Further details after ‘daytime sheltering prohibition’ for Kingston parks announced

City of Kingston Bylaw Enforcement officers survey an area of the encampment at Belle Park on the morning of Thursday, Mar. 14, 2024, just prior to the City announcing an upcoming prohibition on “daytime sheltering” in public parks. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

After the City of Kingston announced that it plans to enforce a “daytime sheltering prohibition” in City-owned parks on Thursday, Mar. 15, 2024, Brad Joyce, Commissioner of Infrastructure, Transportation and Emergency Services for the City, took questions from those gathered.

Members of the media, as well as concerned citizens, attended Belle Park near the encampment — which has been in existence since 2020 — to hear the announcement, which was scheduled earlier that morning by the City of Kingston.

In response to questions about whether there are spaces available during the daytime for people to shelter in when needed, Commissioner Joyce responded.

“There are additional spaces we do have… What we’ve been experiencing, for instance, in the last few weeks is there’s been 15 available spaces. There’s been both overnight and during the day. We know there’s spaces if people have pets; there’s spaces for couples,” he said.

“So there are options that are available out there. And we will help those individuals [and] direct them to those spaces.”

Asked if those spaces are new spaces recently made available, Joyce said he could get that information, noting, “My understanding is that there’s been some expansion of spaces.”

Joyce could not say how many, if any, new spaces have been made available for people to use during the day.

Asked about the storage spaces available and how people’s belongings will be safeguarded, Commissioner Joyce indicated that already-existing storage spaces have been expanded.

“It’s a secure storage space, and it’s right here in Belle Park,” he said.

Joyce then addressed the often used term of “evictions” in relation to those living at the Belle Park encampment, which has existed in one form or another since mid-2020.

“We need to be clear that we’re not evicting people out of the park or any of our parks. That’s not the intention at all. They have every right to actually stay in Belle Park,” Joyce said.

“What they’re unable to do, as Justice Carter pointed out, is… shelter in place in the parks during the day, during those hours. So they have to pack up their things, but they don’t have to move them. They can keep them there if they wish. But we realized that they may want to access services, and so we want to be able to provide options for them to be able to do that,” he continued, referring to Justice Ian Carter’s December 2023 decision after the City applied for an injunction to remove the encampment from Belle Park.

Joyce then stated that he’s dealt with “many” of those staying in Belle Park in the past, and that the security of their belongings is “a huge concern” for those living at the encampment.

“And rightfully so,” Joyce went on. “So we want to make sure that we can do something that offers that protection.”

Joyce said there are a number of different storage options being offered to those at the encampment (and in other parks), including “mobile storage options, as well as duffel bags, things like that,” because some people prefer to be able to carry their belongings with them.

“We’re also providing more suitable tents that they can use for overnight camping, three-person tents, [for] free,” he said.

“So we’re doing everything that we can to try to be very respectful. I mean, these people have a tough enough time, but we need to try to do what we can to try to soften that as much as we can, and provide those supports. So that is the clear intention.”

Brad Joyce, Commissioner of Infrastructure, Transportation and Emergency Services for the City of Kingston, speaks to the media on Thursday, Mar. 14, 2024. Photo by Cris Vilela/Kingstonist.

Much of the conversation about the Belle Park encampment and its location has related to the encampment’s proximity to the Integrated Care Hub (ICH), which offers consumption treatment services for those who use drugs. Since it opened in October 2020, the ICH has reversed hundreds of drug overdoses, proving to be a life-saving service for many. Asked what he would say about the criticism that removing people from the encampment at Belle Park would force them further away from these life-saving services, Joyce objected.

“So I would correct [you]: we’re not moving people away, right? They have the right to be in Belle Park, just like any of you have the right, or any of our citizens have the right, to be in Belle Park or any of our City parks,” he said.

“We’re not telling them they have to leave the park… Based on the court decision, they’re simply not able to camp in the park during the day.”

In the face of the Kingston Community Legal Clinic’s assertion that the City is incorrect in its interpretation that the Superior Court’s ruling back in December means a daytime camping ban is allowed, Joyce held that the City is “within our right” to apply the Parks Use Bylaw, “with the exception that Justice Carter noted in his decision, which is that we’re not able to prohibit camping overnight.”

Speaking to the concept of the daytime sheltering prohibition, Joyce indicated that the prohibition would be in place from “about one hour after sunrise” to “about one hour before sunset.” Joyce also explained that a light standard that had recently appeared at Belle Park near the ICH, while currently not activated, was brought in as a means of visual signal of when people can and cannot be camping in the park. Joyce said there were concerns among those at the encampment around how they would know when they had to pack up their belongings, and the light indicator was a possible solution to that issue; however, Joyce said the light will only be activated if/when those living at the encampment request it.

