Every Islander can tell you that there are Buddhist monks and nuns down East. Most would know that the Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society (GEBIS) are monks (men) and now have a monastery with residences in Heatherdale. This will be the centre for the international Buddhist men.
Islanders paying attention would also know there are Buddhist nuns living in a monastery in Brudenell. They are still at a temporary residence in Uigg as they transition to the new mega-monastery. They have one building with a 200 nun capacity filled so far.
A CTV article published on March 13, 2018 noted the number of monks and nuns who were living on the Island at that time, as well as the expansion plans in the works:
“It seems P.E.I. communities will continue to benefit from the monks’ charity work, as the number of monks on the island is expected to grow from 200 to about 800 at the monasteries in Heatherdale and Little Sands. [See: “‘Serenity and calm’: Buddhist monks find peace on Prince Edward Island.“]
I’m not exactly sure how those modest numbers turned into a mega-plan to buy and build and bring upwards of 30,000 Buddhists to PEI.
The monasteries are the ‘hives’ of the Buddhist community being formed in PEI – we see the hive, but we don’t see all the bees flying around the countryside (aka “Investor Class Immigrants”) who are not wearing brown robes, but are nonetheless the real movers and shakers behind the massive transfers of money and Buddhists. That’s material for later articles, and each issue will need to be dealt with separately for clarity’s sake. This is far too important not to be factually correct at every step.
With the provincial election in the Spring of 2019, and COVID-19 in early 2020, there really hasn’t been a lot of additional public information or news stories on the Buddhists in PEI. Just a lot of local chatter about the increasing amount of land, houses, buildings, equipment and other assets the monks and nuns have been purchasing at an alarming pace.
I suspect that’s about as much as most Islanders know about the Buddhists down East, other than they (1) wear burnt orange robes, (2) don’t have a lot of hair (neither the monks nor nuns); (3) they smile a lot, which is not a bad thing at all, unless you’re hiding something; (4) they wouldn’t harm a flea (or a lobster purchased at Sobeys for that matter); (5) they’ve hosted a few open houses for Islanders;(6) grew sunflowers galore; (7) they sometimes donate bread rolls to charities; and (5) they buy a lot of land and buildings….did I mention that already?
I suspect most Islanders when asked, “What d’ya really know about the Buddhists in Eastern PEI?” would give a blank stare wondering if it was trick question, and follow-up zingers like the following would just add head-scatchin and grimaces to the staring:
- How many Buddhist monks are living on the Island right now?
- How many Buddhist nuns?
- How many Buddhist parishioners?
- Are GEBIS and GWBI the male and female components of the same monastery or Religious Order or tradition? Like the Catholic Trappists (monks) and Trappistines (nuns) in Rogersville N.B. are the female and male wings of the Cistercian Monastic Order?
- Are plans to build other Buddhist monasteries in PEI in the works that Islanders have not yet heard anything about? If so, where are they to be built? If so, when?
- If Buddhists – Monks, Nuns and Parishioners – have plans to continue to acquire property and land to accommodate between 20-30,000 Buddhist immigrants, who gave approval to this plan? The provincial government? If so, why have Islanders heard nothing about this plan, but whenever the word Buddhist has been mentioned its’: “Hush!….and stop being racist!” from Government?
- How many new Buddhist groups are planning to come to PEI?
Residents of Eastern PEI communities could add a substantial number of additional questions to the above list I’m sure. Questions that should have been answered years ago in public meetings in their communities. It appears that core democratic process was totally eclipsed in this instance, as were the residents, who were led to believe one thing (a couple of monasteries with a couple of thousand Buddhist monks and nuns) as they were left in the dark and now are slowly piecing together that something else entirely has been happening all around them all along. And here we are…it’s enough to make a person want to show up next Monday at the Three Rivers town council meeting with the four-way flashers on!
It’s not too late for residents to have that democratic discussion about what Three Rivers and surrounding areas wants for their future. That’ s why it is important to establish that there has been an egregious violation of the Lands Protection Act with the Government and IRAC accepting the corporate facade that they are separate organizations and corporate entities when they are, in fact, all representing the one and same direction and will of the parent organization.
