Occupants of a homeless protest camp on the former MSA Hospital grounds must vacate the property by 10 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 19 following a decision issued today (Friday) by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.
Justice Christopher Hinkson agreed with arguments made earlier this week by Fraser Health Authority (FHA) lawyers that the campers are occupying private land.
He granted an injunction that states they must leave the property at 2179 McCallum Rd. and take with them all their belongings. Anything left behind by the deadline can be disposed of by Fraser Health.
“The subject lands are private property and not intended for public use at least since the closure of the MSA Hospital in 2009,” Hinkson said in his written decision.
Local pot activist Tim Felger, who said he organized the camp in mid-July as a protest by the Drug War Survivors (DWS), said the judge’s decision is “out to lunch.”
“This is public land and we have nowhere to go, and he is not doing anything about the terrorism being put upon us by the city,” Felger said.
He said he started the camp as a mean of spreading information and awareness about the “drug war,” harm reduction and the need for more affordable housing and social services.
Currently, about a dozen campers and five or six tents are located on an unfenced portion of the property in question.
Both Felger and two FHA lawyers appeared in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday to argue the case.
Felger argued that there have been other campers on the site since the former hospital was demolished seven years ago, and freedom of expression entitled them to protest on what he said is public land.
He said local shelters are full, and the individuals involved don’t feel safe camping in parks.
Fraser Health argued that the individuals are not entitled to be on the land, and their presence causes safety and liability concerns.
The agency took the campers to court after being told by the Abbotsford Police Department that a court order would be required for police to enforce an eviction after written and verbal notices hadn’t worked.
Two prior DWS camps – one in Jubilee Park and the other on Gladys Avenue – went through similar court action to force the campers to vacate the properties.
Once court orders were obtained, the individuals peacefully left the camps.
A decision last year gave campers the right to stay overnight in all but three parks in Abbotsford, although shelters must be taken down in the morning.