⚖️ Camping out

To: Hearsay Readers

Just out here launching into the latter half of the week like Coco the cat, who made a daring leap from the top of a utility pole as workers tried to rescue him in Newfoundland. Maybe there’s a lesson in there about knowing when to accept help.

— Dylan Gibbs

TODAY’S DOCKET

  • When can cities clear out homeless encampments?

  • Attempted assassination on civil litigator

  • RBC’s record-setting compliance penalty

  • Uber litigates Toronto’s rideshare cap

  • Carbon tax Bill hits a roadblock in the Senate

HOUSING

What’s the deal with homeless encampments?

Police stand in the midst of a tent encampment erected on a city street

Municipal attempts to clear out homeless encampments are all the rage these days — three cases were decided in the past month alone. So what’s the law? Here are some key takeaways from the spate of recent decisions:

  • If a municipality doesn’t have enough shelter space for its homeless population, prohibiting overnight shelters generally won’t fly.

  • That requirement becomes more of a “nice to have” if a specific encampment poses a clear risk to the public.

  • Municipalities may not need to create shelter space for every person experiencing homelessness, as long as they can relocate the people evicted from an encampment without displacing anyone else.

How’d we get here: In 2009, the BC Court of Appeal said Victoria can’t prohibit overnight structures in public parks, at least until the City has enough shelter space for its homeless population. The rule was only applied in BC — until this year.

Year in review — encampment edition

🚫 Waterloo can’t clear an encampment because the Region only has shelter beds for half of its homeless population. The decision goes further than the BC cases — Waterloo can’t even restrict sheltering in the daytime, because the encampment is on a vacant lot and the Region doesn’t have a compelling reason to evict the people living there.

✔️ Quebec was allowed to clear the people living under a Montreal roadway to make repairs that would potentially pose a danger if left unfixed.

✔️ Toronto was allowed to clear a downtown encampment even though the City can’t shelter its entire homeless population, because (i) the encampment posed a fire hazard and (ii) the City offered indefinite hotel stays to everyone living in the encampment.

🚫 Kingston can’t prohibit overnight shelters in Belle Park until there’s a reasonable alternative available to its homeless population. But the alternative doesn’t need to be shelter space — it might include designated outdoor spaces that permit overnight sheltering. The City is free to evict encampment residents during the day. There wasn’t enough evidence to conclude that restrictions on daytime sheltering pose a problem.

✔️ Vancouver’s Fire Chief reasonably ordered the removal of temporary structures on East Hastings because of the risk posed to public safety. But it was procedurally unfair to make that decision without giving the affected residents a chance to respond.

Big picture: Given Canada’s growing number of people experiencing homelessness, these cases are likely to keep cropping up. If the law remains as is, municipalities either need to significantly expand readily available shelter space or accept the new normal of booming tent cities.

HEARSAY ROUNDUP

Canadiana

💰 FINTRAC hit RBC with the largest administrative penalty the agency has ever issued. RBC has to cough up $7.4 million because it failed to report suspicious transactions potentially linked to money laundering or terrorist financing and failed to establish proper procedures.

🚖 Uber is taking Toronto to Court for placing a cap on rideshare drivers. In October, Toronto’s city council voted not to issue any more rideshare licenses to curb emissions and ease congestion. The temporary measure applies until the City can prepare a report on the impact of ridesharing on emissions, congestion, and public transit. Uber says the cap is arbitrary and discriminatory — the City implemented it in bad faith and without proper consultation. The City disagrees.

🪵 British Columbia is making it illegal to export cedar and cypress wood from the Interior of BC without manufacturing it first. The changes are set to take effect in February.

🗳 In a close vote (40-39), the Senate approved an amendment to the Bill exempting certain farming activities from the federal carbon tax. Because of the amendment, the law can’t be passed without going back to the House of Commons — which many think the government will use as an opportunity to delay the law or kill it altogether.

😳 A video captures a gunman trying to assassinate a civil litigator in Toronto. Fortunately, the gun seems to have malfunctioned.

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