Residents of People's Park received a warning from city staff Thursday morning. According to volunteers at the park, a compliance officer told residents they must leave, or the police will remove them.
Since the announcement of the July 17 deadline to vacate People’s Park, also known as Meagher Park, the city and Halifax Regional Police have been adamant that there won’t be a repeat of last year’s eviction catastrophe—this time around they’re using a “civilian-led” and “empathy-based” approach.
During the nearly two weeks since the deadline, staff and street navigators have been visiting the park to try and arrange alternative accommodations, and so far, nobody has been evicted. The city has stated multiple times that police will only be used as a last resort.
Councillors haven’t been informed of any change to that plan, Coun. Lisa Blackburn tells the Coast on Thursday. We asked HRM if staff are threatening the unhoused with police enforcement without councillors’ knowledge. A spokesperson for the municipality confirmed in an email that a compliance officer was at People’s Park on Thursday morning to ask residents if they had plans to leave and “remind them of the need to vacate the park,” but did not confirm or deny that the compliance officer threatened the residents with police presence.
At the July 6 Board of Police Commissioners meeting, Chief Dan Kinsella said police won’t remove anyone from the park unless they have somewhere to go. The Coast asked the HRP on Thursday what the criteria is for removing people from parks, and what constitutes as having somewhere to go. In response, public information officer Const. John MacLeod told us police policies are not for the police to share, writing in an email “as has been explained before, response to homelessness is a city-led effort. I encourage you to speak with HRM Corporate Communications for the overall protocols.”
For HRM’s part, Blackburn says the city has rented a truck to transport People’s Park residents and their belongings to the designated outdoor sheltering location of their choice. There are spaces available at three of the four designated sites.
According to a source close to the situation, the threat of police enforcement is just that—a scare tactic to convince people to leave. If that’s true, a compliance officer is making empty threats. If it isn’t an empty threat, then the HRP and the city will have a lot more to answer for. In the meantime, Halifax Mutual Aid is asking supporters to “stand by” and wait for a call-out approved by the park’s residents to defend the space. As of Thursday, there are approximately five residents at People’s Park.
Halifax Regional Council is holding a special meeting on Tuesday, August 2, where “Homelessness in Halifax Regional Municipality” is the only item on the agenda.