The Parker Lands owner has hired a security firm to prevent anyone from joining an encampment of protesters that's been blocking development for nearly a month.

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This article was published 9/8/2017 (1509 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Parker Lands owner has hired a security firm to prevent anyone from joining an encampment of protesters that's been blocking development for nearly a month.

Kevin Toyne, a lawyer for Gem Equities Inc., the real estate firm that acquired the 42-acre parcel in Fort Garry in a land swap in 2009, said Wednesday his client has the right to acquire private security.

The Rooster Town Blockade — named for an informal Métis community that was located nearby in the mid-20th century — set up its demonstration July 14, after Gem and its associated firms began to cut down trees in advance of development. About 15 acres of trees were removed before the blockade began.

Toyne and Gem owner Andrew Marquess have criticized the Winnipeg Police Service's handling of the demonstration. On July 26, after the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench denied a request for an urgent hearing into the protesters' right to remain on the land, Toyne repeatedly accused the police of failing to act. He told the Free Press his client was considering hiring a private security firm.

In addition, the firm has erected several signs around the property, warning it is under 24-hour video surveillance and trespassers will be prosecuted.

The signs are meant to deter members of the public from joining what Toyne referred to as "an illegal encampment."

On Tuesday, firms contracted by Gem and the numbered companies that own the property put up two large light towers. One is on the southwest corner of the site and the other is pointed directly at the encampment, where people have been spending the night in shifts since the demonstration began.

Toyne wouldn't say whether the lights, which have been on from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., are meant to make the protesters uncomfortable. He said they "ensure the property is illuminated if (his) clients would like to have it illuminated."

When Gem took several protesters and affiliates, including Rooster Town Blockade leader Jenna Vandal, to court in July, it claimed the protest was causing irreparable harm in terms of financial loss and relationships with other businesses. In denying an urgent injunction, Justice Herbert Rempel scheduled the matter for Nov. 2.

Gem is appealing that decision to the Manitoba Court of Appeal and has asked for the hearing to be expedited. The next court date is Aug. 16, although Toyne doesn't expect the appeal to be heard that day.

Vandal, who was served Tuesday with a notice of the upcoming court appearance, said the "intimidation tactics" won't deter them.

"Things will remain the same," Vandal said Wednesday.

"We all recognize that they're intimidations, but we plan on standing our ground because what we're fighting for is far more important," she said.

Protesters believe Indigenous people weren't properly consulted when the land was acquired by Marquess in 2009.

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

Ben Waldman

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