The Regina Park tent city in Saanich has a reported 77 tents as of June 17. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Tent city in Saanich’s Regina Park won’t end soon

Several dozen tents remain in Regina Park despite eviction notice issued more than two weeks ago

More than two weeks after the District of Saanich issued campers in Regina Park an eviction notice, the question looms as to just why Saanich is not evicting the residents of the encampment.

Here is the official response from the District of Saanich.

”While the District of Saanich would like to resolve the Regina Park encampment as soon as possible, we have to work within the framework of the law, which takes time and is beyond our control,” said Megan Catalano, a spokesperson for the municipality. “We are not able to comment further at this time because the encampment is an evolving legal matter.”

The legal matter at the centre of this issue concerns the Charter rights of homeless individuals. As acting chief administrative officer Suzanne Samborski noted in a recent memo to council, courts in British Columbia have established that homeless individuals may erect temporary overnight shelter in a public park (like Regina Park) in the absence of shelter spaces available to accommodate them, with courts citing nothing less than the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as justification.

Saanich, in short, could invite a lengthy, expensive legal response, if it were to crack down. More practically, the encampment has grown to include several dozen tents in a very visible location. The optics (along with the logistics) of removing those tents and their inhabitants could trigger a public relations nightmare for Saanich.

Camp residents are aware of this context, and at least one of their leaders, Chrissy Brett, has already raised the prospect of “resistance” in case Saanich were to remove them from the park, a point that did not go over well with District officials. Both sides have since de-escalated their rhetoric, having met earlier this month to discuss future solutions, with at least one additional meeting scheduled.

Saanich has taken steps to prohibit overnight camping in certain parks, including Cuthbert Holmes Park, in following the example set by the City of Victoria. But this pending prohibition does not include Regina Park.

Authorities have also taken measures to make the camp safer as the fire risk has risen along with summer temperatures, cutting the grass and forcing campers to move away from fences. These measures suggest that the campers won’t be moving anytime soon.

Elected officials — at least those willing to speak on the record — are preaching patience, residents living near Regina Park have continued to voice concerns about the effects of the camp.

Coun. Fred Haynes — who is also a director of the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness and past chair of the CRD Regional Housing Trust Fund — said Saanich staff including support and protective services are “working diligently” with camp organizers to resolve this situation.

“It is important to realize this is a complicated process,” he said. “The right to over night shelter has been up held by the courts of Canada. It will take some time to find solutions. I would like to thank the residents around the park for their patience and understanding. I recognize their valid concerns while this process continues.”

Mayor Richard Atwell said Saanich remains committed to ending the encampment. “We also have to find a housing solution for these people,” he said. “If we can supply land and partner with B.C. Housing, it will work towards those addressing the needs of the community and those in the camp who have no other place to sleep.”

wolfgang.depner@saanichnews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bruce McLean, 91, has published his first novel, The Manana Treehouse, which is inspired by his wife’s experience with Alzheimer’s. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
91-year-old Saanich man publishes first novel based on wife’s Alzheimer’s experience

Former journalist Bruce McLean ‘on cloud nine’ after making fiction debut

View Royal Coun. John Rogers stands next to an unearthed home heating oil tank. As a way to prevent environmental disasters, he is lobbying for a provincial registration system and mandatory inspection for all above-ground tanks, as well as a requirement to remove any underground tanks not used for a prescribed period of time. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Efforts to regulate Greater Victoria home heating oil tanks continues

View Royal councillor part of movement to identify old tanks, prevent catastrophic leaks

Residents enjoy the annual Halloween Trick or Treat on Oak Bay Avenue. (Robert Harwood Photo)
Oak Bay to host series of Winter Markets

No Halloween, Christmas events in Oak Bay Village

Drive up voting is popular with Victoria-Swan Lake voters at the Craigflower elementary polling station. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Drive up voting popular at Craigflower polling station in Victoria-Swan Lake

Nearly 13,000 mail-in ballots were requested in the Victoria-Swan Lake riding

Oak Bay High voting station was slow and steady for the provincial election day, Oct. 24, 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Early voting reduces election day turnout in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

An estimated 15,918 mail-in ballots requested in Oak Bay-Gordon Head

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Most Read