What is the goal of next week’s intended Christmastime mass roust of downtown Edmonton homeless encampments by city police, and why did they unilaterally spring it on city officials and social agencies while ignoring the city’s encampment response strategy? 

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The EPS plan to start Monday morning busting up eight encampments in the city core and dismantling their 134 “structures,” by which the police presumably mean mostly tents, has been temporarily stalled until at least noon that day by an interim court injunction.

In the meantime, though, nobody seems to know exactly who came up with the idea of spending five days sweeping the streets of homeless people with no place to go during the Christmas season, but the whole thing reeks of UCP-style politics.

Peace on Earth? Good will to men? Not if they’re poor and living on the streets of Edmonton! This sounds more like something out of the pages of the Grapes of Wrath!

And with well over 3,000 homeless people living on the streets of Edmonton and only 1,126 shelter spaces, the result has the potential to cost lives among the city’s most vulnerable citizens. 

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi indicated last night he had been blindsided by the news of the city police force’s plans, which were emailed to Edmonton social services agencies by Staff Sergeant Michael Dreilich on Thursday. 

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee (Photo: Edmonton Police Service).

When I found out last night, I had immediate questions around how vulnerable Edmontonians will be supported,” Mr. Sohi said on social media. (Emphasis added.) 

“I have been advised that the City of Edmonton is not leading this response and has only been asked to provide cleaning services,” he added weakly. 

“The City of Edmonton endeavors to take a balanced approach based on the assessments of risks to individual encampment residents, the community and the public,” the mayor’s statement continued. “Given the number of people potentially impacted in this case, I am worried about how displaced people may take shelter in other spaces that are not safe or appropriate.

“That is why we need permanent solutions, such as investments in affordable housing, permanent supportive housing and improving our social infrastructure through mental health and addictions support.”

At least the initial comments yesterday on Mayor Sohi’s Instagram account suggest many of his core supporters are not impressed by this milquetoast approach to the unilateral announcement by the police. 

Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Bradley Lafortune (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Many police officers, especially beat cops, are also rumoured to be unhappy with the plan. However, Edmonton Police Chief Dale McPhee often appears to work closely with the UCP Government and has said in the past of the camps that “you’ve got to take them down and keep them down.” 

Public Interest Alberta said in a news release yesterday that the plan to drive homeless people from their encampments is an infringement of their Charter rights, will make the situation worse on the ground, and will bring the city’s already strained emergency health system closer to the breaking point.

“We are demanding EPS stand down from its plan and to stop criminalizing homelessness on our streets,” said PIA Executive Director Bradley Lafortune. “There are not enough shelter spaces in our city, and those we do have are not adequate to support people who need safe and secure spaces to survive.”

Health Sciences Association of Alberta President Mike Parker (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The CBC reported that late yesterday Court of King’s Bench Justice James Neilson granted what he called an “interim, interim injunction.” The injunction requires Edmonton police to wait until at least noon Monday to begin breaking up the camps. Justice Neilson is expected to have ruled by then on the application by the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights to halt the planned evictions. 

According to PIA, “multiple sources within City Hall, service providing organizations, and city administration have independently confirmed that this mass decampment decision has not followed existing process and protocol under the City’s current encampment response strategy.”

Mike Parker, president of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta which represents close to 30,000 health care workers, said “the problem is immediate and severe and will have a direct impact on the members I represent in addictions and mental health, community care, EMS, and professionals across the health system.” 

Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Janis Irwin (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“Our members are on the front line of an already overrun health care system,” Mr. Parker explained. “We’re already red-coded over and over again. We’ve got hospitals that are continually nearing 150 per cent capacity with zero capacity in ICU. We can’t displace more people and we can’t put more pressure on the system.”

It will be interesting to see if the emails flying among Edmonton City Council, city administrators and city (?) police can determine who actually pulled the trigger on this plan. There is talk the UCP Government wants to take over the response to urban encampments from the city.

There have also been suggestions this is the first step in the UCP Government’s scheme to implement a coercive and possibly unconstitutional drug “treatment” program advocated under premiers Jason Kenney and Danielle Smith.

“Many of these people live in my area,” said Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Janis Irwin. “They are our neighbours. They have nowhere to go. There are not enough shelter spaces, and even if there were, many of these people do not feel safe in them. This is cruel. This is not the answer.”

