Privacy office upholds withheld legal costs

News denied request for city to release legal fees for homeless camp injunction

The city has not released legal costs associated with the removal of a homeless camp in Jubilee Park.

The city has not released legal costs associated with the removal of a homeless camp in Jubilee Park.

A city decision to not disclose the legal costs associated with the removal of a homeless protest camp in Jubilee Park last December was upheld by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C.

After the removal of the camp, The News requested the city release the costs associated with removing the camp as well as any legal fees related to a court injunction that ordered the camp removed, through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The removal cost the city at least $60,000, with the city listing staff overtime to clear the site at $40,875, contract services at $15,049 and departmental supplies and miscellaneous expenses at $6,660, according to the city’s response.

The city withheld the legal costs for the file, citing section 14 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, stating that the information is subject to solicitor-client privilege.

After the city’s response, The News submitted a request for review to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia on May 2.

On Oct. 15, the office responded, upholding the city’s decision to not “proactively release the information.”

The protest camp was established in October of last year, organized by members of the Abbotsford chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors, which announced that a peaceful protest  would continue until there was a housing solution for homeless people.

The city issued notice in late November for the camp to be dismantled, citing safety violations noted by police and fire services and the contravention of city bylaws against camping in public parks.

When the order was defied, the issue went to court, with the city seeking an injunction to prohibit the camp in Jubilee Park.

City lawyers presented evidence in B.C. Supreme Court that the campers were breaking city bylaws by lighting fires, using drugs and alcohol, littering and becoming involved in physical assaults.

The judge said the camp was impacting public use of the park and this superseded the inconvenience of moving the campers.

The injunction related only to Jubilee Park. The city is currently appealing a B.C. Supreme Court decision from September that allows a lawsuit to proceed that contends the city’s bylaws against camping in parks are unconstitutional.

A teepee that was located in the Jubilee camp was relocated to Gladys Avenue, where it has remained since January in defiance of a city eviction notice.

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