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Corner Brook judge taking right to protest into account as he considers injunction against ironworkers

Lawyers Kate O'Neill, left, and Cathie Quinlan are seen before the start of hearing in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook on Tuesday.
Lawyers Kate O'Neill, left, and Cathie Quinlan are seen before the start of hearing in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook on Tuesday. - Diane Crocker

The right to protest versus the rights of a company to engage in its work are at issue as a protest over the hiring practices of a P.E.I. company working on the new long-term care building in Corner Brook moved into Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on Monday.

Marco Cahill Corner Brook Partnership appeared before Justice George Murphy in the Corner Brook court on an interlocutory application seeking an injunction against the International Association of Bridge, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, Local 764 with respect to picketing and protesting activity going on at the construction site.

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A group of local ironworkers, who say they are there on their own and not as representatives of the union, began protesting at the site last Monday. They are upset that MacDougall Steel Erectors Inc. has brought in ironworkers from outside the province when they are without work.

Marco Cahill was identified in court as the contractor having control of the site.

Kate O’Neill, lawyer for the partnership, said her clients recognize the right to freedom of expression, but that the activities going on at the site have been unlawful and were set in motion by the union.

She said the people have trespassed on the land and engaged in mischief by delaying equipment and workers from entering the land, activities that could result in delays in the project.

Cathie Quinlan, lawyer for the Ironworkers, said the union did not organize or instruct the people involved in the protest.

She said the group has been peaceful and lawful and should be able to remain in an area outside the outer gate to the site.

To prevent that would infringe on their right to lawfully protest, she said.

The hearing took up the better part of the day and after both lawyers made their submissions Murphy questioned where the protesters could peacefully protest.

O’Neill responded along the Lewin Parkway, and Murphy said that presented a safety issue.

After conferring with her client, O’Neill offered a proposal to the court that would allow the protesters to set up in an area of the site that borders with Corporal Pinksen Memorial Drive, just across from the intersection with Wheeler’s Road.

There is an existing road there that provides access to the site that is currently blocked by four large boulders.

O’Neill said the people could park there and put up signs to raise awareness on the issue and it would be in relation to the site.

Quinlan countered that the area where access to the site presently occurs, and where the ironworkers have set up, would be more relevant.

She said there is space on either side of the access road that would be more appropriate with more people slowing down to see the entranceway and more people would see the protest.

Before considered either option, Murphy said he needed a survey the site.

“If for instance I make an order that says you’re not to be anywhere on that site, then we need to know where the boundary of that site is,” he said.

“If I do grant the injunction I want to make sure that there is a meaningful place for people to be able to in a meaningful way express their views with respect of any aspect of this project, then where is that going to take place.”

That survey is expected to be provided to the court this morning and Murphy will hear from O’Neill and Quinlan on the matter at 3 p.m.

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