The following joint letter was sent to Hon. Marco Mendicino, Mayor Brian Bowman, Hon. Heather Stefanson, Hon. Kelvin Goertzen, and the City of Winnipeg’s Executive Policy Committee.
On behalf of residents in the downtown Winnipeg and St. James neighbourhoods, we are compelled to speak out regarding new and disturbing reports about the occupation in our city.
Recently, the Executive Director of the Women’s Health Clinic shared that clients and staff are experiencing persistent harassment from participants of this occupation. The clinic serves some of the most marginalized members of our community, who already face significant barriers to accessing the care they need. Being subjected to yelling, constant honking and hate symbols significantly exacerbates these barriers.
We are equally concerned by news of a planned maskless demonstration at Polo Park this weekend, putting hundreds of retail workers at risk. We’ve seen the impact of this behavior in Ottawa, where 1,500 retail workers at the Rideau Centre have lost income because harassment by unmasked participants forced the mall to close for a prolonged period. Our businesses have gone through enough during the pandemic and our local economy cannot withstand much more pressure. Workers and local businesses deserve to be supported and not disrespected, as we are witnessing during this occupation.
We have also heard from residents who have called the Winnipeg Police Service non-emergency line to get help with excessive noise and harassment being unable to log complaints and in some instances being hung up on. This is a serious concern, as residents have a right to feel safe and supported, but this sentiment is not felt by many of our residents who have been unable to receive assistance.
It is also imperative that we acknowledge that this is not a peaceful protest. It is an occupation that’s harming residents, workers and local business owners. In fact, our community has a history of being very gracious of groups who have come to the Manitoba Legislature to bring awareness about specific matters. This is not the case with this current occupation, which continues to behave in a way that is harmful and disrespectful to our community.
Our constituents have a right to be free from harassment, from fear and from sonic torture caused by incessant honking, including from a train horn. The situation has become intolerable, and it cannot continue any longer. This occupation needs to end immediately. It is causing real harm to members of our community and must end now.
Leah Gazan, MP for Winnipeg Centre
Uzoma Asagwara, MLA for Union Station
Adrien Sala, MLA for St. James
Sherri Rollins, City Councillor for Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry