Legal action being taken against City of Edmonton for treatment of people living in encampments

The Coalition for Justice and Human rights has filed a lawsuit and injunction against the City of Edmonton over their response to their handling of encampment displacement. Lawyers claim the city’s actions have placed vulnerable people in dangerous situations that violate their fundamental human rights.

The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights is taking legal action against the City of Edmonton, saying their treatment of vulnerable individuals — specifically their encampment displacement policy — violates charter rights and freedoms and undermines fundamental human rights.

Coalition members along with legal representatives gathered outside city hall.

Lawyer Chris Wiebe saying the city continues to move encampments while providing what he claims is reasonable solution.

The coalition says people are being placed in ‘dangerous situations’ and that their policy that prohibits people from staying on city owned land has inflicted profound harm and perhaps even death, which could have been prevent if the city and province had provided adequate shelter.

The coalition referenced Homeward Trust statistics that show that as of August this year there are 843 emergency shelter beds. The statistics however note more than 1,300 people are without housing, many who live in encampments.

Brian Bethinger has spent more than ten years without a permanent home. He wants the City to do more to help get people get off the streets.

“To be honest, I’ve seen in the last year, more friends go missing and more friends go up and about because of homelessness. They just don’t have a regular place to go so they get themselves caught in a lifestyle they don’t want to be in to begin with because there isn’t enough help out there,” said Bethinger.

“I hope the human rights commission gets more involved with what’s going on to be honest because there needs to be more help in this city.”

CityNews reached out to the City, which responded saying it confirms that legal action has been taken against its bylaws and practices related to encampments.

“The City is carefully reviewing the documents provided, and is preparing to discuss its bylaws, practices, and commitments in court. While we will not debate the legal elements of the case outside the courtroom, we will simply say that we are preparing to vigorously defend the City’s balanced approach to keeping people safe while working with our partners to seek long term solutions to ending houselessness in Edmonton,” said Michelle Plouffe, Chief People Officer and City Solicitor.

Edmonton’s Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said he could not comment on the matter as it is before the courts, however did say, “I continue to be concerned about the well being of Edmontonians who are experiencing houselessness and staying in encampments. The City takes this issue very seriously.”

Sohi added Edmonton is experiencing an unprecedented level of houselessness and “it is beyond the capacity of the city to solve alone,” before saying he’s been calling for help since taking office.

“I and my Council colleagues will continue to work with all orders of government to address the housing crisis that many Edmontonians are facing. Houselessness is a symptom of underinvestments in the social sector for far too long,” said Sohi.

“I understand that encampments can impose safety hazards for those living in them and the communities that are impacted by encampments. When an encampment is removed, efforts are made to connect people to appropriate supports available in the community. The safety and wellbeing of all Edmontonians, including our city’s most vulnerable who seek shelter in encampments, remains a top priority for me.”

The City has until September 18 to respond with their statement of defense.

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