Occupy movement nears its end

Occupy protests, which began in Canada on Oct. 15 seem to be nearing the end of their days. Protestors in Ottawa, Toronto and Edmonton, among other Canadian cities, have been given their eviction notices, and some have already been forced to leave.

As of early Tuesday morning, tents were dismantled along with the Occupy Movements in Quebec City and Victoria.

In Edmonton, protestors have been distinguishing themselves from other movements by occupying private property, rather than in public parks. The land is owned by Melcor Developments Inc. Thus far, the eviction notice, which allows protestors to remain only during the day, is not being heeded.

Robert Moyles, the director of strategic communications for the City of Edmonton commented, “I think those negotiations [between protestors and police] are progressing, and we’re optimistic that there’ll be successful resolution that allows them to have had their voices heard, and then also to move on from the site.”

Were the Edmonton protestors to move onto public land, they would face similar restrictions due to by-law regulations which prohibit overnight camping, erecting structures without permission and activity between the time of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“We support their right to protest in a safe and healthy manner,” Moyles continued. “At the same time, we recognize the rights of the private property owner to manage the event on their property in the way that they see fit.”

Still going strong is Occupy St. John’s, where city officials appear to have a cordial relationship with protestors. For approximately one month, they have occupied Harbourside Park in the downtown area without interference, something with mayor Dennis O’Keefe says is not likely to change.

“They have a right to be heard,” O’Keefe stated. “And so long as they are not a danger to themselves, not a danger to anybody else … then we will not be interfering.”

O’Keefe firmly disagrees with action that has been taken at other protest sites to forcibly remove people from public spaces.

“Putting people in prisons is not an answer to the problems that exist in society anymore than trying to violently evict people from a public protest. All that does is engender more protest,” he explained.

The onus is on government, he believes, to work towards the social change which has been the “common denominator” of all the movements.

O’Keefe continued, “If protests are done properly, then they can be a vehicle for social change. And to turn around and stymie them in a forcible way only creates and motivates more social unrest.”

Carolyn Bennett, the member of parliament for central Toronto riding St. Paul’s, considers the dismantling of protests, specifically Occupy Toronto, “A bit of a lost opportunity.” Bennett commented, “It would have been great to … somehow engage these people in a more meaningful way, in a long-term way so they don’t actually have to be there.”

According to Bennett, the lack of negotiation that has resulted in eviction notices being given to protestors is problematic.

Protestors, she said, are well aware that politicians have already made their decisions, diminishing the effectiveness of citizen engagement.
Bennett added, “You’re supposed to be able to influence a government or politician before they’ve made up their mind, not just some sort of … cosmetic consultation.”

The Toronto decision was to evict protestors was largely based on the fact that the right to protest was infringing on the rights of those who use the park for other purposes.

Although many protestors currently remain in the park, the City has made its position clear, and it remains to be seen how resistance to the eviction will play out with local authorities.

Commenting on next steps to be taken, Bennett concluded, “I think it should be to have a conversation with them about what could we do instead; to carry on a conversation that was meaningful and where they would feel that their voices are being heard.”

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