British Columbia

Judge rejects eviction orders against homeless encampment in Vancouver

In a Supreme Court ruling delivered Thursday, Justice F. Matthew Kirchner concluded that the Vancouver Park Board was not justified in issuing two eviction orders in 2021.

Both eviction orders have been sent back to the Vancouver Park Board for reconsideration

A fence blocks a tent encampment from the rest of CRAB Park in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

A B.C. judge has rejected two orders evicting people who have been living at a homeless encampment in downtown Vancouver.

In a ruling delivered Thursday at the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Justice F. Matthew Kirchner concluded that the Vancouver Park Board was not justified in issuing the eviction orders on July 8 and Sept. 7 of last year.

Both orders forced dozens of homeless people living in the CRAB Park homeless encampment, located east of the Vancouver Convention Centre on Burrard Inlet, to leave.

Residents of the encampment moved to the area in May last year, the most recent park near the Downtown Eastside to become home to those experiencing homelessness. 

The Thursday decision means both eviction orders have been set aside and sent back to the Park Board for reconsideration.

Tents inside a fenced lot near CRAB Park in Vancouver pictured in June 2020, before residents were evicted. A new encampment within the park emerged in May 2021. Two residents of the most recent encampment petitioned the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the 2021 eviction orders. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

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.

Thursday's decision comes after two residents of the encampment, Kerry Bamberger and Jason Hebert, petitioned the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the orders.

A Twitter account advocating for the encampment residents announced news of the decision Thursday afternoon. It urged the Vancouver Park Board to respect the court's decision.

The No Eviction at CRAB Park group announced on Twitter that it plans to hold a press conference Friday at 11 a.m. PT at CRAB Park.

No adequate notice, opportunity to be heard

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

Justice Kirchner wrote that Park Board general manager Donnie Rosa had the responsibility to verify whether closing the last major public park in the Downtown Eastside to overnight shelters would prevent them from accessing services and facilities needed to survive.

"There is nothing in the record to show that [Rosa] turned her mind to this question or that she reasonably addressed it," he wrote.

The judge also concluded that the residents of the encampment were not granted adequate notice or the opportunity to be heard before the eviction orders were implemented.

"Those individuals have a right to notice and a right to be heard, as their rights, privileges, or interests are uniquely affected," wrote Justice Kirchner.

The judge also suspended a court injunction application by the Vancouver Park Board that would have forced residents of the encampment to comply with the eviction order and remove all their shelters and belongings from the park.

The injunction application has been adjourned until the Park Board general manager has reconsidered the eviction orders.

This includes considering "the full range of options open to [the general manager] to manage the encampment, including the potential to accommodate some persons with a daytime sheltering arrangement," wrote Kirchner.