City seeks court order ahead of Colliery protest

NANAIMO – City officials take pre-emptive action to kill planned civil disobedience at Colliery Dam Park.

City officials are taking pre-emptive action to kill planned civil disobedience at Colliery Dam Park before it begins by filing for a court injunction.

Last month, Dave Cutts, local coordinator for Veterans of Clayoquot, said he was planning to organize a group of people to occupy the lower dam at the park after council voted to remove the dams as a safeguard to potential catastrophic flooding.

Cutts has indicated he already has dozens of people willing to take action to occupy the park, which has prompted the city to seek a court injunction through B.C. Supreme Court to prevent the group from delaying the removal of the dams.

Work to drain the two lakes and remove the dams is expected to begin in July when water levels are at their lowest, which has prompted strong opposition from the community that views Colliery Dam Park as a vital asset to south end neighbourhoods. Cutts said he is surprised the city is seeking a court injunction this early in the process and, with a court date set for Monday (June 10), will seek a continuance to give him an opportunity to secure legal counsel.

“We didn’t anticipate this at this stage,” said Cutts. “We figured they’d layer us with $150 bylaw tickets first because there is easily a dozen bylaws that we would allegedly be breaking. We think it’s a safe bet that the judge will rule that since we haven’t done a thing in the park, that there are no signs or fences up, no work has started in the park, that it is simply a bully-boy tactic by five members of council who voted to remove the dams.”

Randy Churchill, the city’s manager of bylaw and security, said the pre-emptive measure to seek the injunction is rooted in public safety and that any attempt to delay the removal of the dams could potentially put citizens at risk should the dams fail.

“Because of the time constraints involved and the work we have to get done within that time frame, and because of the information posted by those who would try to prevent that work from being done, we have to take this action so we can continue with the removal that’s required,” said Churchill.

If the city receives the injunction, it would allow for the removal and arrest of people who interfere with the dam removal process through criminal contempt. Even if the injunction is not granted, occupiers can, at the very least, be ticketed $150 for bylaw infractions or, if the city chooses, be removed by police and charged under the Criminal Code.

“Hopefully this process involves nothing,” said Churchill. “Hopefully people become learned as to what’s in the newspaper, look at our website, make a determination that there is a life safety issue and make a decision not to [occupy the park].”

He added that if the injunction application fails this time and citizens do occupy the park, future attempts will be made to secure an injunction.

Over the past 20 years, Veterans of Clayoquot has been successful in defending the War of the Woods at Clayoquot, Cathedral Grove, worked to relocate the Nanaimo Parkway away from the lower dam at Colliery Dam Park, and saved part of Mount Benson from being clear cut.

In the War of the Woods, which climaxed in 1993, 859 people were arrested and sent to trial.

“How nice, just how I wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the War of the Woods,” said Cutts.