Join the Conversation


  1. Congratulations on your Highlands Clearances, Edmonton!

    Surely this is what people who cannot afford a $2500-a-night hotel room in Dubai deserve, am I right, Premier Marie Antoinette? Let them wander from inn to inn, looking for a cheap room in a stable.

    Halifax city hall allows ice fishing tents for its homeless population, but the hearts in our capital are either two sizes too small or frozen lumps of eastern slopes coal.

  2. As I said yesterday; in dirty Danni’s world (and just to press the point, in the world of all conservatives of whatever stripe) there is no unitary government. There are only competing forces.
    For the belligerents, that is, the conservatives and the UCP, force is the only way.
    Process is for pussies!

    1. This is the EPD sending a rousing “Fu** you, we’re MAGATs” to City Council, but they would not have the stones to be so cartoonishly evil without backing from the Province.

  3. The following quote has been attributed to both Mahatma Gandhi and former President Hubert Humphrey: “The measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members.” Regardless of who actually said it, there rings a tenor of truth that many souls hear.

    1. Matthew 25:4 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

      These ghouls don’t serve god they serve Mammon

  4. Meanwhile, out East, Mayor Mike Savage of Halifax has cancelled the traditional New Year’s Day Levee at City Hall, stating it just didn’t feel right to proceed with this even in the face of a homeless encampment on the Grand Parade just out front. Instead, city council approved redirecting the $8,500 cost of the Mayor’s Levee to a community organization that provides food to those experiencing homelessness.

    The Mayor is quoted in the CBC story as saying, “This is really about the folks — our neighbours … human beings, not bad people, they just can’t afford a place to live, making sure that they get a bit of food throughout the season”. Too bad EPS doesn’t have this attitude.

    I should also mention that some caring individuals there have donated ice fishing shelters — which are, apparently, better insulated than ordinary tents — to those forced to sleep outside due to lack of shelter space or appropriate housing.



    1. Would Edmonton city council grant permission to citizens to donate ice fishing tents for the homeless and allow them to be set up on city land for the winter months? Nah, probably not. That would be humane. As we all know, the word “humane” is restricted to unhoused and abused animals in Alberta. Those maritimers, eh, always rocking the boat.

      Of course, the province owns land in the capital with taxes in arrears. Perhaps those properties could be seized by the city and put to use housing the thousands of citizens presently in danger of freezing on the streets.

      The idea of donating new, warm socks, is open to anyone, though, and Haligonians are onboard with that, too. What could stop the citizens of Alberta from joining in locally, and bringing along new socks, sleeping bags, hats, mitts, gently used winter boots, parkas and snow pants?

      Instead, the bizarre word “cleaning” is used, as if people are filth that should be swept away and discarded like trash. I swear this province has taken all its ideas from the TV series Silo, in which “cleaning” means being sent outside to die.

      Halifax city council has even donated the funds for an annual levee at city Hall to a charity that feeds the homeless. My own MP is hosting a New Year’s levee. I’d like to see that money applied to a levee for the homeless, where it might do some good. Surely my MP, who is a man of faith, serves all of us.

  5. No doubt, there is a UCP riding nomination in the future for Edmonton Police Chief McFee. McFee has now established his bona fides as far as the UCP are concerned with his sickening treatment of the homeless. Cruelty is the point of this exercise.

  6. This is unconscionable and destructive. Until adequate supports are in place, clearing the encampments will only serve to wreak havoc, increase crime, increase the workload on our already bare bones social and Healthcare supports, and inevitably cause sickness and death among those who are displaced.

    Where will these people go? Will they be arrested for being unhoused? Will families be forced to separate and be forcibly placed? Who decided this was a good idea? I haven’t heard a single person speak out in favor of this strategy – at least without the caveat of putting more supports in place and informing outreach programs and hospitals.

    My thoughts are this is a UCP, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” based idea, and has no founding in good citizenship or respect for other persons.

  7. Simply stated, McFee has to go. Now. His growing power and influence is beyond worrisome and he seems to operate without any oversight whatsoever. His mindset and tactics wouldn’t be out of place in the, uh, first half of the 20th century. (Does anyone else see a slight resemblance between McFee and Hermann Göring? There, I said it).

    What is the actual process to remove a police chief? I’m assuming it’s a purely internal process, designed to withstand any “outside” (as in public) interference….

  8. “I have been advised the City of Edmonton is not leading this response,” said Mayor Sohi. “Advised” by whom? Is the Edmonton Police Service not a creature of the City? I’m not sure what the arrangement is but it sure looks like the creature of the sovereign government (no pun intended) is getting an intervention by the ruling party—the municipal government chartered by authority of the provincial government is being told what to do with its municipal police force.

