Mounties shut down provincial park day after tent city campers move in
Just a day after homeless occupants from a former tent city moved into Goldstream Provincial Park, authorities swiftly shut down access to the park to all campers.
West Shore RCMP arrived at the park Wednesday night briefly blocking access and telling campers it would be closed indefinitely after 11 a.m. Thursday.
Reports then surfaced that campers would be given another 24 hours to pack up and move out of the camp while the government collected further information.
But the Ministry of Environment later corrected that statement, saying no deadline has been given to homeless campers to vacate the park. The ministry said it is looking at options to find the campers suitable accomodation.
The park remains closed to all campers, and the province says those who had reservations will be refunded.
Homeless campers initially said they were under the impression they'd be able to stay at the park for two weeks after they were evicted from two Saanich parks in a week.
"I went and talked to park ranger and he said 'Oh we're trying to nip it in the bud, we don't want to see what'll happen in two weeks from now,'" said camper Morgan Van Humbeck.
Tent city organizer Chrissy Brett called on B.C.'s premier to discuss options with the group instead of evicting them.
"John Horgan if you're watching this I would ask you to ask your ministers to come down and have a conversation and sit around the one table we have left, and tell people to their face that they have no right to exist here in British Columbia if you're homeless," said Brett.
But Langford Mayor Stew Young said problems like open drug use and theft moved in along with the campers, prompting the shutdown.
"This is not a place to have needle sharps and other activity around that neighbourhood especially," Stew Young told CFAX 1070. "We've already, from yesterday, had two individual instances of males in the washroom shooting up in front of other families that are in there and camping, so those people have left."
Mounties referred questions to BC Parks, saying they were assisting the organization by enforcing regulations of the Parks Act.
On Thursday, B.C.'s housing minister Selina Robinson issued a statement saying that the campground was closed to ensure public safety after concerns were expressed by RCMP.
"The park is not an appropriate place for the establishment of a tent city. We urge those at Goldstream to work with staff to identify better housing solutions," Robinson said.
She said the province's goal is to get people into shelters and longer-term housing, but a CTV News report Wednesday found that all shelters in the Capital Region were full. Robinson pointed to 25 new shelter beds opening at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre Oct. 1.
She also noted that in the Capital Region, only the City of Victoria had identified a site for modular units of supportive housing that the government has committed to build.
That changed Thursday, when the District of Saanich announced it had identified a site near Saanich city hall for modular units to be built.
The section of land is north of the Saanich Fire Hall on Vernon Avenue.
“We’re hopeful that by providing this land, we’re moving in the right direction to secure housing and satisfy some of the need for housing in the region,” said Chief Administrative Officer Paul Thorkelsson.
The district said it will make another announcement soon once further details of the project are confirmed.
We've offered access to land at the Municipal Hall campus to BC Housing to provide modular supportive housing units for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. #saanich #bcpoli https://t.co/17BhrPKFx6— District of Saanich (@saanich) September 20, 2018