Message to the U of A community: Update on encampment – May 11

On May 9, an encampment was set up in the Quad on North Campus. This morning almost all of the occupants of the encampment peacefully dispersed following a third and final reading to them of a trespass notice. At the time the encampment cleared, there were approximately 40 tents and 50 people. To the best of our knowledge, fewer than 25% of the occupants were University of Alberta students.

The Edmonton Police Service assisted with the enforcement of the trespassing violation under the Trespass to Premises Act. It became critical to enforce the order after communications with the group were not successful and escalating actions put the university community’s safety at risk. The vast majority of those present complied with the police direction and decamped peacefully from university property. Unfortunately two individuals without any connection to the University of Alberta did not comply with the request to vacate and they were removed. The police report no injuries. 

From the outset, the University of Alberta has been clear that violation of the law or policies of the university goes beyond the parameters of freedom of expression. We have been explicit that the safety of our community is foremost in our decision-making.

Over the past two days, we repeatedly informed the group of the procedures for demonstrations and protests on university campuses, both in writing and verbally. We repeatedly informed protesters that they are free to protest on university grounds providing there are no temporary structures (including tents or barricades) and the protesters do not stay overnight.

The size of the group grew quickly. Of great concern, some members of the group brought in wood pallets, materials known to be used as barricade-making materials — actions that are counter to peaceful, law-abiding protests. The fire inspector also declared the presence of these pallets a fire hazard. 

As other institutions faced similar situations over the past weeks, we have witnessed how quickly they can escalate and become volatile. Overnight protests are often accompanied by serious violence and larger crowds amplify those inherent risks — especially as they attract counter-protestors or outside agitators.

I want to be clear that approved, peaceful protests are welcome on our university campuses — but they must also proceed in accordance with the university’s policies. And they cannot violate the law or public safety regulations.

I know the last two days have been particularly challenging for many in the university’s diverse community. The activity on our campus today was not taken lightly and there was no easy path forward for anyone involved.

Our commitment to the safety of our community must remain our top priority. Every University of Alberta student, faculty and staff member has the right to feel secure and welcomed while studying, researching, working or learning on our campuses.

Bill Flanagan
President and Vice-Chancellor 

University of Alberta community members do not have to navigate difficult situations by themselves. Resources are available to support your safety, health and well-being.