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Prince George homeless plan violates human rights, federal advocate says

Federal Housing Advocate Marie-Josée Houle condemned the City of Prince George’s plan to centralize homeless campers at a single site.

Federal Housing Advocate Marie-Josée Houle publicly condemned the City of Prince George’s plan to concentrate homeless campers in the city at the Lower Patricia encampment, named Moccasin Flats by residents.

In a series of Tweets on Thursday, Houle called on the city to abandon a plan to designate Moccasin Flats as the only public place overnight camping is allowed, allowing the city to remove people from other locations, including an encampment in Millennium Park. In a statement to media, the City of Prince George said it intends to provide no services to the encampment, and will return a report to city council on options to increase policing and security at the site.

“I am deeply concerned to hear about the city of Prince George’s dangerous plan to create a centralized, police-monitored homeless encampment at #MoccasinFlats. The proposed plan will violate Indigenous rights and the human rights of people experiencing homelessness,” Houle tweeted. “Forced, prison-like settings for people experiencing homelessness have no place in Canada.”

All levels of government have obligations to promote and protect the human rights of encampment residents, she added, as set out in the National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada.

When I visited Moccasin Flats in August and spoke with residents, many of the conversations here were around the lack of promised amenities for the encampment, personal safety… and the failures to follow up on the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. These concerns must be addressed,” Houle tweeted. “The city and province must take urgent action to ensure that the basic needs of people experiencing homelessness are being met, including sanitation, drinking water, heat, cooling, electricity, harm reduction, health and community services, safety, and more.”

Solutions to the city’s encampment and social issues should come through meaningful consultation with the city’s homeless population, and the groups that advocate on their behalf, Houle added, not be unilaterally forced upon them by the city.

Houle was named Canada’s first Federal Housing Advocate in February 2022, following the adoption of the National Housing Strategy Act in June 2019. Her office is part of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In February this year, her office launched a national review of encampments and human rights violations of residents.