Court grants immediate injunction on Beltline protests in Calgary against public health measures
Police say intelligence indicates there may be an imminent public safety risk
The City of Calgary has been granted a temporary court injunction to help address protests in the city's Beltline area against public health measures.
An Alberta Court of Queen's Bench justice granted an immediate injunction that will address protests in the Beltline and elsewhere in Calgary, the city said in an emailed statement.
The injunction prohibits ongoing violations of existing bylaws and legislation, and reinforces and clarifies enforcement authority.
The injunction prohibits blocking traffic on roads and sidewalks, walking in the middle of roadways, preventing vehicles and pedestrians from lawfully passing by or accessing amenities in the area, without authorization or permit.
It also prohibits conducting activity in a park that unreasonably disturbs the use or enjoyment of the park for other users of the park, or hosting an event or using an amplification system in a park without a permit, and commercial activity within a park. It also applies to the unnecessary sounding of horns or other audible warning devices.
However, community protests and events are still allowed to occur if they comply with bylaw requirements and secure appropriate permits, the city said.
Read the temporary court injunction:
Police aware of protesters with links to white supremacy groups
"There will be no marching tomorrow, there will be no mobile protest, and there will be nobody behaving that way down in the Beltline," police Chief Mark Neufeld said Friday during a special meeting between the Calgary Police Service and the Calgary Police Commission.
The injunction means that instead of officers doing bylaw enforcement, which would result in a ticket, if police see anyone doing any of the actions prohibited by the injunction, the offenders could go "directly to jail," Neufeld said.
Earlier this week, the police comission said ticketing organizers and attendees has proven "ineffective" in prior anti-mandate protests.
Police also warned the public that their intelligence indicates there may be an imminent public safety risk at future demonstrations. Neufeld also said they are aware that there have been protesters with links to white supremacist groups.
Police say the protest size has changed over recent months. In the beginning of 2022, there were about 300 people attending protests. In February, that number grew to between 2,000 and 5,000. At the end of February and early March, there were 1,300.
Important Announcement<br><br>As presented to the public and media today, we are stepping up our enforcement plans for this weekend’s demonstrations, along with our <a href="https://twitter.com/cityofcalgary?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@cityofcalgary</a> partners. We urge the public not to attend. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yyc?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yyc</a> <a href="https://t.co/30mgv2sUC5">pic.twitter.com/30mgv2sUC5</a>—@CalgaryPolice
Protesters, counter-protesters say they're going ahead
Protests in Calgary against COVID-19 public health restrictions started nearly two years ago.
They have continued in the Beltline and Central Memorial Park each week, despite the fact that most of the province's mandates have been lifted. In recent weeks, counter-protesters have started demonstrating in the area at the same time.
Community Solidarity YYC, which has represented counter-protesters in the Beltline, tweeted that the group plans to peacefully assemble.
Jake Eskesen, who has been attending Beltline protests, said in an email to CBC that anti-mandate protesters will not be deterred by the injunction.
'There are consequences for breaking the law'
"[This] now is a really important warning shot to the people who are engaged in these kinds of protests that there are legal consequences for what's happening," said Doug King, professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University.
"There are consequences for breaking the law while engaged in a peaceful protest."
Violating a court order is a Criminal Code offence, King said, which could lead to six months incarceration, plus the potential of a $5,000 fine.
King, who lives near the area, said that since the Coutts border blockade and simultaneous protests in Ottawa, the Beltline demonstrations have become increasingly aggressive.
Police chief says he has regrets
Police commission chair Shawn Cornett said work will ramp up after this weekend: "We need to look at what has gone on, what we've done, have we been doing the things that we needed to do? There's lots of discussions to happen."
In an column penned by Neufeld for the Calgary Herald, the police chief said he regrets that "we find ourselves in a place where Beltline residents feel unsafe and unsupported in their community."
"I also regret that despite ongoing efforts to come to a diplomatic resolution with some protest groups — something we have done for years in our city — we are now in a place where this situation must be resolved in less subtle ways," Neufeld wrote.
Neighbourhood association pleased with injunction
The Beltline Neighbourhoods Association said they are pleased to see the temporary court injunction as a tool to help Calgary law enforcement respond to the demonstrations.
We have been touched by the outpouring of support Beltline residents have received from across Calgary. We encourage everyone who was planning to stand with residents this Saturday to still come visit: enjoy our incredible public spaces, fill our restaurants, and patios—@yycbeltline
"We are hopeful that this allows our community to return to being the vibrant, safe, and welcoming place it was before these aggressive demonstrations."
With files from Colleen Underwood