Nearly five months after tents were first pitched at Regina Park in Saanich, a homeless camp there is now empty.
On Thursday evening, the last occupants of Camp Namegans left the site.
A BC Supreme Court order was issued last week that stated the camp had to be cleared by Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
Campers said they were told they had until 5 p.m. on Friday to leave Regina Park. However, Saanich police said that deadline was never given to the campers and all of them were informed they were in breach of the court order as of 7 p.m. on Sept. 11 if they remained at the park.
As of 6 p.m., the camp had been cleared out. However, Alliance Against Displacement, which represents the campers, held a news conference at nearby Taylor Park around the time. The group criticized the police presence at the site this week.
Regina Park in #Saanich has now been vacated, as ordered by the BC Supreme Court. Everyone has left peacefully. Remediation of the park can now begin. The park will be fenced off until remediation work is complete. Thank you for your patience everyone. pic.twitter.com/BWTswy0Ahq
— Saanich Police (@SaanichPolice) September 14, 2018
“Police erected a fence around the entire camp, installed massive, prison-yard style lights, and set up a mobile tactical command station. Police officers guard the entrance 24/7 and, as of this morning, have refused access to supporters who showed up to help residents pack their belongings, telling them, ‘this is a police operation,'” the group said in a release.
The group said campers were surprised with the order to leave the camp by 5 p.m. Thursday.
“Police claim that campers will be allowed to return in the morning to retrieve their belongings, giving about 30 homeless people the choice between taking their tents to camp in a park overnight and leaving their belongings unsheltered in the elements, or leaving their tents to protect their belongings and sleeping out unsheltered,” the group said.
Some of the campers are going to Rudd Park overnight. As per the district’s bylaws, people are allowed to camp in city parks overnight but must be gone by 7 a.m.
Saanich police had been at the site since Tuesday night and throughout the day on Thursday, trash was moved out of the encampment while the remaining campers continued to pack up.
The city plans to remediate the park for up to three weeks. City officials will test for soil contamination and place fireproofed wood chips on the ground.