Judge upholds Occupy Toronto eviction notice
Occupy Toronto will not be allowed to continue its protest in St. James Park â or at least between the hours of midnight and 5:30 a.m. The occupiers had received an interim injunction against the eviction notices delivered by City of Toronto by-law officers last Tuesday. On Friday the City and the protesters made their case before Justice David Brown, whose task it was to decide whether or not orders to vacate the park on a nightly basis constituted an infringement of the occupiers' Charter rights.
Here's the reasoning for his decision, which was announced shortly after 9:00 a.m. this morning:
"The Charter does not permit the Protesters to take over public space without asking, exclude the rest of the public from enjoying their traditional use of that space, and then contend that they are under no obligation to leave. By taking that position and by occupying the Park the Protesters are breaking the law. Such civil disobedience attracts consequences. In this case the civic authority which represents the Toronto community now seeks to enforce the law. It wishes to re-open the Park to the rest of the city to enjoy as was done before. That is what the City sought to do by serving the Trespass Notice last week. For the reasons which I will set out below, I conclude that the Trespass Notice is constitutionally valid. The City may enforce it. I dismiss the application."
What happens at this point is not completely clear. Some protesters previously indicated that they would remain in the park regardless of the judge's ruling. The "eviction notice" doesn't go into effect until midnight, so the protesters will have the rest of the day to make their intentions clear.
Update (10:38 a.m.):
Statement from the City of Toronto regarding today's ruling.
"The City of Toronto is pleased by Mr. Justice David M. Brown's ruling announced today that the City's notice issued on November 15 is constitutionally valid, and respectfully asks Occupy Toronto and others occupying St. James Park for their cooperation in peacefully complying with that ruling.
The City is grateful that Mr. Justice Brown has upheld its right to require that the tents or other structures not be erected or maintained in our parks, and that individuals not use, gather or enter City parks from 12.01 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.
"The City has worked to balance people's right to protest with public safety. However, this unauthorized use of a City park has interfered with the rights local residents have to the quiet enjoyment of their parks and homes and has negatively affected many area businesses. City parks are for all residents to enjoy and there are bylaws that govern their use that must be respected. It is time for this to come to a peaceful end," said Mayor Rob Ford.
"Protestors are required to remove all tents, shelters or other structures," said City Manager Joseph Pennachetti. "The City is willing to assist to ensure the safe and orderly removal of these materials. We are asking for protestors to cooperate and respect the Court's decision. It is our intent to facilitate this peacefully."
Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff will continue to be available at the Adelaide Women's Resource Centre to assist anyone who may need assistance with shelter, housing or other supports.
The City extends its appreciation to the Court for its timely consideration of this matter."
Update (9:50 a.m.):
So what happens if the protesters don't leave? The City has yet to reveal how it might deal with those who refuse to vacate the park, but here's the judge's summary on the consequences and legal rights of the City to clear out the park:
What happens if a person does not comply with a notice which prohibits a particular activity? Several things. First, section 2(1) of the TPA states that a person who engages in an activity on premises when the activity is prohibited and "who is not acting under a right or authority conferred by law" is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $2,000. Second, section 9(1) of the TPA states: A police officer, or the occupier of premises, or a person authorized by the occupier may arrest without warrant any person he or she believes on reasonable and probable grounds to be on the premises in contravention of section 2."
Update (9:48 a.m.):
CP24 reports that the protesters will hold a general assembly at noon and at 6 p.m. to discuss the ruling. We'll have more from the scene later today.
Update (9:40 a.m.):
A couple of key quotations from the judge's ruling (full document embedded below):
"Although proclaiming a message of participatory democracy, the evidence, unfortunately,reveals that the Protesters did not practise what they were preaching when they decided to occupy the Park. Specifically, they did not ask those who live and work around the Park or those who use the Park or their civic representatives what they would think if the Park was turned into a tent city."
"The Protesters now say, in effect, that the Charter did not require them to ask; that the
Charter sanctions their unilateral occupation of the Park which they intend to continue for an indefinite period of time because of the importance of their message and the way in which they convey it by taking over public property... With the greatest of respect to the Applicants and the Protesters, they are mistaken."
Update (9:30 a.m.):
Update (9:15 a.m.):
Here is the full text of the ruling.
Photo by jen takes pictures in the blogTO Flickr pool
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