RCMP make arrests on the roof of Rutherford Elementary School. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

26 squatters at B.C. elementary school arrested

RCMP teams moved in on Nanaimo’s Rutherford school Saturday morning

RCMP moved in at a Nanaimo school and made arrests today, breaking up the Schoolhouse Squat.

Numerous RCMP officers including special tactical teams arrived just after 10 a.m. Saturday at Rutherford Elementary School where Alliance Against Displacement and residents and supporters of Discontent City homeless camp had been squatting since Friday.

School board chairman Steve Rae thanked RCMP for their quick action.

“We understand and acknowledge and respect that there’s a homeless problem in this province and we want to help where we can with homeless people. But this is something that is completely different,” Rae said. “This is a group of people who have broken onto our property that’s not been supportive of the real cause, which is homelessness.”

Though the school closed last June, the school board chairman said “it’s not for them (squatters) to break into a school building that is owned by the school district, to use for their causes. We will not stand for this.”

Rae said he hopes there will be consequences.

“We are going to have them removed from this property as we’re doing right now and we’re going to charge them with everything we can so this stops,” he said.

Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien said 26 people were arrested and taken into custody.

“Break-and-enter and mischief at this point,” he said. “There may be secondary charges based on whatever background they have.”

He said any resistance to the arrests was not enough to be concerning to police and wouldn’t result in additional charges.

“It went very well. It was quite smooth,” he said. “We’re quite impressed with the fact that within 24 hours of the initial complaint, we had 26 in custody and the situation dealt with.”

O’Brien said there were about 40-50 members at the scene Saturday. In addition to general duty officers, there were members of the Vancouver Island Tactical Response Team, Vancouver Island Emergency Response Team, Police Dog Services and forensic ident.

He said the school district was assessing damage to the school.

Amber McGrath, Discontent City supporter, was observing the arrests Saturday and said “it’s heartbreaking” to see.

“The people in that building are fighting for everybody in Nanaimo and across the province and the country to have affordable housing and I don’t think that’s an unfair thing to fight for,” she said.

She referenced the 170 units of supportive housing announced by B.C. Housing on Friday and suggested that’s not a satisfactory solution when it’s affordable housing that’s needed.

“It’s temporary shelters. It’s not a home. An 8-by-10 cell in a trailer without a kitchen isn’t a home; 24-hour wraparound services is a prison,” she said. “Then they say that, that means that you have to take those services whether you want them or not. It’s not attached to the individual, it’s attached to the housing.”

She was asked whether Discontent City would be trying to identify another building suitable for squatting and said she didn’t know what next steps might be.

“There’s empty buildings when people are freezing. People are being put out into the bush to die when we have empty government buildings sitting here that people could be in and be warm,” McGrath said.

There were arguments between Schoolhouse Squat opponents and supporters along Hammond Bay Road.

RELATED: Discontent City campers break into empty elementary for ‘Schoolhouse Squat’

RELATED: Nanaimo’s Soldiers of Odin council candidate opposes school sit-in

Just Posted

Chilliwack woman on Team B.C. staff for 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship

Tana Mussell will serve as team trainer as Team B.C. defends the gold it won at the 2018 NAHC.

Glass recycling is back in the ‘Wack this spring

Council voted to approve purchase of 30,000 grey tubs for glass recycling in Chilliwack

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Jan. 14 to 20

Agassiz Community Gardens hoping to find new home at old McCaffrey school

The society has been looking for a new location since its previous gardens were sold in October

Chilliwack Trustee Barry Neufeld says he’s the victim of workplace discrimination

Left out of liaison duties in the district, Barry Neufeld says he’ll be bringing legal action against the school board

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

Vancouver city council endorses free transit for youth

Mayor Kennedy Stewart will write a support letter to TransLink

Most Read