Mayors across Canada frustrated with Occupy protests
Published Thursday, November 10, 2011 8:37AM EST
With the "Occupy" protests now dragging into their fourth week, mayors across Canada are growing fed up and beginning to ask protests to leave public areas.
In London, Ont. Wednesday evening, police officers were quick to arrest a protester who tried to set up camp in a public park that had already been cleared on Tuesday.
They moved in again later in the night to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew in the park. One protestor refused to leave and was quietly arrested for trespassing.
On Wednesday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said residents had had enough of Occupy Toronto and he planned to begin the process to evict the protesters.
"I think it's the right thing to do, to ask them to move on. That's what people want me to do and that's what I'm going to do," he said.
The mayor did not set a deadline to get the protesters out, but said he was working with the police chief to decide on the best way to end the protest.
Officials in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary have also announced plans to start removing camps, while Regina's anti-capitalist protesters have been asked to leave voluntarily.
In Edmonton, campers on land owned by a private company have been asked to leave and the mayor has talked about cutting off their power. Montreal's protesters have been warned not to erect makeshift shelters.
In Halifax, the protest camp in the public square in front of Halifax city hall has already been dismantled ahead of Friday's Remembrance Day ceremonies, but the protesters say they plan to relocate.
In Ottawa, protesters said they had notified police after finding more than 400 used needles scattered around the park where they are camping. Protest organizers say the syringes were likely planted as "a deliberate attack against the occupation."
"This is clearly an attempt to discredit us," Mitchell Broughton, who found one of the needles at a park entrance, told reporters.
In Vancouver, protesters were back in force in the courts defending their encampment in front of the city art gallery.
B.C. Supreme Court Judge Anne MacKenzie said Wednesday she will permit Occupy Vancouver to remain while lawyers for the group mount a defence against the city's push to permanently take down the tents.
John Mascarin, a Toronto attorney who specializes in municipal law, says while cities across the country have tolerated the protesters up to now, the camps have actually been illegal.
"They have no legal right to be there," Mascarin told CTV's Canada AM.
Mascarin says the City of Toronto, for one, has clear laws that prohibit the camps.
"The city has bylaws that clearly say you cannot dwell, you cannot lodge, you cannot camp in the park. You can't even use the park between 12 and 5:30 a.m. So they are at the sufferance of the city."
He says if cities choose to evict the protesters, they need to do so with a measured response. He advises city officials begin by giving notice to the protesters that they are in violation of bylaws, and then give them the opportunity to leave peacefully.
Beginning with more force will only foment anger, he suggested.
"You saw what happened with the G20 here: a very volatile situation. No one wants to see that happen again," Mascarin said.