WATCH: The Supreme Court’s Chief Justice has sided with homeless campers at Victoria’s tent city, denying the provincial government a temporary injunction to force them out
Cheers erupted the moment residents of Victoria’s tent city heard they will get to stay in the makeshift encampment many now call home.
“I’m just so happy to be able to stay here, home, tent city is my home man and this is where I belong and I’m with my family which counts,” said tent city camper Wolf Montey.
“I was so nervous right up until now because it’s an immense amount of work and we were unprepared about where we were all going to go,” said camper Anna McBee.
In a precedent-setting decision, the B.C. Supreme Court’s Chief Justice denied the provincial government’s application for a temporary injunction to force the campers off its courthouse property.
It means the campers can stay pending the outcome of a trial for a permanent injunction which will begin on September 7th.
“He looked at what would happen if this place was displaced and recognizing there really is no place else for many of the residents to go, it would just be to send them back to the doorways and the parks of the city,” said lawyer Catherine Boies Parker, who represented the tent city residents at the temporary injunction hearing.
While there was a sense of celebration at the camp on Tuesday, not everyone was thrilled with the decision.
“There’s so much stuff that’s gone on that’s harming these people that live around tent city that it’s hard for a reasonable person to say there’s no harm going on, these people are threatened, literally threatened daily,” said Stephen Hammond who represents a group of neighbouring residents and businesses calling itself ‘Mad as Hell’.
But in his decision, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson said ” I am not satisfied on the evidence before me that many of the problems alleged by the plaintiffs are the unique result of the existence of the Encampment, and are not simply part of the reality of homelessness.”
Victoria’s mayor said she is hoping the province will now step in and manage the site over the summer.
“It seems to have turned into a provincial campsite, in the middle of the city, and I will support the province in managing the site so it doesn’t impact the nearby neighbours as it has been and so it’s safe for people living there,” said Helps.
If there’s one thing everyone, including the tent city campers, agree on, it’s that more appropriate, permanent housing options are needed.
The Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Amrik Virk said the permanent injunction application will be heard September 7th, but the province will continue to look at appropriate housing options for the remaining tent city residents in the interim.
In the past few months the Ministry of Housing, along with local service providers, have created more than 150 new shelter and transitional housing spaces for people living at tent city.