The Adoration of the Shepherds as imagined by Gerard van Honthorst circa 1622 – nothing like this would be permitted in Edmonton in 2023 (Image: Wikipedia Commons).

Edmonton Lawyer Avnish Nanda yesterday posted on social media part of an affidavit in which Edmonton Police Service Staff Sergeant Michael Dreilich swears city representatives agreed with the police department’s plan to roust residents of eight downtown homeless encampments just before Christmas and break up their shelters.

Edmonton lawyer Avnish Nanda (Photo: Nanda & Company).

Staff Sergeant Dreilich swore the affidavit on Friday as part of the City of Edmonton’s response to the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights’ legal effort to get a permanent injunction to stop the plan to spend Monday to Friday this week smashing the camps set up by homeless people because even in this season there is no room for them in the inn.

The coalition, represented by Mr. Nanda and lawyer Chris Wiebe, succeeded Friday in getting what the judge called an “interim, interim injunction” requiring police to wait until at least noon Monday to begin tearing apart the camps to give time for arguments to halt the sweep.

As readers of this blog will know, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi indicated in a statement on Instagram late Friday he had only learned of the plan the previous evening after it was emailed to Edmonton social services agencies by Staff Sergeant Dreilich. 

Mayor Sohi said in his statement he was “worried about how displaced people may take shelter in other spaces that are not safe or appropriate.”

In his affidavit, Staff Sergeant Dreilich said he met on Dec. 14 with Mark Beare, the city’s director of infrastructure operations for parks and roads, Travis Kennedy, general supervisor of open space operations, Darren Grove, city park ranger supervisor, and Troy Courtoreille, manager of operations. 

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

“The City Representatives agreed” with his suggestion the eight encampments should be closed, the affidavit says. “The City Representatives committed resources to established cleanup crews to support closing the Encampments between December 18 and December 21, leaving December 22 as a buffer day.” Everyone reading this knows that Dec. 25 is Christmas Day. 

The statements by Mayor Sohi and Staff Sergeant Dreilich raise the question of when and how the mayor and council were informed, which is now important since some city politicians appear to be trying to distance themselves from the plan in light of the outrage it has provoked among many members of the public. 

It would seem reasonable to ask Edmonton City Council and the Mayor’s Office, if they are really concerned about the danger to unhoused people caused by clearing the encampments during an Edmonton winter and the horrible optics of pushing them into the streets just before Christmas, why they won’t agree to instruct the city’s lawyers not to oppose the injunction on Monday. 

Mr. Nanda’s reference to Staff Sergeant Dreilich’s sworn statement about the agreement of city officials with the mass clearances is part of a longer tweet thread in which he outlines his argument that the city’s own rules do not allow the EPS to unilaterally clear encampments. 

“When City says it has no knowledge or involvement in what’s happening, then (1) clearances are occurring in violation of its own policy, which would be unlawful in my view, or (2) it is not being straight up on what is happening,” he wrote in the tweet thread. 

Given Staff Sergeant Dreilich’s sworn statement, he continued, it raises the question of who is being accurate, the city or the police?

Edmonton lawyer Chris Wiebe (Photo: Coalition for Justice and Human Rights).

“The clearances here required City knowledge and approval, and in fact, received them,” he concluded his thread. “Why is City Council saying the opposite, contradicting the evidence filed in court?”

In a statement also published on Instagram, NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Janis Irwin called on Alberta Attorney-General Mickey Amery “to immediately put a stop to the plans to evict unhoused Edmontonians from their encampments.” 

“The UCP Government must be able to guarantee a safe place for every person impacted before police take action,” they said. “We must stop criminalizing poverty as a province and a community. We can’t enforce our way out of the housing crisis.” 

On its website, the Coalition says: “Despite being aware of the inadequate number of safe and accessible shelter spaces available to a rapidly increasing unhoused population, the City of Edmonton continues to displace and destroy encampments with nowhere for people to go. These actions have resulted in vulnerable people repeatedly being placed in dangerous situations without the most basic of personal belongings or survival necessities, violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and undermining their fundamental human rights.”

