Winnipeg judge orders Parker Lands protesters to go home
Judge grants interlocutory injunction to property owners, protesters have to clear out by Friday
Protesters occupying the Parker Lands development in Winnipeg have been ordered by a judge to leave the property and clean up all their belongings by 6 p.m. Friday.
The order is part of an injunction granted by Court of Queen's Bench Justice James Edmond Thursday afternoon.
The Parker Lands property was acquired in a land swap with the City of Winnipeg by two numbered companies connected to local developer Gem Equities.
Protesters have occupied the Fort Garry property in two encampments since July. They oppose the clearing of forested areas on the property and argue the area has historical and cultural significance to Métis and Indigenous communities.
Work on the property — which the owners described as "pre-development" — came to a standstill with the arrival of the protesters on July 14.
The injunction "means our client can get back to what they were doing in July — carrying out lawful business activities that were being stopped by illegal trespassers," said Kevin Toyne, the lawyer for the property owners. "Our clients are quite happy that their rights have been upheld and vindicated by the courts."
Protester not surprised by decision
Jenna Vandal, one of three protesters who made submissions Thursday opposing the injunction, said she wasn't surprised by the decision.
"I know the court institution is here to protect and enshrine property rights," Vandal said. "Of course, I wish it happened the other way."
Vandal, who is Métis, said the property borders the site of the long-demolished Métis settlements of Rooster Town and Tin Town.
"Métis would have used this territory for subsistence and ceremonial purposes," she said. "That in itself gives the land much importance and value to Indigenous and Métis people."
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Inside court, Edmond noted no Indigenous or Métis community had made an entitlement claim to the land. As well, the Manitoba Métis Federation, which Vandal said supported her efforts, made no representation to court on the issue.
Edmond said the protesters had no legal right to trespass on the property and ruled the owners would suffer "irreparable harm" if the occupation was allowed to continue.
"I am satisfied that the costs of delay are real … and the plaintiffs will suffer real harm," Edmond said.
He said the legal remedy for the protesters would be to seek a judicial review of the city's decision to sell the property.
"To just show up and camp on somebody else's property, there isn't a legal right to do that," he said.
Until now, city police have declined to intervene in the dispute, saying they would take their cue from the courts.
Edmond ordered that protesters remove all their belongings and "obstructions" from the site in a "peaceful" manner.
"I don't want to see confrontations," Edmond said.
The property owners are seeking an order of $10,000 in costs from each of the three defendants who were in court Thursday.
Edmond will rule on that issue after receiving written submissions from the defendants next week.