Saanich’s Regina Park, in the background, next to the Trans Canada Highway, taken from the Galloping Goose Switch Bridge next to Uptown. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Officials worry of fire risk at homeless camp

Regina Park camp has grown to 77 tents

Concerns about fire sparked authorities to swoop down on the homeless camp near Uptown Tuesday morning.

As Saanich police and firefighters watched, Saanich parks staff used a riding mower and gas-powered weed trimmers to cut back grass in Regina Park near Uptown. Authorities also asked campers to maintain a clear escape path, create more space between tents and move them away from wooden fencing.

With these measures, Saanich enforced an order that it had first issued on June 8, when it also asked campers to leave the park. Yet almost two weeks later, the camp remains as entrenched as ever before.

Saanich council will hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss the situation at Regina Park, where authorities have identified some 77 tents, against the backdrop of mounting evidence that the camp will remain for the foreseeable future.

Camp leader Chrissy Brett on Tuesday repeated earlier comments in which she compared the current encampment to a more organized version of the “original tent city” that occupied the lawn of the Victoria Provincial Courthouse from November 2015 to August 2016.

“That is what the media has termed it, and it has gone from a small prayer vigil to a continued Indigenous ceremony,” she said. “At the end of the day, in our communities and in our culture, we make sure everyone is fed, everyone has a place to sleep, even if it is a sleeping bag on the floor. Until the municipality, until the province, and Canada can step up and take care of Canadian citizens, our culture will continue on unceded, Indigenous land.”

Brett made those comments as some members of the encampment prepare to attend Thursday’s council meeting, and after a meeting with members of Saanich’s council: Mayor Richard Atwell, Coun. Fred Haynes and Coun. Karen Harper.

Brett described the two-hour long meeting at the encampment as “good,” a sentiment that Atwell echoed. “I thought it was very productive to get a first hand perspective of the conditions not only in Regina Park but as a person experiencing homelessness.”

The two sides plan to meet again towards the end of the month to discuss additional steps.

But if the atmospherics of the meeting appeared positive, both sides remain at odds about specific solutions.

While both sides confirm that they had discussed modular housing, they appear to harbour different expectations.

Comments from Brett suggest that Saanich should use the time until the next meeting to investigate the feasibility of creating modular housing in Saanich that could be available for use within six months. ‘That would be where Saanich would have to identify a place where they would be willing to rezone [land for modular housing],” she said. “The province has said ‘we have money to build – you just need to identify it [land].’”

Saanich,does not need to own the land for any future modular housing itself. It could also simply purchase private land, she said.

“I gave them the other option of giving us another piece of property,” she said. “If you don’t want us here until modular housing is built, then give me a place where you can put in … bathroom trailers similar to the tent city [in downtown Victoria], and let us house people in a more organized fashion. Bring me water, bring me bathrooms, bring me showers. If you don’t want us here, find us something somewhere else that is more fire safe or community safe.”

Atwell, for his part, does not recall Brett’s specific request for modular housing. Nor does he foresee Saanich creating modular housing anytime soon, as it could possibly take months to identify a suitable location.

“I told the group that Saanich did a site search [for modular housing] at the CRD [Capital Regional District]’s request, and identified no lands as being suitable,” he said. “I suggested that the criteria for those lands be revisited.” He is also not sure that an alternative camp site would be appropriate. “I think proper housing would be best for all.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

UPDATED: Heavy police presence in Victoria had part of Bay Street blocked off

Bay Street east of Quadra Street was blocked off on Saturday

Hundreds of foreign species still washing up on B.C. coast, eight years after tsunami

The Royal BC Museum is home to thousands of samples collected along the west coast of North America

Victoria first Canadian city to join United Nations tree planting challenge

The City of Victoria pledges to plant 5,000 trees by the end of 2020

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

B.C. truck drivers to face higher fines for not using winter tire chains

As of Oct. 1, not using chains on the highway when required could net you a $598 ticket

Most Read