Forced encampment eviction in Prince George: serious human rights violation

September 18, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – Office of the Federal Housing Advocate

The Federal Housing Advocate was alarmed to learn that the City of Prince George forcefully cleared the Millennium Park homeless encampment. This forced encampment eviction with no safe and adequate housing alternative amounts to a serious violation of human rights.

The forced eviction of people taking refuge in Millennium Park ignored the fact that this is a crucial survival space for the city’s unhoused and unsheltered residents. The Advocate is also concerned that residents may have lost important survival equipment and significant personal belongings in the process of the eviction.

This action also seems to have been taken without sufficient preparation for the effects of the clearance on residents of the Moccasin Flats encampment, which is still lacking in basic services, and the additional burden it will cause on social services like hospitals.

The Advocate understands that this action was coordinated by the Prince George Director of Public Safety with assistance from RCMP and fire services. This raises the ongoing concern that the City of Prince George is relying too heavily on policing and emergency services in their approach to residents who are unhoused and unsheltered in their city.

The actions taken by the City of Prince George also violate the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Advocate echoes the concern of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations that these actions are a “manifestation of structural and systemic racism, with over 70% of the unhoused individuals being Indigenous.”

Canada has acknowledged that housing is a fundamental human right and that housing is essential to the inherent dignity and well-being of the person. All Canadian municipalities have a responsibility to uphold the human rights of people living in encampments.

It is highly disappointing that these actions have not been adopted since the Advocate’s open letter to the Mayor and Council of April 11, 2023.

As such, the Advocate calls again on the Mayor, Council and city officials to:

  • adhere to and promote the application of the human rights principles contained in the National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada;
  • recognize the distinct rights of Indigenous peoples and include them in the development of policy approaches to encampments;
  • undertake a meaningful process of engagement with encampment residents, regional First Nations leadership, service delivery providers, and First Nations organizations;
  • provide encampment residents with access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation facilities, electricity and heat; and
  • de-emphasize the use of law enforcement as the primary response to encampments.

The Advocate recognizes that other levels of government have a role to play.

The Advocate welcomes the ongoing efforts of the province to work with the city to provide additional housing and shelter before the onset of winter and encourages the Government of British Columbia to continue these efforts.

The Advocate calls on the federal government to use its influence to protect the human rights of encampment residents. More specifically, the Advocate urges the federal Minister of Public Safety to look into the actions of the RCMP in Prince George and ensure that they are aware of their human rights obligations and are acting in accordance with human rights principles.

The Advocate also invites the Minister of Indigenous Services to visit encampment residents in Prince George. This would demonstrate the deep concerns of the Government of Canada to people who are unsheltered and enable the Minister to hear directly from Indigenous encampment residents about their experiences of continued forced displacement from their land and housing.

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Quick facts

The Advocate’s Review of Homeless Encampments

  • The Federal Housing Advocate launched a review of homeless encampments in municipalities across the country in order to examine the human rights issues facing encampment residents. It is meant to provide the foundation for a deeper reflection on the issues and, in turn, inform the findings and recommendations of a final report. The interim report is due out in October.
  • It has become evident that there is a severe lack of available affordable and adequate housing in municipalities across Canada and that municipalities are on the front lines of this growing and persistent crisis. However, there are municipalities who are working to develop more humane and human rights-based approaches to homeless encampments. The Advocate strongly encourages Prince George to work towards these human rights goals.

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