1. What’s the Real Plan?
Without getting into details, the Buddhists have purchased several subdivisions, including commercial buildings. Who is the owner of the Riverhouse Inn? The address for the Inn is now the address for Hopetown Corporation. With the apartment buildings purchased in those subdivisions…is it the intention of the Buddhist owners to fill those apartment buildings with new Buddhists from Taiwan and China?
Will the new owners of those sections of existing communities advertise available apartments to Islanders and welcome diversity, as other landlords in PEI? Or are we witnessing a quiet take-over, an acquisition of a valuable asset that PEI no longer has control over?
A number of people I’ve spoken to from areas close to the Monks and Nuns say they are friendly and nice and all, but that the monks and nuns clearly have no real interest in integrating into PEI society. Fair enough I suppose – they’re monks and nuns after all, but what kind of sense does that make for an immigration policy and strategy?
For an immigration strategy to be based on bringing thousands of people who have absolutely no interest in contributing to the Island way of life, culture or economy [Over and above the contribution they obviously make by virtue of being a pretty big ‘bubble’ within our society and economy] is actually quite shocking.
Who stormed into Cabinet (under Ghiz, when he and MacLauchlan, and Frank Zhou started the PNP China Syndrome in the mid-2000’s) with a ‘Eureka’ idea to bring thousands of immigrants to PEI with: (1) no interest or intention of working directly in the Island economy as employees, (2) no intention of ever starting businesses or hiring Islanders; (3) they wouldn’t pay property taxes or payroll taxes to contribute to the free health services, roads, fire services, or other public services they benefit from, and (4) they’d bring in hundreds of people from Taiwan through the federal temporary foreign worker program (parishioners) to then volunteer to build their new buildings, operating large equipment and/or doing work that could otherwise be done by local Island workers? Who?
Despite all the unavoidable local contract work and purchase of local material supplies (cement can’t be imported) the monks and nuns are apparently importing more than their own workers. They are bringing in building materials, household goods, food, etc. and own a fleet of ‘containers’ parked at one of their properties for shipments back and forth to Taiwan.
You will see in future articles how GEBIS, GWBI, Hopetown Inc., and other corporate entities are all interconnected and serving the same plan and purpose evident in particular transactions and exchanges. The common purpose of the hive comes from the queen – in this case, Master Zhen Ru – to whom they all bestow veneration and allegiance as members of the organization she directs as unquestioned leader. She is the ‘parent’ in the parent organization to which all the Buddhists settling in Eastern PEI belong as her children, all participating in the same family resettlement plan, but we Islanders have heard nothing about any of that until now. This will be the subject material of my next episode – PEI Buddhists and Bliss and Wisdom.
Given the sheer magnitude of the many projects currently underway and mega plans Islanders know very little about – shockingly, even the residents in the areas that will be directly impacted – it is imperative that things be put on hold until some fundamental questions are answered by the province, not least of which is whether (and for how long) they have been aware of these long-term plans and whether there has ever been any endorsement and/or approval of these plans by the PEI Government – current or former.
Think about it. Would you uproot from the land of your birth and relocate the global headquarters of your worldwide organization on the other side of earth all on a wing and a Buddhist prayer? When billions of dollars are at stake?
Yet progress with those long-term plans are surely but steadily materializing in PEI, almost with a quiet, determined confidence that they will be realized, but all happening little by little, almost inconspicuously, seemingly under some imperceptible cloak of secrecy, without so much as a word from the PEI government about its decision to adopt this particular immigration strategy rather than one focused on, let’s say, bringing young entrepreneurs who want to farm. As you will see in a future article – the answer lies at least in part in the connections between Ghiz, Zhou, MacLauchlin, the Buddhists, and all those wealthy “investor class” Buddhist parishioners funnelling so much money to PEI.
I’ll provide some answers to a few of the above questions in this series of articles, but it is important to clarify the nature of this investigative series – what I aim to accomplish and what I am not going to investigate.
2. First We Need “What” Answers: “Why” Answers Will Come Later
There’s lots of speculation about the monks being everything from a cult to a front for the communist government. I suspect that kind of “wondering out loud” happening around the water cooler, teacher’s lounge, or potato grader will only intensify as this important issue takes on a public and political life in coming weeks and months.
