Friday, August 1, 2003


Red Hill trespassers warned

City letter threatening arrest or lawsuits called 'appalling tactic'

By Eric McGuinness
The Hamilton Spectator, Friday, August 1, 2003

The City of Hamilton is threatening to arrest Red Hill Creek Expressway protesters or sue them and seize their houses if construction is slowed or stopped.

The warning was delivered yesterday afternoon, with the first interchange work in the Red Hill Valley scheduled to start Tuesday. A six-page e-mail message to opposition leaders such as Don McLean of Friends of Red Hill Valley and David Cohen of the Showstoppers Union says it will be illegal to enter the valley at the dead end of Greenhill Avenue after 7 a.m. Tuesday.

That warning appears to apply to anyone who enters the construction area but it was sent specifically to protest leaders who have vowed to stop the highway. Mayor Bob Wade couldn't be reached for comment last night, nor could senior city officials.

Dufferin Construction is expected to start building a bridge Tuesday over the route of the expressway that will connect the cross-Mountain Lincoln Alexander Parkway to the Queen Elizabeth Way in east Hamilton.
Paul Muldoon, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, is outraged by the letter, saying it's wrong for the city to presume expressway opponents intend to break the law.

"They must presume any protest will be a lawful assembly, that people know the rights and responsibilities of a citizen," he said yesterday. Muldoon, a Hamilton native who has led anti-expressway legal action, called the city letter "an appalling tactic that speaks loads about how this council views its own electorate."

Councillor Larry Di Ianni, chair of the expressway implementation committee, said he hadn't seen the letter from acting city solicitor Elaine Holt, but "from what staff say, I wouldn't characterize it as a threat, but rather information.

"I've heard Paul Muldoon's rhetoric before and I respectfully disagree with it. We expect things will go peacefully and everyone will respect the law. We want to give people the opportunity and right to protest and are saying, 'Here are the laws, we hope people will stay on the right side, and here are the consequences if people go beyond.'"

Those consequences, as outlined by Holt, include being sued for any loss and legal expenses if the $220-million project is held up, being fined under bylaws that make it an offence to obstruct vehicles or pedestrians on any street or sidewalk, and being arrested for mischief, intimidation or other offences under the Criminal Code.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

It says the city can seek court orders against any attempt to obstruct access to the construction site and can ask to have violators jailed or fined for breaching such orders. It also says any damage award can be enforced by seizing and selling the defendant's property. It's not clear if council authorized the notice or if city bureaucrats gave the OK.

"I was floored to be warned of all the different ways the city can get us, that the city might sue for more than the total value of the contract and if you don't pay would take your property," said McLean. "I think it's very heavy handed. We've been treated as enemies and I think it will make people angry."

Cohen said the e-mail "strikes me as a bit of an intimidation tactic and I resent that. I don't take kindly to receiving a lawyer's letter from the city to which I pay taxes when I haven't done anything wrong."

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