Region of Waterloo files court application over Kitchener encampment

By CityNews Kitchener Staff

The Region of Waterloo has officially filed a court application, arguing those living at the Weber and Victoria encampment are violating a by-law by occupying regionally-owned land. 

The several hundred page document seeks a court order to clear the encampment, after an eviction notice deadline has come and gone and residents are still occupying the space. 

That notice had expressed safety concerns and outlined the supports the region was making available to those living at the site. 

Regional officials had said they would not be calling in police or by-law officers to enforce the June 30 deadline, insisting they believed residents there would honour it. 

From here, Justice M.J. Valente has ordered the Region to personally deliver its notice of application and any related documents to at least twelve encampment residents. 

Jason Paul, who's lived at the encampment for months said he was handed a six-page legal notice on Tuesday.

“I have one right now because I wanted to read up on it and see exactly what it says, but it's up to each individual resident here to figure out the information,” he said, 

Around the encampment, flyers are posted for a “legal rights information session” being offered by Waterloo Region Community Legal Services.

On June 20, the region's lawyers will return to court and establish an official timeline for the court proceedings. 

Until then, individual residents of the encampment have the opportunity to submit their own arguments and documents to the courts. 

Stephen, another encampment resident was looking over a flyer when a CityNews reporter walked over.

“We are not going to just roll and get pushed around. We are going to fight it any legal way we can because we also have a right. We are people. We are the community,” he said.

Stehen criticized the region for opening up new shelters, while closing other ones, adding that he was disappointed in the lack of compassion.

“At some point in time in life, you fall back up again, fall back down again.Today it could be me. Today, tomorrow, it could be any of these people driving fancy cars,” he said.

This latest development on the Weber and Victoria encampment follows recent pressure on local officials from community activists to end all encampment evictions.

Aspen, who was waiting for the bus across the street from the encampment criticized the region's decision to seek a court order.

“I don't think [the region] should be able to do that. I mean [encampment residents] have nowhere to go really because they're homeless. I don't think it's fair,” she said.

Natasha, who was also standing at the bus stop agreed.

“I think they should focus on finding housing and not policing homeless people,” she said.

Clare, who was walking by the encampment called it “illegal,” emphasizing it needs to be temporary.

But, he also sympathized with the people experiencing homelessness.

“I feel for them. I would like to see [the region] work harder to find places for [encampment residents], proper places. Even a basement room is a lot better than this.”

Param, who was also walking by echoed the region should do more to provide housing to residents.

“That will be okay if they are evicting but providing them some other place to live in. But if they're not providing them anything and they have to figure it out themselves, it's not okay.”

—With files from Germain Ma 

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