British Columbia

Provincial government applies for early injunction to shut down Victoria tent city

The province says because the site is not in compliance with fire safety orders, they are applying for an injunction to evict the campers before a September hearing that was to consider the issue.

Province says they are seeking injunction because site not in compliance with two fire safety orders

About 100 people have been camping on the lawn of the Victoria courthouse since the fall. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The B.C. government has applied for an injunction to forcibly end the tent city on the Victoria courthouse lawn.

In a statement, the province says it is seeking the injunction because the site is not in compliance with two fire safety orders issued in February and May.

"Based on the fire safety report, as well as concerns about site deterioration and public safety, the Province has spent the past week compiling further evidence and affidavits supporting the need to end the encampment," the statement from the Ministry of Natural Gas Development and Responsible for Housing read.

"The Province is submitting 69 affidavits that speak to the increase in criminality and the deterioration of conditions at the site."

Hearing dates to see whether the injunction will be granted have been set for for June 27 and 28, the province said.

A sign in the Victoria tent city. (Megan Thomas)

Officials say situation deteriorating

The tent city, home to about 100 mostly-homeless campers, sprang up in the fall, and neighbours, the province, VicPD and fire officials have reported increasing concerns as the camp dragged on.

Campers defied a Feb. 25 deadline to leave, and the province sought an injunction to evict them in April. That application was unsuccessful.

Neighbours demanded 24/7 security at the site, and the City of Victoria allotted VicPD $113,000 extra to police the site. Inspector Scott McGregor says criminal activity was rising, "and we think that's directly connected to a criminal element that has moved onto that site. Persons that are trafficking drugs."

In May, an officer suffered "non-life threatening injuries" making an arrest at the camp.

Also in May, provincial fire inspector Bob Cooper conducted an inspection of the site that found it not to be in compliance with earlier orders.

"Overall the danger to life created by the fire hazards is increasing and is considered to be only a matter of time before a serious fire incident occurs," his report noted.

Some improvements being made on day of application

On the same day the province applied for this latest injunction, city workers were seen installing electrical connections for flush toilets and hot showers.

A worker watches as power for hot showers and flush toilets is installed for campers at the tent city on the Victoria courthouse lawn on Jun. 3, 2016. (Keith Vass/CBC)

However, a camper who goes by the name of Doug says official efforts on health and safety improvements have been too slow.

"If they were really, truly concerned, they would've had this in a month, month-and-a-half ago," he said. "I don't believe they're trying anything other than going behind our backs," he said. They've tried every angle they can here."

"We're willing to comply. I've told them numerous times I'm willing to comply with them, do what we can to resolve it, yet they don't reply, don't hear from them. They just pull another injunction."

The province had a formal hearing date for an injunction to evict the campers set for Sept. 7, but moved up its application because of the growing concern.

With files from Keith Vass

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