Scientologists appear before Mono council

Orangeville Citizen, Canada/April 14, 2011

Representatives of the Church of Scientology appeared before Mono council Tuesday night to give a presentation about their plans for the Hockley Highlands Inn & Conference Centre property it purchased in 2009 on Mono's Third Line EHS.

Angela Ilasi, community programs director for the church's national office, told council the property will become a national retreat for those in the "more advanced" levels of study in the Church of Scientology, once renovations to the 159,000- square-foot conference centre are completed.

While she couldn't give a specific date for the project's completion, Ms. Ilasi said it could be toward the end of 2012.

In a press release issued after the property was initially purchased, the church said: "Not only will this provide the advanced training and counseling services for all Canadian parishioners, it will also house the Canadian national offices that coordinate Scientology expansion and social betterment programs for the country."

It went on say that Canadian Scientologists will no longer need to travel to the U.S., England, Denmark or Australia to receive their Advanced Organization training.

Ms. Ilasi estimated there are about 10,000 Scientologists living in Canada and predicted about 3,000 of them will visit the retreat, on a site that was once Ontario Hydro's training and conference centre.

Councillor Fred Nix expressed amusement at the church's promotional materials regarding the project; particularly the description of the Third Line area as "untrammeled Ontario wilderness."

It goes on to say that parishioners looking out the windows "will have a picture-perfect view of the Canadian wilderness in all its natural splendour as they journey through the advanced realms."

Stating that he had been traveled long distances in the past to reach his idea of wilderness, Mr. Nix mused: "My wife and I were living in untrammeled wilderness all along and didn't even know it."

Ms. Ilasi said the literature meant to convey the area was not affected by urban sprawl.

Meanwhile, at least two individuals in the gallery were not amused in the least.

Former Scientologist Adam Holland was present Tuesday and has been publicly protesting the development in Mono.

Nan Maclean of Sutton said the Scientologists pose a threat to the community.

"Oppose them in any way," she said, "and they will investigate you. If they can't find anything, they will make it up."

Deputy Mayor Ken McGhee pointed out that there is an access to the Bruce Trail on the property and asked Ms. Ilasi if it would be preserved.

"All of our plans involve working around making sure people have access and will continue to have access," she replied.

Councillor Bob Mitchell asked if the proposed centre would welcome unannounced guests. Ms. Ilasi said it certainly would and added there would be rooms that could be booked for public functions.

Finally, Councillor Elaine Capes inquired about opportunities for locals finding employment at the retreat. "People working there will be Scientologists," said Ms. Ilasi.

"But they will be living in Mono. They will be community members."

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