British Columbia

Living on boats to be a thing of the past in Victoria's Gorge

Victoria City Council is moving ahead with a plan to get rid of live-aboard boaters in the Gorge Waterway who they say are creating hazards and polluting. But in a city where homelessness is already an issue, where will they go?

Council will soon have occupation license for Gorge Waterway, expects to have boats gone by October

Boats in the Gorge Waterway in Victoria. Living on boats in this waterway will soon be a thing of the past. (Blake Handley/Flickr)

The sight of live-aboard boats anchoring on the Gorge Waterway in Victoria could soon be a thing of the past.

Council passed a bylaw banning overnight anchoring in the Gorge last year, and by the end of October, people living in boats could be told to raise anchor and leave.

"We're going to proceed with something of a soft touch, to through negotiations, convince the handful of people who are relying on overnight moorage to find alternate accommodations," said Councilor Ben Isitt.

Council was mostly concerned about environmental impacts from the boats after hearing complaints that some of the people living on the dozen or so boats — some of which have been described as derelict — were dumping sewage and garbage into the ocean near a sensitive ecological habitat.

Different from Vancouver

The City has been waiting on a license of occupation from the province which would allow them to enforce bylaws in the waterway. That license should be issued within weeks and be in effect by October.

The bylaw bans overnight sleeping on boats in the Gorge, and Isitt was the one councilor who voted against that approach.

"There's a social justice issue of people who don't have alternate accommodations, and then also the recreational or even issues related to the common law right of mariners," he said.

Isitt says the right to anchor is a well-established legal right associated with the right to navigation. Victoria's bylaw bans anchoring between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., and Isitt  called that "unreasonable."

Isitt says he favours regulations like those in Vancouver's False Creek, which allow boaters to stay anchored for up to 14 days each month.

Nowhere else to go?

Issues surrounding homelessness have bubbled to the surface recently in Victoria after the city seemed to back away from a proposed homeless tent city in a park after opposition from local residents.

Isitt says he doesn't believe the ban on live-aboard boating would add to the problem too much, as he expects there may only be three to six people living on the boats who can't find another place to live. He said city staff would work with them one on one.

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Victoria set to give people living on boats the heave-ho


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