Police promise 'enhanced presence' at St. Brigid's until property issue resolved

Ottawa Police officers stand in front of St. Brigid's in Lowertown Ottawa on Thursday. The landlord of the building and its tenants, the United People of Canada, are in a disagreement. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Ottawa Police officers stand in front of St. Brigid's in Lowertown Ottawa on Thursday. The landlord of the building and its tenants, the United People of Canada, are in a disagreement. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Ottawa police say it has received so many calls for service at St. Brigid's in the city's Lowertown neighbourhood, that there will be an "enhanced presence" at the property until the dispute between the landlord and the United People of Canada (TUPC) is resolved.

A memo to the police services board dated Aug. 24 also says the landlord "expects that a court order will be issued, but the timing of that is currently unclear."

Seeking a court order is the next step in the eviction process in this dispute between TUPC and the building owners which has been ongoing for more than a week, according to Michael Polowin, a real estate lawyer and partner at Gowling WLG.

Polowin said the landlord could seek an order to get possession of its property back if TUPC refuse to leave.

However, the group — with ties to the Freedom Convoy protests that paralyzed downtown Ottawa this winter, which it denies — could also go to court and argue they shouldn't be evicted, Polowin added, leaving the court to decide if the tenant must leave or not.

Notices were posted at the building at 310 St. Patrick St. last Wednesday stating the landlord had terminated the lease effective Aug. 17 for $10,000 in unpaid rent and failure to provide proof of liability insurance.

An attached notice said TUPC is also in violation of the Ontario Heritage Act for changing the appearance of the premise without the written approval of the Ontario Heritage Foundation, and in violation of the Ontario Building Code Act "for failing to obtain necessary permits and approvals for construction works" at the site.

Alexander Behne/CBC
Alexander Behne/CBC

William Komer, one of the group's directors, previously showed reporters a copy of what he described as a bank draft for $5,650 dated July 15 and a what appeared to be an original of another draft dated Aug. 15 for the same amount.

He claimed the landlord has refused to accept this month's rent.

He also shared a heavily-redacted piece of paper with the words "certificate of insurance" across the top.

TUPC has said the owners of St. Brigid's are trying to "unlawfully evict" the group and are punishing it "for refusing to discriminate against people based on their creed."

TUPC says it's not leaving

The notices gave TUPC five business days for members to collect their belongings and go. That deadline passed just after midnight Thursday.

A notice like that is typically enough to encourage a person to vacate, according to Polowin.

"Eight or nine times out of ten, a tenant will see a notice like that and they will just leave," the lawyer said, adding it often doesn't even get to that point.

"If a tenant can't pay rent, for example, then they leave."

TUPC said it had initially planned to buy the building, but it appears that deal has fallen through.

Komer, who spoke with reporters Thursday while wearing a crown, red cape and plastic kitchen gloves, said the group does not plan to go.

"We are not leaving," he said.

Police said they continue to monitor the situation at St. Brigid's, noting the ongoing landlord-tenant dispute is "raising community concern."

Alexander Behne/CBC
Alexander Behne/CBC

Police called to site multiple times

The service said it had been called to the building five times this week and another three times over the weekend.

One of those calls resulted in an investigation into a harassment complaint that is ongoing, police said, but declined to say who was involved.

"In light of multiple calls for service, police will be maintaining an enhanced presence at this location going forward," the statement shared Thursday afternoon said.

The memo to the police board said that if the court issues an eviction order, the service will be in contact with the sheriff, who may require officers to help them ensure the tenants leave.

"In the interim, the OPS will continue to keep the peace and maintain public safety until this matter is resolved," it added.

Polowin said in the meantime the landlord could continue to try to change the locks, but that doesn't really help if there are people already inside.

"If this transaction has fallen through then this landlord is going to want to sell that property to someone else and I can tell you for certain that no one's going to buy that property unless it's empty."