Toronto chose expediency over needs of homeless people in park encampments: ombudsman

Undue harm, lacked respect

Toronto's ombudsman says the city caused undue harm and showed a lack of respect for people living in parks when it cleared three homeless encampments in the summer of 2021.

Ombudsman Kwame Addo says the city chose expediency and enforcement over the needs of people in temporary dwellings in local parks, but there was no evidence to suggest the encampments were an emergency requiring an urgent response.

Addo's office launched an investigation in September 2021 after the city cleared encampments in Toronto's Trinity Bellwoods, Alexandra and Lamport Stadium parks.

The operations saw police officers in riot gear clear the sites of residents and their supporters, and resulted in dozens of people facing charges.

Addo's final report released today features 22 recommendations, including that the city ensure divisions tasked with clearing encampments are properly resourced, that those living in encampments have supports from social services if their dwellings are cleared, and that the city provide clear, accessible communication to the public and encampment residents about the clearing process.

The City of Toronto says it accepts the report's recommendations and thanked those involved, but did not respond to specific criticisms of its handling of the encampment clearings.

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