In­junc­tion hear­ing soon on Parker Lands project

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - KATIE MAY katie.may@freep­ Twit­ter: @thatkatiemay

MAN­I­TOBA’S top court has or­dered the le­gal bat­tle be­tween protesters and a lo­cal de­vel­oper be brought back to court on an ur­gent ba­sis.

A re­quest for an in­junc­tion to re­move protesters from the Parker Lands de­vel­op­ment site will now be heard on Sept. 14 in­stead of Nov. 2, after a panel of Court of Ap­peal judges de­cided Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon the re­quest was in­deed ur­gent and should be ar­gued in court as soon as pos­si­ble.

“We are sat­is­fied that the cost of de­lay is real,” Chief Jus­tice Richard Chartier said as he de­liv­ered the panel’s oral rea­sons for de­ci­sion Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Court of Queen’s Bench Jus­tice Her­bert Rem­pel had pre­vi­ously de­cided the in­junc­tion re­quest wasn’t ur­gent be­cause there’s no “ir­repara­ble harm” to the cor­po­ra­tion. Rem­pel said he had no ev­i­dence the protesters wouldn’t be able to pay dam­ages to the prop­erty owner if they were re­quired to do so. The ap­peal court over­turned that de­ci­sion Wed­nes­day after lawyers for the prop­erty owner, de­vel­oper An­drew Mar­quess and his firm Gem Equities, con­vinced the top court Rem­pel was wrong.

The ap­peal court’s de­ci­sion will speed up the process, but a judge will still have to de­cide whether to grant an in­junc­tion, which would force protesters off the prop­erty. Protesters have been camped out on the Fort Garry prop­erty since mid-July, halt­ing clear cut­ting of trees with their Rooster Town block­ade, named for a Métis community that was once lo­cated near the site. They say they are stand­ing up for Indige­nous land rights. Mar­quess, as the prop­erty owner, has taken le­gal ac­tion to re­move the protesters from the in­dus­trial prop­erty near the in­ter­sec­tion of Tay­lor Av­enue and Waver­ley Street. They say no Indige­nous group or po­lit­i­cal leader has raised con­cerns about the own­er­ship of the land. His lawyers say po­lice have been told not to in­ter­fere with the protesters’ camp.

The case raises “se­ri­ous issues in­volv­ing prop­erty rights,” Chartier said, as the panel of judges called at­ten­tion to po­lice in­ac­tion.

“There is ev­i­dence, al­beit hearsay at this point, that the po­lice were or­dered by the ex­ec­u­tive to take no steps to re­move the de­fen­dants from the prop­erty un­less or­dered by a court,” Chartier said. “If there is any cre­dence to this, we find it alarm­ing be­cause when po­lice are en­gaged in the en­force­ment of the law, they are to act in­de­pen­dently.”

In a sworn af­fi­davit filed in court, Mar­quess says a po­lice of­fi­cer told him by phone on July 15 — a day after the protesters set up camp — “the chief of po­lice had been or­dered by ‘the ex­ec­u­tive’ to take no steps to re­move the tres­passers.” There is no clar­i­fi­ca­tion on who or what “the ex­ec­u­tive” refers to. The Win­nipeg Po­lice Ser­vice did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment Wed­nes­day.

Ap­peal Court Jus­tice Alan McInnes com­mented dur­ing the hear­ing “this whole process, com­pared to nor­mal, is back­wards.” He said, typ­i­cally, protesters would be re­moved from pri­vate prop­erty and then they could ap­ply for an in­junc­tion to halt de­vel­op­ment on the prop­erty.

One pro­tester, at court to speak against the ur­gent need for an in­junc­tion hear­ing, said it’s her un­der­stand­ing po­lice can’t act on civil matters.

“If some­one was on your front lawn say­ing, ‘I’m oc­cu­py­ing your front lawn,’ that would be a dif­fer­ent story. This is a prop­erty that is be­ing clear cut,” said Nancy Thomas, who de­scribed her­self as a so­cial jus­tice ac­tivist. She said the protesters want to ask the court to re­view the ini­tial land trans­fer on the prop­erty and halt any fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the land.

“We’re feel­ing pretty con­fi­dent be­cause a lot was done wrong with the land trans­fer and we’re hop­ing to have the court re­view that,” she said.

Mar­quess’ le­gal team has said own­er­ship of the land is not con­tested and has never been raised as a con­cern by any Indige­nous group or po­lit­i­cal leader.

Lawyer Kevin Toyne is rep­re­sent­ing Mar­quess and Gem Equities. He said the ap­peal court’s de­ci­sion is “im­por­tant and sig­nif­i­cant” be­cause it gives his clients their day in court much more quickly.


Con­struc­tion con­tin­ues around protesters who have been camped out since July 14.

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