Bit of interesting news out of Victoria this morning, the BC Supreme Court has ruled that the cities homeless can legally camp in Victoria parks.
“Yesterday it was illegal to set up my tent. Today it isn’t,” said David Johnston, one of the homeless activists who argued they have a right to sleep outdoors on public property.
Lawyer Catherine Boies Parker, who acted on behalf of the homeless campers in their court challenge of the city’s anti-camping bylaw, confirmed the 108-page judgment upheld their argument that a City of Victoria bylaw that prohibits using “temporary abodes” like tents and large tarpaulins for shelter in parks and public spaces violates the rights of the homeless.
She said the judgment noted that in the absence of sufficient safe and secure beds for the homeless, it was unconstitutional for the city to prevent them from erecting some form of shelter to protect themselves from the elements.
The decision came three years after a group was arrested in October 2005 for setting up a “tent city” in a Victoria park. The eviction sparked the court challenge.
Anyone remember the tent cities in Vancouver parks from just a few years ago? It will be interesting to see how this decision works out for us in the coming months. The Mayor of Victoria, Alan Lowe predicts the impact of the decision will be felt throughout Canada. I predict that the impact will be felt to a greater degree in places with a warmer winter climate, ie Victoria and Vancouver.
The judgment does not bode well for city parks, Lowe warned. “Our city parks are not equipped to support camping of any kind. “We’ve seen first hand the ill effects of tent cities. In 2005 . . . we saw a tent city that had become a hub of illegal activity, health concerns and vandalism,” he said.
“These are not acceptable conditions for our parks and green spaces, but even more importantly these conditions are not acceptable for the homeless.” Lowe said there were no winners with the judgment. “This is still no way to accommodate our homeless and will be detrimental to the families and children that enjoy our park system.”
At the conference, Acting Police Chief Bill Naughton said police will respond “situationally” to any homeless encampments. “We’ll see what confronts us and act accordingly,” he said.