British Columbia

B.C. Supreme Court orders eviction of Vancouver tent city

The B.C. Supreme Court has granted an injunction against the residents of the so-called 'Ten Year Tent City' on the edge of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Court grants injunction to Main Street lot's new leaseholders after city failed to get a similar injunction

Residents of a tent city on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have been ordered to leave by noon Wednesday. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The B.C. Supreme Court has granted an injunction against the residents of the so-called "Ten Year Tent City" on the edge of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, ordering about 50 homeless campers to leave the site by noon on Wednesday.

The injunction was granted to Lu'ma Native Housing, a group that holds a lease on the property from the City of Vancouver.

The city had previously sought a similar injunction to remove the campers, which was denied in May.

Lu'ma issued a trespass notice to the campers earlier in June, but many campers still remain on the site.

Judge struck by 'hopelessness' of case

In his judgment, Justice Joel Groves expressed frustration at his lack of ability to do anything about the homelessness problem within the confines of his role as a judge.

He said he identified with the campers but noted that he was required to grant the injunction because the case met the legal tests for granting an injunction.

"I can't help but reflect on the hopelessness and repetitiveness of the case before the court today," Groves said.

"The housing crisis and homelessness requires a long-term solution that as a judge I cannot do and cannot address, unfortunately."

Tent cities 'safer' than streets

The tent city was established in April by homelessness advocates in response to the city's housing crisis. The "Ten Year Tent City" moniker refers to a previous encampment on the same site in 2007.

A release from the Alliance Against Displacement says the tent city is a safer alternative to street homelessness.

"Residents of the tent city have [told us] they feel safer living in a group with people looking out for them," it said in a statement.

Lu'ma intends to build a 26-unit building on the site for low-income Indigenous tenants.

Similar values and goal

Lawyer Michael Walker, who represents the Lu'ma Native Housing Society said the housing society needed the injunction so that they could begin work on its social housing project.

"It's not easy to put these projects together. Lu'ma has been working on this for five years. It's just in the last few months to manage to complete the package of funding required to build the project," he said.

"There are at least two funders which are unlikely to stay with the project if the work doesn't start immediately. If the site is occupied, that funder has every opportunity to go elsewhere."

Listen to lawyer Michael Walker on CBC's The Early Edition:

He said Lu'ma doesn't have a fight with the campers, and says both have similar values and a goal of reducing the city's homeless crisis.

"But the [campers] are in the way of really addressing it," he said. "You address the housing crisis site by site, project by project. For a society like Lu'ma, it's one site at a time, 26 units at a time."

With files from Tina Lovgreen.