An encampment in Edmonton in December of 2023.
An encampment in Edmonton in December of 2023. Credit: Occupy Calgary / X Credit: Occupy Calgary / X

Brandi Morin, a Cree/Iroquois/French multimedia journalist was arrested by the Edmonton Police while covering a raid on an outdoor encampment of unhoused people.

Morin was on assignment for Ricochet Media.

With temperatures plummeting in the city, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) have dismantled at least eight encampments of unhoused persons, citing reasons of safety.

According to Ricochet, Morin was covering the dismantling of an encampment in the area of 95 St. and Rowland Rd. when she was told by an EPS officer to leave the area. She identified herself as a journalist covering the dismantling of the encampment and was then arrested and told that she could be charged with obstruction of justice and held for up to 72 hours in jail.

Morin sustained a minor injury to her wrist while being detained by the EPS. She was taken to a police station and released later that day.

“Morin repeatedly identified herself as a journalist, offered a letter of assignment from her outlet, and filmed everything up until the point she was handcuffed and had her camera taken away,” reads a statement in a post on Ricochet’s website.

In a video posted to X after her release, Morin explained that the camp was home to mainly Indigenous people, and that the EPS’ execution of the sweep was violent with at least one man sustaining injuries after being tasered by police.

“The police are here continuing to dismantle the Indigenous camp for unhoused native people in a sweep of dismantling that the police have been tasked with due to an injunction brought by the City of Edmonton to deal with these issues,” Morin said. “What happened earlier happened suddenly and violently. It was not expected by the people here.”

Morin said she was thinking about those displaced from this encampment.

“I’m just thinking of the people here who are being displaced who’s belongings are being thrown into the dump,” she said, adding that she would continue to follow this story.

Journalists have a right to cover the news

Morin is an international award-winning freelance journalist. In the US she has won the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for her coverage of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-spirit Peoples (MMIWG2S). She has won the Ken Fiklow prize from the journalism rights organization PEN Canada, and Amnesty International human rights reporting award among other recognitions.

Ricochet Media in a statement said that they were shocked by the EPS’ treatment of a journalist working on their behalf.

“We are dismayed and shocked that the Edmonton Police Service would arrest a working journalist. Doubly so that they would threaten to charge her with a criminal offence. We demand her immediate release, and the dropping of all charges, consistent with established legal precedent in Canada regarding the rights of working journalists,” the Ricochet statement reads.

The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) likewise denounced Morin’s arrest and called for her release.

“These tactics cannot be allowed to continue,” reads a statement from the CAJ on X.

Calls to end encampment raids

Members of the Edmonton community are calling on Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and city council to end the raids and dismantling of the camps.

A letter from Public Interest Alberta signed by hundreds of individuals highlights the inadequacies of the existing shelter and social support systems in the city especially in terms of supporting Indigenous unhoused persons.

Part of the letter reads as follows:

“We are formally requesting that you immediately convene an emergency City Council meeting to explore the use of your powers as Council to halt the violent and disruptive decampment of hundreds of community members from the only shelter they currently have. At least until the treaty rights and human rights of our neighbours and family can be determined, we implore you to use your power and moral authority to call for a moratorium. We know you understand the hardships experienced by community members in the shelter system. We know you understand these hardships rival and often outweigh those experienced when staying in encampments.”

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Nick Seebruch

Nick Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022. He believes that fearless independent journalism is key for the survival of a healthy democracy. An OCNA award-winning journalist, for...