There are known to be more than 3,000 homeless people living on the streets of Edmonton and only 1,126 shelter spaces.

So far, there’s no evidence anyone at the City of Edmonton has instructed its lawyers not to continue to argue Monday to allow the police to sweep the streets of homeless encampments.

Join the Conversation


  1. Correction: there are around 3000 people experiencing homelessness but less than half are unsheltered/accessing emergency shelters. The rest are provisionally housed in some way. So not accurate to say 3000 are on the streets.

    1. There is an unknown number of inadequately housed people, such as couch surfers, who are at risk of becoming homeless any day. Estimates of those currently living on the streets are just that: estimates. If this plan to displace the homeless “succeeds”, it might remove an estimated 400 people from their tents. Some will likely face criminal charges when they’re “swept”. At least jails are heated and provide meals. Other people will remain homeless and simply relocate on the streets without any protection from the elements. This police action will increase the risk of hypothermia, amputations and death for those people. That is, unless there is another plan afoot that we don’t know about, like unconstitutionally forcing them into treatment facilities against their will, for an undetermined amount of time, perhaps until the warmer spring months?

      Protests are planned today, along with a hearing.

  2. “Is the intention kind of law-and-order, heavy suppression to clean up the streets and clean up our downtown core or is it really to kind of actually meaningfully produce healthy streets for all?”

    We have the answer. A pre-Christmas eviction of the homeless and destruction of their belongings qualifies as heavy suppression. Leaving these souls with nary a tent or blanket to survive the winter cold surely seems like wishing harm, even death, upon them.

    The denials coming out of Edmonton city hall aren’t plausible or convincing. The refusal to order the lawyers to stand down proves how insincere the excuses are. Edmonton has lost its humanity.

    Danielle Smith went to Dubai to tell Alberta’s story. This is Alberta’s story. Alberta is only too happy to stomp on human rights: consigning the homeless to freeze to death in a province with a $5B surplus. Can you hear the utter silence from the premier and our provincial government? Silent night, unholy night. No dictator oil here.

    1. If the mayor is “worried” he can order the police to stand down until some better solution can be found.

    1. [[[[Michael Keough has to pause in the middle of his phone call from Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest jail to cough and wipe his eyes — there’s black mould on the wall where the phones are, he explains, and it irritates him after a while.

      The 37-year-old is back at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in St. John’s after declining a bail hearing in September and consenting to be placed on remand in the 164-year-old crumbling building, where an ongoing rodent infestation led to an inmate being bitten in his sleep.

      The conditions inside the penitentiary are horrific, Keough said. But outside, he said, they’re worse. Keough is homeless, and he was living in a tent and panhandling before his current stay at the penitentiary. When someone stole his tent and he had nowhere left to go, he started stealing food again, waiting to be picked up by police and sent back to jail, where he’d at least have meals and a bed.]]]]

    2. “If they be like to die, they’d best do it and decrease the surplus population.”—E. Scrooge. (One suspects many UCP/TBA supporters would approve.)

        1. If only they would! I suspect Nigel Farage, Suella Braverman et al would approve of the sentiment, too. Alternatively, they’re welcome to move to the Excited States. The further south, the better.

    3. destitute people in a work house or prison??, for what crime??, or did they make homelessness a crime recently??

      cannot believe i read that statement

      forced labour is such a chinese thing to do, this ain’t chinada yet

      1. Brian: I’m pretty sure Chuck is quoting Charles Dickens, from A Christmas Carol, with ironic intention. DJC

        1. Was meant as a sad commentary. I believe it was Scrooge’s reply when asked for a donation to help at Christmas.

      2. While I’ve seen little evidence of forced labour in Chinese factories, it is extremely common in many places we get our goods from in the west, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Laos… and the Americans actually passed an ENTIRE amendment to their constitution so they can use forced labour in prison, a population per capita that is higher than anyone else in the world. So watch out, we are quite far From “become china” but there are a lot of folks who like us to be more American.

