Victoria tent city faces legal showdown

VICTORIA -- Chris Parent says he was offered shelter space that includes a bed, bathroom and heat, but he's staying put in his tent on the grounds of Victoria's courthouse.

See Full Article

Housing Minister Rich Coleman says the B.C. government has homes for every courthouse camper but some are refusing to leave, forcing him to go to court in an attempt to take down the camp. Coleman said he's already started looking for landscapers to clean up the grounds.

Parent is one of the more than two dozen people named in the government court application to evict the remaining homeless campers from the tent city occupying the lawn of Victoria's courthouse. A court date is set for Thursday.

"We are making a political statement," said Parent, who pitched an eight-person yurt at the downtown courthouse last November and adorned it with aboriginal art and Tibetan flags.

"Some of the people here have slipped through the cracks and we're looking for a place where we could feel at home," he said in a recent interview at the camp. "People don't want to leave here."

The camp has grown from a few tents last spring to more than 100 people as many of the homeless moved from alleyways and parks to the highly visible, manicured grounds of the downtown courthouse.

Victoria city bylaws permit camping overnight in parks if shelters are full, but require people to pack up every morning. The courthouse lawn is provincial property and not subject to the city bylaw, which saw the homeless set up more permanent living arrangements on the property.

But Coleman said the government and Victoria social agencies have provided housing for every camper, turning a Boys and Girls Club, seniors residence and youth jail into homeless shelters. He said the government is working to provide homes for vulnerable people in the camp.

"I think there's some people down there that have really been asking for a confrontation from me for about two or three months," said Coleman. "Once we take care of the vulnerable people, we'll have to deal with the people who are there for the wrong reasons."

He said the government has already estimated it will cost at least $350,000 to begin repairs on the courthouse lawn and shrubs.

A notice of application filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week says people living in the camp are trespassing and have defied repeated requests and orders to leave the property, despite the government offering other housing.

The application alleges the campers have compromised health and safety in the area by creating fire hazards, defecating in and around the camp, leaving used needles and syringes in the area, and engaging in criminal activity, such as drug trafficking.

None of the allegations made in the application have been proven in court.

Kelly Newhook said anti-poverty groups will be in court opposing the government's injunction application to evict the campers.

"We believe, and we believe Canadians believe, people have a right to live and have a home," said Newhook, executive director of Together Against Poverty. "People have a right to live and build community."

Dan McTavish, resident services director for Victoria's Cool Aid Society, said the courthouse campers are drawing public attention to the issue of homelessness.

"By gathering in one spot, they've really focused, they've really brought the whole discussion to a point, and they've forced a reaction from all of us," said McTavish, whose society is working with the government to convert a seniors residence into a new shelter.

Over recent months the community that developed among the campers convinced many to accept the offers of shelter provided by the government and social agencies, he said.

Bernie Pauly, an addictions scientist and associate nursing professor at the University of Victoria, said the camp puts a human face on the issue of homelessness, especially the lack affordable housing for many people.

"It definitely highlights and goes beyond what people might normally see or understand about homelessness," she said.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Manchester attack a tough test for British PM Theresa May

    World News CTV News
    MANCHESTER, England -- It's a moment all leaders dread: Standing on television to tell the nation there has been a bombing -- and another attack might be coming. British Prime Minister Theresa May, an unelected leader in office for less than a year, handled this week's bombing in Manchester with a sombre dignity that reassured many Britons, and will likely give her a boost when voters go to the polls on June 8. Source
  • Trump choosing caution over chaos on first big trip

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- In his first big tour on the world stage, U.S. President Donald Trump is choosing caution over his usual brand of chaos. The early morning Twitter rants that so often rattle Washington have disappeared as Trump travels through the Middle East and Europe. Source
  • Daughter of B.C. winery owner jailed in China seeking Ottawa's help

    Canada News CTV News
    The daughter of a British Columbia couple jailed in China last year while on a business trip is calling on the Canadian government to take action and bring her parents home. Lulu Island Winery owner John Chang and his wife Allison were arrested in China in March 2016 for allegedly underreporting the value of their wine, Chinese officials said. Source
  • Dog dies after being found buried alive in Quebec

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    MONTREAL — An injured dog found buried alive on Montreal’s South Shore appears to be in stable condition as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigates what happened to the animal. The Monteregie SPCA says the dog, a Boxer, was extremely dehydrated when it was first brought in for care Tuesday and couldn’t even lift its head. Source
  • Lethbridge mom fired while caring for son with cancer welcomes proposed law

    Canada News CTV News
    A Lethbridge, Alta. mother who was fired while caring for her son with cancer is applauding new provincial legislation designed to make sure other parents like her don’t lose their jobs during one of the toughest times of their lives. Source
  • N.B. government signs collective agreement with teachers, includes wage hike

    Canada News CTV News
    FREDERICTON -- The New Brunswick government says it has reached a five-year contract with the province's teachers' federation. In a statement Wednesday, the province says the deal will cover nearly 8,000 teachers, supply teachers, vice-principals and principals and will provide annual wage hikes of one per cent. Source
  • Queen Elizabeth visits victims of Manchester terror attack [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    British authorities say an 8-year-old girl, Saffie Roussos, was among the 22 who died in the Manchester bombing. Medical officials say 12 children under the age of 16 were among those injured in the suicide bombing attack at a pop concert in Manchester, England. Source
  • British officials enraged after New York Times publishes photos detailing Manchester suicide bombing [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MANCHESTER, England — British police arrested two more people and searched a new site in Manchester suspected of links to the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, as British authorities complained bitterly Thursday about investigation leaks blamed on U.S. Source
  • Obama gets rock-star welcome in Berlin, praises Merkel

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- Barack Obama received a rock-star welcome in Berlin as he appeared at a public debate Thursday with Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he praised as one of his "favourite partners" during his presidency. Security was tight in front of the German capital's iconic Brandenburg Gate, where Obama and Merkel appeared on a podium before thousands of people attending a gathering marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Source
  • Georgia: Sheriff suspends self after indecency allegation

    World News CTV News
    ATLANTA -- A Georgia sheriff recently arrested by an officer who accused him of exposing himself in a park has suspended himself for one week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports DeKalb County Sheriff Jeff Mann emailed sheriff's office employees Tuesday, saying he imposed the maximum penalty for conduct that "has a tendency to destroy public respect. Source