Acting mayor Kevin Pearson

Greater Victoria urged to allow camping in parks

Sooke currently does not allow overnight camping in parks.

The District of Sooke is closely watching a plan to permit homeless people to overnight in parks.

The proposal is at the request of the City of Victoria and requires the CRD to amend its parks bylaws.

The motion comes in response to a landmark decision made by the B.C. Supreme Court last month in which Justice Christopher Hinkson struck down the City of Abbotsford’s bylaw prohibiting sleeping in public space between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. and the city’s request for a permanent injunction against homeless camping.

“I conclude that the effect of denying the city’s homeless access to public spaces without permits and not permitting them to erect temporary shelters without permits is grossly disproportionate to any benefit the city might derive from furthering its objectives and breaches (section) 7 Charter rights of the city’s homeless,” the ruling states. “The needs for those who are truly homeless in the city are immediate.”

In Sooke, acting mayor Kevin Pearson said the issue is something all municipalities will face in B.C. “I don’t think Sooke’s going to be immune to it,” he said.

Sooke does not allow overnight camping in parks.

Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who put forward the motion, said municipalities such as Sidney, Saanich and Oak Bay do not permit overnight camping in parks.

“I think that is it important that all municipalities should adjust their bylaws, partly to relieve the burden on our camps,” said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young.

“We know that there is some camping in other municipalities and I expect there to me more if other cities do let them.”

Pearson said while homelessness is not a big issue in Sooke, people do camp in various locations around the municipality.

“I don’t know if we have a homeless problem, but we do have people without homes,” he said.

Senior levels of governments have to come up with a proactive plan to address the root cause of homelessness, Pearson said.