Mayor Bowman Asks Parker Wetlands Developer to Halt Clear Cutting Trees

Protesters walk on Friday through a clear-cut area that was once aspen forest in the Parker Lands. (Dereck Doherty/CBC)

Protesters camped out on land seek moratorium pending consultations

CBC News Posted: Jul 19, 2017

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has weighed in on the conflict between a group of protesters and a local developer over the removal of trees on the Parker Lands.

Last Friday, a group of about 10 people surrounded mulching machines used to remove the trees. The protesters told workers at the site that the land was contested by Métis and other indigenous groups.

Bowman said developer Andrew Marquess and his company, Gem Equities, had committed to not remove the trees before the City of Winnipeg approved the development plan.

“That appears not to have been the case, in reality, with what we saw with the clearing of land,” Bowman told reporters on Wednesday.

Despite the commitment, Bowman said the land is considered private and the developer has the right to remove the trees.

Bowman said he would like to see the developer halt cutting the trees until the city approves the development plan, which he said includes preserving a significant portion of the trees.

CBC has reached out to Marquess for comment.

The land is owned by Gem Equities, which acquired it in a controversial land swap with the city.

Gem has been removing the trees ahead of expected development along the new transit route. However, the company owned by developer Andrew Marquess has not yet submitted a plan to the city.

“Where I’m standing right now, all the trees have been shredded to match sticks and there’s no life here but lots of spiders and bugs and the occasional birds that come picking the bugs,” Jenna Vandal, who has been camped out on the land since Friday, said In an interview with CBC Manitoba`s Up to Speed.

Vandal said her group would like to preserve the remaining two-thirds of the forest. She said the Parker Lands are a significant part of Métis history.

“This used to be the site, or very close to the site, of the Métis community of Rooster Town,” she said. “It was a shanty town that was built due to the Metis being pushed out of Winnipeg as Winnipeg expanded after 1870.”

The village was demolished in 1960 and Grant Park Shopping Centre was built in its place, Vandal said.

“And so this forest has special significance for the Métis. You know, there have been structures that have been found here, and arrowheads and bison skinning tools.

Vandal said she wants a moratorium on clear cutting of the forest until they can get consultations with the Manitoba Métis Federation, Treaty Land Entitlement Commission of Manitoba and other non-profit indigenous groups in Winnipeg.