The Algoma Community Legal Clinic is taking definitive steps to contest a recent amendment in the parks bylaw by the Sault Ste. Marie city council. The council’s revised act hopes to avert the use of city properties for encampments ever again. The legal quarters argue that the amendment is a rudimentary administrative task aimed at bringing the city’s bylaws up to date.
Contrarily, Nuala Kenny, the Algoma Community Legal Clinic’s executive director, vehemently disagrees with this stance. According to her, comparing those dwelling in encampments, who carry the same human DNA as anyone else, to street debris is fundamentally unjust. “It’s unconscionable,” she stated.
Kenny acknowledges the ongoing efforts by social services to aid the homeless but criticizes the lack of adequate support. “Every community would argue that their social service teams are stretched thin – which is completely accurate. However, it’s equally factual that there are no suitable shelters for those grappling with addictions and mental illness,” she explained.
Councillor Angela Caputo was the solo dissenter in the vote concerning the bylaw amendment. She expressed confusion regarding the necessity for this alteration, saying, “If there weren’t any problems and if everyone at the council and administration were content with the status quo, with no issues raised, then the need for change is perplexing.”
On the other hand, Mayor Matthew Shoemaker defended the decision, maintaining that eviction of any encampment from city property would always be a measure of last resort. Furthermore, he expressed absolute belief in the bylaw’s ability to withstand a constitutional battle.
The Mayor stated, “Our decisions are informed by the legal counsel we receive from our legal team. They believe, to the best of their abilities and expertise, that this is a bylaw in line with the constitution.”