17 October 2008

City of Victoria vs. Homeless

Wow. They just don't give up, do they? Recently, a decision by the BC Supreme Court struck down a City of Victoria law which prohibited homeless people from erecting tents on public parks. The law was found to be unconstitutional.

Now city councillors have slapped a limit on the times of day the tents can be up.

According to Judge Ross, sections of the two Victoria Bylaws which denied homeless people the right to provide themselves shelter on public land “violate ... the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in that they deprive homeless people of life, liberty and security of the person in a manner not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

So what do the City's councillors do in response?

The city plans to appeal the court decision, but until the appeal is heard - which could take more than a year - the city has adopted a bylaw enforcement policy that will allow homeless to erect and use tents in parks only between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

At 7 a.m. a person using a tent in a park will be asked to dismantle it and move on. If they refuse, the city will dismantle the tent and remove it.

The policy, which will be in effect at all times when the number of homeless in Victoria exceeds the number of available shelter beds, restricts the erecting and use of temporary shelters in public spaces to homeless persons. It prohibits cooking, campfires and fire pits in parks, and will not allow tents or temporary shelters to be erected on streets, sidewalks and boulevards....

"We're looking at business as usual with the understanding that we have to allow camping in parks," [Acting Mayor Dean] Fortin said yesterday.

"We're going to ensure, on behalf of the residents of Victoria that we're taking care of children's playgrounds, sports fields and sensitive ecosystems. We must protect those parts of parks but at the same time follow the judgment."

"Maybe the politicians should pack up their homes and take them with them during the day," said James, a man who was sleeping at the [Beacon Hill Park] encampment. [my emphasis]

Good on James!

And incidentally,
  • The need to provide for one's life, liberty and security of person doesn't conveniently turn itself off between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., nor does inclement weather.
  • There is no justifiable reason for making parks accessible for ten hours but not for 24. Moreover, the hours chosen smack of white-collar, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., centrism.

Recommend this post