Abbotsford videographer Kevin MacDonald was filming footage of the homeless camp on Gladys Avenue on Wednesday morning when he was bear-sprayed by an angry woman.
MacDonald, who does freelance work, including for the Abbotsford News, had been hired by CTV News to film the site as part of their piece on the B.C. Supreme Court decision regarding overnight camping in parks.
MacDonald said he had situated himself near the Mennonite Central Committee building, across from the camp, at about 11:30 a.m. and was filming without any issues for several minutes.
He had already interviewed one of the camp occupants for comments about the decision and was continuing to work when a woman, carrying a can of bear spray, came walking angrily towards him.
MacDonald kept filming, and the footage shows her yelling and cursing at him, saying he should ask for permission before “taking pictures” of people.
“It’s against the law to take our picture …” she yells.
MacDonald said as the woman came towards him, he “lightly pushed” her away with his hand, and she then released the bear spray on him.
He can be heard screaming and cursing in the video.
“I’ve never felt pain like that before in my life … It feels like your entire face is on fire,” MacDonald said later.
He said he was thankful for the passersby who came to his aid, including a woman who called 911 because he couldn’t see to dial his phone and another who gave him her bottle of water so he could flush his eyes.
Paramedics treated MacDonald on the scene, and the woman, Christina Violet Bentley, 39, was arrested and has been charged with assault with a weapon.
MacDonald said he was disappointed by the woman’s behaviour.
“This was supposed to be a positive story,” he said of the ruling that, in part, sided with the homeless in permitting them to sleep overnight in parks in Abbotsford.
MacDonald said he has donated cash and water to the homeless camp before, but will no longer do so.
“They need to go … They want respect, but they won’t respect anyone else,” he said.
Just a few minutes prior to MacDonald’s attack, Abbotsford News reporter Laura Rodgers was approached by the same woman as Rodgers was taking photos for a newspaper article on the court decision. The woman threatened to break Rodgers’ camera and to bear-spray her, but Rodgers quickly departed before any assault occurred.
Police say Bentley could face further charges in relation to that incident.