Sunday, April 21, 2024

Saanich applies for Supreme Court injunction against Regina Park tent city

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The District of Saanich has officially filed a lawsuit to seek an injunction against the tent city encampment at Regina Park.

According to a press release on Tuesday morning, legal proceedings have commenced at the BC Supreme Court, through which the District plans to seek an injunction to force residents of Regina Park to vacate the premises.

A court hearing for the injunction is currently scheduled to take place during the week of August 13th.

The encampment responds

Prior to the commencement of legal action, authorities issued two notices – on July 8th and July 12th – to camp residents to vacate the premises on the grounds that campers’ continued occupation of the park was unlawful.

Following the July 12th notice, both Audrey Moffatt (camp resident and member of Camp Namegans Leadership Committee) and Listen Chen (organizer with the grassroots group Alliance Against Displacement) told Victoria Buzz that their plan was for campers to stay put until a court injunction is filed.

After this morning’s announcement, Camp Namegans has issued a statement promising to stand their ground “to defend their homes”.

“City bylaws that limit camping to night time hours force homeless people into cycles of daily displacement where they suffer police and bylaw harassment and theft of their belongings, which exacerbates their physical, mental, and emotional stress,” reads their release.

The organizers of the encampment plan to host a press conference on Wednesday morning to answer further questions.

Saanich lists reasons for seeking injunction

In their press release, the District of Saanich provided a list of reasons why the occupation of Regina Park cannot be allowed to continue:

  • The continued occupation is contrary to Saanich’s bylaws
  • Saanich has been unable to successfully manage life safety in the park due to ongoing fire hazards, and the encampment remains unsafe for the occupants, first responders and others who may visit the park
  • Saanich has been unable to achieve compliance with fire orders issued pursuant to the Fire Services Act
  • The encampment has and continues to negatively impact the local residential and business community
  • The occupation of the park is not an intended use of the property, and has prevented other members of the public from using the park
  • The encampment has placed an enormous burden on Saanich’s financial resources, including required support from the Police, Fire and Parks Departments.

Mayor Richard Atwell speaks out

Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell spoke to Victoria Buzz after the announcement of the lawsuit, about the additional costs of the encampment to the city, and what the District is doing to address the demands of the residents of Camp Namegans.

The legal fees for the city to pursue the Supreme Court injunction won’t be insignificant, says Atwell, and will likely run into the six figures. This is on top of the $700,000 from Saanich’s operational contingency funds that have been allotted to the camp to cover costs for extra policing and the establishment of a sanitation station.

When asked about housing solutions for the campers at Regina Park, Atwell says the District is working with organizations like BC Housing and Island Health to meet their demands.

They have, in the past, found temporary housing for a few of the inhabitants at the tent city in Cuthbert Holmes Park and are looking to do the same for those living in Regina Park.

“Housing takes some time to construct but we are working on solutions in partnership with agencies like BC Housing because we don’t have the capacity or mandate to fund and provide housing for the homeless on our own,” stated Mayor Atwell.
The District of Saanich is therefore looking to the courts to help them maintain fire risks and “restore the neighbourhood back to a more balanced state”.

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Brishti Basu
Former Senior Staff Writer and Content Manager at Victoria Buzz.

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