Chrissy Brett chats with vsiting neighbour Reina Morris under the communal tent on a hot July evening in Regina Park. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Residents of tent cities unfairly labeled as criminals, says report

Some neighbours supportive of Regina Park camp

In her spare time Reina Morris crochets high-quality dog blankets.

She used to donate them to animal shelters but last week she brought her first one to the Regina Park encampment, Camp Namegans. Morris lives nearby, and has made the five-minute walk a few times to bring potted tomato plants and other food to the 93 people and eight dogs currently living there. She’s now crocheting a second blanket.

“I can’t live here and not recognize the people here,” Morris said. “Let’s face it, if things went bad for me, I’m only one step from living here. This is where I’d go if I lost my housing.”

Morris is one of the many supportive neighbours whose voices go unheard in what has become a highly divided discussion about the park, she said.

“You only hear about [the negative] side of what happens here,” Morris said. “This is a community.”

Ryan Williams has lived at the camp since May 1 when he was displaced from his home in the same neighbourhood, which he’s lived in for 20 years (his parents still live nearby). Last week he was walking his dog on Harriet Road when he was told by police to ‘move along’ before someone called the city.

“I was just out walking, letting [my dog] take a break from the hot sun,” Williams said. “There’s a stigma, people think we’re going to do something wrong.’”

It’s the same for Ann Harris, who has lived at Burnside and Tillicum for eight years. She’s visited Namegans three times and feels the Regina Park residents are blamed as a group for things that aren’t necessarily their fault.

“I went there, I talked to people, no one seemed dangerous or bad, they just seem like they’re living without homes.”

New research shows why people are likely to associate crime and danger with Regina Park. University of Victoria nursing student Morgan McCarthy studied 434 news stories from 18 local and regional news outlets about the 2016 Super Intent City at the lawn of the Victoria court house.

The study found that media unfairly represents stereotypes of homelessness.

A scholarly article based on that project is currently under peer review, said associate professor Bernadette Pauly of University of Victoria’s school of nursing, who oversaw McCarthy’s study.

“It shows how the media unfairly labeled the residents of Super Intent City and now it’s happening again,” Pauly said.

On July 13, Saanich Police released a statement that eight people from Regina Park were arrested for shoplifting by officers in plain clothes at Uptown and other businesses in the area.

Earlier that week, the Saanich Fire tweeted that they responded to a fire at Regina Park. It turned out to be nothing more than excess grease in the barbecue, the same barbecue Insp. Trent Edwards cooked on at the Camp Namegans community potluck the following night.

“Shoplifting happens regularly, almost daily, but we never report about shoplifting or a barbecue fire on the front page of the newspaper,” Pauly said. “This is targeting and blaming.

“The address of the people arrested for shoplifting, also, is not normally reported. Why is it okay to violate this when it’s homeless people?”

What McCarthy and Pauly found from interviewing members of Super Intent City in 2016 was a dialogue around the need to meet basic human rights such as sanitation, food, water, safety, housing, and freedom from discrimination in the pursuit of these things.

However, they found the dialogue in the media associated the homelessness issue with crime and drug use in a way that was unfair and inaccurate, Pauly said.

“Canada is a signatory on the established international standards for basic human rights, that includes the right to pursue these without discrimination,” Pauly said.

The arrest of Camp Namegans organizer Chrissy Brett on July 6 – she was accused of impeding a Saanich Fire officer – furthered the crime narrative. Brett argues that the arrest was unnecessary.

Island Health’s role is also a factor. As a public health agency, one could say its Island Health’s responsibility to ensure the basic health rights for people at Regina Park in the way it’s supporting the people in Nanaimo’s tent city. At the moment, there are toilets on site, drinking water at a fountain about 240 metres up the Galloping Goose, and showers about 650 metres away at Saanich municipal hall.

Several neighbours expressed their discontent at Saanich’s June 21 special council meeting while others asked for dignity and patience. Letters to the editor and callers on the local radio station prove there is an unsympathetic part of the population who wish to see the park ‘de-camped’ and everyone forcibly removed. More than one Saanich councillor has acknowledged this won’t alleviate the ongoing issues people there face, though Saanich has begun measures that could lead to the camp’s eviction.

“As a society we have failed to comply with international standards of basic human rights and people in tent cities [in this case those at Regina Park] are forced into survival tactics,” Pauly said. “We should not profile or blame people for society’s problems.”

Harris agreed.

“There’s a criminal element in all parts of the community. We should build homes for these people and give them the ability to clean up and get work, mental health care, good food, and general support,” Harris said. “People who are homeless get less support, I’m a person with a disability, I get lots of support, but they’re the ones who need the most support.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

reporter@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Two missing Victoria children found safe

VicPD responded to two separate missing children calls Tuesday

Saanich amalgamation committee holds first meeting

Saanich councillors call for a transparent process to ensure success of study

Crews repair damage after Tuesday night water main break in Langford

Flooding resulted in property damage, forced evacuation from Langford homes

Snow not melting fast enough for some Greater Victoria residents

Resident unhappy with lack of snow removal on Mount Doug trails

‘It consumed my life’: Inside the world of gaming addiction

World Health Organization classifies gaming disorder as a mental health condition

‘Riya was a dreamer’: Mother of slain 11-year-old Ontario girl heartbroken

Her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Experts urge caution after 10 human-triggered avalanches across B.C.

One man is still stuck after avalanche on south coast

Police seize bottles of grapefruit vodka from wanted man’s snow-pants

The men were pushing two shopping carts with a woman inside

Tonight’s sporting event costs more than the Super Bowl, and Obama is going

Tickets are going for more than $4,000 to watch the Duke - North Carolina basketball game

CRTC report finds ‘misleading, aggressive’ sales tactics used by telecom industry

Report recommends measures to make a fairer situation for consumers

Police dog tracks suspect through wintry Vancouver Island backcountry

Assault suspect arrested after two-hour track by Nanaimo RCMP police dog Jager

Trudeau takes personal hit amid SNC-Lavalin controversy: poll

Overall, 41 per cent of respondents believed the prime minister had done something wrong in the affair

B.C. photographer captures otters on ice

A Langley photographer was at the right place at the right time on the Fraser River

Most Read