Crissy Brett said she and her fellow campers in Duncan’s Charles Hoey Park have no intention of leaving anytime soon.
Brett and a number of supporters have been moving their small tent city around Duncan over the past few weeks to draw attention to the homeless problem in the Cowichan Valley.
They have had no problems with authorities until they set up in Charles Hoey Park with approximately 10 tents and 13 people several days ago.
Officials from the City of Duncan issued “Notice to Vacate” letters on April 6 to the camp’s organizers requiring that they vacate the park by noon on April 8 or the city will proceed with legal action, in accordance with the direction provided by council.
A statement from the city said the the Legion will be holding a ceremony to commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge at the cenotaph in the park on April 9 and, as some tents are just metres away from the cenotaph, the campers would be a major disruption to the service if they remain.
“This encampment in the park disrupts Duncan residents’ right to use and enjoy their public park,” the statement said.
“The city’s bylaws do not permit a permanent encampment and staff have communicated the breaches of the city’s bylaw regulations to the campers. The campers have refused to move.”
The statement went on to say that the city will not allow a Victoria court house tent city situation to develop in Charles Hoey Park.
“The city, through its measured and reasonable approach, acknowledges the competing interests in this situation and is working to address the concerns of all stakeholders,” the statement said.
“The city will be approaching the Municipality of North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes to work on a collaborative approach to advocate for social housing locally.”
Brett, a member of the Nuxalt First Nation who lives in Crofton, said April 7 was the first day of the camp’s cultural festival and she intends to begin a hunger strike in support of the campers’ goals to help the homeless.
She said sacred prayer flags will be flying in the campground and defied the authorities to take them down.
“We have a right to protest peacefully and we intend to stay in our tents until the city comes up with plans for more permanent sites to house the homeless, and establish shelters for both the evenings and the daytime,” Brett said.
“We want to work with the authorities. I thought we had an agreement for us to peacefully protest and were told that it’s no problem, and then we get these notices to vacate.”