It’s completely understandable that whenever big secrets have been kept for years, then start to be revealed, there is a tendency to jump to conclusions that explain everything – motives – so we can make sense out of all the details and facts we’re learning about by putting them in a much bigger – but completely unproven – context. Dozens of people contact me always with the same question, no matter what the particular secret scandal being revealed – “WHY?”
That won’t be the approach I’ll be taking in this series. Answers to why questions will have to wait. Why? I told you, you’ll have to wait.
On one of my first days on campus at McGill University I learned an important lesson from the professor who would become my thesis advisor. We were having a casual conversations and he asked me how I was liking Montreal so far. “I find people in Montreal are….” he interrupted: “Stop…anything else you say is meaningless.” I was a bit taken aback, then he added, “You mean to say that you find ‘SOME’ people in Montreal….”
It’s amazing how fast we allow our mind’s eye to move from (1) getting a bit of factual evidence or perhaps just unverified hearsay) about a few people from a particular ethnic or racial background, or even a ‘place’ and generalizations about people we don’t know at all. The difference between making statements or claims based on such generalizations and making particular claims based on evidence is the difference between fiction and fact.
My approach will avoid such generalizations and assumptions. Such imaginings and speculations can give rise to “possible” explanations, with hunches that may indeed prove to be on the right path to truth. In such cases, however, such speculations generating ‘leads’ from some basic facts and initial connections need to be verified with evidence, requiring formal or legal investigations to determine whether those hunches have any true merit. This series just deals with the known facts from circumstantial, or ‘documentary’ evidence.
3. “My Apologies – I Thought You Were a Buddhist”
Before I get into the actual factual details of the Buddhist investigation I want to discuss how we need to be aware of how our propensity to ‘generalize’ about things we don’t fully know (but want to understand) seriously complicates our natural desire to make sense out of all things Buddhist on a go-forward basis.
We need to proceed with caution, humility and precision…always sensitive to the ‘particular’ within the implicit context of our likely seriously-skewed preconceived notions that form the initial context for understanding and making sense of those particular facts.
Not every Asian living in PEI is a Buddhist. I doubt that Islanders living in Summerside or even Charlottetown would ever even assume such an association with an Asian person they might happen to see or meet at the market or on the street. Transplant that same Asian to Eastern PEI and I suspect that’s exactly what the immediate ‘assumption’ or association would be in Montague or Brudenell or Heatherdale or any number of other areas where Buddhists monks, nuns and parishioners are living and/or purchasing property. This is unfortunate.
There are many Chinese, Taiwanese and other Asians living in PEI who have no association with the Buddhist living here whatsoever. Without having crunched the numbers, it’s safe to say the vast majority of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants who came to PEI through the PNP program heyday years would be as follows: (1) Wealthy Investor Class immigrants nominated by Frank Zhou (Given pretty much exclusive control of the immigration of Investor classes from those areas by former Premier Ghiz, MacLauchlan and now Premier King) and (2) all other Asian immigrants coming through other PNP streams (worker class, express entry, etc.) the federal family-reunification program, refugees, spouses of Islanders, etc.
So let’s not assume someone who is Asian and living in PEI is a Buddhist. If we want or need to know, we should ask.
Which brings me to the need for us not to generalize about Buddhists.
4. The Buddhists are….
Like most organizations and societies, the vast majority of members belong for the most noble of reasons. I wouldn’t assume that any single monk, nun or parishioner – many who have family members who are either nuns or monks. students, volunteers, or are otherwise associated with GEBIS and GWBI – were personally involved with any illegal activities. The monks and nuns are no doubt largely oblivious to the high-level decisions related to the Bliss and Wisdom Buddhist plans to establish its world headquarters in PEI. When the movers and shakers say ‘sign here’ to a monk or nun and they then become the owner of a brand spanking new piece of PEI, that’s just something they do in obedience to their superiors and likely sign without question.
It is impossible to get an exact number of monks at GEBIS and Nuns at GWBI or Monks and Nuns at CGI, not to mention Guan Yin, because that number is fluid and ever increasing. Things have changed since the restrictions on international travel from COVID-19 a little more than a 1/2 year ago, but before that there was as a steady stream of nuns, monks, and parishioners back and forth from PEI, as anyone taking a plane out of the Charlottetown airport would know from seeing first-hand the passenger manifestos.
