Province evicts encampment on east side of Manitoba Legislature grounds

The last remaining camp on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly was removed on Saturday, months after the province issued eviction notices to two camps on the grounds.

On Saturday morning, provincial officers were lined up along a fence surrounding an area on the east side of the pitch, as small bulldozers finished clearing tents and a holy fire on the pitch.

A 72-year-old man whom CBC spoke to at the site said he was one of four people present at the camp before it was dismantled early Saturday morning.

« They never notified us for anything. They just arrived this morning, » said Rob, who asked CBC not to release his full name.

He said conservation officers came to the east camp on Saturday morning, telling people they were under arrest. He and two others were handcuffed and put into vehicles, he said.

All three were given $672 tickets for occupying a tent or portable shelter on the legislative grounds, he said.

Provincial law enforcement personnel began dismantling the encampment around 7 a.m. Saturday, a spokesperson for Manitoba’s justice minister said. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

The eastern camp, which was called the « Every Child Matters » camp, had been in place for more than a year. A sacred fire was lit at the encampment after the discovery in May 2021 of what are believed to be unmarked graves at the site of the former boarding school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Organizers previously said they intended to stay there until all residential school sites in Canada were searched for unmarked graves.

Last July, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government passed legislation prohibiting certain activities on the legislative grounds, including starting a fire, damaging property and using a vehicle to block public access to the grounds.

On August 17, the province issued eviction notices for the east side camp and another unrelated camp on the north side of the Legislative grounds.

The camp on the north side was removed earlier this month.

The eastern camp man who spoke to CBC on Saturday said personal and sacred items were lost when the camp was withdrawn.

But « we’re going to do it again, » Rob said.

« Just because they locked us up here doesn’t mean we’re leaving. »

‘Not legal or safe’: Justice Minister

In an emailed statement from a spokesperson early Saturday afternoon, Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said law enforcement removed « illegal structures on the grounds of the legislature » on Saturday.

Provincial law enforcement personnel led the dismantling of the encampment, the statement said. The spokesperson later confirmed that the withdrawal began around 7 a.m.

Goertzen’s statement said the province supports the right to lawful protests, but they must be done safely.

Permanent structures and encampments not authorized by the province are not « legal or safe » for legislative reasons, according to Goertzen.

« This has been reflected in the significant security issues that have arisen over the past few months at the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. »

The north side camp was evicted in early October, when 12 people between the ages of 27 and 55 were arrested. They were charged with obstructing peace officers and filing articles in the legislative field that justify an extended stay.

Police have previously said during the dismantling of this encampment that they seized body armor and numerous items, including three axes, a hammer, a hatchet, a club, a spear and a machete.

This site had been adorned with signs and flags related to a variety of issues, from the discovery of potential unmarked graves at former residential school sites to COVID-19 restrictions.

Residents of the eastern camp had said they hoped to stay after the other camp was evicted, saying that at that time they planned to meet with provincial officials to discuss how this might work.


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