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Tory calls charter challenge over shelters ‘disappointing’

April 27, 2020

CP24 speaks to Jessica Orkin about the Charter challenge

Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, has said that he finds it “disappointing” that five public interest groups have launched a Charter challenge over the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in homeless shelters and respites.

The application, which alleges that the City is violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code, was filed on Friday.  The applicants are seeking to have the courts deal with the application expeditiously.

As CP24 notes,

In an open letter sent to the city prior to filing the paperwork, the lawyers said that the municipality must “impose and implement mandatory standards in shelters and respites requiring 2 metres of physical distancing between beds and ending the use of bunk beds.” They said that in situations where such standards cannot be met, the city must also “hasten its provision of alternative safe shelters.”

CP24 spoke to Jessica Orkin about the City’s efforts to address what the applicants have called the “deplorable” conditions in the City’s homeless shelters and respites:

Jessica Orkin, who is a lawyer representing some of the organizations in the charter challenge, told CP24 on Sunday morning that there are “thousands of empty hotel rooms in the city right now” and that the city has to expedite its efforts to move shelter residents into those sort of spaces amid a COVID-19 pandemic that is quickly turning into a “crisis” within the shelter system.

She said that a failure to do so will leave dozens of shelters in a precarious position in which it will be “impossible” to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 should cases present themselves within the building.

“The city has moved over 700 people out of the shelters and into hotels. That is about 30 a day and at this rate in order to clear out the shelters to a level that is of a basic public health standard we are looking at months and month so we are saying that the courts need to take a look at this, intervene and press the city to allocate all the resources required to make this happen in a rapid and appropriate way,” she said.

Read the CP24 article here.


Jessica Orkin

Practice Areas

Constitutional Law, Public Interest Litigation