B.C. judge says Victoria homeless camp must be dismantled

Judge says Victoria’s so-called ‘tent city’ is unsafe for those living there and for the neighbouring residents and businesses


VICTORIA – A British Columbia judge has ordered the shut down of a camp on the lawn of Victoria’s courthouse where about 100 people have been living since last fall.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the B.C. Supreme Court said in a 40-page decision released Tuesday conditions have deteriorated at the so-called tent city.

“I have come to the conclusion that the encampment is unsafe for those living there and for the neighbouring residents and businesses and cannot be permitted to continue,” he wrote.

The ruling grants the province an injunction to shut down the camp over the next several weeks.

It was the second time the government had applied for an injunction. Hinkson denied the original application in April, ruling the government hadn’t proved it would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction wasn’t granted.

Conditions changed between the two injunction applications, Hinkson said, adding that violence and criminal activity at the camp have “markedly increased” in recent months.

“There is evidence that members of an organized and criminal street gang have been present at the encampment, and at one point were resident there,” he said.

Neighbours have also reported seeing drug paraphernalia, used condoms and evidence of rats in and around the site in recent months, the ruling said.

Hinkson ordered residents of the tent city to leave as soon as they can and move into housing made available by the province.

He also ordered all fences and obstructions in the camp to be removed immediately.

Everyone will need to have moved off the site, and all structures and possessions must be taken away, by Aug. 8 at the latest, the ruling said.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman has said the government will have housing available for every camper by that date.

The province has already provided more than 190 spaces for Victoria’s homeless since last October, including shelter and living units at a former youth jail, a community centre and a seniors care facility, Coleman has said.

In the next three days, anyone without a place to live must identify themselves to provincial officials so they can get help finding housing, the ruling said.

The court order shows the province has done a good job of providing housing for people who need it, Coleman said in a recorded statement reacting to the decision.

“And we can now bring this particular site back to use for everyone in the city of Victoria.”

What happens if campers remain after the Aug. 8 deadline is unclear.

The Victoria Police Department said the order does not contain any specific direction for it to follow, so officers will review the details of the decision and work with other interested parties to determine its next steps.

Coleman said the province has a transition plan in place for people living in the camp.

“We will continue to relocate them into the appropriate shelter in an orderly and co-operative way,” he said.

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B.C. judge says Victoria homeless camp must be dismantled

  1. Well well, that’s nice. When I was in Victoria in April it was looking fairly orderly but that was bound to change in what was, basically, a lawless enclave (ironically) on the steps of the courthouse. I was raised in Victoria in the 70s and 80s and you had to watch your step in public or you’d end up in the back of the ‘bunwagon’ (paddy wagon) off to spend a night in the Fisgard St ‘city bucket’ – the drunk tank. It didn’t matter if you were drunk or not, any disorderly conduct would do, Victoria was a tourist town and the cops kept a tight lid on things. Although there were reputed to be people living in Beacon Hill park, I didn’t see how that was possible as the cops had dog patrols, even people who fell asleep on the beach after partying could expect a rude wakeup call and a ride in the bunwagon.
    In the 1990s when I left, the demographics were changing, an influx of left wingers from points east and south, and complacency on the part of long time residents, led to the rise of BIG HIPPY government where drug tourists and wastrels from other parts of the country were not only tolerated, but accommodated! A shelter was built in the oldest part of town on Store St. creating a tourist no-go zone and economic dead-zone, as well as a base for the legions of panhandlers plaguing the streets. There were other factors at play as well, the local stock of inexpensive housing was drying up due to rising house prices, and people were increasingly reluctant to rent due to crazy tribunals that made it very difficult to evict bad tenants. This lead to many long term residents being left homeless as well.
    The 2000s saw a return to a semblance of order as there was talk of moving the downtown shelter, 9/11 happened and suddenly Victoria real estate was an even hotter commodity, the large and growing street population was by then attracting ‘activists’ and other professional trouble-makers. The increasingly weak willed and ineffective city council did little, the new ‘liberal’ provincial couldn’t be bothered and here we are today. Things have (finally) been done but a new dynamic is in play and a culture of appeasement has taken hold at city hall, with the most ineffective mayor yet, and the outlying municipalities are just as bad. ‘BIG HIPPY’ has come to stay, with his bong-hits and stupidity and belief that everything is owed to the loudest voices demanding it, what a bummer!

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