Krystalline Kraus tells the stories of 11 Occupy camps in Canada. There were and are many others and rabble.ca invites reports from other Occupy camps in the comments section beneath the story.
In Vancouver, the Occupy Vancouver movement kicked off on Oct. 15, 2011, with a 4,000 demonstration through the city’s financial district. The march then transitioned to set up camp with the permission and support of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Tents were immediately set up with the City of Vancouver insisting only that they not be staked into the ground. Other infrastructure was built to accommodate the needs of the site’s residents.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson stated to the press he wanted Occupy Vancouver residents to leave, but said he did not want to force the issue, instead seeking a peaceful resolution. Occupy Vancouver became a mayoral election issue for which he was criticized, but Robertson eventually won.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011, Ashlie Gough (age 23) of Victoria was found dead on site in her tent at around 4:40 p.m. A cause of death was determined to be an overdose of cocaine and heroin.
The death of Gough at Occupy Vancouver changed the tone of the relationship between Occupy residents and the city; resulting in the mayor and city citing safety concerns as a reason to take down the tents, though the mayor said that demonstrators themselves could stay on. The right of Occupy Vancouver to remain was taken to the B.C. Supreme Court.
A three-day hearing regarding the fate of Occupy Vancouver began on Nov. 16, 2011. B.C. Supreme Court Justice, Anne MacKenzie, did grant the city an interim order to enforce the immediate removal of all flammable liquids used as fuels from the site because of city safety concerns, as well as the removal of all tarps and tents that were flagged as a safety concern.
On Nov. 21, 2011, Justice MacKenzie ruled that Occupy Vancouver’s refusal to leave despite an eviction order amounted to “criminal contempt of court,” and ordered the site dismantled by 2 p.m. that day.
Occupy activists left the Vancouver Art Gallery site that afternoon and promptly occupied a new location at Robson Square, just outside the B.C. provincial court and on provincial land. Another eviction order was handed down for the 2nd site location by 5 p.m. that day, three hours after the eviction deadline of 2 p.m. for the original site at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The second site was also evicted by Vancouver police.
Despite the two evictions, the B.C. Supreme Court did not enact the injunction — sought by the B.C. Attorney General through the courts — that would have extended a possible eviction order that would have covered all public lands within the city.
On Oct. 15, 2011, over 1,000 activists marched through downtown Victoria to eventually set up camp at Centennial Square. Occupy demonstrations were organized under an umbrella group called the People’s Assembly of Victoria. At its height, there were 63 tents at the site.
On Nov. 9, 2011, Occupy Victoria residents were given notice that they had to respond to B.C. Supreme Court by Nov. 10, 2011, regarding an earlier eviction order they received from the city. The B.C. Supreme Court began a three day hearing of the issue on Nov. 16, 2011.
On Nov. 18, 2011, Justice Terence A. Schultes ruled that Occupy Victoria must vacate Centennial Square by 7 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2011, though he did not enact a immediate enforcement order.On Nov. 22, 2011, Victoria Police moved in to evict the Occupy encampment at Centennial Square and remove the remaining tents. One woman was arrested when she refused to leave.
Occupy Calgary was a split movement, with two locations. The first is Olympic Plaza which was located in the downtown core and the second was St. Patrick Island, the original city sanctioned site but one that activists complained was too far away from the city centre to have any impact.
When residents of Olympic Plaza refused to move to the St. Patrick Island site, the friction with the city increased and Occupy Calgary fell out of favour with Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
City of Calgary bylaw officers moved in on Nov. 21, 2011 during the night to remove several unoccupied tents at the Olympic Plaza encampment. The next day the mayor announced he was no longer willing to negotiate with Occupy Calgary demonstrators who remained at Olympic Plaza.
Occupy Calgary demonstrators say they will fight the city’s attempts to evict them from the plaza, as the city seeks a court injunction to remove them for bylaw infractions. Ten structures remain on site after bylaw officers swept through the site to remove unoccupied tents and issue warnings to residents.