To my knowledge, no one is tracking the numbers, with people coming with all different types of visa status ranging from student, temporary foreign worker, visitor permit, etc. Like the North Shore tide that imperceptibly ebbs in and out as the waves wash back and forth, it’s hard to know exactly when it happened, but when the tide finishes going out again, there’s somehow always more stuff on the beach than when the tide was in.
Buddhists all venerate the Buddha, but there are different schools and traditions, just as there are different religious traditions that all claim Abraham as ‘father’ (Judaism; Islam; and Christianity). This will be explained in more detail the next article.
There are apparently additional Buddhist monasteries planned for PEI, one by a group referred to as CGI which has approximately 500 Buddhists currently living in PEI waiting for this to happen. These Buddhists are not from Taiwan, but from mainland China. The CGI woman are currently at the Lobster Shanty and many other locations in three rivers, some apparently cramped in an old senior’s home.
A fourth monastery has been incorporated (federally in 2016, with head office in Stratford, PE) called the Guan Yin Monastery. Hopetown Corporation, which just recently received approval from the King Government to purchase 504 acres has a director with the same address as the head office of Guan Yin Monastery’s corporate address.
The application to purchase the 504 acres as submitted to IRAC clearly stated that the purpose was to build a residential development. Despite the land being ‘agricultural land’, it was nonetheless APPROVED by the King Government with a condition that it not be developed!
After the fact, Minister Bloyce Thompson confirmed in a media interview that the land was destined for residential development. For what purpose are the movers and shakers with the Buddhists building subdivisions sprawling 500 acres exactly? That’s about the size of Montague.
That’s all I want to say about the current status of Buddhists in PEI here -I only want to give some sense that the Monks and Nuns have different names and incorporation in Canada, and actually originate from different places (china or Taiwan mostly) but are completely ‘interconnected’ and operate as one corporate entity on a number of levels – at least as far as the Lands Protection Act is concerned.
Despite the differences between the different groups of Buddhist monks and nuns, including where they originate from (China or Taiwan) there is one thing that makes them all the same at a ‘corporate’ or ‘body’ level – they all venerate the same Master, follow the same Buddhist tradition, and are united in their common identity as members of Bliss and Wisdom.
Master Zhen-Ru is not only the head of the parent corporation for all the different groups of monks and nuns and their affiliated corporations, charities and school;, she is the spiritual ‘parent’ who has the final say over what happens, as well as control over billions of dollars being funnelled to and used by the Buddhist monks on the Island.
Master Zhen-Ru has never made a public appearance in PEI. She lives here half the year and half the year in Bermuda, but no one apparently knows where she is when. How do you spell subpoena???
To understand the Buddhist monks and nuns in PEI we need to cut through the largely convenient and customary difference they’ve presented to us and see them all as members of Bliss and Wisdom, the “parent” and controlling corporation based in Taiwan.
That body has one and only one Director and Shareholder. How a Chinese female national became the Master of the Bliss and Wisdom Buddhist organization based in Taiwan now claiming over 100,000 followers (mainly in Taiwan and China) is a fascinating story which sheds some light [but also raises many more questions] and will be the topic of the next episode.
I have received a number of messages of concern from people about the upcoming Three Rivers Town Council meeting next Monday evening. There’s apparently a show of ‘concern’ being organized as people having one or more are being asked to show up at 6 pm with their 4-way flashers on. I would encourage anyone with concerns to show up and express them.
I personally can’t imagine council approving the building permit with so many unanswered questions – and not trivial questions either!
Town councillors should be talking to Premier King, who hails from the heart of Three Rivers, given that the PEI Government has the same information that I have, and there have been illegal activities. Government has had that information since last November, but have kept that secret and continued to approve further development and expansion (the Hopetown Corporation approval to purchase Executive Council Order was issued by Government months after the King Government learned of the scandalous activity).
I would suggest that residents consider asking Three Rivers Town councillors whether they have yet asked Minister Bloyce Thompson – our Attorney General and Minister of Agricultural and Land – what was in that particular document he held up while gathered around a kitchen table discussing Buddhist land-grabbing tactics in Eastern PEI with his Deputy Minister and local MLA Cory Deagle at a local resident’s home last November that brought his exclamation: “There’s your smokin’ gun right there!”
It would be very imprudent for council to approve any further Buddhist developments before learning a little more about that smokin’ gun.