Victoria files petition in B.C. Supreme Court regarding sheltering in Beacon Hill Park


Victoria wants to know whether homeless people can in fact temporarily shelter in a popular park within city limits.

The City of Victoria announced Tuesday that it has filed a petition in the Supreme Court of B.C., asking them to clarify the status of Beacon Hill Park and whether it can be used by homeless people for temporary sheltering.

“Chronic homelessness, a global health pandemic that has closed shelters, mental health and addiction supports stretched beyond capacity – these are modern realities that did not exist in 1882 when the trust was created and we need clarity on how this trust affects people’s rights today,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps in a press release.

The petition has been submitted as an application under the Trustee Act and is not considered legal action against unhoused people, according to the release.

The city is hoping the courts can provide guidance and answer their question of whether Beacon Hill Park, which is held in trust by the municipality, be used by persons experiencing homelessness for temporary sheltering?”

The city considers the issue to be “high public interest” due to a soaring increase of homeless people sheltering in the popular park during the pandemic.

Beacon Hill Park has been held in trust by the city since 1882 following a Crown grant from the province.

In 2009, the city’s parks regulation bylaw was amended to allow for limited sheltering parks following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that said homeless people are allowed under the constitution to erect overnight shelters in public parks, provided there is no adequate indoor shelter space available.

Both the 1882 Crown grant and the Public Parks Act of 1876 do not provide clear guidelines on what uses are permitted for Beacon Hill Park, only saying that the park must be maintained and preserved by the city as a public park or “pleasure ground,” according to the release.

“As we work closely with the province and our partners to end homelessness in our city, it is important for the City, as trustee, to have a definitive answer to this question once and for all,” added Helps.

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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