Crissy Brett and almost two dozen campers in Duncan’s Charles Hoey Park intend to stand their ground.
The City of Duncan issued a civil injunction application to the campers on April 10, informing them that the Supreme Court of BC will hear the case on April 18.
The campers already decided to ignore the “Notice to Vacate” letters that were delivered to them by the City of Duncan on April 6 that they vacate the park by April 8 or the city would proceed with legal action.
The city said in the letter that the Legion would 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 remained.
“Bylaw officers came by at noon on Saturday and asked if we intended to leave,” said Crissy Brett, who, together with a growing number of supporters, has been moving their small tent city around Duncan over the past few weeks to draw attention to the homeless problem in the Cowichan Valley.
“I told them that we have a right to peaceful assembly and peaceful protest and wouldn’t leave. We didn’t do anything to obstruct the Battle of Vimy Hill commemoration on Sunday and, in fact, most of us participated in it in a respectful manner. I guess it’s up to the city to choose their next steps.”
The letter from the city said the city will not allow a Victoria court house tent city situation to develop in Charles Hoey Park.
“Warmland House has confirmed that there are enough shelter beds available for all campers who are at Charles Hoey Park,” the city said in a separate statement.
“Even those who have previously been asked to leave the shelter due to inappropriate behavior are welcome to return once their behavior is under control.”
Mayor Phil Kent said the city is acutely aware of the housing challenges in the region, but housing policy and support are the jurisdiction of the province.
However, Kent said it is clear the issues of homelessness, mental health and addiction are affecting the local community.
“For many years, the city has provided support for local non-governmental organizations working to provide emergency and supportive housing in the community,” he said.
“We intend to approach the Municipality of North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes to work on a collaborative approach to advocate for funding for social housing in the Cowichan Valley.”
Brett said she’s pleased with the public support she and her fellow campers are receiving, and that a number of groups in Vancouver who champion homeless issues have also offered moral support.
“We want the city to find more semi-permanent areas for the homeless; somewhere the shelter beds aren’t always full,” she said.