City Obtains Court Date for Park Encampment Injunction
Duncan, BC – On April 18th, the Supreme Court of British Columbia will hear the City’s application for an injunction against the unlawful campers in Charles Hoey Park. In the interest of the residents who use and enjoy this public park, the City is seeking to disband the encampment.
The encampment was originally established in the park on March 31, 2017 as a protest to advocate for affordable housing. When it became apparent the campers were intending to stay in the park, the campers were served a Notice to Vacate the park by noon on April 8th, 2017. Voluntary compliance with the Notice to Vacate was not achieved and today the City sought and obtained an order for short leave from the Court to hear the merits of the case at 10:00 am on April 18th, 2017 at the Duncan Courthouse. The City’s civil injunction application was served to the campers at 5 pm today.
Warmland House has confirmed that there are enough shelter beds available for all campers who are at Charles Hoey Park. Even those who have previously been asked to leave the shelter due to inappropriate behavior are welcome to return once their behavior is under control. The campers have been asked leave as they are in contravention of the City’s Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw No. 3154, 2017.
The City’s Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw allows homeless persons (those with no fixed address or no predictable residence to return on a daily basis) to erect overnight shelter in some City parks, subject to restrictions on how long shelter can be in place and where they can be situated. The encampment in Charles Hoey Park contravenes the conditions for erecting shelter established in the City’s Parks and Open Spaces bylaw. Neither permanent nor daytime encampments are permitted in any city park.
“The City is acutely aware of the housing challenges in the region. Housing policy and support are the jurisdiction of the Provincial Government; however, it is clear the issues of homelessness, mental health and addiction are affecting our community,” stated Mayor Phil Kent. “For many years, the City has provided support for local non-governmental organizations working to provide emergency and supportive housing in the community. We intend to approach the Municipality of North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes to work on a collaborative approach to advocate for funding for social housing in the Cowichan Valley.”
The City requests that the public and all stakeholders maintain patience, civility and respect as the City works through the Court process. Respectful dialogue, feedback and suggestions from the community are welcome.
Why were the campers allowed to set up?
Originally the encampment organizer told City staff that a few tents would be placed in the park to protest a shortage of affordable housing in the Cowichan region. Weighing the interest of all stakeholders, the City did not commence immediate action to remove the campers. However, once it became apparent that there were more tents arriving and that the campers intended to remain in the park indefinitely, the City served the unlawful campers with a notice to vacate by noon on April 8, 2017. The campers did not comply with this notice and the City is now seeking a permanent court injunction against the unlawful campers in Charles Hoey Park.
Are the campers contravening the City’s Bylaws?
The campers are in contravention of the City’s Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw No. 3154, 2017, which balances the rights of homeless people to shelter themselves overnight with the needs of the residents to have safe and free access to parks. Case law has set the precedent that it is “arbitrary and overboard and hence not consistent with the principles of fundamental justice” (Justice Carol Ross, Victoria (City) v. Adams, 2009 BCCA 563) to prohibit overnight camping in city parks. Therefore, the City’s Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw allows homeless persons (those with no fixed address or no predictable residence to return to on a daily basis) to erect shelter in some City parks, subject to restrictions on how long shelter can be in place and where they can be situated. The encampment in Charles Hoey park contravenes the conditions for erecting shelter established in the City’s Parks and Open Spaces bylaw. The City is now seeking a court injunction to remove the unlawful campers.
Is there shelter space for everyone at the encampment?
The Warmland House has repeatedly confirmed that there is sufficient shelter space for all of the unlawful campers in the park. The encampment organizer has stated that some of the unlawful campers have been banned by Warmland House, which has been refuted by the shelter manager who states that those who are asked to leave due to inappropriate behaviour are welcome to return once their behaviour is under control.
What is the City doing to ensure the safety and security of the public and campers?
Safety of the public and the campers is paramount. The City has hired twenty-four hour security to patrol the encampment and downtown area. The City requests that all parties maintain patience, civility and respect during this situation.
Can the City force the campers to leave?
The City cannot forcibly remove the unlawful campers without due process. The City is now seeking a permanent injunction to prohibit camping in Charles Hoey park as the campers are inhibiting the public use of a community space. If the courts grant the injunction, the campers, by order of a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, may be forcibly removed.
What did the City do to support the Legion’s Vimy Ridge Ceremony on April 9th?
The City requested that the encampment comply with a notice to vacate prior to the ceremony on April 8th; however, the campers refused to leave. As the City is not able to forcibly remove the unlawful campers, to ensure that there was sufficient space between the tents and the cenotaph for the ceremony to take place, the City erected barriers to demarcate the boundaries of the encampment and limit the encroachment on the cenotaph area. All parties were respectful throughout the ceremony.
What is the City doing to combat homelessness?
The City is acutely aware of the housing challenges in the region. Housing policy and support are the jurisdiction of the Federal and Provincial government; however, it is clear that the issues of homelessness, mental health and addiction are affecting our community. For many years, the City has provided support for local non-governmental organizations working to provide emergency and supportive housing in the community.
For further information about the encampment at Charles Hoey Park, please contact:
Phil Kent, Mayor – 250-746-6126 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dominion GovLaw LLP, Troy DeSouza, Legal Council – 250-590-1840 or email@example.com