Tuesday, May 21, 2024

BC Supreme Court permanently bans overnight sheltering in Beacon Hill Park

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BC Court of Appeal has ruled that the trust governing Beacon Hill Park does not permit overnight campers. 

This stand was previously challenged through an appeal that was filed a year ago.

The City of Victoria went to the BC Supreme Court in 2021 to request the use of Beacon Hill Park as a temporary shelter for the homeless under the terms of the trust. 

Justice Robert Punnett ruled in February 2022 that the trust was a contract that allowed the park to be used for recreation and enjoyment, but not for overnight sheltering.

Related: Victoria given green light to continue ban on sheltering at Beacon Hill Park

According to the terms of the trust, Justice John Hunter recommended that the court needs to ask, “Is the use of Beacon Hill Park for temporary overnight sheltering by persons experiencing homelessness consistent with the trust conditions under which the City of Victoria holds the park?”

Hunter added that he would say “no” to this question and would dismiss the appeal. Justice Mary Newbury and Justice Peter Voith agreed.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, unhoused individuals set up camp in the park when sheltering space was reduced. 

Throughout the course of several months, complaints were made involving reports of fires and disturbances in the park concerning homeless camps. 

Related: Homeless encampment erupts in fire near Beacon Hill Park Monday night (PHOTOS)

Related: Fire crews quickly douse tent fire in Beacon Hill Park homeless camp

The Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society first filed the lawsuit, which was eventually resolved in favour of clearing out those sheltering in the park.

“This ruling is both profound and deeply satisfying to us at Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society. This ruling further enhances our ability to defend the Park based on the original 1882 Trust,” said Friends of Beacon Hill Park.

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