British Columbia

Residents 'overwhelmed' after judge rules they can stay in CRAB Park encampment

People who've been living at an encampment in downtown Vancouver say they're overwhelmed by a judge's decision Thursday allowing them to stay in the park after spending months with eviction pressure hanging over their heads.

'We took on the system and won ... it's a wonderful thing,' says resident Clint Randen

The CRAB Park tent encampment is seen in Vancouver on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

People who've been living at an encampment in downtown Vancouver say they're overwhelmed by a judge's decision Thursday allowing them to stay in CRAB Park after spending months with eviction pressure hanging over their heads.

Residents and advocates described the decision Thursday as a "monumental" victory after months of battling with the Vancouver Park Board which had hoped to remove the residents from the park.

"We're all overwhelmed ... We took on the system and we won," said resident Clint Randen. "It's a wonderful thing and it's a great day."

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Thursday that residents in the camp could stay where they are. In his decision, Justice F. Matthew Kirchner found the park board didn't have adequate justification to issue the eviction orders on July 8 and Sept. 7 of last year.

The original orders forced dozens of people without houses to leave their shelters in CRAB Park, which sits on the waterfront just east of the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Under Thursday's decision, both eviction orders have been set aside and sent back to the park board for reconsideration.

"These types of eviction attempts happen in cities across Canada. They happen all the time," said Fiona York, a volunteer advocate for residents in the park.

"People who are homeless find a place to shelter, find community, find a place that's safer for them and then very often there's a very violent eviction that's enforced by police.

"We're very thankful and really overwhelmed, as Clint said, by that decision to not do that and to allow people to stay in community."

Clint Randen, who lives in CRAB Park in Vancouver, said a decision from a B.C. Supreme Court judge allowing the community to stay in the park was 'overwhelming.' (CBC News)

York said up to 100 people moved to the park last May. It was the most recent park near the Downtown Eastside to become home to those experiencing homelessness. 

The July 2021 order closed CRAB Park to overnight sheltering "to ensure the park remains available to all park users." The September 2021 order closed a portion of the park to all users for repairs and maintenance.

Two residents of the encampment, Kerry Bamberger and Jason Hebert, petitioned the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the orders. The Thursday ruling is a result of their petition.

'Someone's listening'

In his written decision, Justice Kirchner supported Bamberger and Hebert's argument that both orders unreasonably assumed there would be enough indoor shelter spaces to accommodate those living in the park after they were forced out.

He also found the residents of the encampment weren't given adequate notice or an opportunity to be heard before the eviction orders came down.

Advocates and residents were in the courtroom as the case was heard.

"I feel like I can't grasp the whole thing completely," said Andrew Hirschpold, who now lives temporarily at a Holiday Inn hotel. 

"It means for us that someone's listening. I was in the courtroom one of the days and it felt the judge seemed human. The question he asked to the lawyer of the parks was, 'Where does the responsibility go for these people facing displacement?' ... So, someone's listening."

In a second ruling Thursday, Kirchner also suspended the Vancouver Park Board's application for a court order that would have forced residents of the encampment to obey the eviction order and remove all their shelters and belongings from the park.

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

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