Victoria’s courthouse tent city has been given a reprieve, as the province’s fire commissioner has rescinded an order to dismantle the camp.
The commissioner had given the province a July 1st deadline to comply with a set of fire safety orders issued June 13, or remove the camp. The decision comes as 20 campers move into additional shelter spaces created in View Royal in an effort to help free up space inside the crowded camp on the courthouse lawn.
For tent city residents like Chrissy Brett, receiving commissioner Gordon Anderson’s email Friday brought relief.
Our Place Society executive director Don Evans says 17 people moved into the Choices transitional shelter at the former View Royal youth custody centre over Thursday and Friday, many of them vulnerable youth, and he expected the final three to follow Saturday afternoon.
“That’ll just create some more space in tent city so the tents can be farther apart and tis not quite as much of a fire hazard as it you know goes through the courts,” he said.
Evans said workers removed large 6 containers full of wood debris as some of the wooden shelters that campers had built came down, and gravel pathways were widened. But heacknowledged some of the fire safety issues remain.
“I wouldn’t say the fire hazard has been removed, because there is still a lot of structures in there and a lot of tents, so I think there’s still risk there but I think its a lot less risk than it was a few days ago.”
In his July 1 email, Anderson says he does still believe conditions at the camp endanger life and safety, but less so than 48 hours earlier. He urges the province and campers to continue working toward full compliance, but says he may issue a new order to shut down the camp if conditions deteriorate again.
While the controversial camp has a reprieve for now, a judge’s decision on an injunction application from the province to clear the site is still pending.
Arguments ended Tuesday, with the province citing other health and safety concerns including rats on the property.
But with the urgent fire concerns reduced, campers say they hope the judge doesn’t rush his decision
“I would hope that he takes some time to really go over the affadavits and take a look and really consider whats best,” said Brett.