February 22, 2023
In the fall of 2021, five houseless individuals brought the City of Hamilton to Court over its ongoing practice of encampment evictions. The argument is a simple one: preventing houseless residents from erecting tents for shelter and protection where there are insufficient, accessible alternatives, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Court accepted this argument in a recent decision out of the Region of Waterloo. We believe it is inevitable a court will rule the same way in Hamilton.
We provide the following update for our supporters and community stakeholders on what’s happening in Hamilton’s encampment litigation.
In June 2022, new Applicants were added to the lawsuit and a new Notice of Application was provided to the City. There are now 19 Applicants, all but two of whom remain unhoused.
We recognize that this litigation comes amidst an ongoing affordable housing crisis, where there simply are not enough affordable and permanent housing options. Hamilton also suffers from a chronic lack of emergency shelter beds. Of the beds that are available, many are not accessible or viable options for the people who need them most.
We have asked the Court to find that, in the absence of suitable alternatives, encampment evictions violate Charter rights, namely the right to life, liberty and security, and the right to equality without discrimination. The remedies we seek set parameters around the size and location of encampments in order to balance the interests of the housed and unhoused community. Specifically, we have requested that tents be allowed:
We provided the City of Hamilton with our evidence last year, including experts such as academics specializing in homelessness, the former UN Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, and physicians. We have also provided the City with evidence from front-line workers who have witnessed evictions and the lack of shelter spaces available in Hamilton.
At this time, we are waiting for the City of Hamilton to provide its own evidence, and to determine whether it intends to bring motions to exclude some of our expert evidence of front-line workers.
We are also participating in Case Management this week, where a judge will provide direction on the next steps for the case. We expect that after Case Management, we will be able to provide a further update about the schedule for the next steps in the lawsuit and whether the City will oppose our evidence. We also hope to be able to provide an update soon about whether the City intends to enter into settlement discussions and mediation. We remain hopeful that the City of Hamilton, with a new City Council, will be willing to resolve this lawsuit without continued litigation. Until that happens, we will continue to move the lawsuit forward.