Signs are posted on an orange snow fence blocking a wooded area. Behind the fence are tents and chairs. It's an overcast day.
Signs are seen on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 at one of the entrances to the Eisner Cove wetland, along Highway 111, where Defend Eisner Cove Wetland has set up camp to slow development. — Photo: Zane Woodford

The developers working on the Eisner Cove wetland are seeking an injunction to stop protesters from blocking workers’ access to the site.

Lawyers for Clayton Developments and AJ Legrow Holdings filed the application on Friday, asking the court to block John Doe, Jane Doe, and persons unknown from entering the property, interfering with construction, and blockading access points. The order would require Halifax Regional Police or other law enforcement to arrest and charge anyone in breach.

The site, next to Highway 111 at the top of Mount Hope Avenue, is one of the provincial government’s special planning areas, where Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr has taken over the municipal government’s work of approving or denying development applications. Lohr has yet to approve the developers’ controversial proposal for 1,200 homes in the area, but has approved early tree clearing and excavation.

The developers’ court filing details the protest efforts at the site, beginning on August 8 when they started work under their early tree clearing development agreement.

“On August 8th, and the days that followed, while work was ongoing on site, there were instances of protestors physically entering the Property and into the Construction Area. The acts of trespass interfered with the ongoing tree clearing, as the operators of the tree clearing machine(s) would down equipment when a trespasser was identified,” lawyer James D. MacNeil wrote.

“On August 15, 2022, the acts of interference by various trespassing protestors who entered the Construction Area, escalated in danger. The actions by trespassers included an individual walking directly towards moving machinery and having to be pushed to safety by private security personnel, and an individual climbing onto the arm of an operating excavator. The actions of the trespassers were extremely dangerous and could have resulted in loss of life or limb.”

Protesters characterize that incident differently. This Global News story from Alicia Draus and Alex Cooke includes interviews, photos and video from that day.

“Clayton halted the work for safety reasons, despite the delay and impact to the project,” MacNeil wrote.

“On the morning of August 16, 2022, when the equipment was not in operation and located outside of the actual Construction Area, protestors took extreme acts and climbed on top of the equipment. The Halifax Regional Police were called, but Clayton’s subcontractor moved the equipment off the project to avoid further vandalism, and the protestors agreed to get off the equipment for that specific purpose.”

The developers then “fully demobilized” from the site, and got to work on a site management plan, “on how to mitigate risks of unauthorized personnel entering the site,” with a goal of starting work again on September 6. The developers hired security, and posted signs on September 1 “prepared in accordance with the Protection of Property Act.”

“Even with the Notices posted, trespass persisted, including tents set up within the private Property boundaries,” MacNeil wrote.

“On September 6, 2022, when re-mobilization efforts commenced, issues with protestors escalated. Protestors blocked access routes to the Property, interfered with re-mobilization, and made active attempts at entering the Construction Area.”

September 6 is the day dozens of Halifax Regional Police arrived on site, and arrested four protesters. They were charged with obstruction, and one, a 57-year-old woman, with assaulting a peace officer. After one officer was caught on video hitting a protester in the head with a bicycle, police said “follow up steps are being taken to look into the incident.”

Police with bicycles stand on a roadway in front of a wooded area. Behind them are construction and provincial safety workers. There are a number of logs on a truck behind them.
Halifax Regional Police officers guard the entrance to Eisner Cove wetland off Mount Hope Avenue in Dartmouth on Tuesday, Sept. 6 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Protest didn’t stop after the show of force.

“In the days that followed the issues with active trespass and interference continued. Specifically, protestors continued to trespass into the Construction Area, protestors becoming aggressive and threatening toward Clayton personnel and its subcontractors, and protestors blocked access routes to interfere with equipment mobilization,” MacNeil wrote.

“In at least one instance children were in attendance with the protestors blocking an access road. In that instance, the unloading of equipment was delayed to the following day to ensure public safety.”

Again, protesters characterize that incident differently, tweeting that they have video of two Halifax Regional Police officers “physically pushing/grabbing a father (who was observing, not participating), 2 other officers advancing, while the father was holding his 5 yr old’s hand.”

MacNeil wrote that “interference with the tree clearing and siteworks by protestors continues to date, with protestors blocking access routes, and committing acts of active trespass including walking onto the Property and into the Construction Area, and setting up encampments within the privately owned Property boundaries.”

The protest is a safety issue, MacNeil wrote, and it’s leading to delays and significant costs. The developers are “seeking an injunction prohibiting the blocking of the access points to the Property, prohibiting trespass on the Property, and requiring Halifax Regional Police to enforce the injunction.”

Such an injunction won’t come quickly. The developers have proposed a hearing at 11am on November 15, when they will “make a motion for an order giving directions and appointing a time, date and place for the hearing.”

In the meantime, they plan to file affidavits from a number of witnesses, including: Scott MacCallum, Clayton’s vice president of operations and engineering, with “evidence about the events of trespass that took place on site;” Jon Jessome, Clayton’s project manager, about “events which occurred on site, discussions with Halifax Regional Police;” Albert LeGrow with details about the development agreement; an undisclosed number of Halifax Regional Police witnesses; and one or two laypeople with “First hand evidence of events that occurred on site: trespass, actions of protestors.”

In an attached affidavit from MacNeil, the lawyer states that the names of all the protesters are unknown, hence the naming of John and Jane Doe as respondents.

“The Respondents are all individuals who have, are, or will trespass on private property owned by the Applicant AJ LeGrow Holdings Limited. The Applicants seek an injunction against protestors who are trespassing and otherwise interfering with access to the private property by the owner, developer, or its subcontractors. The protestors have also interfered with the construction undertaken by Clayton Developments Lmited [sic],” MacNeil wrote.

“There are a couple names of individuals who had previously trespassed which are believed to now be known, as a result of news coverage or social media posts. However, the injunctive relief is sought to be binding on all individuals who seek to trespass onto or interfere with the Applicants, and their subcontractors/agents’ access to the private property, for the purpose of developing same.”

The developers are looking for direction from the court “on the appropriate method of providing notice to an unknown group of individuals who will comprise the Respondents.”

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. So Shaw/Clayton now seek the ‘protection’ of legal processes, after securing the property through what looks like a shady land deal involving crown land (perhaps it wasn’t but where is the transparency?) and who-knows-what collusion with PCs as they were campaigning to form the government without mentioning the draconian measures they would later introduce to over-ride HRM processes; somehow or another the Clayton-commissioned LSA (Landscape Suitability Analysis) was NOT made available when HRM voted in early Jan 2022 to move to the next stage of the project, and when finally made available, it seems no Councillors or HRM staff bothered to review it – it contains significant errors and omissions, and does not mention the independently conducted WESP Report by Ducks Unlimited which highlighted significant features of the wetland not otherwise acknowledged in the LSA; now mysteriously, Ducks Unlimited is sitting on its own report…The Public was recently invited to “to share their feedback on the draft policies, development agreement and submitted plans” while tree clearance continued; an on and on. Definitely, the lack respect of the Provincial, Municipal and Private proponents of the project shown for democratic processes is a factor that has riled up its opponents; they have been denied their own due process. Not to mention of course the obvious that we should hardly be ripping up mature intact forest and degrading ecologically significant wetland in an urban area for a housing development when there are many sites available on already ecologically degraded land.