WATCH: A judge has issued an interim injunction to shut down the Regina Park encampment in Saanich. Tess van Straaten has the details.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has granted an interim injunction against a permanent homeless camp at Regina Park in Saanich.
“This will cost lives,” camp organizer and homeless advocate Chrissy Brett said outside the Victoria Courthouse. “There will be more lives lost on the street and in dumpers and in donation bins and through overdoses.”
The ruling Friday morning cited the serious fire and safety risks at the camp, which now has more than 100 residents, as the major concern.
“There are serious fire safety concerns,” the Honourable Justice Bench told court, handing down his ruling. “I’m gravely concerned the high risk of fire remains and residents don’t seem to take it seriously.”
#BREAKING Judge rules in #Saanich Regina Park tent city case granting interim injunction against permanent camp, citing serious fire risk & on-going non-compliance as major concern. Park must be returned to original state. @CHEK_News #yyj #homelessness #tentcity #yyjpoli #bcpoli
— Tess van Straaten (@tessvanstraaten) September 7, 2018
The District of Saanich and the Ministry of Transportation, which owns part of the land, asked for an interim injunction to shut down the camp because of concerns the fire and safety hazards as well as the impact on area residents.
“Saanich’s goal since beginning of the encampment has been to achieve voluntary compliance of its by-laws,” Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell told reporters at a media conference Friday afternoon. “In the face of open defiance at the camp and from its leaders, it has become necessary to seek the assistance of the court.”
The injunction would normally take effect in 48 hours, but Saanich asked court for it to be put in place on Tuesday, Sep. 11 at 7 p.m. to give campers and police more time to make preparations.
Saanich Police say they’ll take a “soft approach” until the injunction is in place.
Campers have been told that once the park is restored to its original state, it can be used for nighttime sheltering between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m., as allowed by a Saanich bylaw but tents will not be allowed to stay up during the day.
Overnight camping is allowed in 102 of Saanich’s 172 parks.
The injunction will remain in place until a hearing is held for a full injunction, which the judge said would be fast-tracked to be completed as soon as possible.
Interim injunction hearings were delayed two weeks to give residents of the camp, which they call Camp Namegans, a chance to prepare a response to the more than 1,000 pages of the injunction.
The district was against the adjournment, arguing the encampment is getting bigger and more fuel and combustible material continues to be brought in, increasing the fire risk.
On Sunday afternoon, a discarded lit cigarette caused a fire that destroyed a tent and its contents at the encampment.
The Saanich Fire Department said on Tuesday the lit cigarette had been left smouldering on some combustible materials inside a tent.
Earlier this summer, the Saanich Fire Department issued fire inspection orders, which included a prohibition against smoking in the park and a requirement to move fuel containers to safe areas.
The tent city at Regina Park began in May with about 20 people.