EDITORIAL: A costly sideshow

The B.C. Supreme Court has decided that a lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of the homeless ... will proceed.

The B.C. Supreme Court has decided that a lawsuit filed against the city on behalf of the homeless – claiming the city’s bylaws against camping in parks are unconstitutional – will proceed.

We make no argument against the points of law no doubt paramount in the judge’s findings. However, we had hoped this case would be recognized and dismissed for the theatre it has become.

The BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS), with the assistance of the non-profit Pivot Legal Society, brought this action with the intention of drawing attention to the plight of the homeless and put pressure on the city to come up with long-term solutions.

Point made. Notwithstanding a plodding pace, and unfortunate misstep in turning down a provincially funded supportive housing project this spring, city hall has felt the pressure and engaged in this complex issue, with another plan in the works for property on Gladys and an effort to regain Victoria’s financial support.

As long as that may take, homeless people camping in city parks and on public land is obviously not an answer, and only serves to further tilt public opinion against the cause.

Continuing this lawsuit is also a waste of precious public funds, which instead of paying legal fees, could be used to actually help people in need.

We’d like to tell you how much the city has spent so far, and have filed freedom of information requests to do so, but civic authorities have maintained that solicitor-client privilege prevents that information from being released. Even if that’s true, we strenuously argue that the public right and need to know trumps legal protocol.

Nevertheless, fighting this pointless legal battle must be expensive, and will become more so as it advances to court.

Ultimately, two points are clear here.

Governments must have the power to determine where people live within city bounds.

This litigation is a distracting, costly sideshow to the real issue.

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