‘Threat to life’ leads to tent removal at Belle Park in Kingston

Click to play video: 'City of Kingston moves campers for Belle Park cleanup following fires'
City of Kingston moves campers for Belle Park cleanup following fires
RELATED: Some of those living at Belle Park had their belongings moved Thursday as city staff moved in to clean up following recent fires at the site. Global's Paul Soucy has the latest – Feb 8, 2024

An “immediate threat to life” led to the removal of a tent from the Belle Park encampment this week, the City of Kingston says.

Fire officials took the tent down Monday after they said fire inspectors were called to the structure three times in as many weeks.

“This is a safety issue and the well-being of those who use this tent remains our biggest concern,” said Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Donaldson in a statement sent to media.

“Fire officials have previously removed a number of devices that posed danger when used inside this flammable tent, including wood stoves and propane tanks.”

The city said the tent’s removal is not related to enforcement of the Parks By-Law’s prohibition on daytime camping in parks.

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“Under the Act, fire inspectors who believe a risk of fire poses an immediate threat to life have the authority to enter on land or premises and remove anything that may constitute a fire menace or take any action urgently required to remove or reduce the threat to life,” the city said in a release.

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The city says fire officials consulted with Ontario’s Office of the Fire Marshal before taking the action.

Support workers, including a child welfare service worker and staff from the city’s housing and social services department, were on hand to help anyone affected by the tent’s removal, including offering storage options and transportation, the city says.

The removal comes after city officials moved into the park on Feb. 8 to clean up following three separate fires at the encampment.

The city says fire officials have been called in to “remove or reduce immediate threats to life” at Belle Park roughly 24 times since then.

In November 2023 a court case between the city and the campers debating the constitutionality of them staying in the Belle Park encampment ended with the Ontario Superior Court ruling against eviction.

The decision said the bylaw banning overnight camping was unconstitutional and violated the campers’ Section 7 Charter right to life, liberty and security.

The matter remains before the courts, however, as the respondents filed a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeal in December 2023.

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