Showdown brewing over Abbotsford homeless protest camp
CTV British Columbia
Published Tuesday, November 26, 2013 6:22PM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 26, 2013 8:02PM PST
Occupants of a homeless protest camp in Abbotsford have vowed to stand their ground despite a city order demanding they clear out by Wednesday afternoon.
Campers have spent more than a month in Jubilee Park protesting the treatment of Abbotsford’s homeless, but received a 48-hour notice to disperse on Monday.
Mayor Bruce Banman said the city was responding to concerns about drug use and fire safety at the park, which contains a children's playground.
“You can’t have an open propane burner inside a tent and either not have the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or catching the entire encampment on fire,” Banman said.
The Mayor also cited a serious overdose at the camp, saying the city hoped to avoid a repeat of the fatal overdose at the Occupy Vancouver protest in 2011.
Campers, who told CTV News that fire safety information is being circulated at the camp, said they have no plans to abide by the city order.
“We are here to support social housing for the homeless people so they can have a place of their own,” camper Dennis Grant said. “They are going to stay put until we are forcibly removed.”
Abbotsford’s lack of homeless housing led advocates to design doghouse-sized shelters last month as a last-ditch attempt to keep residents warm during the winter.
If the city’s order is defied, Abbotsford lawyers are expected to apply for an expedited injunction at B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Banman promised campers would not be removed by force..
“You will not see the city coming in like storm troopers, throwing tents around and bodily removing people. If they do not move of their own accord we will go to the courts,” he said.
The city has come under fire for shocking treatment of its homeless population this year, including an incident in June where staff used chicken manure to drive residents out of a camp, allegedly resulting in an eye infection for one man.
In response, the Pivot Legal Society confirmed Tuesday it is filing a human rights complaint on behalf of six homeless people and the B.C./Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, alleging the city’s tactics have been designed to push homeless people out of the community.
Pivot cited the manure incident and another where police allegedly slashed and pepper-sprayed tents, rendering them uninhabitable.
The last official count recorded 117 homeless people living in the city.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Michele Brunoro