    Clearing out tent encampments of homeless citizens in the City is on hold pending a more thorough and, hopefully, thoughtful court judgment. The City already has policy in place regarding homeless citizens but apparently it is underfunded—there aren’t enough shelter spaces, not even half enough. Is that peculiar to Edmonton alone, or is it the same story in other Alberta municipalities? Germane to this case, I should think, is, if this is an action of the UCP government, does it apply equally to all incorporated towns and cities in the province? Would Edmonton have any case that’s its being unfairly —and maybe even unconstitutionally—singled out?

    Two things: first, recall Danielle Smith ruminated about convening an ‘advisory council’—or, in effect, a ‘shadow city council’ for Edmonton— composed of UCP candidates who failed to win seats in the City’s provincial ridings in last May’s election (UCP rival New Democrats swept all these ridings). Second, what cares Danielle Smith about constitutionality if she thinks she can supersede the Canadian Constitution (Alberta is actually still a sovereign federate of Canada)?

    Nah, make that three things: What cares Danielle Smith about being the least bit politic?

    I smell politically partisan spite and, during the celebratory season of Christians of which TBA puppeteers count themselves, —like comedian Deven Green’s “Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian—, sarcastic mean-spiritedness. Now, I wonder who could that be…

    Revenge, spite, mean-spiritedness and persecution of the poor and dispossessed in the coldest, most dangerous, most vulnerable time of year: now, isn’t that just the epitome of Jesus’ message to all the people of the world? Of course not!

    I pray the rural religious right-wingers who voted for the TBA think about that while saying their own prayers beside their nice warm beds tonight—and every night!

    Or, maybe if their consciences won’t let them sleep (and that’s a big “maybe”), watch a few episodes of Betty Bowers on YouTube for some excellent satirization of Christian hypocrisy.

    I happen to know what it’s like being homeless in Edmonton in the winter—although, mercifully, it didn’t last too long. I accompanied a registered nurse as we escaped the economic punishment MacMillan-Bloedel inflicted on Port Alberni’s IWA Local 1-85 in 1981. The conductor in Edmonton Station told us a hundred people were disembarking trains from of either direction every single day—all looking for work in the booming but employee-poor Wild Rose province. It was evening, we walked around looking for a hotel and, after fending off, well towards sunrise, many single men in cars who wanted to know ‘how-much-for-the-girl,’ we found one suitable for this upstanding Christian lady. It wasn’t much above a manger. Myself, I had learned low-life skills always at my disposal: a hundred bucks and no place to go but the public library to warm up and catch a few winks ‘reading’ the newspaper, then any cafeteria with bottomless stainless-steel tea-pots of boiling water and free ketchup, salt and pepper (to make ‘tomato soup’). In a few days we secured a brand new rental at the very northern limit of the city (farm fields across the road) by presenting ourselves as a married couple (the landlord made plain his moral rectitude and, anticipating this, she wore her nurses uniform because she’d got a job on day-two) and, in a few more days I was working, too. I know what it’s like waiting for a bus at a few tens of degrees of freezing. But outside in a tent? Lord have mercy!!

    I’ve heard UCP politicians’ rhetoric about addictions but, just in case any of them are reading this, I’d like to remind that not all homeless people are addicted or became homeless because of addiction, and that not all addicts are bad people who need to be cowed into treatment, then released onto the streets with no place to get warm except in their dreams. In particular, I’d like the TBA to know that Jesus would not count any of the homeless bad people. Not a one.

    And so my prayers today are for homeless people everywhere in the winter, but especially those unfortunate enough to be homeless in Edmonton during the birthday celebrations of someone some officials appear to forget—that is, f they ever knew.

  9. Certain obvious and intellectually uncomfortable and ideologically dangerous [for the economically privileged status quo] avenues of inquiry are left unexplored and should not be left unstated as they have long standing deep historical roots, as do the eviction moratoriums themselves. That is, for example,

    “Criminalizing Poverty: The Criminal Law Power and the Safe Streets Act”– Jackie Esmonde


    [[[[“State disciplinary activities reinforce market discipline by visibly suppressing forms of “deviant” conduct which threaten the norm of commodity exchange. These activities also direct the very real insecurities that people feel in conditions of high
    unemployment and lean production against portions of the population constructed as wrong-doers.”

