The residents of Victoria’s tent city made an emotional plea to a B.C. Supreme Court judge today to allow them to stay on the provincial land next to the courthouse
Victoria’s tent city community gathered for a group photo on the steps of the Victoria Law Courts on the third and final day of an injunction hearing to decide whether the province can force the campers off the land next door.
Tuesday morning Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson opened the floor to anyone in the courtroom who wanted to speak — what followed were several emotional stories from residents about how tent city has saved them, offering them protection, and a sense of community.
“People that had fears prior to tent city, I’d say 80% or better feel a lot safer,” said tent city resident Michael Henning.
Marty Petrak doesn’t live at tent city but has struggled with mental health and homelessness throughout his life — he made a passionate plea to the judge to allow the campers to say.
“When you’re around your peers, because you’re all mentally ill and you all know it and you’re all quirky but you all understand each other and you help each other it’s a society, it’s a community,” Petrak said.
The defense lawyer argued that having a central location for the city’s homeless has benefited the city and local authorities like police because they only have to attend to one central location.
But the province painted a much different picture, arguing that there are serious health concerns at tent city, and there have been several serious incidents including overdoses, one of them fatal, and assault.
Victoria Police said there was a serious assault at 1:00 a.m. Tuesday and one person had to be taken to hospital.
The province also said the negative impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood far outweigh any positives.
The hearing has now wrapped up.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson will review all of the material and isn’t expected to make a decision on the injunction for at least a week.
Once he makes that decision it will likely only be the beginning of a lengthy legal battle.
If he grants the province an injunction the campers will have to move, but their lawyer will likely take the matter to trial to try to have the injunction overturned, allowing them to return.
If Hinkson denies the province the injunction, which would be a precedent-setting decision, the campers could stay but lawyers for the province would then take the matter to trial to argue once again that they should be removed.