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Legality of Cambridge encampment eviction questioned

Residents start leaving Soper Park encampment

The encampment at Cambridge’s Soper Park is no more, but some are questioning if the eviction was legal.

At one point, about 50 people lived at the encampment. Residents were cleared out Thursday morning, after receiving trespass notices from the City of Cambridge last Friday.

The land belongs to both to the city and the Canadian Pacific Kansas City Limited railroad company.

“The spot also was a favored fishing spot for kids and families and they weren't able to use it once people had started setting up their tents and their belongings,” said Cambridge Mayor Jan Liggett.

Camp evictions have been a controversial topic in the region since residents of the Victoria Street encampment in Kitchener won a court injunction to remain on the property.

“We had a very recent court ruling which said if the region doesn't have shelter spaces, or they don't have spaces that are low-barrier or accessible for folks, then evicting people from encampments is unconstitutional,” said Ashley Schuitema, a lawyer with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.

Mayor Ligett said this case is different and city has all its legal bases covered.

“It wouldn't be an illegal action. This is a public property. It is an actively used public park,” she said. “Though the regional problem was that, it was an unused piece of property.”

Waterloo Region Community Legal Services disagrees.

“They are certainly at risk of court applications being brought against them,” said Schuitema.

At Thursday’s regional council meeting, Schuitema asked the region to consider a sanctioned place for the homeless in Cambridge to tent.

“It's not going away. People are literally just moving around to different places and setting up encampments in different places in Cambridge,” she said.

Ligett said she is not onboard with that idea and said she doesn’t think anybody should be living in a tent. She said she may be open to a hybrid shelter similar to the one on Erbs Road – depending on the location. Top Stories

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