Lawsuit aims to end city of Edmonton’s policy of evicting homeless people from encampments when there is nowhere for them to go

A lawsuit is being launched by a local human rights group that claims Edmonton’s policy of evicting homeless people from encampments violates their civil rights. 

The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights (CHJR) filed the lawsuit against the city of Edmonton on Monday and held a press conference Wednesday on the steps of city hall to announce it. 

The group is seeking an injunction that would stop the city’s current policies on encampment clearing before the winter. A date for the injunction hearing is still to be scheduled. 

According to Chris Wiebe, one of the lawyers on the case, the city has displaced more than 1100 encampments over the past two years. Wiebe also claimed that the city displaced at least 25 encampments in minus-20 weather in 2023. 

Lawyer Chris Wiebe speaking to the media outside of city hall, announcing the CJHR's lawsuit against the city of Edmonton's policy of evicting homeless people from encampments. Photo by Duncan Kinney. 

The lawsuit alleges that the city’s current policies violate multiple charter rights of homeless people and put them at an “elevated risk of injury, and even death, from exposure to extreme weather.” The lawsuit claims that the current policy drives city staff to take sources of warmth like tents, propane tanks and propane powered heaters and stoves, as well as other property like identification and bikes, away from unhoused people when they evict them from encampments.

Frostbite amputations hit a 10 year high in Edmonton last winter and 156 deaths were attributed to homelessness last year in Edmonton. That was down from the peak of 222 deaths in 2021. 

The statement of claim argues that the city’s current encampment displacement policy breaches unhoused peoples’ charter rights to freely assemble and associate; right to life, liberty and security of the person; right against unreasonable seizure, right against cruel and unusual treatment; and the right to equality. 

An Edmonton police officer oversees an eviction of homeless people from near the Bissell Centre in summer of 2022. Photo by Duncan Kinney. 

The city’s solicitor Michelle Plouffe said in an emailed statement that the city is carefully reviewing the lawsuit and is prepared to discuss its bylaws, practices and commitments in court. “While we will not debate the legal elements of the case outside the courtroom, we will simply say that we are preparing to vigorously defend the City’s balanced approach to keeping people safe while working with our partners to seek long term solutions to ending houselessness in Edmonton,” wrote Plouffe.

According to Homeward Trust, a non-profit which advocates and provides supports for unhoused people, as of August 2023 there are 3,127 unhoused people in Edmonton. Around 1380 of those homeless people either sleep in emergency shelters or sleep outside. Despite former mayor Don Iveson’s pledge to do “whatever it takes” to end homelessness in 2020, the problem has still not been solved. 

In an emailed statement, current mayor Amarjeet Sohi says he takes this issue very seriously, but claims that it’s beyond the capacity of the city to solve alone.

“I understand that encampments can impose safety hazards for those living in them and the communities that are impacted by encampments. When an encampment is removed, efforts are made to connect people to appropriate supports available in the community. The safety and well-being of all Edmontonians, including our city’s most vulnerable who seek shelter in encampments, remains a top priority for me,” wrote Sohi.  

The Coalition for Justice and Human Rights will be represented by lawyers Chris Wiebe from Engel Law Office and Avnish Nanda of Nanda & Company Law with research support from law professor Dr. Anna Lund and lawyer DJ Janjua. 

The city has until Sept. 18 to file its statement of defence.

Nanda & Company Law say they will be posting regular updates, as well as information on how interested members of the public can contribute to covering legal expenses, online at

A city of Edmonton worker cleans up after an eviction of unhoused people from an encampment near the Bissell Centure during the summer of 2022. Photo by Duncan Kinney.