When HRM issued eviction notices to the residents of Meagher Park, aka People’s Park, on Tuesday, July 5, it naturally evoked some panic. The memories of August’s 2021’s unhoused eviction debacle are still too fresh in people’s memories for any other reaction.
But since last summer, the city seems to have learned some lessons, and it’s evident in the planning for this Sunday. The city issued a press release with the details of the plan. The plan is to let those who are in People’s Park on Sunday stay in People’s Park on Sunday. The city will then follow up with anyone who is still on the site on Monday.
City staff briefed councillors on the plan on the morning of Friday, July 15. According to a few councillors, speaking on background about the meeting, there are five people living at Meagher Park. Councillors said their understanding is that, of the five people on site, all have been in contact with street navigators or other support services and that most would be leaving before Sunday.
People’s Park volunteer Calista Hills says that of the five people at the park, a few are taking the offer of hotel rooms so they won’t be at the park on July 17 because this whole situation has been really stressful for them. Those people are planning on coming back after Sunday, if the park is still available to them. “We expected a lot more people to come back during the summer because there was a lot of people couch surfing,” said Hills. “But I think that the city announcement is probably a big reason why more people haven't shown up.”
There are empty places at some of the four sites the city has sanctioned. And the city has provided resources to the street navigators to help anyone who wants to move.
Everyone The Coast has spoken to for this story—from the city or from community members supporting People’s Park—believes that on Sunday people *will not* be evicted from People’s Park.
The Board of Police Commissioners asked for the police to share their planning for July 17. The Board has yet to receive that plan because the police have no plans to evict people Sunday. There will be a police presence because “it is my understanding that HRP will only be monitoring the protest like another protest that occurs,” Lindell Smith, area councillor and chair of the police board, wrote in an email.
The community members supporting the residents of People’s Park are very aware of the risk protesting presents to the park residents. For their part, they plan on staying away unless their presence is requested by the park’s residents to prevent a needless escalation of hostilities.
However, there is a wild card. There are at least two “freedom convoy” events planned for Sunday that can be found on Facebook. Of the attendees visible to the public, one appears to be a freedom convoy organizer who just moved to Cape Breton with a truck full of chickens. And the other has posted a smorgasbord of right-wing memes with the main themes being anti-vax, anti-Trudeau, anti-media and wanting to fight back against the oppression of Canada’s police state. The freedom convoy people, if they show up, will be a multiplier. But it’s unclear what the equation is.
With files from Kaija Jussinoja