Parks Canada cancels Lachine Canal camping event amid criticism from homeless advocates

People who work with Montreal’s homeless population are welcoming Parks Canada’s decision to cancel this weekend’s planned camping event along the Lachine Canal.

The organization had set up workshops over the next five weeks for people to learn basic camping skills, charging a $108.75 registration fee per tent.

Parks Canada’s website doesn’t provide a reason for the cancellation, and the same event scheduled for July 23, Aug. 13, 20 and 27 appear to still be taking place.

Advocates for people experiencing homelessness in Montreal have complained about a double standard, arguing that the city prohibits people without homes from pitching tents on public lands for safety reasons. People camping unlawfully could face fines between $100 to $1,000.

“The city of Montreal applies zero tolerance towards people who camp, but here, for $108, we will teach you how to camp on land that people experiencing homelessness have used in the past and have been asked to leave,” said Annie Archambault, of Rue action prévention jeunesse.

James Hughes, president of the Old Brewery Mission, said he was pleased with the cancellation of the event, adding that the workshop sent an “unacceptable” message.

“It means that public places, public parks, are only for people who can pay, and not for people in extreme poverty and homelessness,” he said. “This event was destined for complete failure.”

He is calling on authorities to better consider cohabitation in Montreal’s public places, particularly in the context of the housing crisis.

“Until we can find the means for 100 per cent of Montrealers to find affordable housing adapted to their needs, in our opinion, we must be much more tolerant of people who camp in parks like the Lachine Canal.”

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