Homeless camp disrupts Vimy Ridge ceremony plans in Duncan, B.C.
Homeless campers say rising cost of rent means they have nowhere else to go
City officials in Duncan, B.C., are trying to figure out what to do with a homeless camp settled in the same park it's intending to hold a ceremony to commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge on Sunday.
Last Thursday, the city issued the campers a notice to vacate the park by noon on Saturday.
"Some tents are metres away from the cenotaph and the campers would be a major disruption to a service that honours the fallen men and women of our country," said the city in a written release last week.
But most of the dozen or so campers remained by the end of Saturday, leaving the city to seek an injunction in court to remove the campers by force, if necessary.
However, the city is unlikely to obtain one before the ceremony takes place, with hundreds of people expected to attend.
"The last thing we want is any confrontation between the two groups," said Gary Kerr, a bylaw enforcement officer with the city.
"Obviously they're not going to vacate, so now the city is going to have to take whatever steps they deem necessary."
Nowhere else to go
Many of the campers at the park say they have nowhere else to go because of the city's increasingly expensive rental market.
"People don't want to be here," said Duncan resident Shawna Green.
"They don't want to be on the ground, they don't want to be cold, but some people don't have a place to live, some people don't have family."
Duncan resident Aaron Anderberg said he looked for a place to live, but settled in the camp instead.
"[Rent] would have been my entire cheque, so I thought about it and thought, well if I get a tent then at least I can get some food," he said.
Retired Canadian veteran Rob Webber, who once was homeless, said it was a disgrace to evict the campers to make way for the ceremony.
"I find it horribly disrespectful that they say, 'No, you can't come here because we're going to celebrate other things for Vimy Ridge,'" he said. "Those people died for people in this very same position."
With files from CHEK News