The beginning of the end for “Occupy Canada”?
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
Since the death of an Occupy Vancouver 23-year-old protester, Ashlie Gough, on Nov. 5, Occupy protests in many of Canada's major cities are facing the threat of being shut down.
City officials have said that many of the Occupy campsites are unsafe due to breeches in city fire code regulations. At sites in Vancouver and Toronto, paramedics have been called in due to several incidents of drug overdoses. Sanitation and security have also been issues of concern.
Activists within the Occupy camps that are facing eviction have said that they are refusing to abandon their cause and will either resist the authorities or relocate the encampments. Other protesters have said that the authorities are not concerned about the safety conditions, and that they may have an ulterior motive.
"I believe it is unrelated to the recent death, but is rather a political decision," said Wayne Saewyc, an Occupy Vancouver supporter. "The municipal elections are currently underway and this has distorted the response by the police and city."
Occupy London became the first city in Canada to be evicted by police. The officers said that they were enforcing a city bylaw in London's Victoria Park which prohibited pitching tents and remaining in the park over night. No violence was reported as the police dismantled the protest setups.
The Calgary City Council has granted a motion to dismantle the Occupy campsite in Olympic Park.
The sites across Canada that are currently facing evictions are Victoria, Vancouver, Regina, Toronto and Quebec City. Each of these protests have been given the notice of an eviction by city officials asking the protesters to vacate the area. Most municipalities are seeking permission from the courts to enforce the evictions.
Saewyc believes that the Vancouver protest is completely safe and stated that they were doing beneficial things for the community.
"The Occupation camp has been providing more and, in my opinion, better services to the homeless than the government has been able to," he said.
"It's really important to note the city has not reacted in this manner in the Eastside neighbourhoods when there have been drug-related fatalities."
Saewyc and many other protesters feel that the laws or reasons city officials are citing to put a stop to the protest are just punitive excuses to put an end to the Occupation movements.
"The fire risk is, really, a political one. There is almost no risk of a spreading fire from a group tents sitting on mud in rainy Vancouver," said Saewyc.
However, cities such as Edmonton, Windsor and Montreal have been more accepting of the Occupy camps. Edmonton in particular is taking steps to prevent tragedies like that of Vancouver. The protesters have banned all drugs and alcohol in the site.
After roughly one month in Canada, the Occupy movements have been relatively peaceful. If the injunctions are passed by various courts, then the new concern becomes the threat of clashes between the protesters and the police.
"If the authorities are confrontational, it is likely the protest group will respond in kind," said Saewyc.
"A group of angry people are easy to arouse, as the authorities well know."