31 October 2008

Lawyers for Victoria Homeless: City council wrong again

[Updated] As suggested when I wrote about the City of Victoria's most recent efforts to shovel people who are homeless off to no man's land, lawyers for the city's homeless say that City councillors are wrong - for the second time.

Recall that the City had adopted a bylaw enforcement policy that was intended to restrict homeless people to the hours between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. for erecting and using their tents in parks.

My response then had been that the need to provide for one's life, liberty and security of person doesn't conveniently turn itself off between certain hours of the day, nor does inclement weather. Further, there is no justifiable reason for making parks accessible for ten hours but not for 24; and the hours specified smack of white-collar, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., centrism.

So what do the lawyers representing Victoria's homeless have to say?

“It appears that the Enforcement Policy is not supported by any bylaw,” wrote Catherine Boies Parker, who along with Irene Faulkner represented the homeless in the October 14 Supreme Court of B.C. win.

The court struck down several sections of the city's bylaws, finding they “are of no force and effect insofar and only insofar as they apply to prevent homeless people from erecting temporary shelter.”

...In her letter, Boies Parker pointed out the city can not have an enforcement policy for a bylaw which is “of no force and effect.”

“It is our position that enforcement action such as that which was recently taken against the campers in Beacon Hill Park cannot be supported by a mere policy which is not grounded in any bylaw,” she said.

The city can pass a new bylaw to reflect their policy, she said, but added it is unlikely to stand up to a court challenge. “An absolute prohibition on erecting shelter between the hours of 7 am and 9 pm will again lead to the result that there will be many times when the homeless will still be prohibited from erecting shelter for themselves when they need to sleep or otherwise require protection from the elements.”

And in other news... Vancouver plays Whack-a-Mole with homeless campers.

Oh, the compassion of it all!

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