    “It is not a coincidence that these divisions first appeared during the European transition to a capitalist economy, since these divisions of worthy and unworthy poor reinforce the interests of capital accumulation. During this transition, the working class had to be “made” and workers had to be convinced to submit to a new mode of production.”]]]]–pp. 79-81

    See also, “Reading the Criminalization
    of Poverty”–Val Marie Johnson



  10. Am I the only one who finds it odd that the EPS misquoted Sir Winston Churchill in its email to social agencies about the plan to sweep the homeless from Edmonton’s streets and destroy all their worldly belongings in trash compactors?

    How is a wartime mis/quote appropriate to describe a plan that willl remove meagre shelter from the poorest of the poor, likely consigning many to death from exposure for the crime of poverty?

    Who in the higher realms of power thought that Churchill himself would have led the charge to attack his own citizens? I don’t expect that proposed statue of Churchill in our public square to last very long at this rate.

  11. “blindsiding’ the Mayor and others in Edmonton is most likely the whole idea. Create chaos at Christmas. Perhaps it is time the police chief was fired. Police chiefs don’t set policy, that is the job of Mayor and Council. Of course if the police do destroy the spaces of the unhoused, perhaps trailers could be provided for them at the Police chief’s residence. that wouldn’t be fair to his family, but get them a hotel room somewhere.

    Given how cold Edmonton is, why any person would make a decision to remove people from the only shelter they have is beyond the pale of things.
    As some say, “cruelty is the point”.

    I suspect the police chief and his political supporters,, UPC–hello, want to embarass Edmonton’s population and ruin their Christmas. When people die on the streets, the UPC and others will most likely blame the Mayor and Council of Edmonton.

    One solution might be for Mayor and council to “borrow”: what ever stadium they play hockey in and have people move their tents there, oh and melt the ice first. Its not like the Mayor would have had any choice. Its either they use a large space or the people die.

    You really have to be a piece of work to do what the Police Chief is trying to do. Lets hope the courts rule in favour of those in the encampments.

    1. Honestly it seems more like he’s saying the framework existing is the same thing as it being directed from the *mayors office* and he presents no evidence of this. City management and the mayor and council are not the same entity and it wouldn’t be the first time city management acted without notifying the ELECTED representatives of the city, unless I’m missing the forest for the trees, which I’m not; the affidavit lists who the city “representatives” are and it’s not the elected representation.

      Been a long time since I was on the dumpster fire now known as X; so obviously I’m not going to issue a rebuttal but the guy is more full of it than the brooks feedlot w 70000 head of cattle. My wager is the mayors office is telling the truth, the EPS and city management are doing an end run to try and embarrass the mayor just before Christmas.

  12. That smiling picture of Gollum looks like he just found his precious. The one ring to cruel them all.

  13. So Mayor Sohi didn’t know till an email came out on Thursday? And the email went from the Edmonton cops to social services agencies? Did the cops CC the Mayor and city council?

    Most important, just whose idea was this?

    There’s probably not much Sohi can do about it. Last I heard, even the Edmonton and Calgary governments were very much subordinate to the provincial government—which means, if Sohi fussed too much, he (and the whole council!) could be removed by the UCP government. It’d look really bad, but c’mon; do you think Danielle Smith or Rob Anderson would care?

    That this is the first big step in the UCP “force ‘em to stop drinking” so-called program is easy to believe. Where they’re gonna find detox beds for 3,000 people is beyond me—or even 1,000. What are homeless people supposed to do?

    Or maybe that’s the other reason for this plan. The good, upright citizens of downtown Edmonton can have “peace on earth” and “goodwill to [our kind of] men” once the riff-raff are out of sight.

    I dunno, this whole idea stinks of “blame the victim” and “let ‘em die.” There’s a lot of anti-poverty feeling in Alberta. Charles Dickens put it poetically when he had Scrooge say of the poor, “If they be like to die, they’d best do it and decrease the surplus population.” What’s the 21st century equivalent?

    1. Mike J Danysh: I wouldn’t doubt that the UCP are behind this cold hearted move. Where will these homeless people relocate to? The UCP’s treatment of the less fortunate in Alberta is abysmal. If you are not one of their corporate backers, or friends, the UCP won’t care about you. The UCP are channeling Ralph Klein.

      1. Hi Anonymous. I’m pretty much convinced now that Danielle Smith’s UCP/ TBA 2-headed monster is much worse than Ralph Klein ever was. Despite the damage he did, Ralph never actually tried very hard to dismantle Medicare. SMith’s vindictive campaign against Alberta Health Services and her blind faith in Barry Cooper’s separatist delusion, make her worse than Klien, or even (Gawd, I can’t believe I’m saying this) Jason Kenney.

