The City of Victoria is looking for a court order to enforce sheltering rules in Beacon Hill Park. The City is looking to move people who are homeless out of culturally and environmentally sensitive areas and into designated areas of the park. (Black Press Media file photo)

Victoria seeks court order to enforce sheltering rules in Beacon Hill Park

People being asked to move out of environmentally sensitive areas of park

The City of Victoria is seeking a court order to enforce sheltering rules in Beacon Hill Park.

On Friday, the City filed an application with the B.C. Supreme Court seeking an order that would require people who are homeless to shelter in permitted areas of the park only. It would prohibit them from sheltering in environmentally and culturally sensitive areas as designated under the City’s Parks Bylaw.

The Garry oak ecosystem in Beacon Hill Park is part of a protected and endangered natural system of which less than five per cent remains in B.C.

“This is a challenging time for everyone, especially for people in our city who don’t have a home,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “While we acknowledge previous court decisions that recognized the rights of people experiencing homelessness to shelter in municipal parks, we all have a responsibility to protect sensitive ecosystems and the natural environment.”

READ ALSO: Mayor not in favour of low barrier housing at Oak Bay Lodge

Helps said no one is being forced to leave the park but that people will be expected to relocate to less vulnerable areas. The park itself is over 200 acres large with 50 acres of land available for temporary sheltering. About 93 acres of the park are culturally or ecologically significant and areas are “experiencing significant damage,” Helps said in a briefing on Friday.

For weeks, staff and community outreach workers have been meeting with about 100 people sheltering in Beacon Hill Park to request they move to less sensitive areas, according to a statement from the City of Victoria. The meetings will continue to take place daily to assist with moving and to connect those who are sheltering in the park with provincial housing supports and health services. The City said many people have already relocated and expects everyone to move willingly.

According to the City, the relocation plan is “being coordinated in a compassionate way” that is safe for those sleeping outside while indoor shelters are closed or operating with reduced services due to the pandemic. About 180 people are estimated to be sheltering in parks in Victoria.

READ ALSO: Campers allowed to stay in Beacon Hill Park for now

Helps noted that those sheltering in Beacon Hill Park will be more visible as they move out of ecologically sensitive areas and into more open areas. She said she hopes residents will be understanding of their need for safe shelter and support. Helps acknowledged that some residents feel no one should be camping in Beacon Hill Park but also noted that homelessness is an issue that’s been caused over years and has been exacerbated by the pandemic. She requested that park users not take photos of people sheltering or their sites and said this is an opportunity to share the park.

“Everyone deserves a home. No one should have to live outside in a tent because they don’t have a place to stay,” Helps said. “Getting everyone housed indoors will take continued leadership and investment from the provincial and federal governments, as well as cooperation and coordination throughout the region.”

Victoria expects the B.C. Supreme Court will hear the application during the week of July 27 and if an injunction is granted, people who have not moved to permitted areas of the park will be ordered to do so.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City of VictoriaCoronavirusHomeless

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

Just Posted

Alf Todd on a mission to fight Parkinson’s disease

Todd and group hope to raise $10,000 riding bikes to Port Alberni

Mysterious Brazilian honey barrel appears at Saanich intersection

Barrel spotted on West Saanich Road part of intersection construction project, district says

Flaming object thrown through Victoria restaurant window

Police looking for any witnesses to early-morning incident

Lost dog reunited with family three months after going missing along Juan de Fuca trail

‘The poor thing was skin and bones,’ says one of the Sooke rescuers

STANDING TALL: For some, B.C.’s forest industry is the best office in the world

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Russia approves vaccine, Putin hopes to begin mass production

Critic calls decision to proceed without thorough testing ‘dangerous and grossly immoral’

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

Doctor slain in Alberta medical clinic was devoted father, husband

Red Deer doctors on edge after attack on colleague who had two young daughters

Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

For every dollar the province spends the federal government will match

Bad behaviour at B.C. restaurants ignites campaign calling for respect

“If you can’t follow the rules, then stay home,” says BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association

Addition pending to Cape Scott Provincial Park?

BC Parks will wait before announcing plans for nearly $1 million old growth land purchase

Over half of Americans oppose Trump tariff on Canadian aluminum: survey

The survey was conducted Aug. 7 to 9 among 1,513 Canadians and 1,003 Americans

Oh baby, what a birthday gift: $2.8M raised to help B.C. boy with rare disease

‘We are very thankful to everybody,’ Aryan Deol’s father says

Most Read