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'I’d give them a one-way ticket out of here!' Sarnia councillor reacts in wake of police investigation at homeless encampment


The City of Sarnia will not clear out a homeless encampment in a city park anytime soon.

The decision comes after a heated debate and multiple legal opinions — it also came just an hour before a serious stabbing occurred.

On Tuesday, tents lined a ridge at Rainbow Park, just south of the downtown.

The encampment is home to dozens of people experiencing homelessness. Many, including Justin, told CTV News London they are tired of shelters.

“I just want to be in a home safe. Be able to wake up comfortably and have my own privacy,” Justin said.

But the encampment is a concern for nearby neighbours and a source of political division.

Sarnia Coun. Bill Dennis did not mince words and wants the encampment gone immediately.

Justin, seen on May 7, 2024, has been living at an encampment inside Rainbow Park in Sarnia, Ont. for the last two months. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)“If I had it my way, I’d give them a one-way ticket out of here. It would be cheaper in the long run. And, it would be better for the citizens of Sarnia,” he said.

But at a meeting Monday, lawyers told councillors they don’t have the right to tear the camp down.

In turn, Mayor Mike Bradley said a new plan to act is being drawn up which will involve support from a Lambton County committee.

“We need to deal with this. And, we need to mitigate the problem,” Bradley explained. “We can’t solve it, but we can try to mitigate it. And that takes a community effort.”

Yet within the hour of the council ending on Monday, the stabbing occurred. On Tuesday afternoon, the Sarnia Police Service announced a 33-year-old man is facing an attempted murder charge.

Police, who were back in the park Tuesday for an unrelated matter, said the victim will recover.

But Dennis said the stabbing is another example of why the park needs to be cleared. He contends some inside need help with drug addiction, not a place to camp.

Coun. Bill Dennis is seen in Sarnia, Ont. on May 7, 2024. (Sean Irvine/CTV News London)“There is misguided empathy for these people,” he said. “I believe in tough love. There are rules in life.”

Dennis said the police need to “step up” for the safety of residents and nearby property owners.

But Bradley countered officers will not act without a court injunction. It is a move he said that would not even be considered if the province took the lead on homelessness.

“We’ve got 444 municipalities and yet they’re all struggling alone to figure this out,” he explained. “Bring us together and let the province take the lead. We will be there to support them.”

Back at the camp, support and compassion is all Justin is asking for.

“I’d like for those people to be in our shoes and see how pain really feels,” he said. “I mean by pain, no place to live.” Top Stories

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