Owners of the Parker Lands slated for development by Gem Equities have filed a lawsuit against protesters and an injunction demanding the group leave. Demonstrators say the land is contested Indigenous land and home to endangered wildlife. (Laura Glowacki/CBC)
Gem Equities sought injunction to remove the protesters accused of trespassing, delaying work
By Laura Glowacki, CBC News Posted: Jul 26, 2017
A Winnipeg company hoping to develop the Parker Lands was not granted an urgent hearing for an injunction motion filed on behalf of the owner to remove protesters camped out on the land.
The lawyer representing Andrew Marquess, owner of Gem Equities, told a Winnipeg courtroom Wednesday that protesters on a piece of land slated for residential development in Fort Garry are fortifying the site and insulting the law.
“They are effectively giving the middle finger to everyone who pays their taxes and the rules of law,” said Kevin Toyne, lawyer for two numbered companies as well as Marquess.
Toyne argued that an urgent hearing is needed because the company is losing potential profits by not being able to proceed with development and there is a public safety risk.
The urgent hearing was not granted. Instead, the injunction motion will be heard on Nov 2. Defendants have until Aug. 25 to file their statement of defence.
Marquess’s company, Gem Equities, is hoping to build townhouses and apartments on the 24-hectare property known as the Parker Lands.
Protesters say the land is contested with roots in the Métis community and serves as an important habitat for birds and other animals.
Protest camp prevents further clearing
Protesters set up a small camp of about six tents on the Parker Lands last week after Gem Equities began clearing trees. The company says protesters are preventing mulching equipment from moving, making further clearing of trees on the site impossible.
A small group of protesters met outside the court on Wednesday morning.
“It’s important to me and I think a lot of people because first off, the land is beautiful and there’s a lot of animals there and people have been trying to protect it for a while,” said Maddy Jantz, one of the protesters. “But most importantly, it’s Métis land and the Métis folks were not consulted. They still haven’t been.”
Protesters have been seen holding an axe and wearing masks. Parker Lands advocate Jenna Vandal said the axe was being used to chop wood for a bonfire.
“No one would be allowed to walk in this courtroom with an axe,” Toyne told the judge. “An axe is a weapon.”
Marquess acquired the property in 2009 in a controversial land swap with the city.
Protesters set up camp last week when Gem Equities started clearing trees from the site. Earlier this year, the City of Winnipeg shredded trees as part of the next phase of the city’s rapid transit bus route.
The residential development Gem Equities envisions would be called Oak Grove. The plan includes high-density towers, medium-density low-rise buildings, low-density townhouses and single-family homes, arranged in concentric circles around a Southwest Transitway station plaza.
City council has not approved the area plan, rezonings or developments necessary for the company to move forward.