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Lawyer representing encampment residents speaks out following Roos Island rally arrests


Supporters of those living at Roos Island in Kitchener’s Victoria Park are calling for charges to be dropped against housing advocates and all city decisions concerning the encampment there to be rescinded.

Now, a lawyer representing the encampment residents in court is calling for the Region of Waterloo to take a new approach to the housing crisis.

Shannon Down is speaking out following the arrest of three people in connection to a protest at Roos Island on Apr. 27, where police say a peace officer suffered a minor injury during the demonstration.

Around 40 protestors objected to the closure of Roos Island and the city’s efforts to relocate the people living there. The city is working to clear the encampment that’s been set up since last summer.

For Down, the rally was a frustrating scene and says the city’s security stopped activists from delivering food and services to people on the island.

"The effect of the fences and the gates was really to stop that support from getting across to the people who really needed it."

Following the most recent clash, Down says a human rights-based approach is needed to better address the issue of those living unhoused.

"We think that the gates, the fences are really the opposite of that approach. The people living on the island, they have the right to receive supports from the community and that the policing of those supporters is really having a chilling effect on that."

Down, along with other community advocates, have made the following demands:

  • That the city rescind its recent decisions regarding the Roos Island encampment
  • That the charges be dropped against those alleged to have assaulted a peace officer
  • That the city require collaboration with community partners to implement a human rights approach to encampments
  • To stop encampment evictions

“I’ve heard from different grassroots groups and different community supporters that they’re really upset by this. They feel it creates sort of an aura of intimidation,” said Down.

City staff were not available Saturday to comment on the situation.

The region has taken steps to offer more housing options such as its first sanctioned hybrid shelter, which includes 50 units on Erbs Road. The first 10 residents moved in late last month.

While Down applauds the housing solution, she says there still aren’t enough beds for the number of people facing homelessness in the region.

“We fully support people from moving from tents into housing, interim housing, permanent housing,” she says. “The reality is we are going to see more and more people living homeless and in tents because we have a high rate of homelessness in the region right now and there is a huge lack of affordable housing.” Top Stories

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