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Waterloo Region’s encampment court ruling sends 'very strong message' to cities across the province

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A precedent-setting ruling in the Region of Waterloo could have a lasting impact on cities across Ontario, some legal and housing advocates say.

Last week a judge denied the region’s court bid for an injunction to have the homeless encampment removed at the corner of Victoria Street North and Weber Street West in Kitchener.

The ruling noted that the region did not have adequate shelter spaces for its homeless population.

Justice M. Valente also said evicting residents would violate their charter rights to life, liberty and security.

Sam Trosow, an associate professor in the Faculty of Law at Western University said the ruling sends a “very strong message” and it will have “serious repercussions” for municipalities across the province.

“The lesson here for the region, and other municipalities, is before you try to clear anymore encampments, get a sense of how many people are there, get a sense of what their particular needs are,” he said. “Don’t rush in with enforcement efforts.”

Instead, Trosow said municipalities should first look to what local supports and shelter spaces are available before moving forward with an eviction.

Homeless advocate Daphna Nussbaum, who works with the Peel Alliance to End Homelessness, said the ruling is a “wake up call” to other regions.

“Municipalities are going to be very careful moving forward about how they’re working with their encampment community,” she told CTV News.

Nussbaum said encampments are increasingly popping up in areas like in Peel Region, Mississauga and Brampton.

“It’s not like you can just tell someone to leave and then they have absolutely nowhere to go, so they’re just going to find themselves outside anyway. I think it will be really interesting how communities look at their encampment situations, how they address them, whether or not they will apply more of an urgency to find solutions, and hopefully innovative solutions. I mean, we don’t need more shelters, we need housing,” Nussbaum said.

The Region of Waterloo does have the option to appeal the court ruling, however Trosow strongly recommends it doesn’t.

“I don’t think there are any errors of law here,” he explained. “Rather than waste resources on an appeal, which is not likely to succeed, municipalities and regions should be expending their efforts on increasing the number of [shelter] placements.”

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