Judge again grants eviction delay to unhoused Montrealers living under highway

Click to play video: 'Unhoused Montrealers facing eviction from expressway encampment granted reprieve'
Unhoused Montrealers facing eviction from expressway encampment granted reprieve
In a decision handed down Tuesday afternoon, Superior Court Justice Chantal Masse has pushed back a move to dismantle a homeless encampment under the Ville-Marie Expressway by another 10 days. The judgment also orders the Transport Ministry to stop any preparatory work around the area. Global’s Phil Carpenter reports. – Apr 11, 2023

A Quebec judge on Monday extended an injunction to protect a downtown Montreal homeless encampment located under a busy highway, and once again delayed major repair work needed on the aging infrastructure.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Suzanne Courchesne signed off on a deal struck by lawyers for the Transport Department and the 15 to 20 people camping under the highway, allowing some limited work to begin that doesn’t affect the encampment.

Monday’s ruling represents the third time the campers have been saved from being evicted and displaced by the Transport Department, which has been trying since September to evict them and start repair work on the Ville-Marie Expressway.

Donald Tremblay, with the legal clinic helping the homeless people, called the latest ruling a victory, one that buys more time for both sides to reach a humane solution.

“We have to house them, these are not stray dogs or stray cats, these are people with very serious health issues who need help,” Tremblay told reporters.

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“We have to ask ourselves, as a society, how we help the most vulnerable people?”

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Tremblay said he’s hopeful the case will be decided out of court, adding that he’s counting on the good faith of the government to come up with a plan to find housing for the people living in tents.

The tent community received a first eviction notice in November, but the Transport Department postponed its plans so it could reach a compromise with the campers. When none emerged, it rescheduled its eviction to the end of March.

Before Monday’s ruling, Tremblay’s legal clinic obtained two other injunctions delaying the eviction. The latest injunction protects campers until mid-June. The case is scheduled to return to court at the end of May, at which time lawyers could seek a reprieve until mid-July, barring an agreement with the province.

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David Chapman, executive director of Resilience Montreal, a non-profit day shelter that has been helping the campers, said he’s hopeful Monday’s injunction will encourage the government to reflect on what can be done to help these people.

“It’s good to see another small victory for human rights, certainly from the perspective of Resilience Montreal we’re happy to negotiate a housing solution with the government of Quebec; unfortunately, to date there has been little real effort on their part to engage in such a negotiation,” Chapman said.

Michel Chabot, who has been living in a tent under the highway for 10 months, said he would like to be offered a rent-subsidized apartment.

“They can’t put us in the street, we’re already in the street,” Chabot said.

Lawyer Éric Préfontaine, who represented the campers in court, said a political intervention from a minister would certainly help.

“I believe the government doesn’t seem to want to create a precedent by finding a solution specifically for these 15 to 20 people,” Prefontaine said.

“On the one hand, they don’t want to create the precedent, but on the other hand, it would be much less expensive to find a solution rather than adding delays.”

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