British Columbia

Homeless man found dead in northwestern B.C. tent camp following freezing night

The B.C. Coroners Service has not yet confirmed what caused the death of a homeless man found dead on Thursday morning in a tent encampment in Terrace B.C.

B.C. Coroners Service has not yet confirmed cause of death, community says victim well known

Two tents are pictured on a sidewalk, covered with snow.
Snow-covered tents are pictured in Vancouver on Dec. 21. Officials in Terrace say a man well-known in the community was found dead inside a tent in a homeless encampment in the northwestern B.C. city on Dec. 22. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The B.C Coroners Service is investigating the death of a man who was found in a tent at a homeless encampment downtown in Terrace in northwestern B.C., Thursday morning.

Mounties said temperatures dropped below –20 C, –30 C with the windchill overnight Wednesday. Investigators said the death is not considered suspicious.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Mario Cloutier says city bylaw officers performing proactive patrols of the homeless camp discovered the victim and called first responders.

B.C. Emergency Health Services said two ambulances responded to the camp in the 4500-block Greig Ave. in Terrace. Paramedics did not transport anyone to hospital.

CBC has not independently confirmed the name of the victim, but Terrace social service agencies and Indigenous groups say he was a familiar, friendly figure on downtown streets.

"We are very sad to hear of his passing. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and all who knew him in the community,"  said Vicky Serafini, communication specialist with Terrace's Ksan Society, in a statement to CBC News.

"The individual did have access to our shelter on the evening of his passing. Our shelter spaces are accessible 24/7, and during extreme weather, we always ensure we have sufficient overflow capacity for those seeking shelter. Individuals will sometimes choose not to access the shelter."

Mayor calls for help

Newly-elected Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas said he knew the victim who had been staying where a few dozen tents are clustered on city property, where the city's co-op stop once stood.

Terrace's homeless population, per capita, is double that of B.C.'s Lower Mainland. In recent days the camp has been largely abandoned as the unhoused scattered to find warmer shelter.

Bujtas says Terrace doesn't have the support from other levels of government to tackle the complex crisis of people facing homelessness, mental health issues, and addictions.

The city hall in Terrace, B.C. Mayor Sean Bujtas says his city doesn't have the support from other levels of government to tackle the complex crisis of homelessness, mental health, addictions and housing. (Carolina de Ryk/CBC)

"We continue to lobby and beg the governments to bring these supports in, and they don't come. And this isn't the current [political] party, this is all parties, none of them have stepped up and taken care of this issue in our community, and they continue to fail them. 

"It's unacceptable."