        1. Bird: It’s also worth noting that goods manufactured in American Samoa, where a form of forced labour is also a thing, may be marked “Made in USA.” DJC

    4. Eps told my co worker, who is a random stabbing victim, that the prisons are full i think we need work houses where they can farm the land and feed themselves learn selfreliance and stay away from the city and its vices

  3. It costs roughly $300 dollars a day to jail someone. 3000 people would make that tab $900 000 a day then say multiply that by 2.2 to account for Calgary and the rest of the province. The 2.2 being a kind number. That’s bringing us to $1 980 000 a day times 365 days a year. Is $722 700 000 of the provinces surplus in the billions really going to be spent on cruelty towards people in need? And tba gets its marching orders from Jesus? As you always say “you can’t make this stuff up”.

    1. The insane thing is that Per capita the houseless pop in Edmonton is almost triple the national average. 26/10k v 10/10k people.

      If alberta was a state like many folks here want us to be we would be WELL down the list a full 12 spots beneath Canada, and outranked by the US as well.

      This is despite having a gdp
      Per cap that would place
      Us in the top ten globally. And almost 50% more than Canada as a whole.

      Despite this and perhaps unsurprisingly alberta leads the country in income Inequality, being much higher than the national average.

      As far as helping any of these folks, disproportionately higher #s than any of our allies? The cupboard is bare.


  4. Pigs are known liars. Politicians are known liars.

    Gee, its almost like we’ve let the wrong people run things…

  5. Red Cross, we have an emergency! It’s a tsunami of human cruelty. Please send tents, heaters, blankets, water and food rations to Edmonton, as you would with any other large-scale disaster. Thank you.

  6. O.K. so who is lying or playing with their version of the truth. What is of interest to me, is the people the police officer says were on side with evicting the people in tents, are not elected officials. They are in fact they are bureaucrats. They don’t make policy. Elected officials do and bureaucrats implement it.

    Every one at this point is going to try to cover their asses. My suggestion, every one back off and leave the campers alone and work towards finding them proper housing. Housing isn’t so hard to obtain. Container homes, with mini kitchen and small bathroom run about $25K to $30K . In the U.S.A. their are firms which build them in factories. You can stack them with outside stair cases and viola all could be well. However, in this world most people don’t care about people who don’t have a decent place to live or children don’t have what they need, nor do the mentally ill or disabled. They just don’t want them in their neigbhourhood. Homelessness isn’t something new in Canada. I can recall a series of articles int he Vancouver Sun back in the 1980s about the growing homelessness in Greater Vancouver. Did the government of the day do anything? No and today we are where we are. Add to that the increase in housing costs, lack of increases in income, a little drug addiction no one wanted to deal with back in the day and you get what we have to day. I can recall when the homeless problem started in the DTES, the government didn’t do anything, just First United opened their doors at night so the homeless had a warm place to sleep. The Union Gospel Mission tried to feed people and provide housing.
    As one man said at the time, If you’re not crazy when you hit the streets, you will be after living on them for a year.

    People might want to remember, there but for the grace of god go you or I.

    1. I’m convinced the main reason we can’t have housing has little or nothing to do with how cheaply it can be done but how many construction firms and developers can enrich themselves in the process. The city is massive, the vacancies / abandoned / derelict / air b and b properties are everywhere, we are talking about 3000 people. How is this not a solvable problem?

  7. Pull a play out of the UCP/Trump playbook: Bus them to UCP members’ homes beginning with Smith. They can work on a final solution. Even PP can handle a busload and demonstrate real stuff.

  8. I wouldn’t doubt that the UCP are behind this heartless move. Them, and Take Back Alberta. Where are these homeless people going to go to? Doing good onto others is supposed to be done year round, not just at Christmas.

  9. Better provide the subsidized houses and shelter to the Canadian homeless people rather than the Asylum seekers and Illegal Immigrants. The Canadian Citizens are more deserved than those outsiders.

  10. So many questions….

    Staff Sergeant Dreilich talked to four guys, all heads of departments, NONE councillors or lawyers, on the VERY SAME DAY he sent the email saying the slum-clearance plan would start on Monday the 18th.

    OK. Dreilich got “agreement.” Was he supposed to get agreement from City Council, too? How about the city’s legal staff? If so, did he get it? If not, did he try?

