Provincial education minister Rob Fleming blames the previous B.C. Liberal government for the conditions that have contributed to the homeless camp at Regina Park, but also promised that the government would take additional legal steps against the camp. Contributed

Province backs Saanich injunction against Regina Park camp

Local MLA Rob Fleming says new supportive housing is a key part of winding up Saanich homeless camp

The local MLA for Regina Park said the provincial government plans additional steps against the camp in expressing support for Saanich’s decision to seek an injunction.

“We have issued an eviction notice [against the camp], and we will be looking at further legal steps ourselves,” said Rob Fleming, minister of education and MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake.

Fleming said he could not discuss the nature and timing of these pending steps at this time. Simultaneously, he promised that the provincial government would supply appropriate housing. “We want people to be properly housed and that is why we have put a lot of effort in finding housing solutions.”

He made these comments in a far-ranging interview Thursday — three days after the District of Saanich announced that it would seek an injunction against the camp, citing various safety and financial concerns.

Saanich issued the notice shortly after the province had issued an eviction notice against the camp — some of the park is under provincial jurisdiction — and Fleming’s comments points to rising pressure on the camp residents, whose leaders have since denounced Saanich.

“It is shameful that the government is trying to break up this community space,” Chrissy Brett, a founder of the camp known to its residents as Camp Namegans, said in a release.

“Shame on Canada, shame on the province, and shame on the [District of Saanich]. If they break up Camp Namegans, our people will die; fighting to defend this camp is a fight for our lives.”

Camp leaders have also accused Saanich of using the courts to litigate the issue of homelessness away rather than deal with the larger issue of homelessness, a charge that now awaits the provincial government.

Fleming does not buy this. The province has been working together with Saanich to build modular supportive housing, he said. The province has already built 300 modular housing spots with 700 remaining, he said.

Under an eventual arrangement, the municipality would supply the land, while the province would fund the site preparation and construction of modular housing with a supportive component. A non-profit group would operate the facility with funding from the provincial government.

While no formal announcements are pending, efforts continue to find a piece of land that would not require rezoning and fit the needs of both individuals needing supportive housing and the surrounding neighbourhood, he said.

“I think that [supportive housing] is a key part of winding up the camp at Regina Park,” he said.

The camp, as it currently exist, is not safe.

“Camping by the side of a highway in this or any other community is not safe,” he said. Fire risks also remain and the camp has “caused a significant disturbance” for tax-paying residents living in the neighbourhood near Regina Park, he said.

It is not fair for the neighbourhood to continue to bear these burden, he said. The camp is also not safe for the residents themselves, he added.

“This is a safety risk to residents and the campers themselves,” he said.

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