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Police show off Edmonton encampment weapons as officers deliver evictions at 8th 'high-risk' site


A pellet and BB guns, 34 knives, 11 machetes, 10 samurai swords, two axes, brass knuckles and a collapsible baton – that was the message from Edmonton police about the dangers of encampments early Tuesday morning.

Photos of the seized stash were shared on the Edmonton Police Service's social media accounts at 7 a.m., about two hours before officers approached the eighth and final encampment deemed high risk by the city and EPS.

In an afternoon press conference, officers said in addition to weapons the camps are also dangerous because of fires, propane tank explosions, needles and toxic drugs.

Providing notice that officers are coming to remove the camps is also creating risk, police say.

"We've seen booby traps in some of the encampments and those pose real risks to our officers, to the cleanup crew and to the general public," Deputy Chief Warren Driechel said.

Police said there is also a gang element to the situation with low-level gangsters living in encampments and some coming and going from them.

"They're not overly sophisticated organizations. But what they make up for is the level of violence that they use," Driechel said.

"Not only do they victimize people within encampments, the crime that's occurring on the street, the drug dealing, they turn on each other quite quickly. They are extremely ruthless."

The weapons in the photos were displayed at the press conference after being collected a week earlier when a camp was dismantled in Dawson Park.

The deputy chief said it was important to share more information with reporters, like photos of the weapons, so the public understands the "depth and complexity" of the situation.

Driechel said there are 750 more camps in the city that are high risk and EPS will continue to monitor and remove them.


Tuesday's encampment sweep at Rowland Road and 95 Street was met with resistance, and around 4 p.m., a crowd that gathered through the day erupted when a person was arrested by EPS officers.

EPS told CTV News Edmonton on Tuesday night one man was arrested for assaulting a peace officer and that charges are pending.

Police said the sound of a taser in the video is one being activated but that it was not actually used on the man being arrested. 

"You can identify anyone that needs to go or needs support or anything like that. Identify them to me and I'll make sure that they get those supports," a police officer told people at the encampment earlier in the day.

"I'm making my stand! What are we doing? We're standing up for our rights!" Roy Cardinal yelled while refusing to leave.

Standing quietly beside that discussion were NDP MP Blake Desjarlais and NDP MLA Janis Irwin. Both have also attended at least some of the other seven previous camp sweeps.

"Whether today or 100 years ago, Indigenous people have and continue to suffer displacement," Desjarlais posted on X on Saturday while calling for better action on reconciliation and more housing.

"Today I witnessed such displacement and am again heartbroken."

Riverdale resident Kelty Pelechytik came to support the people living on the vacant land near her home.

"These are our neighbours," she told CTV News Edmonton. "There's absolutely no issue up here. We bring them coffee, we know their names."

Pelechytik acknowledged the photos of the weapons shared by police but said she's not afraid of the encampment.

"These guys aren't violent at all," Pelechytik said.

"They're going to move across the street and in three days they're going to be back. We're going to help them rebuild their homes with warm stuff."

Roy Cardinal speaks with police while politicians listen in at an encampment in Edmonton on January 9, 2024. (Cam Wiebe/CTV News Edmonton)

Cardinal, who said he only recently became homeless, both applauded the officers for doing their jobs and questioned why they were dispatched in the first place.

He said he plans to resist their demands to leave because he sees no good reason to comply. Cardinal believes his camp is safe and wants to be left alone.

"What does this piece of land mean to them that they gotta come and shuffle us and watch it every day be empty? Is it because they're sightseeing? Aren't we part of the sightseeing?" he asked.

By 2 p.m., Cardinal agreed to let police clear unoccupied tents and an Edmonton Transit Bus was brought in to keep people warm.

Some residents of the camp stayed at the site. The city says the encampment was "cleaned" but not cleared.

"While the planned closure was in full compliance with the city’s obligations under the interim order, including providing advance notice to social agencies, the city adjusted its approach given the number of third parties on site," a statement said. 


Earlier in the day, the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights appealed to the courts to stop the eighth and final eviction because of a turn to colder weather and a dispute about alternatives for the people in the camps.

"We believe their approach to determining adequate shelter space is flawed as it does not consider whether there is enough space for all who currently need emergency shelter," a social media post from the coalition said.

"We urge witnesses to come forward as residents peacefully protest around a firepit…Every single displacement is a violation of treaty rights and our collective commitment to reconciliation."

Police and city officials insisted there was enough shelter space so the judge did not act on the case, instead deferring a decision until the main injunction application is again heard on Wednesday and Thursday.

In a statement to CTV News Edmonton, the city acknowledged officials have to consider the weather before removing camps but pointed out there is no specific temperature threshold.

"The city unequivocally rejects the suggestion that our actions over the past 2 weeks have been non-compliant with the December injunction," a generic City of Edmonton statement said.

"All decisions on encampment closures have occurred in careful compliance with the terms of the order."

Police said 76 people and 120 structures have been removed from the first seven camps. They've also cleaned up 2,000 needles and nearly 200 propane tanks.

Many of the camp sites already had tents back on them by Tuesday.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson, Amanda Anderson and Matt Marshall


An encampment near Rowland Road and 95 Street in Edmonton on January 9, 2024. (Jeremy Thompson/CTV News Edmonton) Top Stories

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