Ottawa

NCC tells homeless encampment to leave Monday

The National Capital Commission has issued written notice to residents of the tent community near Bayview station, telling them they may be removed by police if they remain any longer.

A written notice says police may remove people living in the community after Sunday

The written statement was also posted on a tree near the encampment on Dec. 8, 2019. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

The National Capital Commission has issued written notice to residents of the encampment near Bayview station, telling them they may be removed by police if they remain any longer.

"This notice means that all persons who are camping must stop doing so, and that all tents or unauthorized structures must be removed," a statement emailed to media Sunday reads. The statement was also posted on a tree near the encampment.

After Sunday, police officers may take the necessary steps to remove people and their makeshift homes, the notice signed by the NCC's Anne Ménard reads. 

"I hope that the residents seek an injunction to thwart this eviction from happening, I think they're well within their rights to do so," said Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing. 

"Of course, it's very difficult on a Sunday night to, you know, get the legal support that they would need to make that happen, but I certainly hope that they pursue that."

Farha said she was surprised the NCC was evicting the residents and called it a "violation of international human rights law." She had a confidential call with the NCC last week but wouldn't comment on what was discussed.

A community of approximately 20 homeless people moved to the area 250 metres north of the LRT station after a pair of rooming houses burned down in April. That population eventually dwindled to approximately half as winter approached. 

In late November, the City of Ottawa issued a verbal trespass notice, citing safety concerns after a tent caught fire. Sunday's written notice also cites how the area is difficult for emergency services to access. It adds that cooling temperatures contribute to health and safety risks. 

Justin Bolger, second from left, speaks at a rally held Dec. 2 at a tent community set up near Ottawa's Bayview LRT station. At the time, Bolger and other residents of the community had been given a reprieve from eviction, but they weren't sure how long it will last. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Following the verbal notice in November, residents said they were told they had 72 hours to leave the land that straddles both NCC land and city property, with a deadline of 10 a.m. Dec. 2.

When the deadline rolled around, however, residents said they would not be evicted that day.

Attempts have been made to find permanent housing for the people left homeless by the fire. Residents told CBC that they had been offered temporary housing in Vanier but that the neighbourhood was too far from where they need to access certain services.

"[The city] offered to take us to Vanier and give us hotel rooms, which is taking us out of where we want to be, so that's ... why we're not obviously not going to accept that," resident Justin Bolger said at the time. 

On Sunday evening, Farha added, "I understand the residents are willing to accept emergency shelter, but they want it to be in the neighbourhood where they've been living."

Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, called the eviction a “violation of international human rights law.” (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Sunday's notice says each resident now has a case manager at the city's Housing First program and the city has confirmed that social service staff will be available to assist individuals move themselves and their belongings to the offered temporary accommodations.

The letter says that if officers do enforce the law by moving people and structures from the land, all personal possessions will be held for 15 days.

"As we issue this notice, we are conscious of the difficult situation that individuals staying in the encampment may be experiencing, but also deeply concerned about the health and safety risks to which these individuals are exposed." 

CBC News visited the encampment Sunday evening but found no one was there. 

- with files from Kimberley Molina