Ombudsman Toronto Releases Early Recommendations to Improve Fairness of City’s Encampments Response

Ombudsman Toronto Releases Early Recommendations to Improve Fairness of City’s Encampments Response

July 14, 2022

Toronto’s Ombudsman today (July 14, 2022) released an interim report with early recommendations that he says the City should implement immediately to improve the fairness of its response to encampments.

“Clearing encampments is extremely disruptive and in some cases traumatizing to the people living in them,” says Ombudsman Kwame Addo. “Given how important this issue is, and the fact that the City is continuing to clear encampments, we are releasing an interim report with early recommendations that we believe the City must act on immediately.”

Ombudsman Toronto’s interim report focuses on how the City coordinated its response to encampments and encampment clearings. “The coordination of the City’s response is foundational. If it is not fair, nothing that follows can be,” says Addo. “People living in encampments must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Ensuring that the City’s protocol for responding to encampments is consistent and that staff have been properly resourced is a crucial first step.”

The interim report outlines a number of initial fairness problems that Ombudsman Toronto has identified, including that:

  • The City’s protocol that should guide its encampment response is outdated and not consistently followed by staff. The City is aware that it’s outdated, but has no detailed plan to guide its updating, which raises a concern about inconsistency and lack of transparency.
  • The City has not defined the mandate of its Encampment Office, the office that appears to be tasked with coordinating the City’s response to encampments, and the Office is under-resourced, impairing the City’s ability to take a larger, systemic view of its encampments response.

In response to these findings, Ombudsman Toronto has made eight early recommendations it believes the City should implement immediately, including:

  • Developing a detailed plan outlining how and when it will update its protocol, and committing adequate resources to ensure the update’s timely completion.
  • Holding consultations with the public, including people with lived experience in encampments, and incorporating their feedback into the protocol’s update.
  • Clearly outlining the Encampment Office’s role and mandate, sharing this information publicly, and ensuring it has enough resources to effectively carry out its duties.

Making these findings and recommendations to the City has required a significant amount of work for his office, notes Addo. His team conducted 50 interviews over the course of more than 100 hours and reviewed approximately 11,000 documents from the City. He also notes that members of his team spoke with 43 people who have lived in encampments or have been unhoused and visited encampments themselves to better understand people’s experiences.

However, Addo stresses that this work is not finished. “I believe the recommendations in this interim report will improve the fairness and accountability of the City’s actions and will have a positive impact on those living in encampments today,” says Addo. “There is more work to do, though. We will release our final report with further recommendations at the earliest opportunity, understanding that this is an important issue for all Torontonians, but especially for those living in encampments.”

An ‘At a Glance’ document can be found below and an Ombudsman Toronto’s backgrounder is available at ombudsmantoronto.ca.

At-A-Glance

Forum of Canadian Ombudsman
LinkedIn