A legal claim against the city has been initiated by a group asserting that the practice of displacing homeless individuals from their makeshift camps infringes upon their basic human rights. The claim, filed on Monday, specifically cites the City of Edmonton as the defendant, as presented by The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights (CJHR).
In its press release documented on Thursday, CJHR expresses its concerns and objections. The group alleges that inspite of the significant shortcomings in providing necessary accommodation and shelter to all inhabitants of Edmonton, the city relentlessly continues displacement of homeless encampments, failing to provide any reasonable alternative solution. CJHR believes that such actions merely position vulnerable citizens in alarmingly precarious situations, effectively infringing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and disregarding their fundamental human rights.
As per CJHR’s statement, referencing data garnered from Homeward Trust Edmonton’s By-Name List, the homeless population in Edmonton as of August 2023 stands at 3,137. Alarmingly, nearly 1,400 of these individuals resort to sleeping outdoors or in shelters.
CJHR’s appointed co-counsel, Chris Wiebe of Engel Law Office, cautions, “The city’s actions place these individuals at a significant risk of experiencing frostbite, necessitating amputations, succumbing to pneumonia, hypothermia, and potentially death.” Wiebe attests that the city lacks adequate shelter facilities for those in desperate need, indicating that over the past two years, the total number of shelter beds has only managed to reach approximately 1,200.
Wiebe further alleges that these vulnerable individuals, acutely aware of having no alternative option, are nonetheless frequently informed by the city that their presence on city property is in violation of municipal bylaws and regulations. Such individuals often lose personal belongings including identification documents, propane tanks and stoves in the eviction only to establish a similar encampment a few blocks away.
Homeward Trust, specializing in providing guidance to the city on managing homeless encampments and connecting residents thereof with shelter space, housing, and additional support resources, argues that the city only deconstructs encampments that carry a high risk of fire or serious crime.
Susan McGee, the CEO of Homeward Trust, supports her organisation’s stance by adding, “All encampments flexibly differ in nature and certain encampments can potentially become extremely dangerous.”
Upon request from a local news outlet, the city verified the receipt of the lawsuit and stated it is gearing up to discuss and address their defensive strategy in the court. Following a private meeting held on Thursday to discuss the legal action, the city now has a deadline of Sept. 18 to tender its formal statement of defense.