Legal loophole: Tent city springs up on Victoria courthouse lawn
A tent city is forming at the Victoria Courthouse thanks to a legal loophole that exempts the location from a city by-law meant to prevent such encampments.
About 30 campers have set up a makeshift community on a patch of grass behind the courthouse, with more pitching tents each day.
The land is provincially owned and treated as private property, not a city park, meaning a Victoria bylaw prohibiting camping in parks from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. doesn’t apply.
“This is Crown land and they really have no jurisdiction,” said Katherine, the camp’s self-appointed mayor. “They have no issue with us being here as long as the garbage is [dealt with].”
Despite objections from nearby residents, Victoria Police said they won’t intervene with the campsite unless a law is being broken.
Some gathered Monday to discuss the tent city including Laurie Allen, a manager of a nearby apartment complex, who wants to see it move.
“This is not the appropriate place. Definitely not,” said Allen. “Don’t do your drugs and your needles and everything at my place. Breaking in, looking in our windows, whistling at each other, I mean, I don’t need that bulls**t.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the city has no jurisdiction over the camp, and she’ll be keeping a keen eye on the province to see what it does with the situation.
“The confusion I think for the public is that it looks like a park, but it’s a piece of privately owned property,” Helps said Monday. “I really do want to see genuinely, will the province say ‘Okay, we’re going to run this as a temporary tenting area’?”
For its part, the B.C. government issued a statement saying it is “aware” that people have taken shelter on the property.
“To date, the temporary residents are initiating all clean up themselves and keeping things relatively tidy,” it said. “We are only dealing with security issues for the building.”
With the province standing down, at least temporarily, it appears the camp may be putting down roots – and that’s all its inhabitants say they want.
“I really have very little now,” Katherine said. “All I want is somewhere to put a tent.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Chandler Grieve