(News Bulletin file)

(News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo’s Discontent City can remain where it is until the end of next month

B.C. Supreme Court judge grants application for an extension to comply with injunction

Residents at Discontent City don’t need to break up camp until the end of next month.

B.C. Supreme Court Judge Ronald Skolrood has granted an application for an extension before any enforcement of an injunction against Discontent City. The homeless camp will be allowed to remain at 1 Port Drive until Nov. 30, with some conditions, including that those who remain at the site will be expected to move into supportive housing.

Skolrood’s decision, delivered via teleconference, isn’t contingent upon alternate housing being made available, but will allow some of the stipulations the City of Nanaimo sought if an extension was granted. He said the intent was to effect an orderly dismantling and allowing a process for occupants truly in need of alternate housing to be identified and to maintain order and safety at the site.

No vehicles, trailers or structures will be permitted at the property, ordered Skolrood, no people under 19 years old will be allowed at any time and City of Nanaimo, with assistance of RCMP, will be allowed to remove all fire hazards identified in previous orders, except for tarps covering individual tents.

Come 5 p.m. on Oct. 26, occupants seeking to remain at the property and wanting transitional housing from the province must identify themselves to the city or B.C. Housing by showing picture ID that is acceptable to the city or by providing their full, legal names. Skolrood said this is solely for purposes of verifying the identities of qualifying occupants.

Also on Oct. 26 at 5 p.m., everyone but qualifying occupants must vacate the site and Nanaimo RCMP and the city are authorized to stop unqualified people from taking up residence at the site.

All occupants must vacate the site by 2 p.m. on Nov. 30 at which time the site will be dismantled as per conditions in a Sept. 21 order.

On Sept. 21, Skolrood ruled against allowing the homeless encampment, which was set up in May, from remaining on City of Nanaimo land on Port Drive. At the time, Skolrood gave occupants 21 days to vacate the property, but Noah Ross, Discontent City legal counsel, filed an application seeking an extension, on Oct 12 (the 21st day) leading to a hearing today at Supreme Court in Nanaimo.

Noah Ross, legal counsel representing Discontent City, said he was relatively pleased with the ruling.

“There’s positive elements to it,” said Ross. “We’re happy the camp gets to stay open. Not all the conditions the city asked for were granted. Campers are still allowed to have guests and those who are staying are allowed to [until] Nov. 30, that’s positive. It’s positive people get to stay at one place until they go into housing. I think that some of the increases in the powers of the fire department are not positive.

“I think that things have been relatively, generally safe down there, so we were hoping that condition that there be no structures wasn’t provided, but at least finally after six months the city has agreed that tarps are somewhat useful for people’s safety and health, so we’re happy that the tarps are allowed to stay.”

When it comes to people living in vehicles, Ross said they will have to be moved, but some non-tent city residents will allow vehicles to be parked on their properties.

Troy DeSouza, legal counsel for the city, said he was pleased with Skolrood’s decision.

“It’s going to provide order to chaos,” said DeSouza. “It’s going to have a transition for folks who are legitimately homeless, which Mr. Justice Skolrood noted, and get rid of those folks who aren’t homeless and starting next Friday, we’ll see a big reduction in the amount of people at tent city.”

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay said the decision was neither a victory nor a loss. He said everybody has to pull up their sleeves and get “this thing done.”

“It’s going to make the site a lot safer,” said McKay. “We are going to get the minors out of the site and they are not going to be allowed back. We are going to get that site down so that it is only people who are registered for housing that will be allowed to remain.”

Ross said he doesn’t anticipate asking for another extension. He understands why the city is requesting photo ID, but also has reservations about it.

“Obviously, that’s not what we wanted, it’s not a beneficial outcome, but I understand the city’s point is, it’s city property and they need to get people’s names for housing. One thing outstanding is we argued at the injunction that there was underlying charter rights to have daytime shelter and that issue is still outstanding,” said Ross. “We’re still deciding if we’re taking that to trial or not, so in terms of, is this the end of the litigation? It isn’t, necessarily. Is this the end of this injunction? I think it likely is. This is likely the last deadline.”

Nanaimo city council voted last week to oppose extending a deadline for enforcement of an injunction against Discontent City.

The supreme court injunction had permitted the displacement of people from the homeless camp as of Oct. 12. However, the city received pushback around the notion of enforcing the injunction, including a letter with signatures from representatives from the United Way Central Vancouver Island, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Mental Health Association and others.

The provincial government announced earlier this month that 170 units of temporary supportive housing would be set up in Nanaimo in November.

– With files from Nicholas Pescod


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