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Toronto’s ombudsman to investigate homeless encampment clearings | CBC News

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Toronto’s ombudsman says he’s launched an investigation into the city’s clearing of homeless encampments this summer.

Ombudsman Kwame Addo says his office has received complaints that raised concerns about the city’s approach during the evictions.

The city and police cleared four homeless encampments in three parks this summer, but clashed with residents and their supporters.

Police used the riot squad to clear three of those encampments.

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The city says the makeshift living quarters were dangerous, and police have said they were supporting city staff and carried out enforcement as a last resort.

The ombudsman says the investigation will focus on how the city planned the clearings, engaged stakeholders and communicated with the public.

Brad Ross, spokesperson for the City of Toronto, said in a statement on Tuesday that the city it will cooperate fully with the ombudsman’s investigation.

“The City will ensure the Ombudsman is provided with the entire scope of work undertaken by staff on this complex and important matter as it worked to ensure some of the city’s most vulnerable residents had access to safe, indoor accommodation and services, while keeping parks safe and accessible for all,” Ross said in the statement.

The ombudsman says the office does not have the mandate to review the conduct of Toronto police officers.

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Toronto police officers on horses are seen as supporters and occupants of a homeless encampment in Trinity Bellwoods Park await a possible eviction on June 22, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The city cleared encampments in Trinity Bellwoods Park on June 22 and in Alexandra Park on July 20. It cleared part of the encampment in Lamport Stadium park on May 19, and then went back to clear it fully on July 21.

On Sept. 17, the city announced in a news release that it spent nearly $2 million to clear the encampments. The city said the money was spent to enforce notices under Ontario’s Trespass to Property Act, provide security, carry out landscaping and erect fencing in the three parks. 

Trespass enforcement cost a total of $840,127, while landscaping and remediation of park grounds for public use cost $792,668 and fencing cost $357,000.

Police, including some on horseback, pushed dozens of people out of the parks this summer. Several people, including encampment supporters, were injured in clashes with police and several others were arrested and charged.

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