Nova Scotia

Councillors get earful on Occupy N.S. eviction

Halifax regional councillors are dealing with the fallout from the Remembrance Day eviction of Occupy Nova Scotia protesters from Victoria Park.

2 protesters in court

Halifax regional councillors are dealing with the fallout from the Remembrance Day eviction of Occupy Nova Scotia protesters from Victoria Park.

While some residents support the shut down, others question the way council handled the situation.

Halifax Coun. Jennifer Watts wanted a public discussion of the decision to evict Occupy Nova Scotia protesters. ((CBC))
Connaught-Quinpool Coun. Jennifer Watts said Monday that she's received so much public feedback that the issue needs a public airing. She wanted to add the issue to regional council's agenda on Tuesday.

'The feedback that I've had from residents is that it's obviously very, very troubling for some residents. People are very upset. So, I think as part of the process of understanding this, the opportunity to at the very least direct questions to regional council is very important," she said.

But late Monday, the item was added to the agenda of another closed door session of council.

Purcells Cove-Armdale Coun. Linda Mosher said she has received 150 emails from her residents about the crackdown, and all but one of them is negative.

She said she is angry about the timing of the shutdown.

"I was very shocked. The timing was terrible and it's an embarrassment to our veterans and to our city," Mosher said.

The eviction of Occupy Nova Scotia protesters took place shortly after Remembrance Day ceremonies ended, and only a couple hours after an eviction notice was served.

The decision to enforce the municipal parks bylaw was made by council behind closed doors last Tuesday.  

Liberal MLA Andrew Younger, a former Dartmouth councillor, questions the entire process.

"It's enforcing a bylaw that's already on the books. It was cowardly. You know, it strikes you as seeming like a police state action instead of dealing with this in an open and transparent fashion," he said

Younger said he also cannot understand why there wasn't a follow up vote in public or why the city didn't get a court injunction.

Mayor Peter Kelly insists everything was done properly, and all councillors approved taking action. 

"Giving direction to staff does not require public ratification," he said.

HRM CAO Richard Butts said the city didn't need a court injunction to evict Occupy Nova Scotia protesters. ((CBC))
Chief Administrative Officer Richard Butts said the city didn't need to head to the courts for authorization to take action.

"We were of the belief that we had the authority to do [it] within our bylaw, and we felt that an injunction at this time was not the appropriate way to go," Butts said.

Halifax police Chief Frank Beazley made the final decision on the timing of the eviction.

Beazley said Remembrance Day was the safest time to act because it was a holiday with few people on the streets, and giving the protesters more notice would only have made matters worse.

The police bill for Friday's eviction is $40,000, Beazley said. Since Oct. 15 when the protestors first set up camp, more than $128,000 has been spent on policing.

Justice Minister Ross Landry said he would have given the occupiers more time before forcibly removing them.

2 protesters in court

Occupiers now have lawyers investigating whether Halifax Regional Municipality violated the constitution with its eviction order.

Fourteen people — 12 men and two women — were arrested for obstruction of justice.

Two of them were in Halifax provincial court Monday after being arrested for a second time on Saturday. They are accused of violating conditions imposed after their first arrest on Remembrance Day.

About 30 supporters rallied outside the courthouse on Spring Garden Road. Sharon Murphy, a retired social worker, has been supporting the group financially since day one.

"This movement won't be stopped because people are evicted from parks and if they think that, it's foolish," Murphy said. "This movement is going to go on." 

Moira Peters also supports the movement.

"I'm supporting Occupy Nova Scotia because I occupy Nova Scotia," she said. "I live here."

An Occupy Nova Scotia spokesperson said they're now looking at their options for setting up a new encampment.