Hamilton residents threatened with ‘bulldozers’ as evictions continue at encampment: advocates


Published June 8, 2023 at 6:01 pm

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InTheHammer file photo

Homeless people at an encampment in downtown Hamilton say they feel threatened by police who are telling them that municipal law enforcement will come with a “bulldozer” and enforce trespass notices, according to a homeless advocacy group.

For the third day this week, police officers are continuing to approach people at the encampment near the Whitehern Historic House and Gardens behind City Hall to tell them “their options are either move today or be bulldozed later by municipal law enforcement,” James Lambert, a volunteer with the Hamilton Encampment Support Network, said in an interview with inthehammer.com today (June 8). “So from the perspective of residents, they’re being evicted under the threat of trespass notices being enforced. … Police say bylaw (officers) will come with a bulldozer and they will plough over everything here, they will come with a garbage truck and will throw everything that’s there. So basically telling residents you either move now or everything you own will be destroyed.”

Hamilton police told inthehammer.com Friday (June 9) that these accusations about the bulldozers and bullying are “factually inaccurate.” “No one is coming in with a bulldozer,” Jackie Penman, a spokesperson for Hamilton police, told inthehammer.com. “We continue to work collaboratively with residents of the encampment.”

City officials told inthehammer.com on Tuesday that some residents who had received the trespass notices, issued May 25, began to “voluntarily leave.”

The City and police said they are “trying to gain compliance” from the people at the encampment rather than enforcing trespass orders.

Lambert believes municipal bylaw officers have not been there since the issuing of 27 trespass notices on May 25, which were effective immediately. He said police, City staff who throw stuff out and housing workers have been there when the evictions began Tuesday.

Lambert said he and fellow advocates got the information from speaking to a police officer and residents near the Whitehern site, which he has visited a few times this week. “I think it’s just outrageous that Hamilton police service and municipal law enforcement call this voluntary… I think residents would say there’s nothing voluntary about it. They feel like they’re being given an impossible choice.”

The officers will then offer residents the option to move to another encampment location, he said.

On Tuesday, Penman, a spokesperson for Hamilton police, told inthehammer.com that both the city and the force’s outreach teams are “at the Whitehern encampment working with residents to connect them to supports and encourage compliance with the City’s trespass order.”

Monica Ciriello, the City’s director of bylaw and licensing services, said “multiple issues” on the site, especially an assault and stabbing on May 26, led to the issuing of the trespass orders and the current actions. “The actions being taken at the Whitehern encampment are a direct result of continued safety concerns in the encampment, which have included an assault of a member of the general public, a stabbing and reports of flammable materials.”



Lambert said police and the City are using “deception” in their approach. Though the police and City say it is voluntary, if residents refuse to move, they fear getting evicted by bylaw officials, he explained. 

“There’s a narrative that’s being pushed by (Hamilton police and municipal law enforcement) that the movement that’s happening right now is ‘voluntary,’ but in fact, if you talk to the people in the encampment, they don’t feel they have any choice in the matter,” he said. “They feel that if they say no, they risk having all their stuff thrown out. So it’s either you move your camp to a more isolated place, or you try to stay together as a community and have bylaw come and throw out all your stuff.”

Lambert said some people who have been evicted are shuffled from one park to another. Police are moving people out in groups of between two and five tents in different locations where tents had already been over the last two years, he explained.

“Police refuse to allow people to stay together as a big group,” he said. “Some residents feel a lot of concern that when they get moved to these new locations, it’s just going to be the same story again, police and (bylaw officials) will be … telling them to move a second time. So there’s a lot of uncertainty for residents on what will happen in the wake of them being displaced.”

Lambert said the situation is “a bit confusing.” He said some residents at the Whitehern site are moved to encampments in the city where they were previously told to leave. In addition, he said there is also a “teardown” at the Woodlands Park encampment, though he doesn’t have much details about that incident. 

“There’s no clarity on when people would be moved,” he added.

While bylaw staff will do the enforcing of the orders, he said Hamilton police will “facilitate” that.

So far he believes 10 people at the Whitehern encampment have been moved since 27 trespass orders were issued on May 25. He thinks about 50 people may still be encamped there.


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