By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is preparing to ban encampments, vandalism and vehicle blockades from the legislature grounds.
The Progressive Conservative cabinet has spelled out a list of banned activities that also includes setting a fire, brandishing a weapon, and depositing generators, firewood or other items to support an encampment.
People who break the rules could be evicted from the grounds and face fines of up to $5,000, although people may apply to the head of security for an exemption from the rules in some circumstances.
The government has yet to say when the new rules take effect.
The list of banned activities follows a law passed earlier this year that gave cabinet the authority to determine what can and cannot occur on the grounds.
There have been three encampments in recent months, including a noisy protest against COVID-19 restrictions that involved large trucks blocking the main entrance to the grounds during the winter.
“The right to legally demonstrate is critical in a free and democratic society. The right for people to live and work safely is also an important part of our democratic institutions,” Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a statement Friday.
“The new Legislature Security Act balances these rights by allowing for protests while ensuring those who visit, work at, or demonstrate at the legislature and the surrounding area are safe. As with all illegal activities, it will be left to law enforcement officials through their discretion to enforce these laws including any that occur on the legislative grounds.”
Two encampments remained on the grounds Friday. One, in place for more than a year, includes several tents and some wooden structures on the legislature’s east lawn. It was set up after the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools.
A second, more recent encampment sits on the front lawn. Parked nearby are vehicles with messages opposing COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Last summer, protesters hauled down a statue of Queen Victoria and removed its head. No one was charged.
The government has said the statue was damaged beyond repair and there is no word yet on what will be installed in its place.
“Those are all discussions that we’re continuing to have right now and consultations on what will it look like out (front),” Premier Heather Stefanson said earlier this week.
“If you go to Saskatchewan, they don’t have really anything out there. They’ve got beautiful gardens and everything else. We’ll just see … no decisions have been made.”