It’s a gag straight out of a Marx Bros. matinee, and it’s showing daily in Saanich.
On Sept. 7 Justice Ward Branch ruled the end of Regina Park tent city and supported Saanich’s right to assert its 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. sheltering bylaw – for those with no other options – at appropriate parks only.
That set off a series of moves by the group’s lead activist Chrissy Brett. The group tried to stick together but have been constantly met with disruption – mostly over the right to keep chattel (belongings) at parks and leave their tents erect throughout the day.
This week the remaining members of the Namegans Nation housing protest bounced between overnight sheltering spots at Cedar Hill, Hampton and Regina parks. They’re abiding by the rules, somewhat, with tents laid out but collapsed during the day.
However, the District of Saanich made a new play, asking Saanich Parks to confiscate any pop-up gazebos they found erect during the day. Saanich Police, on behalf parks crews, warned Brett and company on Halloween that the gazebos they use for daytime shelter would be confiscated.
At first, the group cried foul, pointing to the fact that if the Gorge Soccer Association wanted to erect a gazebo beside a weekend soccer tournament that would be permitted. They even went so far as to create a Facebook event called Field of Dreams from 1 to 7 p.m. on Thursday. They put the gazebo over the bleachers and sat underneath, watching Shoeless Joe Jackson play baseball on the Hampton Little League diamond. Saanich Police didn’t believe it. They didn’t see anyone on the field.
Instead, on Thursday the police assisted Saanich Parks and did confiscate the gazebo.
It left the protesters exposed to the rain. And now the games are afoot.
Housed versus unhoused. The housed person is allowed to keep a gazebo up 24/7. The unhoused person is being told by multiple police officers that they can't have a gazebo up during the day to keep themselves dry and warm. That they should stand in the rain until 7PM ⛺️ pic.twitter.com/3REYcydzPZ
— Marilou Gagnon RNPhD (@mlgagnon_XVII) November 2, 2018
Confiscated chattel, including the gazebos, are available for pickup the following day at 2 p.m. from the Saanich Public Works yard at Borden and McKenzie.
So in a response of their own the group ordered four more gazebos, upping their numbers to seven in total.
“It means even if we have two confiscated we can erect more, and keep replacing them until the next ones can be retrieved [from public works],” Brett said.
Saanich Police said they’re only enforcing based on recommendations by the city, said Sgt. Jereme Leslie (in accordance of the updated Saanich bylaw 7753-14.1 regarding chattel in Saanich Parks).
Overnight sheltering and games aside, the protest boils down to the group standing up against what they deem an inadequate local shelter situation. When people say there are shelters to go to, Brett responds by saying ‘yes they are,’ but refers to them as inhumane, inadequate, dangerous, unclean, and unreliable as a place to find your footing as a citizen.
In the meantime, Saanich Police continue to mediate as the face of the District of Saanich but without the ability to lobby for the multi-layered housing approach that Brett and company have sought since 2015.