COLUMN: A camp full of contradictions

This summer, a homeless “protest camp” was established on the former hospital grounds in Abbotsford

COLUMN: A camp full of contradictions

NOTE: This column was written and went to press before the camp in question was dismantled from the former MSA Hospital grounds.

On Point by Andrew Holota

This summer, a homeless “protest camp” was established on the former hospital grounds in Abbotsford.

Fraser Health, owner of the land, applied for a court injunction to compel the occupants to move off. A judge eventually issued such an order. As of Thursday, the homeless camp remained.

That whole scenario is wrong in so many ways, starting with the establishment of the camp in the first place.

A group of people decided they would set up their tents on private property.

Land that belongs to a government agency is not “public,” despite claims to the contrary by camp advisor, advocate, agitator, or whatever else you want to call Tim Felger, long-time local pot activist. He certainly has a lot of labels for anyone opposing him, including “stupid.” I expect this column will land me among those thusly dubbed.

He tried the ‘we have the right to stay wherever we wish’ argument on B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Hinkson – who didn’t buy it. And by the way, that’s the same judge who ruled that the homeless can overnight in most public parks if they have no other options.

In this case, Hinkson issued the injunction to decamp.

Applying cutting intellectual thrust and parry, Felger called the judge “out to lunch.”

Pull up a chair, Tim.

However, as correct as the court was in its decision, the process quickly went sideways, or to be more accurate, it went nowhere at all.

The campers are still there, living in their self-made squalor.

Reasonable people might understandably wonder – why is that? – on two levels.

They’re still there, Felger claims, because they have nowhere else to go. In the immediate short-term, that may indeed be true. But they’ve intentionally been there since mid-July. It is a protest camp, after all. So, with the help of outreach workers and other social agencies, if they had been actively seeking shelter for the past two months, instead of sitting in a growing trash heap, do you suppose some solutions would have been offered to them? I think so. Might options be available now? I suspect so.

Contrary to the belief of some people, there are agencies actively working to house the homeless in this city, and in many cases, are successful.

Anyway, this group of “homeless” are  still there for another reason – Felger says he has told them to stay, with the exception of at least one fellow, who Felger doesn’t like. Does anyone else see blatant contradictions here?

We have nowhere to go, and even if we did, we’re not going until you provide somewhere to go for everyone else.

The conditions and terms by which the recipients qualify for such government support is another complex and controversial discussion, for another time.

Meanwhile, there’s the second level on the question of why they are still there.

Why haven’t the police politely, patiently, respectfully and ever-so-gently moved these protesters off the property, or in the alternative, arrest them?

Because a court injunction ordering people to leave a property is not enough for police to act, if you can believe it.

Fraser Health must now go back to court and apply for an enforcement order.

More time, more money, more pointless argument that will (must) ultimately end in the protest camp being evacuated.

And then, another wrong will occur when it’s set up somewhere else.

It seems, along with all of the other wrongs associated with homelessness, such as a shortage of mental health and addiction treatment services, and an inadequate supply of affordable housing, there are people out there bound and determined to keep street people on the street, to maintain the “in your face” pressure, despite efforts by many others to actually address the chronic issue.

Under the circumstances, I’m finding it difficult to keep keep my face from turning away.

And that’s wrong, too.