Between mid-July and mid-September 2017, Indigenous land defenders and allies defended a large aspen forest in south Winnipeg from being clear cut by a private developer, Andrew Marquess. Marquess acquired the public lands in a controversial 2009 land swap with the city.
It was called the Rooster Town Blockade, referencing the nearby Métis community that was expropriated and demolished in 1960 to build Grant Park Mall and other developments. Key concerns included a violation of Métis and First Nations rights, destruction of rare animals’ habitats and endangered wetlands, and an overall lack of consultation, both with the surrounding community, First Nations and the Métis community to whom the land belongs to.
The blockade was removed in September 2017 after a judge approved the developer’s request for an urgent injunction. Although the developer in his legal affidavit pledged to retain at least 5 acres of the existing forest as green space, to our dismay, he quietly cut down the entire forest in October 2018.
The developer is currently suing 49 people for alleged participation in the blockade. It’s expected that they will be pursuing upwards of $500,000 in alleged damages.
We’re going to keep fighting. Due to the generous contribution of the citizens of Winnipeg, many of the defendants have retaining legal counsel. Lawsuits are by nature very expensive and lengthy processes. It will cost us tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees over the years. But it’s a far cheaper option that facing the possibility of the plaintiffs winning on default. And in the era of so-called “reconciliation” between Indigenous peoples and settlers, we believe it’s the right thing to do.
Please consider donating to this legal fund. Many of us are students and low-wage workers, so the prospect of paying hundreds of dollars out of pocket for a retainer is awfully intimidating. Every dollar counts enormously.
Who we are: We are some of the 49 defendants named in the lawsuit launched by a Winnipeg developer who is seeking damages potentially in excess of $500,000 for alleged participation in peaceful protest against the destruction of forest and wetlands. We include students, retirees, Indigenous land defenders, low-income workers and environmentalists.
Where we're from: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The site that was defended was in River Heights, 5 kilometres east of Assiniboine Park at a place called Parker Wetlands.
Your relationship to party: I am a Métis student who is also a defendant in the lawsuit
How the funds will be used: To pay for the significant fees associated with retaining legal representation by Winnipeg's GCH Law. The case itself could cost between $30,000 and $100,000 over the span of three to five years. The money is transferred to the Rooster Town bank account and immediately transferred to the law firm, which then places it in a trust fund that serves as the retainer for the collective defence. This is done via a password-protected e-transfer. There were no problems at all with the first transfer for the retainer.
Here are some links to articles about the struggle, as well as a letter of support from the Manitoba Métis Federation, if you wish to learn more:
An Indigenous Blockade in Winnipeg Is Halting Deforestation Efforts: https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/evdj3z/an-indigenous-blockade-in-winnipeg-is-halting-deforestation-efforts
Parker Lands consultations would give Métis a say on ancestral land: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/opinion-parker-lands-consultatioon-1.4221809
Métis-Anishinaabe land defender establishes Rooster Town blockade in Winnipeg to protect wetlands: https://canadians.org/blog/m%C3%A9tis-anishinaabe-land-defender-establishes-rooster-town-blockade-winnipeg-protect-wetlands
Coverage of Winnipeg’s Rooster Town Blockade Reveals Media’s Anti-Indigenous Biases: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/coverage-of-winnipegs-rooster-town-blockade-and-medias-anti-indigenous-bias
The Skoden Chronicles podcast: https://soundcloud.com/the-skoden-chronicles/episode-10-racism-and-the-media
Protesters quietly leave Parker lands: https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/protesters-quietly-leave-parker-lands-444778673.html
City reviewing removal of last trees from forest on Parker Lands https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.4862341
Letter of support from the Manitoba Métis Federation sent to APTN:
“The Manitoba Metis Federation respects Ms. Vandal’s right to protest the development of this area.
From our preliminary research into this matter, it seems there may be legitimate concern regarding the approach of the developer in not fully following the correct procedure in the development. If this is the case, we would certainly share and express similar concerns as those of Ms. Vandal.
We are led to understand some of this land is private. However, there are still proper procedures regarding the work to be carried out. We are not fully sure these procedures were followed. This is a question we will follow up on with the City of Winnipeg.
In addition to any environmental concerns, there is also a question about the archeological significance of this property as it does pass near or through the former Métis road allowance village known as Rooster Town. We do have our own concerns about how the residents of Rooster Town were treated and would not want a repeat of those events where Métis interests and concerns were not fully respected or considered. We would expect that an impact analysis of the development of this area to be conducted.