Group that sued Edmonton over homeless camp closures ordered to pay

The group that sued the City of Edmonton over the closure of several homeless camps has been ordered to pay part of the city’s legal fees.

The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights was ordered to pay $11,500 by a Court of King’s Bench justice, J. D. Martin, on March 14.

Martin decided that because the case concerned a “national issue of importance” and the group “achieved a degree of success” by securing an interim injunction and drawing significant attention to the plight of unhoused people, the court could exercise its discretion to order no or reduced costs to the unsuccessful party.

The Coalition had asked that each party be responsible for its own costs.

The City of Edmonton’s legal fees totalled $42,626. It sought $25,000 in costs, which it argued “appropriately balances the resources required to defend the litigation, the public interest nature of the litigation, and the Coalition’s not-for-profit status.”

It also argued costs were needed to deter suits “of little merit advanced by parties with no real stake in the litigation.”

On Jan. 16, Martin denied the Coalition public interest standing, or the ability to bring forward the suit on behalf of homeless Edmontonians as a matter of public interest.

In deciding whether the Coalition should pay the city’s costs, the justice noted, “The Crown is not bestowed with limitless funds and should not be forced to respond to meritless challenges without recompense. Yet, a balance must be struck between encouraging meritorious suits and dissuading frivolous ones, to ensure ordinary citizens can access the justice system on ‘matters of consequence to the community as a whole.'”

The Coalition sued the city in August 2023, claiming that evicting people from encampments and throwing away their belongings violates their rights. It also claimed Edmonton violates other Charter rights of homeless people with bylaws that prevent them from camping on city-owned land, despite there being an inadequate number of shelter beds. The Coalition asked for a permanent injunction preventing the city from clearing camps when there are too few accessible shelter beds.

Upon learning the city planned to clear a number of camps mid-December, the Coalition asked for and was granted an interim injunction, which temporarily prevented the city from closing camps while the matter was dealt with in court.

Martin created a list of conditions under which camps could be cleared, including the city and Edmonton Police Service ensuring there is sufficient shelter space.

Dozens of people were forced to leave eight camps which were classified as “high risk” by officials and shut down in December and early January. 

CTV News Edmonton has reached out to the Coalition and city for comment. 

Originally Appeared Here

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