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An Investigation into the City’s Process for Clearing Encampments in 2021: Interim Report

Clearing encampments is extremely disruptive and can be traumatizing to the people living in them—the City owes a high duty of fairness to encamped residents. Given how important this issue is, and the fact that the City is continuing to clear encampments, we are releasing an interim report with early recommendations that the City should act on immediately.

Our Investigation

The interim report focuses on how the City coordinated its response to encampments and encampment clearings. If the coordination itself is not fair, nothing that follows can be.

Our investigation focuses on the City’s process for clearing encampments in City parks in 2021, and considers the following three main issues:

  • How the City planned the clearings
  • How the City engaged with stakeholders about the clearings
  • How the City communicated with the public about the clearings

What We Did: By the Numbers

During the course of our investigation, we:

  • Conducted 50 interviews over the course of 100 hours
  • Reviewed 11,000 documents from the City
  • Reviewed 54 complaints and submissions from members of the public
  • Spoke with 43 people who have lived in encampments or have been unhoused, and visited encampments and drop-in centres.

What We Found

Outdated and Inconsistent Protocol

  • The protocol that should guide City’s encampment response is outdated and not consistently followed by staff.
  • The City knows, but has no detailed plan to guide this work, suggesting inconsistency and lack of transparency.
  • We did not see any plans outlining how and when the City would hold consultations with the community in order to fully understand the issue.

Unclear and Under-Resourced Encampment Office

  • The City does not have a clear or defined mandate guiding the Encampment Office’s work.
  • The Encampment Office is under-resourced, which impairs the Office’s ability to take a larger, systemic view of its encampment response.

Our Early Recommendations

We have made eight early recommendations in our interim report that we believe the City should implement immediately to ensure its response to encampments is fair, transparent, and treats people with dignity and respect.

Our final report will include further information and recommendations on how the City planned, engaged stakeholders, and communicated with the public about the clearings.