Protesters who have vowed to go to jail if necessary to save trees on the Parker lands learned on Friday they're being sued for trespassing.
Local developer Andrew Marquess has filed for financial compensation and a court order to evict the protesters who are camping on the property and have successfully blocked tree cutting for a week. The matter goes before a judge on Wednesday.
Also named in court documents are people associated with the Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee, the Green Party of Manitoba and the daughter of a local Liberal MP.
Marquess, the legal owner of the wetlands, says the actions of the protesters – whom he claims are engaged in illegal activity by trespassing on his land – have resulted in a loss of revenue and hurt his business relationships with contractors.
The following people are listed as defendants in the case: Jenna Vandal, Cal Dueck, Laura Pearson, Dirk Hoeppner, as well as a number of people unknown to the plaintiffs and the Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee.
Up to 50 people have been coming in and out of camp in recent days, bringing supplies to the half-dozen protestors camped on the land, according to organizers.
Andrew Marquess is the owner and sole shareholder of Gem Equities — which obtained the Parker wetlands in a controversial 2009 land swap with the City of Winnipeg.
Marquess disputes media characterizations of his business activities as "controversial."
He hopes the court will obtain written statements by protesters promising to halt further trespassing on his land, as well as get them to use their social media accounts to tell others to do the same.
"In this day and age of heavy social media use, illegal protests like this are typically initiated and promoted through social media," said Kevin Toyne, legal representative for the plaintiffs.
"That’s the case here. They’ve encouraged people to come out and protest. So they should use the same methods of promotion to let people know the protest is no longer allowed."
Marquess further claims that Cal Dueck and Jenna Vandal are collaborating together on the protests.
Dueck is a spokesman for the Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee.
Jenna Vandal, daughter of Liberal MP Dan Vandal, is one of the main organizers of the Rooster Town Blockade – an organization that claims the land is un-ceded Metis territory.
Toyne went on to say his client is disappointed in the response by the Winnipeg Police Service, who he says have not only refused to intervene in the situation but also given protesters permission to have fires on the property.
"What gives them the authority to allow protesters to have fires on my client’s property, I’m not sure," Toyne said.
"But if this protest was happening on the front lawn of the chief of police, or the front yard of (Mayor) Brian Bowman, I’m sure the police response would be much different."
Dueck is surprised he’s included as a defendant in the case, saying neither he – nor the organization he belongs to – are camping out on Marquee's property.
"I think it’s the tactics of a bully," Dueck said. "The Parker Wetlands Conservation Committee is not the group occupying the land."
Dueck went on to say he will be in court Wednesday and is currently seeking legal representation.
"We’ll be in court. We’re looking for help from the general population. We’re looking for lawyers. We don’t have money and Marquess knows it," Dueck said.
"We’re putting the call out for donations and any lawyers who might be interested in helping. It’s really too bad when a big corporation tries to bully a bunch of little people into being quiet."
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.