Protester in Caledonia, Ont. land dispute ordered to pay legal fees to developer, county
KITCHENER -- One of the protesters at a disputed housing site in Caledonia has been ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to the developer and Haldimand County.
The decision, which was handed out by Justice R. J. Harper on Thursday, said Foxgate Developments and Haldimand County requested "costs on a substantial indemnity basis."
Foxgate is the developer behind the McKenzie Meadows site at the centre of the dispute.
The decision ordered protester Skyler Williams to pay the county a total of $50,349.67. He was also ordered to pay Foxgate's costs at a total of $117,814.18.
"Costs are an exercise in the court’s discretion that must be exercised judiciously and having regard to all of the factors that are set out in the Rules of Civil Procedure," Harper's decision said. "A successful party is presumptively entitled to their costs. Both Foxgate and Haldimand County are successful."
In the decision, Harper said he needed to consider whether the parties acted in "bad faith."
"I find that neither Foxgate nor Haldimand County acted unreasonably in the conduct of this matter," he said.
Harper added that "Skyler Williams acted in bad faith."
"He and the other unknown defendants took the law into their own hands and used self-help to achieve their goals," Harper said. "Skyler Williams openly admitted that he was in contempt of my orders and if a permanent injunction was granted, he would not comply."
According to Harper, Foxgate sent a letter to Williams offering to assist him in negotiations with government officials if he left the property. Harper said Williams didn't respond to the developer's letter.
"There is nothing that the cops or courts could do to deter me from standing up for our children and grandchildren's right to thrive in our territory," Williams said in a written statement to CTV News. "We will not be leaving 1492 Land Back Lane."
The dispute started in July when a group moved onto the development site at McKenzie Meadows. A judge issued a court injunction in August ordering the protesters off the land, and the OPP arrested more than 30 protesters over the next few months in relation to the site. Most were charged with mischief and failure to comply with a court order.
Last Thursday, Harper issued a permanent injunction for the site, saying he wouldn't hear constitutional arguments in the case because previous orders to leave the area were ignored. Protesters and provincial police clashed overnight following that injunction order.
At the time, Williams said he had no plans to back down from Harper's order.
Harper's written decision this week named Williams as the leader of the protest group.
With files from The Canadian Press