Organizers of the homeless camp in Regina Camp are leaving open the possibility that some of its residents will stay beyond a court-imposed deadline scheduled to expire Tuesday evening.
“Passive resistance is a possibility for some individuals,” said Chrissy Brett, organizer and representative of Camp Namegans. “Recognizing that Saanich [police] has to do their job, we hope that they will take a non-violent approach as well. Again, the only people carrying guns and tasers are the cops.”
Brett said she is not sure at this time what “passive resistance” might entail, or how many people would participate in it.
She made these comments — which echo earlier comments — some 48 hours after Justice Ward Branch issued an injunction against the camp in a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that gives camp residents until 7 p.m. on Sept. 11 to leave the park, where homeless individuals have camped since May, if not earlier.
Saanich staff would then start re-mediation of the site, a process said to last a few weeks. They would remove hazardous materials, mow the lawn, and put down eight to 12 inches of wood chips. Once deemed fire safe, Saanich would allow residents to seek overnight shelter, while prohibiting camping during the day.
Branch’s rationale behind Friday’s ruling focused mainly on the issue of fire safety. He said among other points that residents had a reasonable time to meet the conditions that Saanich Fire Department but failed to do so.
Ashley Mollison of the Alliance Against Displacement called Friday’s ruling “cruel and inhumane” in an interview Sunday, because it displaces 100 people into local woods and onto local streets.
“I’m disappointed by the ruling but also not surprised that the legal system has thrown the book at us,” she said. “Tent cities challenge the notion that homeless people are incapable of looking after their own homes and lives.”
Tent cities like Camp Namegans challenge an entire system of homeless management from shelters and supportive housing to policing and prison, she said. “They challenge property rights and ownership with Indigenous principles of land use and stewardship. This ruling does not signify an end to this fight, but a bump in the road. We will keep fighting for autonomy, self-determination, and homes for all.”
As of Sunday afternoon, none of the more than 100 camp residents has left the site, said Mollison, who described its community in various stages of grief and loss.
Organizers, however, also have more immediate concerns. Mollison said they have asked Saanich Police whether residents willing to comply with the court ruling could have a “few more extra days” beyond Tuesday’s deadline to pack up their belongings. Additional details are said to come forward Monday evening.
The court expected Saanich to abide by its offer to provide storage at a local storage facility that tent city residents can use for their belongings up to 30 days. Anything unclaimed after 30 days would be disposed of, however. Some residents of Camp Namegans already have storage facilities, as they anticipate returning to permanent housing.
“U-Pack storage and more 30 bins are expected to arrive [Monday] — which we appreciate — but we won’t be able to pack up everything in 24 hours,” said Mollison. “Also, it’s expected to rain Monday and Tuesday, so if people have to pack, belongings will be ruined.”