B.C. homeless camps OK only at night: court
A court ruling in British Columbia that said homeless people have a constitutional right to camp in city parks doesn't extend into daylight hours, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Last year, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled it was unconstitutional for the city of Victoria to prevent homeless people from setting up tents and temporary shelters in local parks when homeless shelters were full.
The case prompted the city to revise its bylaw to allow overnight camping between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. It made the change in February of last year, after an initial ruling at the B.C. Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal didn't release its decision until 10 months later.
Within days of the bylaw change, David Johnston and David Shebib were convicted of violating the new rules after they set up cardboard shelters in a downtown park. They were first given written warnings, and then handed bylaw tickets the following day.
Johnston and Shebib challenged their convictions in B.C. Supreme Court, arguing last year's Appeal Court ruling meant they had the right to keep their shelters set up around the clock.
But Judge Keith Bracken said there are more services available during the day, including drop-in centres and shelters, and the need for shelter at night isn't the same during the daytime.
He noted the men weren't actually sleeping in their shelters during the day.
"There is nothing to be found in the evidence at trial to support the submission that the need for daytime sleeping space is equal to what is required at night," wrote Bracken in a decision posted to the court's website on Wednesday.
"During daytime hours, it is expected that more services are available and the evidence establishes that there are drop-in centres and shelters in the City of Victoria where homeless people can go. During periods of time when the Victoria region enjoys its normal temperate climate, daytime shelter may not be required."
Bracken noted the case centres on a conflict between the rights of homeless people and the rights of the public to use and enjoy the park during the daytime.
He concluded restricting the hours in which homeless people can camp is justified under Section 1 of the charter, which allows reasonable limits on freedoms that can be "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."