The founder of the homeless camp in Regina Park said nothing has changed after the provincial government took legal steps against against the encampment Friday.
Provincial documents dated July 27 say the province has filed notice for a court hearing during the week of Aug. 13 to consider an injunction that calls on camp residents to “vacate and cease the continuous occupation” the provincial part of the encampment.
With this notice, the provincial government has added to the legal pressure facing almost 100 people currently occupying Regina Park. The District of Saanich has also asked for an injunction with a hearing scheduled for the week of Aug. 13.
While it is not clear whether the District and the provincial government have co-ordinated this timing, much points in that direction.
The filing in turn mentions familiar concerns about the camp’s proximity to the Trans-Canada Highway, fire safety and its impact on the neighbourhood. The filing also appears to anticipate an argument from the camp residents by noting that the provincial government has already taken measures to help the residents. Previous applications for injunctions have failed because courts appeared reluctant to grant such orders in the absence of alternatives for affected individuals.
Fleming previewed this argument last week, when he said the province has been working together with Saanich to build modular supportive housing. 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.
“I think that [supportive housing] is a key part of winding up the camp at Regina Park,” he said.
If the moves by Saanich and the province appeared co-ordinated, the response from the camp struck a familiar note.
“Show me proof of jurisdiction,” said Chrissy Brett, noting that the land in question remains unceded Indigenous territory. “Show me a sales’ receipt.”
Earlier this week, camp residents and organizers held a press conference in which they denounced Saanich’s decision to file a court injunction. Specifically, they accused Saanich of using legal tools to deal with homelessness instead of addressing the problem. They also argued that the homeless camp and other like it represent an alternative to dispersing homeless individuals in absence of unavailable or inappropriate alternatives.
Brett echoed these comments, but also noted that the provincial government made less of a show in announcing its decision, when compared to Saanich.
Mum, meanwhile, is the word when comes to comments from Saanich councillors after the Saanich News had sent them a catalogue of questions about the camp and their respective support for Saanich’s decision to take legal actions.
Of the councillors, who have responded so far, Coun. Brice, Brownoff, Haynes, and Sanders all declined to comment in noting that official comment has to come from Mayor Richard Atwell, who received the same questions.
“I think it’s very important to wait while our application for an injunction is before the courts,” he said. “I can’t comment at this time.”