British Columbia

Court grants Occupy Vancouver 1-week reprieve

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has delayed for a week the City of Vancouver's attempt to get an injunction to shut down the Occupy Vancouver protest site outside the downtown art gallery.
Occupy Vancouver volunteers make changes to their tent city in anticipation of a court ruling upholding changes ordered by the city's fire department. (CBC)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has delayed for a week the City of Vancouver's attempt to get an injunction to shut down the Occupy Vancouver protest site outside the downtown art gallery.

Justice Anne MacKenzie said Wednesday that the three-day hearing would begin at 10 a.m. PT Nov. 16.

However, MacKenzie did grant the city an interim order to enforce the immediate removal of all flammable liquids used as fuels from the tent city site.

MacKenzie also ruled Wednesday that all tarps and tents that have been cited by the city as a fire hazard must be removed from the encampment by 2 p.m. PT Thursday. All other tents were to be spaced one metre apart.

The lawyer representing the protesters, Jason Gratl, said those living in the camp are now prepared to comply with the city's fire bylaws, but they are opposed to the enforcement part of the temporary order.

"As soon as you bring in enforcement, you are going to create confrontation," said Elijah Ignatieff, a protester on the Direct Action Committee of Occupy Vancouver.

The protesters said there's no need for an enforcement order because they will co-operate in the spirit of "good faith, [and] peaceful respect."

The protesters were also asking for an exception to be made for a barrel fire lit by aboriginal elders, but the city said that would require a special exemption signed by the fire chief.

Fire out for now

The judge first adjourned the hearing on Tuesday to give the protesters and their lawyer more time to fight the city's injunction application.

Just minutes after the adjournment on Tuesday there was a show of defiance at the Occupy Vancouver camp as the protesters lit a fire in a barrel on the front lawn of the art gallery.

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But later on Tuesday evening, the protesters appeared to adopt a more conciliatory tone and put out the fire and voted for more fire safety at their general assembly.

Protesters also voted to space out their tents more, not to allow any open flame or propane heaters in their tents and to allow inspections by the Vancouver Fire Department.

But the protesters still say they no longer recognize the authority of city officials on the site because they're on Coast Salish land, and said they will only speak with representatives from the federal government.

Officers bitten by protesters

The city went to court for an injunction to remove the tents on the site after a brawl broke out on Monday night between the police and firefighters trying to extinguish a barrel fire and some protesters who wanted to keep it alight.

Police Chief Jim Chu alleged two of his officers were bitten by demonstrators and one had the magazine clip for his gun stolen during the scuffle.

Chu said the once-peaceful protest has been infiltrated by dangerous people, creating a divide within the camp between militant and peaceful protesters.

"This can no longer stand," Chu declared Tuesday. "We are issuing a public warning to those who remain on the site. It is time to leave."

But protesters like Jamie Grosvenor say they're non-violent.

"We are a peaceful movement and we are here to encourage dialogue," he said.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the camp would have to be shut down after a woman died of an apparent heroin overdose over the weekend in a tent at the camp.

City officials said the presence of drugs, alcohol, and propane tanks show Occupy Vancouver isn't able to police itself.

Meanwhile, demonstrators at the Occupy Victoria site in Centennial Square say they won't move until at least next Tuesday when the city's application for a court order goes before a judge.

On Tuesday a 47-year-old protester was coaxed out of a tree at the site and taken to hospital for treatment of possible mental health problems.

The man could face one count of assault for allegedly pouring urine over a city worker who was attempting to remove a bike that the protester had also tied to the branches of the tree. 

Occupy London camp dismantled

Meanwhile, in London, Ont., the city's mayor Joe Fontana defended the decision to evict the two-week-old Occupy camp overnight.

Fontana said that with winter coming, it was time to clear the park. He also voiced concern the tents needed to be removed for the protesters' own health and safety.

The mayor also lauded demonstrators for complying peacefully with police, and credited them with raising important issues around poverty, homelessness and income disparity.

Police in London, Ont., swept into the local Occupy protesters' encampment early Wednesday and removed all tents, marking the first time authorities in Canada have forcibly removed a camp that is part of the countrywide protests.

In Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford also said Wednesday it's time for the city's Occupy protesters to move on from their encampment in the downtown St. James Park.

And Occupy Montreal protesters have been told they cannot build structures to stay in over the winter as the structures can be a fire hazard. Protesters there have been camped out in Victoria Square for more than three weeks, and falling temperatures have prompted some to begin building wooden shacks and other structures.

With files from the CBC's Andree Lau