Occupy Toronto eviction may face legal obstacle
Park's partial ownership by church would complicate eviction
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wants Occupy Toronto protesters to leave a downtown park, but questions over ownership of the property may limit the city's authority to carry out an eviction.
Any move to oust the protesters in Toronto could be complicated because only half of the park belongs to the city. The other half is the property of Saint James Cathedral. On Wednesday some protesters began moving their tents closer to the church.
"I think everyone can appreciate it’s been a peaceful process, but I think it’s time we ask them to move on," Ford said Wednesday, a day when police in London, Ont., took down a similar protesters' camp at a downtown park in that city.
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In Vancouver and Victoria, civic officials are seeking court approval to remove Occupy protesters from parks in those cities.
Ford has said he would prefer the Toronto occupiers to leave on their own but said he’s received numerous calls from people who want to see the camp packed up.
Protesters — who have been camping in park at the corner of King Street East and Church Streets since Oct. 15 — held a meeting Wednesday night. They want to stay until January, when they are scheduled to speak before city council.
"We would like to see this meeting happen," Occupy Toronto organizer Taylor Chelsea told CBC News. "We’d like to meet some of the neighbours that are afraid to come here or who aren’t interested in coming here."
'They've ruined the park'
Meanwhile, patience is wearing thin for some residents who live near the park. Jack Naveh said the protesters have already overstayed their welcome.
"They’ve ruined the park as far as I’m concerned," he told CBC News. "At the beginning I thought it was really great but living across the street here … after a month it’s been kind of upsetting."
Owners of businesses near the park are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the problem. Many merchants in the area say their business has taken a dip of up to 30 per cent since protesters began camping in the park four weeks ago.
James Morton, a Toronto lawyer and law professor at Osgoode Hall, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning Thursday.
Morton told host Matt Galloway that if the occupiers remain on church land with permission from church officials, it might be difficult for police to remove them.
"If the church decides that they don’t want to evict people, then that part of the land owned by the church … they don’t get evicted," he said.
"This particular park is problematic because the ownership is not as clear as it might be," he said.