Wild Ride: From BC to Beirut
David Eusebio // Columnist
I lived an hour away from Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario, so when my family moved to BC, I was disappointed by the absence of a theme park—Playland didn’t cut it. However, a second theme park was once proposed in BC, but the attraction behind this story isn’t the rides—it’s the owner.
Eddy Haymour immigrated to Halifax from Lebanon in 1955, worked as a barber, married, and had children. But it was after the family moved to Peachland, BC and fell in love with Rattlesnake Island that Haymour had a vision.
Haymour envisioned the island as a place that fused Middle Eastern and Canadian culture. Morrocan Shadou was to be decorated with mosques, pyramids, fountains, ice cream parlours in camel bellies, mini-golf and horse carriages. The only ride proposed was a submarine approaching a talking sea monster. Peachland residents were skeptical. “[It’s] impossible to bring into fruition. Almost like a kid’s fantasyland.”
Another resident said, “It’s always annoyed me that anybody would want to take an aspect of the Okanagan and turn it into something else.”
The mayor saw no issue, allowing the project to continue. However, when Haymour bulldozed part of the island to start constructing his theme park, Des Loan, the Minister of Health’s brother, wanted to halt the project for environmental reasons. BC Premier WAC Bennett listened to his aggravated constituents and stopped it. No septic or building permits were issued, and Haymour’s workers were denied dock access.
Haymour continued building his island, opening it up to the public prematurely—fifty people ventured to the theme park. How’d visitors get on the island? A sketchy ferry shuttled people, until a storm passed through and sank the ferry.
Haymour was sued, losing his island. The BC government gave him $40,000 for the loss—it was $140,000 when he bought it. Haymour was convinced it was a government conspiracy, but no one believed him except for a man named Ralph Schouten. He ranted to Schouten over dinner about how he “wish[ed] somebody blew up [Bennett’s] house.”
Unfortunately for Haymour, Schouten was an informant. Haymour was taken to court again on multiple charges with no evidence: conspiring to bomb Okanagan Lake bridge with Russian grenades; disfiguring his wife’s face with acid; access to M16 machine guns, and contacting a former explosives expert. Only one charge was accepted in court: brass knuckle possession.
Haymour pleaded insanity—not by his lawyer, but by the Crown, who likely realized that brass knuckles wouldn’t warrant a life sentence but an insanity charge would lock him up in a psychiatric ward for life. So, because of brass knuckles, Haymour was sent to Riverview.
One of Haymour’s friends found humour in this. “Anybody who went through what he [Haymour] went [through], he would lose his mind.”
Haymour wanted revenge but love must have come first because he danced with a nurse before meeting a new patient smuggling a hand grenade. Eleven months later, Haymour plotted to go to Victoria with the nurse and blow up the Legislature,but he didn’t go forward with the plan after a few dates.
Onto plan B: take over the Canadian embassy in Beirut.
He returned to Lebanon as civil war loomed and recruited his cousins. Eight people joined Haymour armed with AK-47s and prepared to take over the embassy—but only after a few games of backgammon. On the day of the operation, they stopped for a sandwich at a deli—I guess you can’t do a hostage takeover on an empty stomach. The group wore pantyhose over their heads and entered the embassy, approaching the unfazed passport officer.
Haymour ordered him to get down, and the group soon held thirty-four people hostage. All this happened without ambassador Alan William Sullivan’s knowledge until a bullet hit his office carpet. Haymour has a different story. “No bullet was shot through any door. No bullet was shot, period.”
“I still have the bullet,” Sullivan claims.
Haymour asked Sullivan to come out of his office. When he approached, Haymour kissed him on the lips. “I want[ed] to show them that I’m not a bad guy.”
Sullivan notified Ottawa about Haymour’s embassy takeover. Haymour’s demands were simple: he wanted his island, money, his children sent to Lebanon, and a psychiatrist to prove his sanity. That last one was a big ask at this point.
The embassy was soon surrounded by a hundred soldiers, but Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau told the army to stay out of it. Nine tense hours later, Sullivan quickly fabricated a telegram from Ottawa. He sent it from the embassy’s communications centre, stating, “we will do everything possible to help you in your problems.” Deputy Prime Minister Allan MacEachen’s name was used sans consent, but it worked as Haymour signed the telegram.
When asked if traumatizing all those people was justified, Haymour answered, “We didn’t kill nobody, and we succeeded. So, that’s victory to everyone.”
The Lebanese Military Court charged Haymour for misdemeanour, slapping him with a $200 fine! He was allowed to return to Canada because, apparently, capturing a Canadian embassy wasn’t a crime. With federal government assistance, Haymour paid his legal expenses and faced BC Chief Justice John Farris. The court proceeding dissatisfied Haymour, so he flipped the judge the bird and bought a machine gun. When asked if he planned on killing the judge, he responded, “Yeah. What, I’m going over there to play a game or something?”
Haymour didn’t follow through, leaving the gun with his lawyer. Instead, love swooped in again when he met his second wife, Pat. On one of their first dates, they went hunting, and she shot twenty-seven bears. Pat wasn’t impressed with Haymour’s lawyer, “That guy is as useless as tits on a boar.”
When the CBC obtained confidential documents, they gave them to Haymour to forward to his lawyer, and guaranteed that he wouldn’t lose. Haymour went to trial again with the Harvey Specter of cross-examiners: Jack Cram. One of his arguments was this: how can Haymour be deemed insane enough to go to Riverview but be well enough to sign over his island to the BC government? Valid point.
Haymour won the trial, and the BC government paid him $200,000 for his losses. He was pleased. “At least the world knows that I was right, and that’s good enough for me. For now.”
He used his settlement to immortalize his vision of the island as a castle hotel near Okanagan Lake. Each room had a Middle Eastern theme, and a statue of Haymour was erected on the lawn, pointing towards Rattlesnake Island, “That’s a sign to the government saying ‘You bastards, that’s my island. And will remain mine.’”
After five years, Pat left him, and he abandoned the castle. Peachland obtained it for under $16,000. To this day, Haymour continues to try reclaiming Rattlesnake Island. I’m sure John Horgan gets voicemails from him daily with his new vision for the island. “I want to make it the best cemetery in the world.”