Manitoba evicts encampment on east side of Legislature grounds

‘Removal of illegal structures’ on legislative grounds was done early Saturday, justice minister says
The last remaining encampment on the Manitoba Legislature grounds was removed Saturday, months after the province issued eviction notices to two camps on the grounds.

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

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

“They never warned us about nothing. They just came in this morning,” said Rob, who asked that CBC not publish his full name.

He said conservation officers came to the east encampment on Saturday morning, telling the people there 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.

The eastern encampment, which called itself the “Every Child Matters” camp, was in place for more than a year. A sacred fire was lit at the encampment after the May 2021 discovery of what are believed to be unmarked graves at the former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C.

Organizers had previously said they intended to stay there until every residential school site in Canada was searched for unmarked graves.

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

The province issued eviction notices for the encampment on the east side, and another unrelated camp on the north side of the legislature grounds, on Aug. 17.

The north side encampment was removed earlier this month.

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

But “we’re going to start again,” said Rob.

“Just ’cause they shut us down here doesn’t mean we’re going away.”

‘Not lawful or safe’: justice minister
In a statement emailed by a spokesperson early Saturday afternoon, Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said law enforcement removed “illegal structures on the grounds of the legislature” Saturday.

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

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

Permanent structures and encampments not authorized by the province are not “lawful or safe” to be on the legislative grounds, according to Goertzen.

“This has been seen by the significant security concerns that have arisen over the past few months at the Manitoba Legislature.”

The north side encampment 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 depositing items in the legislative area that support an extended stay.

Police previously said while dismantling that encampment, they seized body armour and numerous items, including three axes, a hammer, a hatchet, a club, a spear and a machete.

That 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.

People at the east encampment had said they hoped to stay after the other camp was evicted, saying at that point they planned to meet with provincial officials to discuss how that could work.–ONLINE

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