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Protestors confront security and police outside Kitchener encampment

There were tense scenes at Kitchener’s Victoria Park Thursday as demonstrators gathered to object to the closure of Roos Island and efforts by the City of Kitchener to relocate people living in an encampment there.

Homeless advocates came to the park trying to deliver food and social services to people on the island, but security guards wouldn’t let them through a gate installed by the City of Kitchener on Wednesday.

Only legal aid was allowed onto the island – at least at first.

“They don’t want to live in a tent, but they want to make sure that they’re not moving from one bad situation to another bad situation,” said Shannon Down, executive director of Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.


Pointing to a sign at the bridge stating access was limited to existing campers and individuals supporting them, protestors tried to get onto the island.

Security continued to stand in the way while the crowd tried to push through, eventually succeeding in pulling the gate open.

That’s when Waterloo regional police quickly stepped in and stopped people from crossing onto the island.

Still, the protestors managed to hold the gate open for about an hour.

“For me to help bring the gate open is to make this accessible for not just the people who are living here, but for everyone who has a right to access this green space,” said protestor Sarah Siembida.

A few people were eventually allowed across the bridge to deliver water.

While the city says it’s controlling access to the island to ensure the privacy and safety of campers as they prepare to move into interim housing, protest organizer Julian Ichim says residents are being coerced.

“People are being forced into these so called mini houses on top of a dump and they're being coerced,” Ichim said, referring to the region's hybrid encampment that opens this week.

“People slept out there all winter and the city did nothing, now all of a sudden they have a solution and people are being forced to go there whether they want to or not."

The crowd eventually dispersed and the gate was closed just after 1 p.m.


The City of Kitchener says six people are currently living at the encampment, which has been at Roos Island since at least last summer.

It says most of them have voluntarily accepted an offer of interim housing and will be moving in the coming days. Staff will work with any remaining campers to secure alternative housing.

New campers will not be allowed to set up on the island or elsewhere in the park, the city says.

Tracy Timleck has been living on Roos Island since July and doesn’t want to leave.

“It’s scary. Really scary actually, thinking that they’re not going to let us back on if we leave,” Timleck said.

Timleck and her fiancé say they’re uneasy about the new hybrid shelter on Erbs Road.

“They built it only just to get us out of here right? But we haven’t even seen it yet, so we’re not even too sure,” Timleck said. “We’re going to go today and make sure that’s where we want to move, but it’s scary, it’s definitely really scary.” Top Stories

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