Outrage after Edmonton police remove homeless people from pedestrian area amid cold weather alert
EDMONTON -- A video that shows Edmonton Police officers removing homeless people - and members of a charity trying to feed them - from a pedestrian walkway in the city's downtown and into the extreme cold sparked outrage online and from politicians Monday.
The local chapter of the Bear Clan was feeding vulnerable people Sunday night in a pedway connected to an LRT station when officers forced them to leave for “loitering” and because the people eating weren’t wearing masks.
“It doesn’t matter who you are,” an unidentified officer can be heard telling a Bear Clan worker who tried to explain what was happening while recording video on her phone.
The City of Edmonton has activated its “extreme weather protocol” but it does not include access to LRT platforms and pedways. Instead the city is shuttling people to shelters.
An EPS spokesperson responded to the video Monday.
The police service said the officers were enforcing bylaws and COVID-19 rules, but said it wasn’t handled as well as it could have been.
“In this particular case, we should have better communicated our role in helping to connect citizens to the City of Edmonton’s services and partner agencies, whose goals are to keep vulnerable citizens safe and warm,” the statement said.
On Monday, City Councillor Aaron Paquette expressed frustration and regret at the situation.
“These are people's real lives. It’s unconscionable that we have not yet got a handle on this,” he said.
Paquette said governments need to do a better job delivering services to people experiencing homelessness.
“We’ve got cold weather protocols for a reason, we don’t want anyone to die in the cold, or lose a limb from frostbite. Not in the City of Edmonton. It’s unacceptable.”
The councillor also expressed frustration at a photo showing EPS officers helping remove a homeless camp from the Hope Mission area.
EPS said Monday that officers were helping city parks workers “clean up.”
“When camps are evacuated, generally speaking, those items end up going into the trash,” Paquette said.
The Ward 4 Councillor was joined by Councillor Andrew Knack, and MLAs Janis Irwin and David Shepherd Monday night for a community conversation on homelessness.
The conversation focused on how governments can provide homes to people without shelter.
A spokesperson for the Bear Clan told CTV News Edmonton that she is angry about what happened and she wants the EPS officers involved to receive compassion training.