WATCH: About 40 homeless campers in Saanich are in a new tent city. The group was made to leave Regina Park last week. They relocated to a provincially-owned plot nearby and are demanding housing. Skye Ryan reports.
The provincial government has issued a trespass notice to all occupants of the new tent city in Saanich.
The notice, dated Sept. 16, states that the campers’ occupation of the lands between Highway 17, Carey Road, Ravine Way and Vernon Way is “not authorized nor consented to by the minister.” The notice also says occupants must leave immediately.
“If you do not cease occupation of the lands, you will be trespassing pursuant to the Trespass Act,” the notice reads. Pursuant to the act, a peace officer can arrest anyone on the lands without a warrant.
Saanich police had asked the province to enforce the provisions of the Trespass Act after approximately 75 people, including some who had been in the Regina Park tent city, set up a new tent city on provincially owned green space along Ravine Way north of Uptown Mall. Before moving to the area, some of the campers stayed overnight at Rudd Park.
Camp organizer Chrissy Brett, a member of the Nuxalk First Nation from Bella Coola, said organizers have sent a notice to the province saying they can share the lands of the rest of the public.
The Regina Park tent city, called Camp Namegans by organizers, was shut down Thursday as Saanich police enforced a B.C. Supreme Court injunction.
As of Monday afternoon, 40 people in about 30 tents were camping in the new area, which is being referred to as Namegans Nation by organizers. Furniture and other materials were delivered to the encampment over the weekend.
“We needed to ensure had somewhere where they still felt safe, felt like they had community and that they were a part of family,” Brett said.
Police said the group has a “significantly more confrontational tone” than the group that was at Regina Park for five months.
The B.C. government has partnered with the Native Friendship Centre to provide 25 shelter beds at 231 Regina Avenue as a response to a need for more shelter space in Saanich and Victoria. The shelter will be open from 9 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. from Oct. 1 to March 31, 2019, regardless of the weather. Normally the location is only open during extreme weather events.
The centre will provide shuttle services from predetermined pickup points, meals, showers and access to laundry facilities on site. BC Housing is also working with other non-profit partners to expedite the opening of other winter shelters.
The announcement about the shelter opening was made Monday morning. While Brett said it is a start, she would appreciate the province sitting down to have a conversation with camp occupants instead of issuing a press release.
“Those invitations are continuously ignored,” Brett said.
The province has also said they are partnering with 22 municipalities to build more than 2,000 modular homes with 24/7 support services. And through the new Building BC: Supportive Housing Fund, an additional 2,500 new supportive homes will be delivered throughout the province. The District of Saanich has been offered funding through this program.