At one point in the Q&A with Commissioner Joyce, Kingston resident Dawn Clarke spoke up. Clarke has long been a supporter of the encampment remaining in Belle Park, which she has communicated publicly in the past.

“When you say that their belongings are going to be stored during the day in the secure and convenient facilities: I’ve spoken to dozens and dozens of encampment residents, and they’ve received that promise many, many times in the past, and it’s never been honored. They always lose their belongings. It’s been a confiscation every single time. I’ve never heard a single resident [say], ‘Oh yes, I was promised that my belongings would be stored, and it worked really well,’” Clarke stated.

Joyce responded, “All I can say is that… the intention is to provide the storage. We know the importance of storage of their belongings and being secure… We will make sure that that happens,” noting again that secure storage is currently available to those living at the encampment.

Pressed for further explanation of the City’s interpretation of Justice Carter’s December decision after the City filed for an injunction through the court to have the encampment in Belle Park removed, Joyce said he wouldn’t “get into debating the legal merits.” He said, “The City stands firm in what our legal advice has been by both our internal counsel and external counsel.”

“We still believe we are fully within our rights to apply the Parks Use Bylaw, with the exception noted by Justice Carter,” he said.

Joyce would not say whether the City would be filing for another injunction through the Superior Court.

Just days before the City’s announcement Thursday, Kingston Community Legal Clinic (KCLC) issued a letter to Mayor Bryan Paterson and Kingston City Council, which was sent to members of the media, including Kingstonist. In that letter, John Done, Executive Director of KCLC and counsel for those living at the encampment since before the December 2023 Superior Court decision, questioned the City’s interpretation of the December ruling and asked the City to “to take steps to revise its Parks By-Law and Encampment Protocol to comply with the Federal Housing Advocate’s final report on encampments in Canada, which was released in February 2024.”

Done argued that Justice Carter did not decide that the City is permitted to “evict individuals camping on public property or park during the day, but not at night.”

“With respect, Justice Carter’s decision in The Corporation of the City of Kingston v. Doe, 2023 ONSC 6662 said no such thing. Justice Carter did not find that it is constitutional for a municipality to prohibit homeless persons from sheltering in public during the daytime. To the contrary, the Court explicitly disagreed with the City’s submission that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ‘cannot be invoked to protect daytime sheltering in a public park,’” Done wrote.

“What the Court found was that the particular evidentiary record before it was insufficient to find unconstitutionality with respect to restrictions on daytime sheltering because there was ‘no evidence as to how many people can attend each of [Kingston’s] shelters during the daytime, or for how long they can do so.’ In contrast, such evidence was on the record with respect to overnight shelter spaces.”

Done continued, stating that the City’s Department of Housing and Social Services “is aware that Kingston’s shelter system has significantly fewer spaces for homeless persons to shelter during the day in comparison to overnight.”

“Clear evidence of insufficient daytime shelter spaces will certainly form part of the record before the Court in any subsequent legal proceeding, should Kingston restrict its homeless from sheltering during the daytime,” Done asserted.

After multiple attempts to reach Done or another representative of KCLC on Thursday, Mar. 15, 2024, Kingstonist received correspondence from KCLC lawyer William Florence, who also represented those living at the encampment during the 2023 Superior Court hearing.

“Given the recent development of the City’s press release today stating their intention to enforce a daytime ban, at this point, John and I are not going to provide a comment, and are considering our options,” Florence said.

Kingstonist will continue to provide coverage of this matter as it develops.

With files from Cris Vilela.

2 thoughts on “Further details after ‘daytime sheltering prohibition’ for Kingston parks announced

  • So the ‘legal clinic’ is going to argue the judges ruling. Assuming the city is not allowed to do as it wishes, how will the propane bombs be dealt with? Will regulations be lowered? Will the dangerous situation be addressed?What about he rats that will infest that camp because of the lack of proper food storage?

    I want homeless people HELPED! Using legal arguments to keep the homeless in their present mess is not a win, it’s a delay.

    Anarchic situations [and this is one] are frowned upon by taxpayers so the city will continue to get negative feedback.

    Who among us can point to a place in the world where homeless people are ‘well cared for’? Who has any positive ideas except the status quo? Simply decrying the fact of the camps existence or on the other hand telling the city to “let it’s people go”, to live anywhere and anyway they like is not a viable solution.

    • How does requiring a homeless person to dismantle their only home – a tent – during the day help anyone? The City’s only conceivable purpose In enforcing this rule is to impose a further level of misery upon the least fortunate people living in Kingston. The number of daytime shelter spaces is significantly less than the number of homeless people.

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