Victoria is heading for what could be a landmark decision on sheltering the homeless. The city has lost its appeal of a lower court decision that homeless people have a right to live in tents in local parks if the city is unwilling or unable to supply an adequate number of beds in shelters. There’s no word yet on whether city lawyers plan to seek a hearing in the Supreme Court of Canada. But you have to think that’s where the case is headed, given the implications of the previous decisions. A B.C. Supreme Court trial judge had ruled that prohibiting the homeless from using rudimentary forms of overhead protection, “in circumstances where there is no practicable shelter alternative,” is a significant interference with their dignity and independence. But “practicable alternative” is a loaded phrase, and Victoria had argued that the court was intruding upon the jurisdiction of elected officials to decide just how much shelter taxpayers should provide.
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