On Nov. 30, the city shut off access to the illegal power supply — Christmas lights — that residents were using to power laptops and heaters but did not charge anyone with electricity theft.
The issue is now before the courts. Chief Justice, Neil Wittmann, has reserved his decision on the city’s request to order Occupy Calgary to dismantle.
Occupy Edmonton settled down into Churchill Square (Jasper Avenue and 102nd Street) on private property owned by Melcor Development Corporation on Oct. 15, 2011. It took Melcor Corporation four attempts to evict Occupy Edmonton. For example, activists stared down an 11 p.m. eviction order on Oct. 23, 2011; one of the earliest eviction attempts of the Occupy Canada movement as a whole.
After repeated attempts to negotiate with Melcor — the corporation cited fire and safety concerns at the site — Occupy Edmonton was evicted on Nov. 25, 2011 at 4 a.m. It took 45 officers roughly an hour and a half to evict the 10 people who stayed behind to defend the site.
Three people were arrested for refusing the leave the park. After an hour in custody, they were issued trespassing fines of $287 and released.
Occupy Regina was active in Victoria Park since setting up tents on Oct. 15, 2011. The site received its first eviction notice on Nov. 10, 2011, from a bylaw enforcement officer with a police escort. The Regina Parks and Open Spaces bylaw does not permit establishing a camp in any city park. The eviction notices stated that residents had until Saturday to leave the site — though the Nov. 12, 2011 deadline was not enforced.
Several Occupy Regina residents left over the course of that weekend, leaving only a handful at the camp by Nov. 14, 2011. Police handed out seven tickets overnight for violating a city bylaw that forbids anyone from remaining in a city park between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Two activists returned to the Victoria Park the following night. At 11:30 p.m., they were both issued tickets. Regina police and city bylaw officers disassembled the rest of Occupy Regina early Wednesday morning.
All nine people who were arrested and received tickets have a mandatory court appearance date set for Dec. 14, 2011.The maximum fine is $2,000.
The eviction of Occupy London (Ontario) was the first site forcibly removed by the state.
On Oct. 26, 2011, the mayor of London, Ontario, publicly stated that the city felt it was time for the demonstrators to leave Victoria Park. “We understand and support the right of people to stage orderly and peaceful demonstrations. But we ask that the protesters respect our bylaws, which do not allow structures in our parks or activity that prevents others from enjoying our parks. We are getting complaints from Londoners about this.”
Occupy London was given an eviction order for 6 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2011, by the city government. As this was the first large eviction of force, 600 supports rushed to Victoria Park to defend the site, including Occupy Toronto activists and Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan. Most supporters left the site at midnight feeling that the earlier 6 p.m. eviction order would not be enforced overnight.
However, London police moved in at 12:45 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2011, to clear the park and remove the few tents. There were no reports of arrest. London Mayor, Joe Fontana, barred any new tents from going up and also said that the public had to leave the park by 10:00 p.m. each night to prevent any form of overnight camping.
Occupy Toronto began with a 3,000 person march through Toronto’s financial district on Oct. 15, 2011, before the march headed to St. James Park at the corner of King Street and Jarvis Street.
The location was strategically chosen since at the time it was believe St. James Cathedral would provide sanctuary — the Anglican church shares ownership of the park with the city. St. James Cathedral later changed its mind and revoked the offer of sanctuary, stating instead it would follow the will of Toronto City Council which was seeking Occupy Toronto’s eviction.
At its height, Occupy Toronto had 256 tents, 500 residents, three yurts and a working infrastructure to support the residents of the camp. It was a city within a city.
As soon as the first city eviction order was given to Occupy Toronto on Nov. 15, 2011, activists sought an injunction to halt the eviction through the courts. Judge David Brown agreed to hear the case on Nov. 18, 2011 and rule by 9 a.m. the following Monday. The case hinged on whether city bylaw enforcement trumped the rights afforded in Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On Nov. 21, 2011, Ontario Judge David Brown announced through the courts that he was lifting the injunction that put a halt to the city eviction of Occupy Toronto. With the city now proceeding with its eviction, Occupy Toronto received a further eviction notice from St. James Cathedral.
