Rally held for encampment residents as city seeks evictions

Rally outside of Kingston's courthouse - Owen Fullerton

Mutual Aid Katarokwi-Kingston held a rally in solidarity with unhoused residents in the Belle Park encampment on Monday morning just as the City of Kingston prepared to submit an application to the Superior Court of Justice to permanently remove them.

The crowd and speakers at the rally outside of Kingston’s Courthouse expressed their frustration that the city is choosing to pursue a court injunction, a process that could be lengthy, cost the city upwards of $100,000, and wind up ultimately unsuccessful if similar proceedings in the Region of Waterloo set any kind of precedent.

The City of Kingston previously did not confirm how much it expected to spend on it’s application, now represented by lawyers at Toronto firm Lenczner Slaght LLP, but said there are a number of circumstances that make the situation in Kingston different than that of Waterloo.

“Among other distinguishing factors, there have been serious incidents occurring at the Belle Park encampment, which pose health and safety concerns for the encampment residents, for service providers and for surrounding neighbours,” the city said in a statement in early June.

One of the speakers at Monday’s rally, Dawn Clark, said even if the City is successful in their Superior Court Application, it’s not a solution to the homelessness problem and it’s a poor use of public funds.

“I’m a taxpayer in Kingston, I’m disappointed that my tax dollars are being used to fight the people in the park instead of helping the people in the park,” Clark said.

“What we need is housing, we need federal, provincial and municipal governments to be working very conscientiously to provide housing for people.”

On Monday the City of Kingston submitted it’s application to the Superior Court of Justice, arguing that the encampment is unlawful and a nuisance to surrounding residents and city services.

The City also sought two temporary injunctions on Monday and were granted one by Justice Ryan Bell, banning encampment residents from burning fires on the property, however they were not permitted to remove unoccupied tents or structures.

Residents in the encampment are being represented by John Done and William Florence of the Kingston Community Legal Clinic, they will be able to argue the fire ban on August 23.

The arguments for and against permanent eviction of the remaining campers will be heard in Superior Court at the end of October.

The city has said there are enough available shelter spaces to house the remaining residents of the encampment, however many residents still living on site use substances and choose to live there largely for the close proximity to the Integrated Care Hub.

Dawn Clark said people don’t really want to live in the encampment, but it’s better for them than the alternative the city seems to be pointing towards.

“People don’t choose to live in tents, they do that because they’ve got no place to live,” Clark said.

“The cynicism of deciding that the solution is to kick them out of there seems crazy. All they will do is go into tents at other locations which as the health care people have told us aren’t as safe as Belle Park.”

The most recent report for the city’s housing and homelessness committee estimated that as of March 2023 there were 432 people considered precariously housed or unhoused.

Meanwhile there are currently 228 overnight shelter beds available throughout the city.