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Timmins council told it can’t evict people from encampments on public property

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A legal clinic from southern Ontario is reminding Timmins city council that it’s “unlawful” in Ontario to evict people from homeless encampments on public property.

In a letter, the Community Legal Clinic of York Region said it has come to its attention that the City of Timmins may still be evicting residents from homeless encampments on public property.

“Please be aware that Ontario law has been clarified and that it has become accepted that such evictions are unlawful under current Ontario law,” said Jeff Schlemmer, the clinic’s executive director.

“We strongly urge you to cease and desist.”

The letter goes on to say courts have held that municipalities can’t evict encampment dwellers until they have provided adequate, accessible and low-barrier accommodations.

“Mostly we're seeing that encampments are being cleared from private property for the most part,” said Jason Sereda, a local advocate for people experiencing homelessness.

“But there are the occasions just like this morning for people who are on public property are being asked to move along and being provided with the incorrect information that they can't be on that public property, when we know that the law states that they can.”

“What we want the city to do is start being proactive because we know that this issue is just going to escalate throughout the summer like it did the summer before, and that we start getting ahead of the issue and perhaps create more shelter spaces,” Sereda added.

The City of Timmins declined to comment on the letter, but a councillor said at this time of the year, there is enough shelter space.

“We have adequate shelter space, that's why we proceeded with a humane bylaw that works with people and there is no force involved,” said Bill Gvozdanovic.

“We're getting good compliance from individuals and there is no force … we don't drive people out of there and drag them down the street to the shelters.”

Gvozdanovic said people may report encampments on the Service Timmins website.

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