Their properties need to be expropriated for the Riverwalk, but Brampton has left these residents in the dark 
Alexis Wright/The Pointer

Their properties need to be expropriated for the Riverwalk, but Brampton has left these residents in the dark 

Brampton’s historic Churchville neighbourhood experienced intense flooding in 2022 due to its location along the Credit River. The homes damaged in the event were reminders of the risks that come with living in a floodplain.

The City’s downtown faces the same flood risk from the Etobicoke Creek. As a result, the Province has designated downtown as a Special Policy Area (SPA). It’s a classification meant to protect human life, property and infrastructure from threats posed by extreme weather events, such as the Great Flood in 1948 when Brampton’s commercial centre was left completely swamped. The risk of another catastrophe has since become increasingly common due to climate change. The designation has been in place since 1986. 


Brampton’s Great Flood in 1948 completely submerged the Four Corners area around Queen and Main streets when the Etobicoke Creek spilled its banks after heavy rains.

(Region of Peel Archives)


Brampton’s downtown residents and business owners have had to come to terms with the possibility of another extreme weather event that could cause widespread damage due to insufficient flood mitigation infrastructure in the area. The Downtown Brampton Flood Protection Project (DBFP) is the City’s plan to reduce that risk while creating “opportunities for revitalization and ecological benefits.”

The ambitious initiative to redevelop the Etobicoke Creek watercourse through the city centre into what has been dubbed the Brampton Riverwalk, aims to simultaneously mitigate the risk of flooding, while creating a beautiful, ecologically friendly corridor that would combine urban and natural features. The concept is to open this long-buried watershed and draw residents and visitors to the banks of a newly created riverfront destination.


Renderings of the transformative Riverwalk plan. 

(City of Brampton)


In order to move forward with this effort, the City needs to expropriate nine properties—either fully or in part. Expropriation is a process that allows the government to acquire private property if it determines obtaining the land is necessary for a purpose involving the good of the greater public. 

Due to its clearly disruptive nature in potentially forcing people out of their homes, government agencies rely on expropriation only when absolutely necessary. Providing long lead-times to those who could be impacted is standard practice if expropriation is being pursued so affected residents can plan accordingly. 

However, the owners of one of the nine affected properties claim there has been a lack of communication and transparency from the City around the project and the impact on their home. 

Karen Taylor and Steven Burlock, are facing partial expropriation of their property. The Brampton residents told The Pointer they have tried to oppose the expropriation by the City for years, but said despite many attempts to reach out to the City and council members, they have received no answers about the expropriation process.

Late last year, Burlock said there had been “no communication” from the City, including Councillor Paul Vicente, regarding any concrete timelines about the DBFP or the expropriation of their home. 

“I’d like to know more about the schedule,” he said. “If they have detailed design and what their implementation and phasing is over the course of the next four-five years, where are they starting, what would we expect… Zero. Nothing. He hasn't responded.” 

The Pointer asked Councillor Vicente for comment regarding the claim that he has not responded to the request by residents for information on the process for their home’s expropriation. He did not reply.

During the October 11th Committee of Council meeting, the expropriation of seven of these properties was approved. Both Burlock and Taylor told The Pointer they were not told ahead of time the matter was going to be on the agenda, despite it directly dealing with their property. Two more properties, a condominium and house were added to the list in January. 


Properties approved for expropriation in October.

(City of Brampton)

The additional properties added in January. Further study is needed by the City to determine whether full or partial expropriation is required.

(City of Brampton)


The Pointer has asked the City for confirmation on whether it gave property owners notice of that meeting and in what form it was given, and has not yet received a response. 

The City was also asked what measures it has taken in terms of communication with the owners of the properties listed for expropriation to facilitate the DBFP, including whether impacted homeowners have been provided with potential timelines for the project, and if it has received any opposition to this part of the process. No response was received to these questions. 

The site of the DBFP is also used by residents living out of encampments. Brampton and the Region of Peel's current housing support and shelter systems are operating far past capacity, with the Region failing to uphold its “do not turn away” policy. Should the City of Brampton need to move these residents, it could lead to potential legal challenges, similar to what was seen in Kitchener. In that case, a Justice blocked the Region of Waterloo’s efforts to kick encampment residents off a property because without adequate shelter system capacity to house the approximately 50 residents of the encampment, the Region would effectively be removing them from their home without anywhere else to go, violating their Charter right to shelter.

While it is clear the City is moving in the direction of seizing the listed properties through expropriation—whether those homeowners are on board or not—it is unclear what it plans to do regarding these unsheltered residents. The Pointer asked the City how it will accommodate those living out of encampments in the area, as well as if it will provide them with alternative living arrangements. The City did not respond to The Pointer’s request.


Five of the seven properties needed for full or partial expropriation to facilitate the Riverwalk project are residential homes.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


A report received by council at its October meeting highlights the importance of the DBFP, which is the foundation of the Riverwalk project that will “revitalize and catalyze the transformation of Downtown Brampton” by eliminating flood risk through mitigation measures and allowing for the removal of the SPA restrictions. 

These mitigation efforts include widening the existing Etobicoke Creek concrete channel, lengthening the existing bridges across the widened channel from Church Street to the CN rail line, realigning Ken Whillans Drive to the west and creating additional space for floodwaters in the widened valley corridor north of Church Street.


Looking north over the Etobicoke Creek from the Scott Street bridge.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


In November 2020, the Government of Canada committed $38.8 million toward the DBFP.  As previously reported by The Pointer, the $38.8 million commitment came after the City’s past expression of interest request for $105 million in funding in 2018 for the Riverwalk project was rejected, with Ottawa saying their decision was due to high demand for projects in 2019 and 2020. 

As part of the federal investment, the City of Brampton is committing $58.2 million toward the flood mitigation. The approved 2023 Capital and Operating Budget stated $20 million would go toward the development of the Riverwalk. The 2024 approved budget lists $87.4 million for the Riverwalk, including the $28.4 million from the federal subsidy and $58.8 million from the Stormwater Charge Reserve. 

This funding only covers the flood mitigation aspects of the work. Revitalizing the corridor into the inviting greenspace displayed in the numerous renderings will cost millions more according to previous estimates. There is no indication of where this money will come from or how the City plans to pay for it should government funding not materialize. A timeline for Phase One of the project indicates the City will have several years to come up with the extra cash. 

A timeline on the City’s website indicates construction on flood mitigation will begin in 2025 and is anticipated for completion in 2028. 


(City of Brampton)


The Pointer reached out to Infrastructure Canada to ask if there are any requirements for the DBFP to be completed within a certain timeframe or if the City of Brampton is required to start construction by a certain date as part of the funding agreement.

The Department said it “does not directly manage or implement the projects that are funded through its agreements.” It also said Infrastructure Canada continues to follow “all approved projects closely to ensure that they comply with program terms and conditions, and federal funds are disbursed as costs are incurred.”

When asked for details about terms and conditions of the funding arrangement, the spokesperson said the agency “does not share specifics on individual funding agreements,” citing partner confidentiality.



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