Sarnia Police Headquarters on Christina Street. ( photo by Colin Gowdy)Sarnia Police Headquarters on Christina Street. ( photo by Colin Gowdy)

Sarnia police comment on homelessness

Chief of Police Derek Davis released a comment about homelessness in Sarnia and what exactly police are able to do about it.

"There has been considerable public discourse pertaining to issues of homelessness, with Rainbow Park becoming a central focus," Davis said. "Facts are important in that conversation, along with clarification of the limits of what police are and are not empowered to do."

Davis said Sarnia police "does not intend to make arrests or physically remove encampment residents" unless there is a court order authorizing them to do so.

"This position has been taken in consultation with SPS (Sarnia Police Service) legal counsel and is consistent with recent court decisions and police agencies in other jurisdictions," the police chief stated. "There has been no blanket refusal to take any specific action, but rather to convey the importance that any such request must be justified in law."

"The Sarnia Police will respect the Charter Rights of all Canadians, housed or unhoused," Davis continued. "We are unable to force Canadian citizens into shelters, addiction treatment, or any other specific destinations outside of voluntary agreement or lawful processes."

According to Davis, the SPS has not received any requests or direction from the City of Sarnia regarding encampments. He added that the police are only one agency, of many, required to deal with the complex issues surrounding homelessness and addiction.

Davis assured that police have been and will continue to remain active at Rainbow Park and other encampment sites.

"Our officers will continue their ongoing work to navigate these issues, as our resources, legislation, and the law permits," he concluded.

The comment was posted to the SPS X account Wednesday evening.

Last week, Sarnia council rescinded its decision to dissolve an encampment at Rainbow Park and move forward with developing a protocol.

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