British Columbia

Victoria police clear tent city, arrest 5

Five people were arrested Friday for obstructing police when Victoria officers took action to clear a makeshift tent city erected at a downtown park.
Victoria police arrested five campers after they refused to take down the tents they set up at downtown's Beacon Hill Park. ((CBC))

Five people were arrested Friday for obstructing police when Victoria officers took action to clear a makeshift tent city erected at a downtown park.

The tents were set up at Beacon Hill Park following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a city bylaw, calling it a deprivation of homeless people's liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling means homeless people can sleep in public spaces, including city parks. City council, however, quickly passed a new bylaw to restrict sleeping hours to between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Victoria deputy police chief John Ducker said Friday police felt they had to move in now before the tent city grew any larger.

A tent city sprang up at Beacon Hill Park in downtown Victoria following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling Tuesday, allowing homeless people to sleep in public spaces. (CBC)

"What we found in the past [is] drug trafficking starts to increase," he said.

"People who I would classify as predatory people come in, then eventually we're dealing with assaults … so the quicker we deal with that, I think, the safer everybody is."

Insp. Dale Mannick said campers were given sufficient warning to remove their gear and leave the park.

Five people who refused to move were arrested, and their tents were taken away. Three people were issued $100 fines for having camping gear in the park.

One of the men fined, who identified himself as only Elek, said his tent and other property were seized, and he could only claim his belongings after 30 days.

"I'm a little bit screwed; it kind of sucks actually," Elek told CBC News. "I would have liked to have that tent, because it's going to get cold, and now I will not necessarily be warm."

The campers arrested won't be released from police custody until they agree to stay out of Beacon Hill Park except to sleep during the hours allowed, Ducker said.

"It's important to know this judgment does not allow for permanent encampments or a tent city.

"The spirit of the ruling is to allow for the erection of temporary structures overnight to sleep when there is not shelter space available," he said.

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