    Another thing. Just how long have the cops and those four “city representatives” been talking about this? When did they start discussing busting up the homeless camps? When did they decide “Let’s do it now”?

    Did somebody with more money than empathy provide the push (“I want them GONE! NOW!!!”) to prompt this crackdown suddenly?

    Just how much of the city’s rules were actually followed to make this street-cleaning operation happen just before Christmas? Where are the reports, the paperwork, the meeting minutes? And why has City Council apparently not seen them?

    Oh wait, why hasn’t Mayor Sohi instructed the city lawyers to stop supporting the police action and stop opposing the Coalition’s injunction? Could it be he doesn’t have that power? Can the Mayor act unilaterally in an emergency? Could it be…is it possible…most of the City Council AGREE with the cops on this one?

    We need a public inquiry, possibly a judicial inquiry, into this mess. Of course, it’ll have to wait its turn behind all the other inquiries that we’ll need to figure out what Danielle Smith thinks she’s doing.

    1. Mike, you have highlighted the important questions here but we don’t need a public inquiry we just need some good old-fashioned investigative reporting by someone. Attend the court proceedings and then hound all these people for statements on why they made the decisions they did, because it’s pretty clear here that conscious decisions were made. Actually ask the city staff, the EPS and anyone else who was involved in any way why did they do this? Here’s a possibility:

      I think everyone would agree that some of these encampments are dangerous and something needs to be done with the most problematic ones. Looking from afar I don’t read that all homeless are being rousted as is implied by some, but varying estimates from 140 to 400 but 134 tents officially identified to be removed so they have zeroed in on the most worrisome ones. I also read claims (including from the shelters themselves) that there are enough shelter spaces for them and of course claims that there are not. This is a he-said-she-said situation but I see a couple of quotes – Hope Mission program director Tim Pasma said that he believed about 140 to 150 people would be displaced and that Hope Mission has the capacity for 150 new people, this number kind of jives with 134 tents – Boyle Street Community Services staff told CBC they believe between 300 and 400 people will be displaced. – In response Edmonton lawyer Avnish Nanda argued that many homeless Edmontonians who live in camps will not go to shelters because of previous bad experiences, concern about religious programming and safety issues – Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood NDP MLA Janis Irwin, “There are not enough shelter spaces, and even if there were, many of these people do not feel safe in them.” So if people refuse to go to shelters and instead create/live in dangerous communities what is to be done? Leave everyone in there to maybe die?

      Pls don’t get me wrong homelessness is serious and needs to be tackled, but just leaving these encampments and people alone is not the answer.

      I’m thinking that even if the city lawyers back off, this is a police operation so the city can’t tell the cops or their lawyers what to do. This has provincial initiative written all over it. I also have a feeling that if it continues to look bad (highly likely given the time of year) then Ms. Smith will wade in, call off the cops and declare herself the hero and city council the bad guys.

      It was suggested to relocate these people to Danielle Smith’s lawn? No that’s too far away from their support network.

      1. We learned yesterday from Smith that gangs are running the encampments!

        I hate to tell her, but the police do not use that word. There are no gangs when someone shoots up a restaurant in the suburbs on a Saturday afternoon. There’s “no danger to the public” from the daylight murders and attempted murders in the burbs, or the reckless driving that follows on suburban streets by the shooters and their victims.

        Never say “gang”! There are no “gang wars”! Do say “targeted”. If police tell us not to worry our precious little heads about the shootings, stabbings and murders in the communities where we live, why are they so concerned about the people living in encampment communities? We seem to have magical fairy dust to keep us safe when the bullets fly. Can we please give some of this magical fairy dust to the homeless living in encampments? They need it more than we do, apparently.

      2. Unfortunately for your argument, those encampments are protected by the literal constitution of this country. Furthermore, as the ragged, starving colonial population we were who only survived by the good graces of the indigenous nations already living here, the idea that we have some sort of floor for housing now, that because you’re not paying a bank or a landlord, it’s not your property; is a disgusting repugnant idea that is a blip in human history. If the city (or the POLICE in this case) deem these communities to be unsafe then they’re obligated to provide an alternative.

