British Columbia

City orders Nanaimo tent city occupants to clear out within 72 hours

Nanaimo city council says it will issue trespass notices to campers at the tent city downtown, saying they have 72 hours to leave.

City asks RCMP to issue tickers if they refuse to leave

Nanaimo city councillors are being pressured by local activists to act on the city's homelessness issue. On Friday, the city voted to ask for the RCMP's help to act on demonstrators. (Liz McArthur/CBC)

Those camping out at a tent city in downtown Nanaimo will be ordered to leave within three days after city council voted to push them out on Friday.

Councillors passed a motion to issue trespass notices to the campers. If campers don't leave within 72 hours, RCMP will issue tickets for trespassing.

If that doesn't work, a statement from the city said councillors will consider taking the issue to B.C. Supreme Court to get an injunction.

Activists protest housing issues

The tents have been up for just over a week as both a form of protest and a space for some of the city's homeless to camp.

Activists have come from across B.C's Lower Mainland. They say they're unhappy the city failed to secure provincial funding in February for a modular housing project.

The city said it couldn't identify a suitable site.

Activists from Nanaimo, Maple Ridge and Victoria have called for Nanaimo city council to provide homes for the homeless. (Liz McArthur)

On Thursday, Counc.Gord Fuller said he and several colleagues were in favour of the development and the city will eventually find space for the units.

Rather than targeting the city, Fuller suggested activists direct their protests at provincial and federal governments.

"I would love to see a tent city up on the legislature lawn down in Victoria," he said. "I'd go down, I'd put a tent up, I'd be out there with them doing that."

Tent city organizer Mercedes Courtielle says the encampment is a safe and viable space for people to live until issues regarding social housing are resolved.

"It's very organized, it's very clean . . . conflicts are being mediated," she said Thursday.

"Generally in the camp, there's a feeling of relief that they can sleep, relief that they can have somewhere to put their things [without them getting] seized or stolen, relief that they're not going to be arrested for just trying to sleep," Courtielle said.

A previous tent city on the lawn of Nanaimo city hall was dismantled earlier this year. The current camp has been up for just over a week. (Liz McArthur)

Fuller said the demonstrators likely have good intentions, but there's no simple fix for homelessness.

"It's unfortunate that these things end up happening and I really think there's some extremely well-meaning young people involved in this," said Fuller.

"But [solving homelessness] is not an instant process. We can't even house people with rent subsidies right now because the rental vacancy rate is so small — and that's one of the easiest ways to get people housing," he added.

In December, a fire erupted in a Maple Ridge tent city, prompting safety concerns. A previous camp in Victoria was deemed a public safety hazard.

With files from CBC's All Points West