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'Protest camp' organizer responds to Fraser Health lawsuit

Case regarding camp on former MSA Hospital grounds is set for court on Aug. 31
A portion of the old MSA Hospital lands on McCallum Road is now occupied by a homeless protest camp.

Occupants of a homeless camp on the former MSA Hospital grounds on McCallum Road are in conflict with one another, according to court documents filed this week.

The documents were filed Tuesday in response to a civil suit launched by the Fraser Health Authority seeking a removal of the camp, which has been in place since mid-July.

Fraser Health owns the property and says the inhabitants are trespassing on private land.

The “application response” was filed by local pot activist Tim Felger (in photo), who says he organized the camp as a protest by the Drug War Survivors group to pressure government to build more affordable housing and provide more social services.

The Drug War Survivors is the same group that previously set up camps in Jubilee Park and along Gladys Avenue. Both camps were dismantled following action by the city and the courts.

In the documents, Felger opposes the orders sought by Fraser Health, which wants a permanent court injunction for the removal of the camp and to prohibit any further trespassing on the property.

However, Felger says the orders should apply to certain residents of the camp who are not members of the Drug War Survivors and are not there to make a political statement.

He says the Abbotsford Police should be permitted to evict those individuals.

“Unless people get my permission to camp there, they do not have that right,” Felger told The News.

Felger said freedom of expression entitles the Drug War Survivors to camp out on the Fraser Health land in order to present information to the public about “harm reduction and the drug war.”

In the court documents, he quotes a 1993 court decision from Ontario that states, “The absolute prohibition of postering on public property prevents the communication of political, cultural and artistic messages.”

The matter is scheduled to be heard in court next Wednesday (Aug. 31) in Vancouver.

Until last month, the land had remained vacant after the former MSA Hospital was demolished in 2009 and the new Abbotsford Regional Hospital opened on Marshall Road.

The protest camp is currently set up on a portion of the land that was not fenced in on the western boundary.

The occupants have received letters and verbal requests to vacate the area, but have failed to do so, and police require a court order to force an eviction.



Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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