File Photo Victoria Buzz/ItkasanImages

Today Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson denied the interim injunction and removal of tent city. According to the judge the plaintiffs,“have not demonstrated that they will suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not granted.”

The 58 page judgment includes among others, sworn affidavits from nearby residents, and VicPD attesting to the disruptions caused by the encampment.

Residents spoke of noise, constant smoke from the fire, impeded access to the courthouse and sidewalk, as well as used syringes, feces and garbage left on nearby property. The judge responded that, “it does not persuade me that the feces, garbage, syringes, condoms, or used clothes previously found on their property were left by residents of the Encampment, or that these biohazards continue at the present time.”

The Chief Medical Health Officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority deposed that as a result of concerns around the wood smoke from the Encampment’s ceremonial fire, his staff had taken air quality readings. The air quality readings fell within a range that would pose a health risk to individuals with underlying breathing conditions such as bronchitis and asthma. In Dr. Stanwick’s view, this level of air quality would be a potential health risk to such individuals if it was an average reading over a 24-hour period.

The judge responded, “I accept that there is some evidence showing that the air quality at the Encampment may pose a risk to some individuals with underlying breathing conditions, although that evidence is not conclusive.”

A VicPD officer described his belief that there has been a change to the level of risk to public safety since December 2015.  Between November 1, 2015 and February 25, 2016, there have been a number of serious incidents, including:

  • four common assaults
  • one assault causing bodily harm
  • two assaults with weapons
  • one aggravated assault
  • 13 drug overdoses
  • one sudden death due to a drug overdose
  • and one fire inside an unoccupied make-shift structure

According to the officer, although the campers have not overtly obstructed police investigations, the level of cooperation ranged from not being forthcoming with information to trying to regulate access to the Encampment.

The judge ruled that “Like the plaintiffs’ evidence on the issues of health and safety and fire safety, the evidence on the issue of the need for increased police resources does not satisfy me that these conditions are any worse than they would be if the residents of the Encampment were displaced.”

Encampment dwellers testified to improved sleep, safety and a sense of community thanks to Tent City. A resident noted that “My mental health has been a lot better at camp because I have a secure place where I can lie down and sleep for 8-9 hours if I want to. I am thinking clearer and making better decisions.”

Physical safety as well as security of possessions was quoted as a benefit to residents, “Your stuff isn’t safe on the street, but here, when something goes missing, I can find out who did it. I can confront them, and they know that if they want to be able to be in the camp, they can’t get away with that kind of thing.”

Many also felt that they could fit in to an Encampment lifestyle better, as opposed to the strict rules, issues of safety and feeling stigmatized at shelters.

In summarizing the judge praised the responsible leadership and organization, at the Encampment. Noting that “while the Encampment has not been without its difficulties and challenges, it is an improvement over its predecessors.”

While he acknowledge that some legitimate concerns have been raised such as health, general safety, and fire safety concerns as well as the allocation of police resources, he considered many of the plaintiffs’ contentions are in dispute and that they cannot be resolved on affidavit evidence alone. “Further, the plaintiffs’ concerns must be weighed against the potential problems that might arise were I to issue the requested injunction.”

Ultimately, in determining whether or not to grant an interim injunction at this time, he noted that if he were to issue an injunction, campers would have nowhere to go, “other than shelters that are incapable of meeting the needs of some of them, or will result in their constant disruption and a perpetuation of a relentless series of daily moves to the streets, doorways, and parks of the City of Victoria.”

He also stressed his concern that an injunction would simply migrate the problems to other areas of the City of Victoria. He noted that there is at least an overlap between the provincial taxpayers and the taxpayers in the City of Victoria, and that he was not prepared to displace one’s expenses to impose them on the other.

A trial date commencing September 7, 2016 has now been set.

 

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