A court ruling in Kitchener may have implications for local encampments
Ontario Superior Court of Justice rules that evicting an encampment in downtown Kitchener would breach Charter rights, raising questions about encampment evictions in Hamilton
cw: mention of predatory behaviour
On Jan. 27 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the Region of Waterloo would be violating charter rights if they were to evict an encampment in Kitchener, given that the city could not provide immediate, adequate shelter for its occupants.
This ruling came after the Region of Waterloo filed to have tents removed from 100 Victoria Street, a property that it owns in downtown Kitchener.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects democratic society and Canadians’ rights to life, liberty and personal freedoms. In its proceedings, the court found that the Region of Waterloo would be violating the charter rights of those living in the encampment if they were to enact their proposed eviction.
This court ruling could have implications for the City of Hamilton, which has also struggled with inadequate shelter space and encampment evictions. There are several local activist groups challenging Hamilton’s bylaws on behalf of those living in encampments, including the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic.
The HCLC is a local organization that provides legal services to low-income individuals. Currently, the HCLC is representing 19 clients fighting to stay in encampments, most of whom are women.
Following the court ruling, HCLC released a statement calling for the city to move away from law enforcement in encampments and redirect focus to affordable housing, opposing the addition of two Hamilton Police Services officers tasked with enforcing encampments.
Sujit Choudhry, who works pro bono at HCLC, spoke to the Silhouette about the ramifications of the Waterloo ruling in Hamilton. He spoke to the dire situation of those living in encampments and he doubled down on the message in the HCLC statement saying that the end of unconstitutional evictions was inevitable.
“The city is doubling down on a failed and ultimately unconstitutional strategy. And let me reiterate, [HCLC] will prevail in court,” said Choudhry.
Choudhry also spoke about the clients represented by the HCLC and why they choose to live in encampments, rather than trying to find shelter in Hamilton.
“There’s a dramatic shortage of women’s shelter beds in Hamilton . . . male predators station themselves outside of women shelters to prey on women who can’t get in at night,” said Choudhry.
Ward 2 Council Member, Cameron Kroetsch, also spoke about the issues of encampments in the context of the of Hamilton and its city council.
“Until we can find places for people to go, so they stay out of the extreme cold, enforcing encampments is not the right answer,” said Kroetsch.
The City of Hamilton will continue to discuss the issue of encampment enforcement in council meetings, as the HCLC continues their pursuit of challenging what they call unconstitutional methods of encampment enforcement.