The City of Victoria is seeking a court order that would require people sheltering in environmentally sensitive areas of Beacon Hill Park to relocate to less vulnerable locations.
The City filed an application on Friday in BC Supreme Court for an order that would require homeless individuals residing in the park to only be permitted in certain areas of the park. The order being sought would prohibit anyone from sheltering in sensitive areas, such as the Garry oak ecosystems, designated under the City’s Parks Bylaw.
According to the City of Victoria, the park’s Garry oaks are part of a protected and endangered natural system, where only 5 per cent remains in B.C.
“This is a challenging time for everyone, especially for people in our city who don’t have a home,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “
While we acknowledge previous court decisions that recognized the rights of people experiencing homelessness to shelter in municipal parks, we all have a responsibility to protect sensitive ecosystems and the natural environment.”
Mayor Helps added that the City wasn’t intending on removing anyone experiencing homelessness and sheltering in the popular park.
“No one is being forced to leave Beacon Hill Park, but we do expect people to relocate to one of the many less vulnerable areas.”
In a press release issued on Friday, the City of Victoria suggested that staff and outreach workers have been communicating to the approximately 100 people sheltering in the park “for weeks” about the sensitive environment.
“Many people have already relocated, and the City expects everyone to move willingly,” reads a statement in the release.
One thing the City noted is that the less sensitive environments being relocated to are more open and will make vulnerable people “more visible,” to residents in the area.
“Everyone deserves a home. No one should have to live outside in a tent because they don’t have a place to stay,” Helps said. “Getting everyone housed indoors will take continued leadership and investment from the provincial and federal governments, as well as cooperation and coordination throughout the region.”
The application for the court order is expected to be heard by B.C. Supreme Court during the week of July 27.
If an injunction is approved, the City of Victoria said they will order anyone to move that hasn’t already.
Earlier this week, Victoria Police said that disturbance calls related to Beacon Hill Park have increased by 80 per cent compared to 2019.