Toronto police and CUPE 416 city workers did not move into the area to evict Occupy Toronto until Nov. 23, 2011 in the early morning, though the eviction process took most of the day. Four arrests were made.
On Oct. 15, 2011, over 150 people began Occupy Kingston by setting up camp at Confederation Park. The heart of the camp is a large yurt-like structure which shelters eight smaller tents, and is divided into living and working areas. Five people reside at Occupy Kingston overnight.
Councillor Kevin George (Loyalist-Carataqui District) plans to bring a motion to council of Dec. 6, 2011 to propose the eviction of Confederation Park due to bylaw infractions.
Part of the motion reads: “Be it resolved that the Occupy Kingston protesters be requested to cease camping and to remove all shelters, tents, equipment and debris from Confederation Park by no later than 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, December 8, 2011 and to refrain from carrying out any of those activities in other city parks and municipally owned public spaces.”
On Oct. 15, 2011, 75 people began occupying Confederation Park with a mindset they wanted to peacefully remain at the site for the long haul, referring to the movement as not just “a protest, but a presence.”
The National Capital Commission ordered Occupy Ottawa leave the site by Nov. 21, 2011 at 11:59 p.m. or it would ask Ottawa police to assist in the eviction. Two hundred people rallied at Confederation Park in support of Occupy Ottawa for the midnight deadline. It wasn’t until early Wednesday morning that police actually moved in to evict the site.
A large crowd had gathered at the park in advance of the 11:59 p.m. Monday deadline
At 2 a.m. on Nov. 23, 2011, police moved in to evict Occupy Ottawa from Confederation Park. Twenty-five Occupy Ottawa activists resisted the eviction of the site, resulting in eight arrests for trespassing.
On Oct. 15, 2011, over 1,000 activists marched through the streets and settled into Victoria Square in downtown Montreal. While challenged — as other Occupy sites were — with urban social issues, the site remained vibrant and politically active.
On Nov. 25, 2011, after receiving their second notice to vacate, Occupy Montreal was evicted from Victoria Square by police. To resist the eviction, nine people tied themselves to the kitchen tent. Montreal police eventually removed all the demonstrators — including a man dressed as Batman who allegedly tried to hug an officer. Video here.
Police report that 16 people were arrested from Victoria Square, but no charges were laid.
After a 300-person march through the downtown core, Occupy Halifax set up a camp of 15 tents on Oct. 15, 2011 at the Grand Parade.
Occupy Halifax was first asked by the city to leave the Grand Parade public square by Nov. 6, 2011, in time for the area to be cleared for the annual Remembrance Day ceremony. Negotiations regarding this move were ongoing and Occupy Halifax and the city finally reached a deal regarding a move to Victoria Park. A dozen tents and related infrastructure were raised at this new location.
After the move was complete, Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly then quickly issued an eviction notice early on Nov. 11, 2011, citing bylaws that prohibit people from setting up tents on city property without a permit — despite the fact the new location was negotiated between the city and the demonstrators.
Hundreds of demonstrators braved a heavy rainstorm to protect Occupy Halifax that afternoon from Halifax police. During the subsequent police-enforced eviction, 14 people were arrested. Charges included obstruction of justice for clashes with the police. Demonstrators accused police of heavy-handed tactics during the eviction and the use of pepper spray. The police were eventually successful in clearing the park and removing the tents and infrastructure.
The following day, three more arrests were made when hundreds of protesters filled the Grand Parade, calling for the city’s mayor to resign for his lack of good faith when negotiating.
Krystalline Kraus writes the Activist Communique blog for rabble.ca. She is participating in a panel discussion at Design plus Occupy: Designing a system for the 100 per cent on Wednesday, Dec. 7.