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

  • Ont. teen subject of Amber Alert wasn't actually abducted, police say

    Canada News CTV News
    MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Police in Peel Region west of Toronto say a 15-year-old girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert on Monday was not kidnapped as initially suspected. The alert had cited witnesses as saying the girl had been forced into a van in Mississauga by two men. Source
  • Okla. shooting victim saved by plate in neck: investigators

    World News CTV News
    TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Investigators say a metal plate in an Oklahoma man's neck saved him from paralysis or worse when he was shot. Robert Thurman told 911 dispatchers Friday that his sister Gretchen Thurman shot him, The Tahlequah Daily Press reported. Source
  • South Korean court denies request to arrest Samsung Group chief

    World News CBC News
    A South Korean court on Thursday denied a special prosecutor clearance to arrest the head of Samsung Group, the country's largest conglomerate, amid a graft scandal that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Source
  • Virginia man who killed noted musician and his family is executed

    World News CBC News
    Virginia has executed a man convicted of killing two young girls and their parents during a New Year's Day home invasion more than 11 years ago. Authorities say 39-year-old Ricky Gray was pronounced dead at 9:42 p.m. Source
  • Alaska volcano erupts again, sends ash cloud to 31,000 feet

    World News CTV News
    ANCHORAGE, Alaska - An Alaska volcano active since mid-December has erupted again. Bogoslof Volcano in the Aleutian lslands erupted at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday and sent up an ash cloud estimated at 31,000 feet. The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised the aviation threat code to red, the highest level. Source
  • Hardworking Winnipeg server gets life-changing $1,000 tip

    Canada News CTV News
    A Winnipeg restaurant server thought one of her customers was out to lunch when she received a life-changing $1,000 tip on Saturday. Jennifer Peitsch choked back tears of joy as she asked if the woman’s extravagant gratuity on an $87.15 meal at Mongo’s Grill was indeed real. Source
  • Dramatic video shows two armed robberies in central Alberta

    Canada News CTV News
    Two separate, but equally frightening, armed robberies were caught by surveillance cameras in central Alberta. During the past month there have been a number of armed robberies in the area, which are being investigated by RCMP. Source
  • So long from White House: Obama aims final messages at Trump

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — Barack Obama stepped behind the White House podium for the last time Wednesday, fielding questions from the crush of journalists crammed in for the occasion and offering assurances to Americans watching on TV. But at times, his answers seemed aimed at an audience of one: the man who will replace him at noon Friday. Source
  • PM Trudeau should protect Kathy Katula from trolls: Tory MP

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Justin Trudeau must protect real Canadians like Kathy Katula from Liberal trolls and haters, a Conservative MP says. Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre came to the aid of Katula — the 54-year-old Buckhorn, Ont. grandmother who made headlines for her emphatic plea to the PM to not pile the carbon tax onto her as she’s already towing the poverty line — and said Trudeau needs to as well. Source
  • WikiLeaks' Julian Assange backs away from extradition pledge

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange retreated from his pledge to accept extradition to the U.S. if Chelsea Manning was granted clemency, arguing Wednesday via his lawyers that what he was really asking for was an immediate pardon for the ex-Army analyst. Source