March 02, 2016 - 8:30 AM
VICTORIA - The British Columbia government has filed a court application to evict the remaining homeless campers from a tent city occupying the lawn of Victoria's courthouse.
A notice of application filed in B.C. Supreme Court Monday says people living in the camp are trespassing and have defied repeated requests and orders to leave the property, despite the government offering other housing.
The application alleges the campers have compromised health and safety in the area by creating fire hazards, defecating in and around the camp, leaving used needles and syringes in the area, and engaging in criminal activity such as drug trafficking.
Court documents say police are unwilling or unable to evict the campers without an enforcement order.
The tent city has grown from a few shelters last spring to more than 100 people as many moved from alleyways and parks to the highly visible manicured grounds of the downtown courthouse.
Government officials say a court date has not yet been set to hear the application, but a draft injunction order says the remaining campers must leave by 5 p.m. on March 14.
Last week the campers staged a block party at the tent city in defiance of a Feb. 25 deadline to leave the area.
Campers were issued an order to eliminate fire hazards in the area on Saturday, but court documents say they have failed to comply.
Housing Minister Rich Coleman says the government and Victoria social service agencies have provided shelter homes to the residents of the camp, but while about 60 people have accepted the government's offer, others remain.
Coleman says government staff have been working to identify whether people remaining on the property are homeless.
"The feedback I'm getting is that there's sort of more protesters than there are homeless," he says. "So the nice thing is that a lot of the people who needed help moved."
The draft injunction order filed Monday says homeless people will be allowed to camp on the courthouse lawn overnight once the area has been repaired to its original condition.
Any future campers will have to remove their shelters and belongings from the property during the day.
The draft order says government staff will be authorized to remove tents and shelters from the property, and police officers will be able to arrest anyone who does not comply with the order.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016