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Updated: Court orders homeless protest camp to be cleared by 4 p.m. Saturday
Occupants of a homeless camp in Abbotsford were left wondering where they will move to next, after a B.C. Supreme Court judge today (Friday) granted the city an injunction to prohibit them from staying in Jubilee Park.
"I don't know how we're going to (move our belongings) and where we're going to go," said Calvin Pete, one of four members of the camp who attended the proceedings at the New Westminster courthouse.
He said there are about 30 people staying in the camp. Most don't qualify to stay in shelters due to issues such as substance abuse, mental-health concerns or pet ownership, Pete said.
One of the group's advocates, who identified himself as "Tiny," was also critical of the judge's decision, which gives the occupants until 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21 to vacate the park and remove all their belongings.
If they don't leave, they will be considered trespassers, and the order can be enforced by police.
"It's a despicable thing to do before Christmas. There is no human aspect to this. How can you make a judgment like this on people who are just trying to survive?" Tiny said.
Katherine Jeffcoat, communications director with the City of Abbotsford, said community service providers will be on site during the move, offering shelter and temporary storage for anyone who needs to store their belongings.
In granting the injunction, Justice James Williams agreed with city lawyers who presented evidence in court on Tuesday, Dec. 17 that the campers were breaking city bylaws by lighting campfires in the park, using drugs and alcohol, littering, getting involved in physical assaults and being confrontational.
Williams said the camp was impacting public use of the "community space" and this superseded the inconvenience of having the occupants move to another location.
He said the campers could relocate their tents or access shelters in the community.
"I conclude that there will be places for them to go," he said.
Williams also granted an order relating to the wooden structure that was set up by concerned citizens, using donated materials, in a city-owned parking lot next to Jubilee Park.
The order requires the structure to be dismantled by 2 p.m. Monday. Williams said the people who initially erected it could take it down and salvage the materials.
If it's not removed by the deadline, the city can dismantle it, but Williams cautioned this must be done in a "non-destructive way."
Williams acknowledged that his decision was not an easy one because it impacted "marginalized" people.
"At root, it is a profound social issue," he said of homelessness.
The injunction issued on Friday relates only to Jubilee Park. The city's application to enforce a ban on overnight camping in all parks will be dealt with as part of a trial for which a date has not yet been set.
DJ Larkin, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society, which represented the Jubilee Park occupants at last week's hearing, said the city's bylaws are unconstitutional.
Pivot will argue at the trial that Abbotsford does not have enough shelter space, particularly for people who are "hard to house," and denying them the ability to shelter themselves in a safe space is a breach of their right to "life, liberty and security."
The Jubilee Park camp began Oct. 22, as a protest by members of the Drug War Survivors. They said they planned to remain until there was a housing solution for homeless people.