        Again, in a city of 985,000+ we are talking about 3000 people. No one is expendable, how is this even a debate ?

        1. Actually Little Bird we’re talking about less than 300 people and of course you’re right no one is expendable.

          Of course yes – the constitution – as Voltaire famously wrote “We are all free to live under a bridge.” These days you may be subject to being robbed, sexually assaulted, or even be killed but you’re free nonetheless. Isn’t that nice…

          Obliged to provide an alternative? We wish. That seems to be the problem, no one seems obliged to do anything constructive towards fixing this. I don’t particularly like the police, actually I mostly dislike them, but I don’t see them to be “obligated to provide an alternative.” Yet they are providing an alternative by suggesting that the highest-risk tents be removed.

          1. If folks have committed crimes, arrest them and charge them with crimes. Unilaterally removing their belongings has RECENTLY been ruled a violation of their charter rights. I didn’t write the charter and I’m not the one that ruled on it, whine at someone else: this a society of laws.

  11. Homelessness is only going to get worse, how about instead of all the new highrise luxury apartments that only seem to be built lately , build some affordable housing complexes, the city is so corrupt, instead of awarding 10 million dollar contracts for a foot bridge over 170 st , when one already existed, that could have went to affordable housing ,instead of lining one of the council’s friends/families pockets …

    1. While I don’t agree that pedestrian infrastructure is a waste of money, especially being we just upgraded the yellowhead for a billion freaking dollars, city hall is run by developers, not council. The city of Edmonton has bought into the lie that real estate speculation, rather than community development is how one builds a thriving city. Don’t even get me STARTED on all the great things that used to be downtown that don’t exist anymore because developers bought the building and built a dead skyscraper instead. Like I don’t know, the longest running live venue in western Canada ? Somehow Calgary has a downtown and heritage properties, with legacy business in them; maybe someone should check in with them.

  12. Oh ho! Now some details are starting to come out.

    The human-rights group Coalition for Justice and Human Rights tried to argue the City’s camp-clearing policy violates human rights, and has already applied to the courts for an injunction to stop the police from breaking up the camps. The hearing for the injunction HASN’T HAPPENED YET; it’s scheduled for 11 January.

    On 14 December, the cops and (apparently) some department heads decided to clear the bums out, thus evading the embarrassment of being told they can’t do that. So the Coalition applied for a temporary injunction on an emergency basis. The timeline is as tight as it can get; if the emergency injunction is denied, the cops can start breaking up the camps one hour later.

    Now, notice the caption under the video in that CBC article. We hear from business owners, cops and human-rights groups about homeless people. (I bet politicians hear most from business owners, second-most from the cops.) Does a light come on? I’m not gonna tell you I’d be out there helping the homeless if there was a camp close to my house. But how hard is it to realize these people don’t want to be out there in a tent?

    I wonder how many homeless shelters we could build and operate with the tax money the oilpatch is demanding for carbon capture? I wonder how Alberta’s finances would have been if Jason Kenney hadn’t slashed corporate taxes by almost $5 billion, repeat BILLION, per year? I wonder when we’re going to elect a government that will treat people as people–not as resources (at best) or a nuisance at worst?

  13. I think the urgent issue is stopping the removal. We can sort out who is or is not lying later. And use rec. facilities, church halls and basements, educational institutions, hotels, whatever…. for back-up if it goes ahead. This is a black mark on all Albertans. BTW, where are the protests and demos mentioned above going to be held?

    1. Absolutely right Patricia, but I expect the removal would stop and then the whole issue left and no improvements. “There we stopped that disaster, now let’s get back to enjoying our comfortable Christmas things.”

  14. Mike J posted a link above to a CBC story that I think everyone should watch and carefully, carefully listen to what the people living homeless say. Even better go and visit encampments yourself and assess the conditions and the opportunities for improvement. I have done this here and it’s pretty clear that this can largely be fixed but not by any single remedy like moving everyone along. The reasons and challenges for the people there are varied and it will take a diverse but targeted effort from different resources to identify each hurdle and get the individual past it. Temporary shelters, counseling of all kinds, more affordable housing, more jobs that pay enough (that’s probably the toughest one), real help getting suitable accommodation, social supports including physical emotional and mental health support, addiction help, and yes – coercion. I see a lot of these things happening – more needs to be done and real effort and expense put into it. Talk to the social workers who work in these camps and they’ll tell you what needs to happen.

