Four people are facing charges after a protest meant to stop work on a housing project at the Eisner Cove wetland in Dartmouth.
Police say a 45-year-old man, a 41-year-old man, a 27-year-old man and a 57-year-old woman, have been charged with obstruction. The woman has additionally been charged with assaulting an officer.
The arrests happened around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday as work to begin clearing the site got underway. A handful of protesters sat on the ground in front of heavy machinery on Mount Hope Avenue off Highway 111.
"This morning we had several of our protesters on site, on public land peacefully protesting, and we were met with heavy machinery being offloaded and probably dozens of cops," said Tara Lapointe with Defend Eisner Cove Wetland.
Site is designated for 'attainable' housing project
Lapointe said the developers hadn't been at the site since they first attempted to bring their machinery onto the land a few weeks ago and clashed with protesters.
She said the area is an ecologically important wetland, and there are better places to build housing projects in HRM.
"What our group is asking for is a stop and swap. We need to put our heads together and find more suitable land to develop for truly affordable housing," said Lapointe.
Clayton Developments Ltd. plans to build an 875-unit housing project called Mount Hope Village on the property, according to their website. The plans call for about 40 per cent of the units to be "attainable" housing.
Clayton has received all the necessary approvals to begin construction. Provincial officials have said that there's no evidence of any at risk species in the area, and that an environmental assessment isn't necessary because the property is so small.
Wetland is a vital carbon sink: protesters
But protesters said the wetland is a carbon sink that is vital to the fight against climate change. Deedee Slye with the HRM branch of the Council of Canadians said the organization just sent the Eisner Cove protections groups a letter of support.
"Right now, in this day and age, with what we know about climate and what we know about the importance of forests and wetlands, I can't even believe that the city and the province has sold the land and has allowed it to be developed in this way," Slye said.
"This wetland sequesters enormous amounts of carbon, helps protect biodiversity, helps with water mitigation and flooding, a beautiful place to go and walk for mental health," said Lil MacPherson, another protester.
Actor and producer Elliot Page also came to show his support for the protestors. He said it feels "heart-wrenching" to see the trees coming down.
"It feels horrible, just you feel it in your gut. And I just admire all those who have been here on the front line and protecting the forest and protecting the wetlands," said Page.
In a written statement, Clayton Developments president Jason Brunt said he's "shocked and disappointed" by the actions of the protesters and that they are putting people's safety at risk by trying to stop work from happening.
"It's troubling to us that a small group of people who oppose development in the area continue to try to interfere with the work we need to do to create much needed housing," Brunt said.