Parker Lands developer wins appeal, gets early hearing on bid to remove protesters
Manitoba Court of Appeal says lower court judge made a mistake, delay would cause 'substantial harm'
The owners of the Parker Lands have won a minor victory in their legal battle against protesters who have been camped out on the property for a month and a half.
The Manitoba Court of Appeal has overturned a lower court's decision to deny a summer hearing on an injunction to remove protesters from the property.
On July 26, Justice Herbert Rempel of the Court of Queen's Bench of Manitoba decided there is no pressing need to grant an immediate hearing to the two numbered companies that own the property, setting the date three-and-a-half months later, on Nov. 2.
In a decision dated Aug. 30, the Appeal Court overturned that decision and moved the date up to Sept. 14.
In his decision, Rempel wrote that he was "not satisfied that the plaintiff[s] could not be compensated in damages for any economic harm they might suffer." The Appeal Court judges disagreed, writing that Rempel "misapprehended" the evidence before him, and "that the cost of delay is real and that the plaintiffs will suffer substantial harm."
The Appeal Court also disagreed with the judge's argument that the plaintiffs could recover any losses from the protesters, writing that there was no evidence "to conclude that the defendants were in any position to compensate the plaintiffs in damages."
Rempel had also cited the court's summer recess as a reason for not setting an earlier hearing date, but the Appeal Court said that is a "completely immaterial consideration," because urgent matters can be heard any time of year.
Protesters have been camped out on the property in Fort Garry since mid-July. They're opposed to the removal of trees and the development of land they say has spiritual value to local Indigenous groups.
The two numbered companies are connected to local developer Gem Equities, which acquired the Parker Lands property in a controversial land swap with the City of Winnipeg.
Court finds police inaction 'alarming'
Activists at the encampment have told CBC News they would leave if ordered to by the courts, and in their decision the Appeal Court said the Winnipeg Police Service "has advised the plaintiffs that it will not remove the defendants from the property, unless ordered by a court."
The Appeal Court judges called that "alarming because when police are engaged in the enforcement of the law, they are to act independently."
Winnipeg police have said they are taking their cues from the courts.
"The role of the Winnipeg Police Service in this matter is to keep the peace. We are monitoring the ongoing dispute, and will continue to do so as this situation makes its way through the court process," police spokesperson Kelly Dehn said in a statement earlier this month.