Judge rejects Parker Lands owner’s bid to clear protesters


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A Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench judge denied a local developer's urgent request on Wednesday for an injunction against protesters camped out on the Parker Lands.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/07/2017 (2133 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench judge denied a local developer’s urgent request on Wednesday for an injunction against protesters camped out on the Parker Lands.

The motion for an injunction will be heard on Nov. 2, and the defendants have until Aug. 25 to file statements of defence along with affidavits.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Debbie Belcourt was among the protesters at the law courts this morning.

“I’m very pleased with what the judge has said,” said Jenna Vandal, one of four named defendants.

Vandal is the leader of the Rooster Town Blockade — named for an informal Métis community once located near the Fort Garry property — an encampment set up July 14 to prevent Gem Equities Inc., and its contracted companies from clearcutting trees in preparation for future development. 

The protest group — which includes some unaffiliated demonstrators along with members of both the Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee and the Rooster Town activists — began the action by blocking mulching equipment after Westshore Construction, a firm hired by Gem Equities, had cleared nearly one-third of the property’s 42 acres of aspen forest and grassland.

Cal Dueck, a defendant and the conservation committee’s chairman, said he is thankful he and the other defendants have more time to prepare properly for the injunction hearing. Dueck’s lawyer Raymond Oakes said he received court documents Monday. 

“It’s not an appropriate amount of time to properly address the materials,” Oakes said.

Protesters masked, one carried axe: Gem

Lawyers representing Gem and its owner Andrew Marquess argued the situation at the property, which Gem owns, has intensified and that demonstrations have led to irreparable harm for the company in terms of both financial loss and relationships with other businesses. 

“I’m not too sure of many other cities where lawbreakers get to have meetings with the mayor, but apparently Winnipeg is now on that list.”–Kevin Toyne, the lawyer representing Gem Equities

”It is difficult to determine what the plaintiffs’ losses will be at this point,” Marquess wrote in an affidavit notarized July 19.

Justice Herbert Rempel said he didn’t see evidence of irreparable harm done.

Kevin Toyne, the lawyer representing Gem along with two numbered companies connected to the property’s ownership, told court several protesters were wearing bandanas on their faces, one was wearing a mask and one carried an axe while following a worker on the site.

He said the owners believe the site is being fortified with lumber and called the alleged activities “aggressive” and “extremely concerning,” repeatedly calling out the Winnipeg Police Service for its lack of action. 

“I’m not entirely sure how the presence of a weapon isn’t something that would be of grave concern to the Winnipeg police and everyone in Winnipeg,” Toyne said referring to the axe.

Vandal said the bandanas and masks were worn as a means of protection from dust clouds and to conceal protesters’ faces to avoid identification and subsequent legal action. She called the allegations the camp had been fortified with lumber false, and said the axe was used to prepare that wood for a campfire on the site.

‘Our claims are legitimate and valid’: protesters

Toyne also suggested there might be other hidden weapons in the six tents set up on the property, which Vandal denied. Rempel called those allegations “a great concern.”

“Anyone at the site would tell you it’s been a peaceful protest since Day 1, which is how we intend to keep it, of course,” she said. “(Marquess) is trying to turn people against our cause, but our concerns are legitimate and valid.”

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Protesters, including Jenna Vandal (right), have been camped out on the Parker lands development site since July 14. A lawyer says the situation has escalated with protesters covering their faces and using lumber to fortify their encampment.

Members of the blockade believe Indigenous people weren’t properly consulted when Marquess acquired the land from the city in 2009 in what many regard as a controversial land swap. Vandal has said she’s willing to risk her own safety or be arrested in order to protect the land.

“I’m just trying to assert and protect Métis rights,” she said before court proceedings began.

In court, Toyne discussed the protesters’ meeting with Mayor Brian Bowman Monday, saying that in addition to his clients’ dissatisfaction with police response, “the mayor’s already invited (the protesters) for tea.”

“I’m not too sure of many other cities where lawbreakers get to have meetings with the mayor, but apparently Winnipeg is now on that list,” Toyne told reporters outside court. He wouldn’t comment when asked whether his client had also requested a meeting with Bowman.

Bowman told Vandal and Dueck that he favours a pause of both tree removal and demonstrations until Gem’s development plan is approved, although Bowman said the city has no legal rights to prevent further tree removal.

Vandal said a time out would allow the development opponents to do their pre-hearing research and due diligence from home, rather than in tents on the property.

If it doesn’t happen the blockade won’t budge and protesters plan to remain until the November court date, she said.  



WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ten protesters by a tree clearing vehicle in the Parker wetlands on Friday morning to halt clearcutting of the land, saying they are determined to stop the machines "at any cost."
Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.


Updated on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 2:47 PM CDT: Headline fixed.

Updated on Wednesday, July 26, 2017 5:14 PM CDT: Updated.

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