Encampment Litigation Update

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic continues to advocate to protect the constitutional rights of Hamilton’s unhoused population in the courts against the City of Hamilton’s by-laws related to encampments.

Last week, Hamilton City Council approved a motion directing Hamilton’s parks by-law be enforced to remove encampments within 24 to 48 hours. City Council approved a second motion to allocate roughly $417,000.00 to hire 4 additional Municipal by-law officers to enforce the encampment by-law 24/7.

This hardline approach comes only a few months after City Council passed a motion proposed by Councillor Nrinder Nann to convene a roundtable committee with a focus on “human-rights based, health-focused” approach to housing which recognized that an “enforcement led response” wouldn’t solve homelessness or lead to healing community relationships. The roundtable has never been convened.

Enforcing the parks by-law does not respond to the needs of Hamilton’s unhoused population, because it does not create shelter or housing – a view shared by health professionals, shelter workers, and other providing services to the unhoused. The City has taken the position that when someone is living on the street and unable to obtain shelter, that they will strip them of their essentials for human survival, such as their tent, blankets, clothing, sentimental items and more, leaving them empty-handed with nothing but their clothing on their backs and nowhere to go.

Homelessness in Hamilton is growing worse. A growing housing crisis has pushed precariously housed tenants out of their homes. COVID-19 has brought unique challenges for many communities in Hamilton, including job loss or income reduction, and an increased cost of living.

Last fall, the HCLC filed commenced legal proceedings arguing that City’s ongoing efforts to dismantle encampments violate the Charter. Our case will be heard sometime in early 2023.

We are also excited to announce that we have two new co-counsel joining our legal team: Wade Poziomka (@WPoziomka) from Ross & McBride (@rossmcbridellp), and Sujit Choudhry (@sujit_choudhry) from Choudhry Law. Wade is a well-known and respected local human rights and employment lawyer and was previously involved with the 2020 encampment litigation. Sujit has a broad public law practice on questions of constitutional law, administrative law, public international law and international human rights law.

We must all work together to address the housing crisis and ending homelessness. We encourage the City to take a human-rights and housing-first approach to supporting the diverse needs of its unhoused population. Greater enforcement without increased resources and support for the unhoused population will only further stigmatize, criminalize and traumatize those living in our community’s greenspaces.

A copy of our statement has been attached here: HCLC Encampment Litigation