A group of people living in tents under the Ville-Marie Expressway near downtown Montreal is taking the Quebec government to court over efforts to force them out.
In a story first reported in The Rover, the group argues that they have a right to life and health and pushing them out violates those rights.
Jacco, one of the residents who doesn’t want his last name used, is frustrated.
“Please understand that these people are people who really need a place, who really need a chance in their life,” he stressed.
They’ve been told they have to leave by April first to allow workers to repair the overpass.
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David Chapman, executive director and founder of Resilience Montreal, a community group that supports the unhoused, believes forcing them out is wrong.
“The question is move out where?” he wondered. “Yes, of course, they could scatter to a construction site, or an abandoned building, or a dark alleyway or the forest,” he told Global News.
He pointed out that would mean they’d likely be alone and hard to locate in cases of drug overdose or other health emergencies, making it unsafe for them.
“It could be the hastening of the end of their life.”
That’s why the Mobile Legal Clinic, a group that provides pro-bono legal service to the homeless, is trying to get a permanent court injunction, on behalf of the residents, to stop the eviction.
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According to the lawsuit filed in Quebec Superior Court Thursday, although the Quebec government is responsible for their relocation, “no alternative or relocation workaround was presented to its members with a view to eviction,” and that, “their forced eviction from the camp without protection measures, and during the winter months, represents a major disturbance.”
“The loss of the support network formed by the community constitutes a trauma that can have aggravating effects for people who are already highly vulnerable.”
Last fall the ministry delayed the eviction to give the residents more time to find a place to go.
Some have found apartments but, according to Chapman, between 15 and 20 others are still looking.
On top of that, he explained, shelters ban people for any one of three reasons: “First, if you’re under the influence of something, second, if you have a pet with you, third is if you have a partner,” he pointed out.
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He says at least one of those reasons applies to those remaining at the encampment, so they’re stuck.
In the meantime, they are trying to get as much support as they can get.
On Thursday a team from the west-central health authority’s Connexion outreach unit visited the camp with officers from Montreal police’s Community Consultation and Outreach Team ((ECCR).
The court case is expected to be heard March 22.
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