Lawsuit will proceed on city bylaws against camping in parks

B.C. Supreme Court judge rules that lawsuit against City of Abbotsford can move forward

A homeless camp that was constructed in Jubilee Park last year was cleared after the city received an injunction.

A homeless camp that was constructed in Jubilee Park last year was cleared after the city received an injunction.

A lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of the homeless, which contends that the city’s bylaws against camping in parks are unconstitutional, will proceed.

In July, the City of Abbotsford argued that the lawsuit, filed by the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) with the assistance of the non-profit Pivot Legal Society, didn’t have the right or authority to bring the case to court.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Hinkson released his written decision on Monday, saying that the DWS’s application can proceed.

Mayor Bruce Banman said the ruling is a “complex, 39-page decision.”

Banman said the city’s legal counsel is reviewing the decision and “once a full understanding of the decision has been achieved, the city will consider options and next steps.”

The lawsuit was filed after residents who had established a protest camp in Jubilee Park last October were given an eviction notice from the city. The B.C. Supreme Court granted the city an injunction in December that required the homeless people leave the park, citing contravention of the city’s parks bylaw.

The injunction applied only to Jubilee Park and the issue of prohibiting camping in all city parks was set to be addressed separately.

In July, the city’s lawyer Kevin Yardley argued that the DWS’s case was too broad and asked that it be dismissed because it alleged a breach of people’s rights but did not name individual plaintiffs or specific instances when the constitution had been violated.

Banman said the city is still working closely with service providers and partner agencies to address issues of homelessness.

There is currently a highly visible camp on city land on Gladys Avenue, where some of the residents of the Jubilee Park camp are now located. Another stretch of Gladys, owned by BC Hydro, was cleared in July after the company issued an eviction notice.

Banman said when it comes to the camp on Gladys Avenue, the city wants to be respectful of any decisions by the judge as the process proceeds.

He added that council has approved the draft action plan on homelessness in principle and the final report will come to council on Oct. 6.

On Pivot’s website, it states they hope the lawsuit will go to trial in 2015.