Cambridge lifts eviction notice on Branchton encampment, fight over loss of possessions continues

By Justine Fraser

In an unexpected move, the City of Cambridge has decided to lift an eviction notice on an encampment that sits just on the outskirts — near Branchton Road and Dundas Street South.

They’re still in litigation with Waterloo Region Community Legal Services (WRCLS) over an underlying cause of action, but the main urgent motion that fought against the eviction no longer needs to go to court.

A staff lawyer with WRCLS, Ashley Schuitema, is fighting on behalf of the people experiencing homelessness living in the Branchton encampment. In an interview with CityNews 570, Schuitema said she was surprised and didn’t expect the city to lift the notice.

“We wanted to sort of have a conversation as well with council from the City of Cambridge to try and get a sense of the reasoning behind their decision, but they were not able to give us any reasons,” she said.

Schuitema added it is likely they can’t talk about it because the conversation is happening in closed sessions with a lawyer or multiple lawyers.

“I was actually quite surprised, I’m glad they are, and I think given the decision we were involved in with the Regional Municipality of Waterloo at the 100 Vic encampment, I’m not surprised that this is the approach they’re taking but I thought that they were going to fight it and I anticipated we’d be going to go court, so I’m pleased with their decision.”

In a statement to CityNews 570, the City of Cambridge said litigation is still considered active and couldn’t provide anything further at this time.

“We know this is a complex issue that is not unique to Cambridge. The city is committed to working with the Region of Waterloo and our community partners to explore more effective housing solutions that support the overall health and wellness of our city.”

The city also mentioned that they did not commence the litigation. They said even though the plaintiffs withdrew their motion, the legal action continues.

WRCLS received a letter from Cambridge council last week about removing the eviction notice.

“There’s an underlying cause of action, we brought an urgent motion to try and stop the city from moving forward with their evictions, and so the urgent motion is no longer proceeding, there’s no need for it because they’ve rescinded eviction notices,” Schuitema said.

She is hopeful they will be able to settle the underlying cause of action with the city.

“The main part is protecting encampment residents’ ability to stay there and not be evicted because they have nowhere else to go,” Schuitema said.

Some of the damages included in the underlying cause of action against the City of Cambridge are in regard to a loss of possessions.

“The city went in, bylaw went in and threw out a bunch of things that are very valuable to people that are living and experiencing homelessness like tents and tarps, coolers, so there is some financial cost that go along with our cause of action,” alleged Schuitema.

The city and WRCLS will continue to negotiate over the underlying cause of action but the main urgent motion put forward by WRCLS from their clients will no longer go to court.

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