Skip to content

Advocates say region violated human rights with Cambridge encampment closure

'Based on our current understanding of these actions, we find that they raise human rights concerns and will cause harm to our unsheltered neighbours,' say advocates in scathing open letter to the Region of Waterloo
The lot at 150 Main St. is completely empty after the region evicted the unsanctioned encampment

In an open letter to the region, advocates for the unsheltered are saying the decision to close the encampment at 150 Main St. violated the human rights of the residents and went against the spirit of a judge's decision to bar the region from evicting encampment residents. 

In January 2023, Supreme Court of Canada Justice Micheal Valente shutdown the region's request to evict the encampment on Victoria and Weber streets in Kitchener, citing a lack of available housing and supports and said doing so would be a violation of the residents' rights and freedoms. 

Unsheltered Waterloo Region(UWR), an advocacy group dedicated to supporting the region's unsheltered, fired back on the region's decision to close the Cambridge camp, calling it involuntary. 

"Based on our current understanding of these actions, we find that they raise human rights concerns and will cause harm to our unsheltered neighbours," wrote the organization in an open letter. 

The region has stated that the closure came at a time when the numbers in the camp were dwindling and the remaining residents took up offers for shelters and other accommodations. 

UWR thinks that while this action was presented as voluntary, they are aware that some residents who lived at 150 Main St. felt pressured to leave and some of them continue to live un-housed in outdoor situations. 

"This speaks to the absence of accessible and adequate shelter options for people experiencing homelessness in Waterloo region," read the open letter. "Justice Valente’s Jan. 2023 court ruling concerning 100 Victoria St. noted this absence as a key reason why evicting residents sheltering on public lands violated their S.7 Charter rights."

The closure of 150 Main and the supposed pressures exerted upon residents to leave without having adequate alternative shelter is being called a violation of the spirit of the 100 Victoria court ruling and a human rights approach to housing.

UWR notes that the closure in Cambridge also comes at a time when the region is shutting down its motel program that allowed unhoused individuals a safe, warm place to stay. 

"Discontinuing the funding of the motel shelter spaces before accessible and adequate housing options have been secured for residents will directly lead to more people experiencing unsheltered homelessness and exacerbate pressures on encampment sites," wrote UWR. 

The advocacy organization has set up a list of steps they think the region should follow according to basic human rights: recognize a right to shelter on regional lands, stop evicting and criminalizing encampment communities, eliminate hostile architecture that forces people to not use public amenities (like park benches) and to reallocate funds from downstream programs to upstream services such as transitional housing for unsheltered and hidden homeless. 

As for immediate steps, they want the region to be transparent about the closure at 150 Main St. and explain how their decision to move people from the camp did not violate the supreme court's decision. 

A copy of this letter was sent to every regional councillor in hopes it will be brought forward and discussed.  

Reader Feedback

Joe McGinty

About the Author: Joe McGinty

Joe McGinty is a multimedia journalist who covers local news in the Cambridge area. He is a graduate of Conestoga College and began his career as a freelance journalist at CambridgeToday before joining full time.
Read more