Ads Top

University of Waterloo sues encampment protesters for $1.5M, claiming damage to property and reputation


The University of Waterloo has launched a $1.5-million lawsuit against encampment protesters — believed to be the first by a Canadian school — seeking compensation for damage to its property and reputation amid ongoing pro-Palestinian demonstrations on its campus.


In a statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court, the university says it is seeking compensation for “trespass, damage to property, intimidation and ejectment.” It wants “a mandatory order requiring the defendants to remediate the plaintiff’s property … to the conditions they existed as of May 12, 2024 and to deliver the plaintiff a record confirming such remediation.”


The school wants a court-ordered end to the encampment that would require the protesters to dismantle and remove any structures, as well as “an order requiring the defendants to refrain from rebuilding any such fence or obstruction that obstructs or restricts access to any part of campus,” says its statement of claim.


The lawsuit names a number of student protesters as well as “persons unknown” who are part of the encampment that was set up May 13.


Occupy UWaterloo called the court action “an unprecedented move, with (Waterloo) being the first Canadian university to file a seven-figure lawsuit against its own students.” In an Instagram post, the group accused the university of trying to “intimidate the students, imposing hefty fines and fees they cannot afford.” The court action, it said, “adds to their trauma and financial strain.”


The school’s “intimidation tactics and exorbitant lawsuits will not succeed in stifling the students’ right to freedom of expression or their determination to fight for justice,” the post said. 


A spokesperson for the university rejected that characterization. 


“The goal of this legal action is to bring an end to the encampment on the university’s campus,” said Rebecca Elming, Waterloo’s  director of media relations and issues management. “Its primary objective is not about damages or punishing (the protesters).”


The lawsuit came as the University of Toronto was granted a court order requiring protesters to leave its campus by 6 p.m. Wednesday. 

Waterloo, in its statement of claim, says “the defendants engaged in deliberate actions aimed at damaging the university, its property, reputation, and goodwill in the community. This includes organized demonstrations, misinformation campaigns, graffiti on university property, repeated intimidation and harassment of students and staff near the encampment grounds, and the public misinformation about the university’s president and vice-chancellor and vice-president, research and international, all of which have harmed the university’s reputation.”


The statement of claim says “significant harm and damages” have been incurred, including “expenses for property repairs, security upgrades, and other safety measures to restore campus operations and ensure community safety,” as well as “operational disruptions: Cancellations and postponements of academic and commercial events, as well as delays in construction projects, leading to substantial economic losses and lost revenue opportunities.”


It also cites reputational damage, the “negative effect on the university’s ability to, among other things, attract and retain students and faculty, secure funding, and maintain its academic and community standing.” 


The Canadian Association of University Teachers called the university’s actions “a heavy-handed attempt to intimidate students who are supporting the encampment.”


The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it is “troubled” by the lawsuit, which it said is seeking “stratospheric damages based on extremely vague allegations.”


For now, other Canadian universities don’t appear to be following suit.


McMaster University, where protesters voluntarily wrapped up an encampment in late May after talks with the school, said it has no plans to seek damages.

Queen’s University also said it “is not currently considering any action in respect of matters related to the recent encampment.”


When contacted by the Star, the University of Toronto had no comment on whether it was considering suing encampment protesters for damages.


McGill University recently announced it “will pursue disciplinary processes against individuals participating in the encampment to the full extent outlined in our policies,” and said it is “investigating the full spectrum of legal recourses available to us to recover from the damages we have incurred.” 

Source: TorStar

Powered by Blogger.