  14. First off, the Chief has a close resemblance to the fictional Lex Luthor, criminal genius of Superman fame. How on earth did he get a contract renewal when his policies seem to come out of Johannesburg in the 1970’s.

    In any event this stinks of Danielle’s urinary crap policy. Surely Edmonton can repel this truly revolting reactionary policy, by an out of control police force. This eviction may well lead to the death of any number of homeless.

    1. I did not realize his previous gig was in Prince Albert. Thinking about it now, the treatment of indigenous folks, particularly those without homes, makes a LOT of sense.

  15. There was a time, at the time of the onset of the AIDS crisis in the US, there was a practice, that few denied, called the ‘self-cleaning oven’ effect, where those who were suffering from AIDS or HIV would, eventually, succumb to the illness. The belief was that the health crisis would take care of itself once all the AIDS afflicted died off. What we are witnessing in regard to the homelessness crisis is the same mindset. If you deny the homeless shelter, and anything else resembling decent and humane treatment, they will succumb to the hostile conditions of their state, and the problem takes care of itself.

    I suspect it’s seen that the homelessness crisis is just part of a larger basket of crises … the opioid epidemic, the mental health crisis, and pretty much every other social ill that one believes in out in the wild. Wipe out the homeless and the rest will be taken care of, as Nature runs its course.

    The UCP and their fellow travelers, being the sociopaths they are, will gladly believe that the rise of corpses in the streets is just evidence that the best policy is to do nothing and let that Invisible Hand work its divine magic.

  16. One wonders about the quality of Alberta mayors – Edmonton’s blind sided about home less encampment clearances and Calgary’s recently blind sided about Hanukkah celebrations. Perhaps they should be paying closer attention to things.

    However, the homeless problem is more a provincial issue. For whatever reasons, the provincial government does not seem to want to increase permanent shelter, spaces particularly in Edmonton. So, we have homeless people everywhere downtown.

    Our current governments are failing us and the provincial one at least can not claim financial constraints, while posting multi billion dollar surpluses. Oddly they seem to have more money to pay for more police and sheriffs. So, I suppose it is a question of priorities. Enforcement is a priority, but anything that might help people who clearly need it is not as much of a priority.

  17. That 2 billion dollars of tax money given to hockey billionaires for a Hockey palace would have been enough to buy every homeless person a house, but hey in Batshit Smith’s Alberta, there’s only love for oil billionaires.

  18. This is as heartless as it gets. I wouldn’t doubt if the UCP are behind this. More supports for the less fortunate are needed in Alberta, but the UCP are doing nothing on that front.

  19. This is certainly not an Edmonton problem the cruise we were on in October from Vancouver to San Diego and back certainly opened my eyes. There was a huge camp in Vancouver near the cruise terminal and in every major city we visited they were under every bridge and overpass. The Americans didn’t seem to mind them there.

  20. A comment about Edmonton and Calgary’s respective being ‘blindsided’ by this goes to a much deeper problem, that is they have decided to cow-tow to the UCP and their disheartening whims.

    In the aftermath of the last election (AKA. the Debacle of 2023) Queen Danielle declared that she would convene parallel governments of defeated UCP candidates from Edmonton and Calgary to represent these cities interests to the province. Of course, the interests represented will not be those of the elected governments of those cities. Rather, it will be the interests promoted by the councils of the UCP’s defeated candidates and their fellow travellers.

    So, what the elected mayors and councils of Calgary and Edmonton going to do? They are going to take the abuse, distract as much as they can, and hope that Queen Danielle smiles on them.

  21. I live in NE Edmonton and have to deal with these people on a regular basis. It’s disgusting and makes where I live unsafe. These people don’t need affordable housing…if you gave them that they’d just destroy it. I have no idea what the solution is, but they don’t seem to want help, just to ruin neighborhoods and commit crimes. I doubt very many of these people preaching about human rights are forced to live next door to an encampment and have their streets used as toilets and drug dens. How many of them have had their homes broken into and items stolen by these degenerates? It would be nice to see some similar level of concern for the tax payer who just wants to able to ride their bike around their neighborhood, take their kids to the park, invite people over, walk to school or take the LRT without having to deal with this garbage. There should be more supports for these people but what we are currently experiencing should not be tolerated.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.