-action suit against the government. Surely with all the hungry and underworked lawyers around they could easily find one who would take this case pro bono or on contingency. Why they have not done so speaks volumes.

    4. In some countries, beach access means that locals can simply use some or all beaches but must find their own access route, even if this means travel by boat; in others, there must be a path or road provided for them to gain such access through the owned or leased property of some other party (such as a hotel owner).

    I have no idea what the regulations are in regard to SVG beaches.

    1. please keep in mind that there is an agreement between the people of Canouan, the Developers and the Government of St. Vincent to provide free access to the beaches.

      will post if find

  2. Canouan cannot be compared with Mustique, it is a public place and the sea and beaches are owned by the Crown and is public property.

    The enclosing of public roads that ran through the island and to hand them to resort owners is something that should have been done and is a downright disgrace. That should be investigated to see if that can be undone.

    Now to give up sea and beach to resort owners is as bad and is something that simply must not be tolerated and contested in court. The first step should be to get an injunction to set asside the effects of the notice until a proper motion can be heard.

    I there anyone who has visited that beach on a daily or weekly basis for a number of years?

    My advice is, if you have been a regular visitor to that beach at least once or twice a year by boat or by walking, continue to do so. You may have an established public right to continue doing so.

    It is better not to get into confrontation with anyone and to video and voice record anything that anyone says to you and what you say to them.

    The injunction is a must.

  3. Every person who plan to attend the picnic should bring at least one other person with them. Let’s make it as large as possible to show the developers and the Government that we mean business.
    It is criminal that the developers are allowed to pass their over loaded trucks through the streets of Canouan and the people of Canouan are not allowed to uses the roads of Canouan to get to their beaches. These are not the days when only donkeys and boats are been used to get around the island. There are many privately owned vehicles in Canouan and we should be able to use our streets to get to our beaches.
    Remember, the agreement of 1999-2000 states provides free and uninhibited access to all beaches on the Island. (Let me repeat “ALL BEACHES”). It also states that parking space should be provided for all vehicles that are used for entering the beaches.
    So it is time we begin to demand that the Government and the Developers meet their part of the bargain. We have waited 15 plus years and are not prepared to wait anymore or things will just get worst. We see signs of that in that new document that is been circulated as law.
    We must also keep in mind that they are plans in the works to move the wharf and redesign the front of the Island. This will mean more heavy trucks will be passing through the area where the people lives thus further destroying their houses. It also means that those who own lands between the salt pond and the beach will lose the use of those lands. That’s because the plan includes the construction of a 30 feet wide road along the junction of the salt pond and the sand area. Once you take away 30 feet, the rest of those proprieties are useless.
    So we have to stop them now before they take it all. We must fight to protect our rights and our ancestral rights and our next generation rights.

  4. Glen Jackson was our best supporter in 1999. we were able to use his program to get our message across. Please note that the then PM always made himself available to meet with us. Even days after his surgery in TNT. We were quick to dismiss the then representative who was usable to present our case and it may be necessary to do the same thing if this current rep. cannot step up to the plate.
    Yes! some high ranking members of this government was quick to step in but members of the group was satisfy with Snaggy’s contribution and kept others out. we saw what happened when they took over government.
    .
    Lets keep their feet to the fire

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