Halifax mayor calls it ‘a difficult day,’ but stands by encampment takedown

Click to play video: 'Mayor Mike Savage talks with Global News Morning' Mayor Mike Savage talks with Global News Morning
One week after police clashed with protesters over homeless evictions in Halifax, we are joined by Mayor Mike Savage to get his thoughts on what happened and what happens next when it comes to the housing crisis in Halifax. – Aug 25, 2021

Mayor Mike Savage says they remain open to having discussions with Mutual Aid Halifax, which has been building crisis shelters in the city.

Mutual Aid is a group of people tackling houselessness in Halifax by building small crisis shelters for those who need them, but, according to Savage, they aren’t working with the municipality and haven’t sought permission to place the structures on municipal property.

“What I don’t think is helpful is for us to be getting confrontational…. We’re more than happy to talk at any point in time,” Savage said in an interview with Global News Morning.

“But I’m not going to react to everything that is said in hopes of promoting a confrontation. I think that that’s the last thing that we should be trying to do. Let’s focus on solutions.”

Read more: Halifax police pepper spray crowd during protests over torn-down shelters

Story continues below advertisement

The mayor said city staff and police had been working on a plan for the evictions and removal of temporary shelters for weeks.

In July, Savage said residents would not be forcibly evicted, saying the city is “not intending to have any kind of a confrontation over this” and that there was no intention to “criminalize homelessness.”

On Aug. 18, police were beginning to dismantle tents and temporary shelters and telling occupants to immediately vacate the area, but they were met with anger from a large group of people.

This led to the arrest of several protesters who had formed a protective wall in front of the crisis shelters.

Click to play video: 'Supporters vow to protect encampment until permanent housing option available' Supporters vow to protect encampment until permanent housing option available
Supporters vow to protect encampment until permanent housing option available – Aug 23, 2021

Later in the afternoon, the scene became increasingly chaotic and police officers could be seen using pepper spray on people.

Story continues below advertisement

“It was a difficult day for everybody. And I think we all have to look at it and see how do we avoid this from happening again,” said Savage.

He said HRM did a lot of work in advance and that involving police in the removal of crisis shelters wasn’t their first course of action.

“We’ve been talking to the people who’ve been living in these encampments and trying to find solutions in terms of permanent housing and permanent housing wasn’t available,” Savage said.

Read more: Young girl pepper sprayed by Halifax police ‘terrified’ by ordeal

He said they would offer hotels as a place to stay in the short term with no deadline or time fixed, so people wouldn’t feel they’d be in and out of the hotel.

“That was something that we insisted on, certainly as councilors, as part of the enforcement of the bylaw,” Savage said.

In the meantime, Savage said the city is partnering with many organizations on housing projects, and has recently partnered on the Rapid Housing Initiative to create over 50 units.

“We’re going to be looking at a plan next week to look at even more. We can work with organizations in the community and provide support for them, and also obviously this is, legislatively and financially, it has to be led by the province. It’s their responsibility on housing,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'NS NDP Leader Gary Burrill talks shelter removal' NS NDP Leader Gary Burrill talks shelter removal
NS NDP Leader Gary Burrill talks shelter removal – Aug 19, 2021

On June 30, the federal government announced Round 2 of the Rapid Housing Initiative, which includes an additional investment of $1.5 billion and is meant to create up to 4,500 new permanent, affordable housing units across the country.

Halifax Regional Municipality was again selected to receive immediate funding. The municipality has been identified for funding of $12,979,021 to create a minimum of 43 units of new permanent affordable housing.

Savage said he hasn’t had a chance to sit down with premier-designate Tim Houston yet, but they did have a talk about the issue of housing.

“I reiterated with him what I put in a letter to all the party leaders before the election that there are some issues that are very important to us and housing is the top of the list. And he’s indicated that he wants to be a partner,” he said.


Sponsored content