Lisa Helps
(Mayor Lisa Helps (R) with an ASL interpreter at a press briefing Friday/City of Victoria Facebook)

Mayor Lisa Helps called a decision to reverse prohibiting camping in Victoria’s Centennial Square “bizarre” during a press conference Friday.

The controversial move came after Councillor Geoff Young introduced an amendment to a recommendation from city staff calling for several parks, including Centennial Square, to be added to a list of places where camping is prohibited.

During debate on the motion, Young said that he recognized the potential harm caused by the camp but argued that if camping is allowed in select places, the Square may be more appropriate.

“There are some benefits to Centennial Square,” said Young on Thursday. “There is a lot of hard surface and it is extremely well policed.”

He also said he supported keeping the camp as a means of putting pressure on City council to address the broader homeless issue.

“Having the tents there to serve as a reminder and perhaps expose the Councillors to what the people who live around the parks are being exposed to,” said Young.

Helps slammed that argument on Friday, calling it a “very bizarre way to try to make a point.”

She plans to introduce a motion at next week’s Council meeting adding Centennial Square back onto the list of places where camping is prohibited.

With the omission of Centennial Square the following parks and places will no longer be open to encampments once the applicable bylaws are amended:

  • Summit Park
  • Moss Rocks Park
  • MacDonald Park
  • South Park
  • Robert Porter Park
  • David Spencer Park
  • All garden beds and community gardens

The Mayor also said that she believes camping anywhere is a poor substitute for proper housing, but is especially unsuitable in the downtown area.

“This is a business district, it’s where people are trying to make their livelihoods,” said Helps on Friday.

“There’s no good place for camping anywhere in any park in the city or in the country for sure, but downtown is probably the worst possible place and I’m going to stick firm on that and I hope other councillors will join me.”