The City of Vancouver's application for an injunction to clear the tents from the Occupy Vancouver encampment has been adjourned until Wednesday morning.
The brief delay was agreed to in order to provide more time for the protesters to find a lawyer to represent them.
Vancouver had taken the lead in Canada to seek an end to its protest encampment, one of many that have erupted across the country to support the Occupy movement originating in New York City.
City officials said they would ask for an injunction to have the Occupy Vancouver encampment dismantled, clearing it of tents and other structures that have occupied a major public plaza downtown since Oct. 15.
The injunction, if granted, will give police the power to assist municipal staff should they encounter resistance taking down the 100 or so onsite tents, city manager Penny Ballem said late Monday.
Violence has erupted in several U.S. cities where police have stormed in to end occupations, but Dr. Ballem expressed hope the Vancouver encampment can be ended peacefully.
“But we want to be clear. The police will be there as needed, and if they have to come in and protect [our staff]or take action, [the injunction]…gives them their full authority under our bylaws,” she said.
Protesters who spent a wet, miserable day at the tent site, were quick to declare they would not be moved easily.
While pointing out that the matter is still to be discussed at the group’s evening general assembly, media volunteer Steve Collis said he expects most tent occupants will stay regardless of whether an injunction is granted.
“I’m quite certain that they, as a whole, will not simply comply with [any] order,” said Mr. Collis, an English professor at Simon Fraser University.
He noted that protests have come back even stronger when local governments tried to end occupations.
Added a protester who indentified himself as “Tom A.”: “If you remove the tents from Occupy Vancouver, we’re just Vancouver.”
But Dr. Ballem said the city cannot wait any longer, after the weekend death of a young women at the site, a near fatal drug overdose by someone in a tent last Thursday, and fire safety concerns outlined by the Vancouver Fire Department.
“This is urgent. These are life safety issues,” she told reporters at City Hall. “We are going to act in an expedited fashion.”
Dr. Ballem said the court agreed on Monday to give the city “short leave” to pursue its injunction application quickly.
The encampment violates the city’s land regulation bylaw, she said, and the court is being asked for an order that tents, belongings and other structures be removed.
City notices asking protesters to pack up their tents “immediately” were posted at the site early Monday morning. But the only response by Occupy Vancouver was more defiance and the ongoing erection of new, larger structures to cover a number of tents.
Sponsorship plaques were even offered to individuals donating $400 or more to defray costs of building the dome-like structures, which organizers say will make the camp safer.
“People aren’t going to pack up and go,” Mr. Collis said of the original city notices. “We are going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re not leaving.”
Dr. Ballem declined to set a timetable for tents to be taken down.
She said the city will move carefully to avoid “precipitously triggering” an unfortunate result. “But we don’t have forever. It will be within a short period of time.”
She stressed the city is not trying to shut down the protest, just get rid of the tents and other unsanctioned structures. The makeshift stage at the Vancouver Art Gallery site can stay, and power will not be cut, she said.
“We’re asking for tents and structures to be removed, not the people.”
The move to the courts follows a declaration late last week by Mayor Gregor Robertson that the occupation must end.
Vancouver’s municipal election is less than two weeks away. The encampment has dominated the campaign’s final days, with challenger Suzanne Anton accusing the mayor of dithering.
In Victoria, meanwhile, a noon deadline for protesters to vacate their tents downtown expired without firm action by the city.
Some protesters left, but many stayed, including one who built himself a perch in a tree. Victoria officials have vowed to ticket those remaining, or seek a court injunction to end their tent city.
With reports from Brennan Clarke in Victoria and Aleksandra Sagan in Vancouver