GEBIS land purchases under scrutiny, to testify before legislative committee

中文版

5 Nov 2017

Prince Edward Island, Canada – Embattled Taiwanese Buddhist group Bliss and Wisdom is exploiting loopholes in Canadian law to purchase vast tracts of land, according to the National Farmer’s Union in Canada. Bliss and Wisdom representatives on PEI have been summoned to testify before a standing committee of the PEI Legislative Assembly.

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A group of Bliss and Wisdom followers visit GEBIS’ new compound in Heatherdale Road, known as Chuan Deng Monastery. Stage I was recently completed at a cost of C$12 million. The project will comprise five stages, and stages I-IV are projected to cost C$160 million.

Bliss and Wisdom is the largest Tibetan Buddhist group in Taiwan, with 60,000 followers in Taiwan and 100,000 worldwide. The Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) on Prince Edward Island is an overseas extension of the group, set up to bring half of Bliss and Wisdom’s 800 Taiwanese monks to PEI.

In the past few months, two of the most senior monks in the Bliss and Wisdom sangha, the first abbot Venerable Fan Yin and second abbot Venerable Jing Ming, were expelled for speaking out against abuses and scandals in the organization. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Eminence the 102nd Ganden Tripa Rizong Rinpoche (former head of the Tibetan Buddhist Gelugpa order) and Taiwanese Buddhist leaders have chastised Bliss and Wisdom for its transgression of Buddhist guidelines. Taiwanese monks called for Buddhists to declare Bliss and Wisdom a pseudo-Buddhist cult and excommunicate the group from the mainstream Buddhist community.

Islanders have long wondered about the organization behind GEBIS – why it has suddenly snapped up thousands of acres of land, and why it has brought hundreds of monks and children from Taiwan to PEI. Canadian journalist Mark Mann wrote an insightful piece about “the monks”, as the Bliss and Wisdom sangha (monastic community) are known locally. The monks were friendly, but tight-lipped about the real reason they were in PEI.

Last month, PEI historian David Weale posed a series of questions to GEBIS, and received a response from their lawyer Julian Porter QC.

According to Porter, “In the past two years, GEBIS has purchased 185.6 acres of land, bringing our total land ownership being 672.6 acres.” Mann quoted a source in his 2013 article estimating that GEBIS owns as much as 5000 acres of land in PEI through its affiliates.

Yen-Wei Lai, or Venerable Ru Fa, is the chief attendant of Mary Jin and the most powerful monk in Bliss and Wisdom. Refer to the following links for his land purchases in PEI: see herehere and here.

The Bliss and Wisdom group has several corporations and foundations registered under the names of trusted monks and committee members in PEI, including:

  • Alanro Music Studio
  • Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute (monks)
  • Grain Essence Garden Inc
  • Moonlight International Foundation Inc
  • Compassion and Grace Institute Inc
  • Splendid Essence Restaurant Inc
  • Great Wisdom Buddhist Institute Inc (nuns)
  • Moonlight Charities Inc
  • Moonlight International Academy
  • XiYuan PEI International Co., Ltd.
  • Dutch Inn Hotel
  • Leezen Store

Please feel free to contact me at ladakh2017blog@mail.com for further information about GEBIS/Bliss and Wisdom. I would appreciate it very much if anyone willing to provide information about GEBIS or its affiliates can contact me. Your information will be very helpful to me in understanding the nature and extent of GEBIS’ operations in PEI.

The following is a post by David Weale on the illegal land purchases:

This is an article about the standing committee’s investigation on The Journal Pioneer:

 

Officials with Cavendish Farms, the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute and Vanco Farms to appear before committee to answer to land holding concerns

2 Nov 2017

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – P.E.I.’s land ownership limits are being abused by large, richly funded, outside corporations and organizations thanks to loopholes in the Island’s lands protection laws.

This was the assertion put forward Thursday by representatives of the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) in P.E.I. to the Standing Committee on Communities, Land and Environment.

Doug Campbell and Reg Phelan say a few big corporations are buying up large amounts of P.E.I. farmland, despite the fact P.E.I. has caps on the amount of land any one individual or company can own.

“Many other Islanders share our alarm about land transferals,” said Campbell, district director of the NFU in P.E.I.

“What is upsetting for us, and for many other aware community groups, is the lack of transparency about how ownership and control of farmland can take place under the radar.”

Campbell and Phelan named three entities in particular they allege are using loopholes to own or control more land than is permitted under P.E.I.’s land ownership laws – Irving-owned Cavendish Farms, the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute (GEBIS) and Vanco Farms.

As a result of their concerns, officials from these three entities are being called to testify before the standing committee about their land holdings in P.E.I.

Phelan says people living in the rural areas of P.E.I. can plainly see that although farms are being purchased under the names of other individuals or corporations, signage on buildings and equipment clearly show the Vanco logo. In eastern P.E.I., more and more farmland is being purchased by individuals who are affiliated with GEBIS while Cavendish Farms has long been purchasing land in P.E.I. under affiliated corporate identities, Campbell and Phelan said.

This phenomenon has caused farmland to become unaffordable for Islanders looking to add to their acreage or get into the industry due to the high amounts these deep-pocketed entities are paying for Island land.

“It’s making it very difficult for young farmers to be able to continue farming or for others to be able to do it because they just can’t compete with that type of price and that type of situation, and that’s why we’re so concerned about it,” Phelan said.

Last week, the minister responsible for land and municipalities, Robert Mitchell, appeared before the same standing committee and was questioned on the similar land ownership concerns, including about the fact some of this farmland is being purchased and taken out of production.

He said government is aware of the concerns and is monitoring the situation, but assured the committee the province’s Lands Protection Act is being followed.

But while the letter of law may be being followed, the spirit of the law is not, Campbell said.

“Accountants and lawyers are a big part of what the problem is here,” he said.

“There are certain accountants and certain lawyers that are willing to work the law to the limit.”

They urged the province to close loopholes in the legislation and to give the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission a stronger mandate to investigate the source of investor capital of prospective off-Island land purchasers.

Campbell further challenged two cabinet ministers who sit on the committee, Economic Development Minister Heath MacDonald and Rural and Regional Development Minister Pat Murphy, to better inform themselves about the Lands Protection Act to ensure they understand the nuances land purchase applications when they come to cabinet for approval.

“IRAC is telling us they can make the recommendation to cabinet, but it’s up to cabinet to decide whether or not to go forward. That’s where we’re saying cabinet needs to understand what the act is, what is means by spirit and intent,” Campbell said.

“You can’t pass it off on IRAC.”

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