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Agreement reached to clear 8 'high-risk' encampments


An agreement has been reached regarding a plan to deal with multiple homeless encampments in Edmonton.

Lawyers for the Coalition of Justice and Human Rights, the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Police Service were in court all day Monday trying to decide how to proceed on the clearing of eight high-risk encampments.

Late Monday afternoon, a deal was reached allowing police to move forward but only if they satisfy 10 conditions, including reissuing notice of closure to the people who live in the encampments, meaning the encampments likely won't be closed in the coming days.

The issue came up last week after advocates learned of the scale and timing of the planned encampment closures.

A judge granted an injunction late Friday to temporarily stop the closures.

On Monday morning, protesters gathered outside the courthouse demanding the closures stop while lawyers debated the issue inside.

A lawyer for the city argued there are adequate shelter spaces for encampment residents.

Jeremy Westman, the lawyer for the police chief, says all eight camps have been flagged as high-risk for weeks, and police were only recently able to line up the proper staff and city resources to close them safely.

Westman also told the standing-room-only-court someone was killed in a tent fire at one of the camps over the weekend, and a man was sexually assaulted by three people from a camp in Dawson Park, an attack he described as "especially heinous."

With no decision made after the first few hours in court, Justice Kent Davidson told the lawyers to find common ground and agree on a path forward.

The decision finally came around 5:30 p.m.

The conditions to clear the encampments include:

  • Only applies to eight encampments in question;
  • Before clearing the encampments, city and/or the Edmonton Police Service will make sure there is sufficient shelter space or other indoor space;
  • If not enough space, officers will close only if there’s a danger to public health and safety;
  • City will consider the cold weather in decision making;
  • City will advise agencies at earliest convenience about closure;
  • Order does not impact ongoing wellness checks by city staff or fire services;
  • Notice will be given again to residents; and
  • Notice to include reason, date.

The order will remain in effect until a Jan. 11 injunction hearing.


The organization that fought against closing the camps says it's not the victory they were hoping for, but it's a step in the right direction.

"We are encouraged that we were able to pause the rapidity of it and the mass decampment that we were about to see," Sam Mason, president of the Coalition of Justice and Human Rights told reporters after the decision.

"These eight encampments we were speaking about have been deemed high-risk for a very long time, so why did it all have to happen in one week? And one week before Christmas?"

Mason says her group will continue to fight for the homeless in Edmonton.

"It’s not maybe the stopping the sweeps that we were expecting, but it at least put some parameters in place."

EPS says while there's no timeline in place, they will still move forward on shutting down the encampments.

"There was nothing there that says we cannot close these encampments. We just have to reassess, probably reissue new notification to people living in them," Deputy Chief Warren Driechel said.

Edmonton Police Service Deputy Chief Warren Driechel speaks to reporters outside court on Dec. 18, 2023. (Sean Amato/CTV News Edmonton)

"It’s going to obviously impact whether we can work on all these encampments at once and I don’t think we can, so it's going to slow things down. We're still going to try and address some of the higher-risk encampments that we have and deal with the problems."

Dreichel says there's no good time of year to close an encampment.

"We don’t want to be having to give a death notification on Christmas Day for someone who's passed away in an encampment, whether it’s from an overdose or from a fire or an assault. So I’m not sure there’s really a great time of year ever."

Driechel says EPS followed all the same procedures with this round of planned encampment closures that are used every time an encampment is shuttered.

"Notification was given to the individuals within those encampments as well as notification to our partners," he said.

"We did work extensively with the city prior to making this kind of announcement. I know there was a lot of talk that the police just did this on their own, we did not."

Joshua Bell, who lived in encampments up until two months ago, also spoke outside court.

He said in the year-and-a-half he lived in encampments, he experienced seven sweeps.

"It's unbelievably stressful," he told reporters.

"I've seen these tents get ripped down and thrown out like it's nothing. Where are we supposed to go? What are we supposed to do?"

He said because he was able-bodied he was able to move his things before the encampments were cleared, but many of his neighbours weren't so lucky, losing everything.

"I don't agree with how they do it, at all. There's got to be a better way," he said.

He says he never experienced safety issues in an encampment, and wasn't comfortable in a shelter.

"Have you ever spent time in a shelter? It’s not the best option. It's very uncomfortable. The safety's there, for sure, but it’s just not comfortable."

Bell says due to persistence and the help of some local agencies, he now has a place to live. Now he wants the public to change how they think about encampments.

"The one thing that gets overlooked is that there’s humans out there. We've fallen on rough times."

"I hope that there is some result on this issue. I really do." 

On Wednesday, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi called an emergency meeting with representatives from EPS, the city, and social service groups to discuss encampments.

A spokesperson for Sohi says the group discussed changes to planning, the communication process, and coordination for encampment responses. Top Stories

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