Residents of the homeless camp at Regina Park suffered a setback Tuesday after legal representatives for the District of Saanich insisted on appearing before court on Aug. 13.
Camp leaders heard Tuesday that Saanich rejected their request for a delay, after they had asked for it last week, as camp residents remain without legal counsel in the face of injunctions that the District of Saanich and the Province of British Columbia had respectively filed against the camp on July 23 and July 27 .
Ashley Mollison of the Alliance against Displacement said the camp will now appeal directly to the court for an adjournment.
“We think it’s an expensive and wasteful use of resources to drag this before a judge when the District of Saanich could have agreed to this reasonable request outside the courtroom,” she said.
Mollison said it is “unfair and unreasonable” to expect 100 homeless people staying at the camp to process, understand and respond to the large volume of evidence that both Saanich and the province have presented against them in such a short time and without legal counsel.
Anna Cooper, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society, said the camp’s current absence of legal representation will complicate its case.
The court system is difficult enough to navigate, and those who represent themselves will find it even more difficult, she said. “It’s extremely unequal footing, when you have governments with lawyers, and homeless, who are self-representing,” she said.
Cooper did not want to speculate about the eventual outcome of the case.
This said, previous cases have shown that the most important factor is whether sufficient alternatives exist for homeless individuals, who the injunctions will impact.
Another factor concerns location, she added. Courts will have to weigh the life-saving services that homeless camps provide against competing community needs, she said.
To show these effects, courts will consider submissions from homeless individuals themselves, as well as experts who have investigated the beneficial effects of homeless camps as overdose prevention sites among others.
“That’s not conjuncture,” she said. “That’s supported by evidence.”
The Saanich News contacted the District of Saanich for comment, but did not receive a reply by deadline. When asked a similar question, Megan Catalano, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich, said the municipality would not be able to comment on procedural issues while before court.