Court decision stops Belle Park eviction

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Court decision stops Belle Park eviction
A months long court battle over the constitutionality of removing people encamped at Kingston's Belle Park has finally seen a decision – Nov 27, 2023

A saga that has captured the attention of many Kingstonians has entered a new chapter.

Last week, a sigh of relief came for those camped at Belle Park, as the court case between the city and the campers debating the constitutionality of them staying there ended, with the Ontario Superior Court ruling against eviction.

In response, a representative of the City of Kingston said in a statement: “The City is grateful to have the Court’s decision, and its guidance, on those extraordinarily complex issues. The City is reviewing the decision very carefully as it considers its next steps.”

The decision lays out that the by-law banning overnight camping was not constitutional and violated the campers’ section seven Charter right to life, liberty and security.

For the campers, and the lawyers at the Kingston Community Legal Clinic that represented them, it’s a big win.

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“Everyone is in good spirits now, right?,” said Jay English, a resident at the Belle Park encampment.

However, it is by no means the end of the battle.

In its statement to Global News, the city also said that it is reviewing next steps, including how to appropriately enforce the daytime camping by-law in a way that, quote, “respects the dignity and well-being of the people residing at the Belle Park encampment.

John Done, who represented the people at Belle Park, feels that it would be a mistake on the city’s part to pursue an injunction to remove people from the parks during the daytime.

“It would impose a horrible burden on the people living there to take down their tent in the morning, carry all of their belongings during the day before they put their tent up again,” said Done.

He said, now that the court proceedings are over, he hopes that instead of pursuing further injunction the city will negotiate with the people at the encampment to find a better solution.

For English, who knows winter is coming, his focus is on improving life for the people there.

“I want to go after donations and try to get us a new building. That’s my end goal,” he said.

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While the campers will live to fight this battle another day, there remains a long road ahead.

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