Friday’s court ruling against the homeless camp in Regina Park is a short-sighted victory for law-and-order types, a long-term loss for everybody else.
More than 100 homeless individuals are facing an uncertain future after Justice Ward Branch granted the District of Saanich and the Province of British Columbia an injunction against the homeless camp (Camp Namegans) that had popped up in Regina Park in spring of this year.
Under the terms of the ruling, the residents had until Tuesday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m. to depart the camp, and as of this writing, it is not clear how many followed the orders though it is expected all will be gone by today.
You don’t have to buy the rhetoric of camp leaders (‘death sentence’) to appreciate the harshness of the ruling. By giving residents mere days to depart the site, the ruling shows little sympathy for the practical realities of dissolving of what has become a genuine community, and sends a clear message to other tent cities around the province: time to pack up, you are not wanted here. This marks a major change in the climate when held up against previous court rulings that showed greater sensitivity.
To be absolutely clear: this critique neither questions the legitimacy of the legal process that led to the decision, nor should it appear as an endorsement of the various bylaw violations that the camp represented. Saanich and the province have an obligation to enforce public order and safety, a theory which their legal representatives exploited in their favour. It is also one thing to muse about homelessness in the abstract, another thing to live next to a homeless camp for several months.
But supporters of Friday’s ruling should not be so quick to celebrate. The camp (as it always would be) might be a thing of the past, but the people who stayed in Regina Park and the issues that led them there won’t disappear so quickly, with no immediate recourse on the horizon.
Unless authorities launch a massive counter-strike against the specific shortage of affordable housing and the more general systemic inequities in our society that cause this shortage, tent cities will not remain a temporary phenomena. They will be the norm, and court rulings like Friday’s merely pushes the problem elsewhere. Regina Park, simply put, can be anywhere and everywhere, and we all pay for it one way or another.