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Alberta justice minister expects union to obey injunction against blockade

CARSELAND, Alta. — Alberta’s justice minister said Saturday that he expects protesters who have barricaded a fuel distribution terminal southeast of Calgary as part of a labour dispute in Saskatchewan to obey new enforcement provisions that were added to a court injunction against the demonstration.

Doug Schweitzer had already said he expected RCMP to enforce a ruling from the Court of Queen’s Bench, which granted Federated Co-operatives Ltd.’s request for an injunction Thursday against a blockade at its terminal in Carseland, Alta.

On Saturday, Schweitzer noted in a news release that the injunction has since been varied to include police enforcement provisions, and that his government “expects that the law will now be followed.”

The company has been going to court to stop Unifor members from setting up blockades at its facilities including its Regina refinery, where workers have been locked out since December.

Thursday’s order said Unifor was not to impede traffic at the Carseland site, obstruct or harass customers, trespass, picket or congregate within five metres of any access, watch employees or contractors or intimidate, but the company says the blockade remains.

Justice G.A. Campbell added enforcement provisions Friday that authorize peace officers to arrest anyone who contravenes the injunction, and also allows the company to remove people, objects or vehicles from blocking the facility if they remain by noon Sunday.

“As I previously stated, our democracy is predicated on the rule of law. While all Canadians have a right to protest in a legitimate fashion, breaking a court order is a violation of the law,” Schweitzer said in the release.

“Now that the injunction issued by the Court of Queen’s Bench has been varied to include police enforcement provisions, our government expects that the law will now be followed.”

Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s national president, said Saturday that the barricades in Carseland are still up. He said he suspects they’ll come down by Sunday, but said he can’t guarantee it.

“We’re working with RCMP on that deadline and I suspect that we will be close, or if not before that, complying with what the judge has ordered. But right now we’re still reviewing what’s there,” Doherty said.

Meanwhile, police in Regina said they are reopening an area near the Co-op refinery to pedestrian traffic, allowing picketers to be closer to the refinery’s gates.

The roadway was temporarily closed to all but business-related vehicles on Thursday night in order to remove barricades.

“Those wishing to set up peaceful, lawful picket lines are permitted to enter the area on foot, and are allowed to carry signs, flags, informational material and any foodstuffs they wish to carry,” a statement from police said Saturday.

“They are not permitted to enter with any materials that could be used to construct a barrier.”

Negotiations between the company and the union had resumed late last month, but broke down on Jan. 31 and Unifor re-erected its barricades at the Regina refinery.

Pensions are one of the key issues in the dispute.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has said he’s prepared to appoint a special mediator to end the lockout, but only if the union removes its barricades.

Unifor has responded that it wants the mediator’s recommendation to be binding.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2020

— By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton

The Canadian Press

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