Advocates for Montreal’s homeless residents escalated criticism of Parks Canada over the weekend, saying a series of local camping events the agency has planned for the summer sets a double standard between those with funds and those without.
Dubbed Learn-to-Camp, the events are described as an opportunity to learn basic camping skills at a cost of $108.75 per tent along the Lachine Canal in the city’s west end.
“I laughed with desperation when I saw that,” said Annie Archambault, who works with a nonprofit that helps Montreal’s vulnerable population, in an interview Sunday.
Rue Action Prevention Jeunesse’s Archambault said the initiative was a bad hoax because the city council often dismantles camps for the homeless that are built on public land.
“It’s offensive and ironic, we’ve been fighting the dismantling of camps for the homeless for years, but the city has zero tolerance,” she said. “If you don’t have money, you can’t (camp), but for $108.75 you can.”
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Parks Canada posted a statement on its website canceling Saturday’s first event without giving a reason for the move, but the same events scheduled for July 23, August 13, 20 and 27 , can still register.
Parks Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Archambault said the remaining dates should be canceled and camping gear given to groups working with homeless people.
“It’s not the activity itself that we’re denouncing, it’s the irony and the location,” Archambault said, adding Parks Canada lacked the sensitivity to deliver the message that public spaces are for people who use them can afford.
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Caroline Leblanc, a community health PhD student at Université de Sherbrooke who studies people who are homeless, agreed.
“It’s tasteless,” Leblanc said in an interview on Sunday.
“Right now there are several people living on the streets who have to deal with repression to find a place to go. It’s a double standard. We promote Montreal as an inclusive city. Something has to be thought about.”
Asked last week about the criticism of the camping activities, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the decision rested with Parks Canada. She also reiterated the city’s long-held stance that camps are not a solution to homelessness.
“It’s a matter of dignity and safety; we will continue to advise against camps,” Plante told reporters on June 29.
For Leblanc, Parks Canada’s initiative reflects only a deeper problem.
“The question isn’t how Parks Canada could have done better, they probably didn’t mean any harm, it’s not just about the city’s emergency response, it’s also the provincial government’s response to the housing crisis and the increase in the homeless,” Leblanc said said.
About 600 households remained homeless after the province’s Moving Day on July 1, according to a report by the Quebec housing advocacy group Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU) released on Saturday. Around 420 tenant households were homeless at the same time last year.
“We see a nice campsite with 15 tents on the Lachine Canal? why can’t we do something like that,” Leblanc said.
Stressing that the dismantling of camps for the homeless is taking a toll on those without shelter, Leblanc urged officials to find solutions to secure Montreal’s public spaces for all.
“No one wants to die in a tent, they want stability,” she said.
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/8964215/parks-canada-cancels-event-montreal-criticism-housing-crisis-homelessness/ Parks Canada cancels Montreal camping event amid criticism of homeless people