Clock running out for Embee Diamonds after judge declines to halt eviction

Some of Embee's several tonnes of equipment, which it uses to cut and polish diamonds at its facility at 1203 Central Avenue. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Mayor Greg Dionne said the city still plans to remove Embee Diamonds from its Central Avenue location, a day after a judge denied the company’s request to stop a looming eviction.

Dionne said he expects the city will take action “sooner rather than later.”

“We have a process to put the building up for sale and we are preparing for that process,” he said. “You can’t sell it with tenants inside, so we have given notice and we are making arrangements for the tenants to depart the building.”

On Wednesday, a judge refused to grant Embee an injunction, a judicial order blocking the city’s plan. Justice Goebel said the company hadn’t included the proper paperwork.

City Manager Jim Toye said he’d like an “amicable” resolution to the dispute, but he warned that the city may remove Embee’s equipment from the building itself if necessary.

“As far as the city is concerned, the sooner the better,” he said, “so we can move forward with the tax enforcement, where we put it up for a public tender.”

The city took possession of the diamond cutting facility on 1203 Central Avenue after the previous owner, a holding company in which Embee held a 40 per cent stake, failed to pay its taxes. The balance now stands at about $176,000.

In its application to Justice Goebel, Embee argued that eviction would leave it “insolvent.” It also claimed that the city had not followed the correct process. Proceeding with the eviction, the company held, would violate the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Tax Enforcement Act.

Toye and Dionne both say that everything the city has done is perfectly legal.

Councillor Evert Botha, who serves as chief operating officer for the company, declined to comment about the case in detail. But he stressed that Embee “has a commitment that will ensure all our past and current obligations are met.” The deal, he said, will be finalized in the coming weeks.

But the councillor said much more in an affidavit – a sworn statement – submitted to Justice Goebel.

For more on this story, see the April 21 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.