Occupy Edmonton to defy eviction notice

Occupy Edmonton protesters say they will stay in a city park despite an eviction notice from the private company that owns the land asking demonstrators to leave by 11 p.m. Sunday.

Protesters have until Sunday at 11 p.m. MT to leave the site

Occupy Edmonton protesters say they will stay in a city park despite an eviction notice from the private company that owns the land.

The decision to stay was reached at a general assembly meeting held Saturday night, protester Mohad Mohamed said.

On Saturday, members of the Occupy Edmonton protest received an eviction notice, telling them to remove their camp by Sunday at 11 p.m. MT.

Citing safety and public health concerns, Melcor Developments Ltd. stated in a letter to the occupiers that any persons or property on the site after the eviction deadline "are subject to removal by lawful means."

"There is potential for liability ... in the event that there's any kind of incidents taking place on the site," Melcor CEO Ralph Young said Saturday.

Protesters may be held liable

If the Occupy Edmonton members do not vacate the area, the company plans to issue a complaint to Edmonton police to remove any trespassers and may hold protesters liable for the costs associated with the removal of property, garbage and waste from the site.

"We believe vulnerable people are on the site who are probably not in a position to handle the cold," Young said. "We know they've taken some steps and we know they're concerned about safety, but we don't know who's on the site. We don't know what their health is. It's leaving people in a very dangerous situation."

Evictions spur complaint to UN

A group of Ontario lawyers has filed a complaint at the United Nations over the move by various Canadian cities to evict Occupy protesters.

In its submission to the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Law Union of Ontario says the evictions are an affront to the rights to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly.

He said Melcor is not looking for a confrontation or to restrict rights to protest, just a peaceful end to the occupation of its land.

"We have allowed this to occur for the last 30 days without taking significant action but feel we're now at a point where we can no longer run the risk to our company and its directors and shareholders to allow unsafe things to occur on our property," Young said.

Melcor also said it will defer the eviction notice if, by Sunday's eviction deadline, the authorized representatives of Occupy Edmonton provide a specific plan of action, including dates, for an "orderly, peaceful and safe dismantling of the camp."  

'Isn't about safety'

The Occupy Edmonton group rejected Melcor's characterization of the dispute, and its reason for wanting to evict the protesters.

Occupy Edmonton protester Mohad Mohamed said the camp is safe and should be able to remain. (CBC )

"This isn’t about safety. This is about a corporation trying to squash our right to peaceful assembly and to silence a voice that has been silenced for far too long," Mohad Mohamed of Occupy Edmonton said Saturday in a release.

"We are trying to push for a system that puts the health and well-being of people and the environment above a lust for profits. Every day that we are here we are doing that by raising awareness and by being a visible reminder that we currently have a system, infected by corporate influences, that works against most of us when it should be working for us.

"If Melcor truly believed in people and the right to voice opinions, it would let us stay rather than forcefully evicting a peaceful group and threatening civil legal action."

Earlier this week, Edmonton's fire marshal visited the site after a photo surfaced of a fire lit by protesters inside a teepee.

Mohamed said protesters have complied with all requests made by Melcor and city officials to ensure the camp remains safe.

"The public safety issue is bogus in its own end because the individuals who are trained to look for these issues came here and gave us a passing grade," he said.

Health and safety concerns have already led to the dismantling of other occupations across Canada.