    There are a small minority that will not live anywhere with restrictions. How about the young woman who actually has a place to live but is at the encampment because she likes it there better than the place social services found for her? Nice gig in the summer and I guess she’ll be spending more time in her rental place come winter. We can claim uncaring motives by the city, police and fire depts about cleaning up some of these encampments but I’ve seen them and even judging from the Edmonton photos they look like freaking dangerous situations. Even the people living there say that…

    1. Yeah one has to wonder what kind of material conditions would drive someone to live in such circumstances.

      Right ?

      1. Well Little Bird if you read my post I noted some of the problems/causes/hurdles which I think homeless people need help with to overcome. Some are fairly easy, some are more difficult but I say it’s doable in our society.

        Regarding the young woman who has a place to live, she seemed to say she liked the homeless camp for the social aspect, camaraderie if you like. So maybe we should add to our list a better, friendlier society where people like each other more. This does seem appropriate this time of year seeing all the stressed out people fighting (actual fist-fights) over parking spots for their SUVs.

        1. I feel like you don’t understand my point about material conditions, especially wrt the underage person living in an encampment “for
          Fun”. Im willing to make
          A long bet that this person isn’t living at home anymore for some pretty dark reasons , if not then their peers likely definitely are. The fact that they’ve found “camaraderie” on the streets really suggest actually that they felt unsafe or unaccepted in their previous life indoors.

          Even if it’s “just” folks with mental health problems living out doors, how is that not an indictment of our society that this is the best option we have on offer for them ? In one of the richest jurisdictions in the entire history of the world !? With a gdp per cap that’s almost TRIPLE of the rest of the country ?

          Absolutely shameful. No


          1. Little Bird, I know this thread is old but today’s news about another homeless person being burnt to death in their tent on Christmas Day I had to come back here. I don’t think you understand my point either about the material conditions in homeless encampments. I’m trying to talk and give suggestions about getting homeless people into a better place – you like many others want to talk about GDP gaps, overreach by the police, a society of laws & lawyers. All true things but what so many of you are doing is just helping the homeless to stay homeless while talk, talk, talking.

            The city of Victoria BC has a small program team who identifies and works directly with homeless people to get them back on their feet, housed and with the tools & supports to stay that way. They are basically just coordinating the resources available but targeting what’s required for each individual to get their life to a more comfortable place. This is slowly working through it as it targets individuals and their individual requirements but it’s getting people into homes and back on their feet – other initiatives are required to go at the diverse reasons people are homeless.

            Support like food and shelter on an emergency basis is important but what bugs me is how little concrete work is being done on longer-term real help. We can and should debate the fundamental problems with our society but how about we actually do something too?

  15. Ok, so now all have agreed to proceed with closing down the most high risk tents, including agreement by the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights — a group that advocates on behalf of people living in tents in the city. The conditions agreed to basically ensure no one is going to be “sent outside to die” as some have said, including blog commentators on here. But the critical situations have to be dealt with.

    This is a provincial & federal government-caused problem, don’t let them blame it on the municipalities which are trying to do what they can with what they’ve got – some better than others but trying…

    1. No, it’s still bullshit.

      If people are committing *crimes arrest and prosecute them for those *crimes.

      We are famously a society of laws, including those on rights of human dignity and personal property, and unreasonable overreach by THE POLICE*

      We agree with nothing, you are projecting.

      1. Maybe it’s “bullshit” and maybe the CJHR had some other things they wanted but they’ve agreed to the plan – their lawyer said so.

        1. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, lawyers argue cases on what they think is winnable , not what is morally just or even the most just interpretation of the law. Sacrifices like this are common, (in politics also, if you haven’t noticed) that doesn’t make it right, and I don’t have to agree or like it.

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