WATCH: The group ‘Mad as Hell’ says Victoria Police warned provincial officials last fall about the growing number of tents on the courthouse lawn, but the province chose not to take action
Tent city has become a prominent part of the neighbourhood surrounding the Victoria Law Courts but angry residents who live near it say the camp could have been prevented.
Today the spokesperson for the group Mad As Hell, Stephen Hammond, said he was shocked to learn Victoria Police warned the provincial government about the growing problem at the courthouse last fall.
Back then the site looked remarkably different, with only a handful of tents.
“This government that’s spending millions of our taxpayer dollars to get rid of this mess and undo this problem, was the exact same government and senior bureaucrats, who with proper advice, decided nope we’re going to do what we want even though they knew the result would be the tent city,” said Hammond.
Victoria Police Deputy Chief Steve Ing confirmed to CHEK News that he did write a letter to provincial officials last fall, trying to clarify their position on the growing number of tents at the courthouse property, and offering advice and assistance in dealing with it.
“VicPD talked to the province early on and said this is our recommendation, we know what happens if you leave the tents here, but for whatever reason, we’re not going to point fingers because what we’re trying to do right now is work with the province to fix the situation and get those people the health care and the housing needs that they have,” said Police Board Chair and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
Mad As Hell has recently called for 24/7 policing at the site, which currently has more than 100 tents.
It said the province, not the city, should have to foot that bill.
“The province should also be compensating every one of the homeowners or renters around there who have had to spend an extra tens of thousands of dollars on extra security for what has gone on,” said Hammond.
“It’s just mismanagement and somebody needs to be held accountable and or create policies so that moving forward we can protect our neighbourhoods,” said former Victoria Councillor Shellie Gudgeon.
The province said it never gave permission for the tenters to use the site but didn’t ask them to leave because they worried it would only push the problem elsewhere.
Instead they say they’re focusing on long-term solutions to the situation.