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Kamloops resident forced to kick out terminal family member because of RV bylaw

An RV on Kamloops resident Pam Forsberg's acreage near the Kamloops Golf and Country Club.
An RV on Kamloops resident Pam Forsberg's acreage near the Kamloops Golf and Country Club.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Pam Forsberg

A resident in Kamloops is angry and shaken after the City of Kamloops removed her family members from her private property this summer.

Pam Forsberg had her husband’s sister and brother-in-law living on her property since late summer of last year while the terminally ill brother-in-law accessed cancer treatments at Royal Inland Hospital.

“They are in their 70s and were originally living in Merritt but were getting run down doing the drive back and forth to the hospital here,” she said.

Forsberg has a small acreage on the Agriculture Land Reserve located next to the Kamloops Golf and Country Club where she has lived for five years.

Her ill family member has been staying in an RV on the property since last year, along with water bomber pilots in their trailers during the wildfire season.

All that changed in June of this year when a community services officer — the city's bylaw officers — spotted the property on the way to the golf course. He later returned while on duty, walked onto the property, and issued an order for all of the RVs to be removed.

“He came onto the property and started taking pictures without making any attempt to contact us first,” she said. “He told us we couldn’t have people living in RVs on our property and that we were breaking the law.”

The issue has been controversial for years. Kamloops has the same restriction as the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, preventing the use of recreational vehicles as a permanent home, but three years ago the TNRD started enforcement and more citizens started pushing the district to change the rules, particularly for use on private properties.

READ MORE: Why this regional district is stepping up enforcement on RV-dwellers

Forsberg received a letter from bylaw on June 16 of this year informing her everyone had be off the property by July 30.

She said she asked bylaw if there were permits she could obtain to keep her family there but was informed there were no provisions for that.

“My husband managed to get them to agree to let the pilots finish the fire season,” she said. “There are three here but they won’t be able to come back next year. We are next to their base so they can get there fast when dispatched. Last year they were able to isolate here during COVID.”

Forsberg’s experience is not isolated in the region and in 2019, a group of fed up citizens called the B.C. Rural Rights Association challenged the district in hopes of abolishing or amending the legislation they said limited freedoms. 

The group cited financial difficulties and a shortage of available housing rentals as reasons for people living in RVs and expressed concern the laws could result in people being homeless.

“The district has a policy of enforcement rather than coming to arrangements for people in these predicaments,” said the association's president Tom Coles. “People who are forced to live in RVs because of economic issues. The board is out of touch with the economic reality for Canadians.”

Over the past few years involved in the association, Coles said he has seen numerous cases of people in dire situations.

“There are elderly people and sick people being threatened with eviction by bylaw officials,” he said. “We have heard accusations of intimidation by bylaw, even during the pandemic. Where do they expect these people to go?”

Coles said the issue is ongoing and the laws have not changed. 

READ MORE: B.C. Facebook group grows up and takes on rural rights

The board and TNRD staff have defended the bylaw, saying there is plenty of support.

“RVs are constructed in compliance with the Canadian Standard Association, not according to the B.C. Building Code,” said board chair for the district, Ken Gillis in an interview with iNFOnews in 2019.

“And their requirements are specific to RVs, you couldn't even send a building inspector out to look at them because they're regulated under the Motor Vehicle Act, not regulated under the B.C. Building Code.

“They do not meet the standards required for permanent dwelling use.”

Other reasons from some opposing the use of RVs are that they are unsafe, they are eyesores that can cause neighbours to have a harder time selling their homes, and in some cases there is the possibility sewage could affect groundwater wells.

In summer of 2020, a movement by the Rural Rights Association of B.C. led to the regional district releasing a survey on the topic and an amendment to the Manufactured Home Park Bylaw.

The bylaw now allows for year-round living in a slightly different type of model than previously allowed, and only within manufactured home parks.

That doesn’t mean anything to people like Forsberg who want or need the RVs on their private property.

“We were not bothering anyone,” she said. “Our neighbours did not report us, they are great people. Personally I think exceptions can be made but when I asked I was told no.”

READ MORE: No holiday camp: What to do about Vernon's 'RV situation'

Forsberg’s family members dealing with cancer ended up moving to Alberta where their daughter lives, accruing costs and having to change doctors.

“They had to leave the trailer here, it is up for sale,” she said. “He is terminal. We said our goodbyes and are not sure if we will see him again. On limited income paying for cancer drugs, they can’t afford to be renting.”

In the middle of an ongoing housing crisis where many people including seniors are forced to live in vehicles, some think more compassion and leeway should be given.

Forsberg said there was no empathy from the officer she interacted with, that he was “matter-of-fact” and “didn’t seem to care about our situation.”

“There is seriously something wrong when the laws don’t allow people to care for their own.”

This story was corrected Sept. 21. A previous version incorrectly stated this was in the jurisdiction Thompson-Nicola Regional District when in fact it was in the City of Kamloops. 

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