A community organizer expects the District of Saanich to file a court injunction against Camp Namegans, the homeless encampment at Regina Park, possibly as early as Monday.
“I believe that the district will move to legal action, if not (Monday), then within the month,” said Ashley Mollison of Alliance Against Displacement, in an interview Sunday morning. A community organizer, Mollison has been working with the camp residents and residents in the neighbourhood among other actors. “That is my prediction, because that tends to be the way that we approach tent city cities,” said Mollison.
Instead of recognizing the larger and growing problem of homelessness, municipal and provincial authorities often take an “adversarial stance” against tent cities in trying to make them “invisible” by disbursing them across the region, she said.
Tent cities show the number of homelessness in the region, as well as the conditions, in which they live, she said.
“The presence of tent cities threatens the way we conceive of society,” she said. “We think that we are good people, we think that Canada is a great country that meets the needs of its citizens, and the reality is that more and more people are falling through the cracks every day. ” That category includes seniors on fixed incomes and the working poor, she said.
Mollison made her prediction after the provincial government last week ordered the camp residents to “immediately cease their occupation” of the park’s provincial portion and after Saanich had issued its second eviction notice. Camp organizer Chrissy Brett said at the time that these moves appear to clear the deck for the municipality to move forward with legal steps.
If Saanich were to move forward with a legal injunction, Mollison said the camp would fight it, adding that the group has already reached out to some potential lawyers, while declining to comment on their names.
“So we have been in conversation with lawyers at this point, and that is all I’ll say right now,” she said.
Mollison said Saanich would undermine improving relations between authorities including Saanich fire officials and the camp residents if it were to file a court injunction.
So what is the likelihood that this legal remedy will succeed?
It was a court injunction in July 2016 that dispersed the homeless camp that had sprung on the lawn of Victoria’s courthouse in the fall of 2015.
But it took the provincial government two tries. Its first filing in April 2016 failed after a court had found camp residents lacked alternative living arrangements. Precedent, in other words, has established courts are not likely grant an injunction, unless municipalities have made prior arrangements for affected individuals.
It was only after the provincial government had secured housing that a second injunction succeeded. But its effects were not immediate as the court granted residents about a month to remove their belongings.
Mollison cited this history. “Neither B.C. Housing, nor Saanich have opened up any new housing facilities in the wake of this tent city, so there is no new housing,” she said. “I don’t know what their justification would be, if they are displacing the camp, because there is no new housing, and the fire safety risk has diminished.”
Coun. Leif Wergeland declined to comment on whether Saanich plans to file an injunction. “Well, I guess, you just have to wait until tomorrow [Monday],” he said. “That’s about all I can say,” he said.
Mayor Richard Atwell also officially declined to comment, calling it an evolving legal matter.