Chrissy Brett stands at the outer edges of the homeless camp that has sprung up near Uptown. Saanich last week issued an eviction notice, but Brett said Wolf Depner/News Staff

Residents of Saanich homeless camp refuse to leave

Mayor Richard Atwell said he is “concerned” about rhetoric from camp residents

A spokesperson for the homeless camp near Uptown has signalled an unspecified amount resistance to the eviction notice that Saanich issued Friday in raising the prospect of a lengthy standoff.

Chrissy Brett said the group will not leave Regina Park until “any peaceful or not so peaceful agreement for us to leave has been reached.”

The nature of that agreement is up to the authorities, including Saanich and the provincial government, she said, in calling on both actors to do more to improve housing in Saanich.

“I’m not all prepared to be violent, but similar to Gustafsen Lake, there are those here, who are willing to stand our ground,” she said.

Security forces including Canadian armed forces and a group of land occupiers — most but not all Aboriginal Canadians — confronted each other at Gustafsen Lake in the interior of British Columbia for almost a month.

During that standoff, Aboriginal protesters framed resistance in religious terms, and Brett said the camp is part and parcel of a religious ceremony on unceded Indigenous territory.

She said the group could prepare a counter notice to the municipality. It would claim that the municipality has trespassed on Aboriginal land in violation of the Royal Proclamation of 1763.

This said, Brett said the group plans to accept the “reasonable parts” of the received notices, while negotiating the other parts. Brett said the camp has benefited individuals, who do not find into traditional categories of housing available to individuals dealing with homelessness and other related issues. So what is the likelihood that the group will pack up in the near future? “Probably not that likely,” she said.

Saanich issued its eviction notice to the camp Friday. “Your immediate compliance with this Notice to Vacate is expected,” reads the notice, signed by Paul Thorkelsson, chief administrative officer (CAO). A separate but related notice from the Saanich Fire Department reads among other parts that the department expects campers will “comply” with the eviction note, noting that the camp “has resulted in the presence of numerous fire hazards.”

Mayor Richard Atwell said Saanich has issued the eviction notice because Regina Park is not an appropriate place for people to establish permanent housing. “This [camp] is a huge burden on the neighbourhood,” he said. He also pointed to the notice from the fire department.

The longer the camp exists in its current form, the greater the risks and costs to the public, he said.

Saanich, he said, cannot afford to spend $3 million on cleaning up the site, in alluding to the final clean up cost of the tent city that had sprung up in Victoria.

But Atwell also noted out that the eviction notice recognizes the legal right of homeless individuals to camp.

“In accordance with the legal rights that have been recognized by the courts in British Columbia, a person experiencing homelessness is permitted, when necessary, to erect a temporary overnight shelter in a Saanich park, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.,” it reads. “Such temporary overnight shelter, and any personal possessions associated with it, must be removed by 9:00 a.m. the following morning, and such personal possessions cannot be stored or abandoned in a Saanich park.”

Saanich, in other words, allows homeless individuals to camp during those hours, but expects them to move on, a proposition that might be difficult to enforce. But Saanich will nonetheless attempt it. Atwell said authorities have already gone tent to tent to identify individuals, who are not genuinely homeless.

“If you have place to go, please go,” he said.

The continued presence of people in the camp who are not homeless poses not only a fire hazard, but also undermines the rights of genuinely homeless people to camp, he said.

Efforts to find a permanent solution continue, he added, pointing to his recent meeting with local MLA and minister of education Rob Fleming, who has encouraged Saanich to apply for modular housing. Saanich council will also hold a special meeting on June 21 to discuss the issue in additional detail.

When asked about Brett’s comments, Atwell expressed concern about her rhetoric, noting that Saanich police have been very “compassionate” so far. The resolution of this issue requires everybody’s corporation, he said.

“She [Brett] has our attention,” he said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Simon Keith undergoes second heart transplant

Former pro athlete turned transplant advocate gets another chance

Saanich homeowner scares off cougar taking down deer in Cadboro Bay

Conservation officer Peter Pauwels does not expect the animal to make future appearances

VicPD help Esquimalt businesses avoid becoming victims of crime

Townhall meeting teaches businesses about safety and prevention

Peninsula skater scores personal best speeds to earn spot on Team BC

Kieran Brown heads for the Western Canadian Championships March 22 and 23

Shoreline Middle School students pitch in to clean school trail

Needles and bags of garbage picked up over six-week period on View Royal trail

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you consider living in a tiny home?

Victoria is the latest Capital Region community to take a look at… Continue reading

B.C. argues it cannot stop Trans Mountain, but it can protect environment

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says only Ottawa has the authority to decide what goes in trans-boundary pipelines

Dutch tram shooting suspect arrested, say police

Police say three people were killed in the shooting Monday and five wounded

Canada extends Iraq and Ukraine military missions to 2021 and 2022

Extension is part of efforts to curb Russian aggression and to fight against Islamic militants

WestJet suspends 2019 financial guidance after Boeing 737 Max grounded

The company has 13 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft grounded by regulators after the Ethiopian crash

B.C. poverty plan combines existing spending, housing programs

Target is to lift 140,000 people out of poverty from 2016 level

Avalanche warning issued for all B.C. mountains

Warm weather to increase avalanche risk: Avalanche Canada

Most Read