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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wally Oppal says policing ‘too important’ to be left to the police

Oppal keynote speaker at a Surrey Board of Trade “Hot Topic Dialogue” breakfast event this morning

‘Urgent’ need for Metro Vancouver homeless count volunteers

Organizers say another 100 people are sought to help in Surrey and Burnaby

UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say missing 14-year-old has been found and is safe

Brayden Ritchat, 14, had been last seen in the 10800-block of 141st Street in Whalley on Feb. 21

United Nations designates Surrey a ‘Tree City’

Surrey is one of 59 cities in the world to receive the designation

Lyn Lay calls it a day after 23 years of work at Surrey Arts Centre

‘I’ll still be working in the non-profit sector with the Youth Arts Council,’ she says

Rail disruptions expected to continue after new protest sites emerge

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

New Westminster woman’s ‘out of character’ disappearance probed by police

She left without telling anyone, prompting investigation by Major Crimes Unit, police say

EDITORIAL: Fraser Health needs to be transparent to fight coronavirus panic

Fraser Health and other authorities are not helping by being vague in recent communications

Riverdale actress rescues puppy from Langley shelter

American actress named her adopted pup Milo

How clean is your favourite local restaurant or café?

Online inspection reports allow consumers to find health hazard of all food facilities in region

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

COLUMN: Forestry no longer close to top of B.C.’s economy

Our reactions to a forestry downturn reflect the past, not the present

Caught on camera: Police release video of man who allegedly stole seaplane in Vancouver

Police say the man broke into the Harbour Air terminal and then got into one of the seaplanes in the harbour

51 health professionals send letter to Trudeau, Horgan panning northern B.C. pipeline

They point to studies about the health and climate change risks from pipeline

Most Read