B.C.'s top judge authorizes removal of CRAB Park encampment
VANCOUVER -- The chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court has ruled in favour of an injunction filed by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to remove dozens of homeless campers on its property, giving them 72 hours to leave.
Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson said the VFPA has the right to use the parking lot next to CRAB Park on Vancouver’s industrial waterfront and that campers had simply tried to work around an eviction from Oppenheimer Park by moving there instead.
"I find residents of the encampment are not adhering to social distancing," he said, noting campers had littered the area with garbage, dirty needles and human waste that’s made its way into the ocean. "They have no plans to return it to its previous state."
At the conclusion of the court proceedings Wednesday, lawyers for the port authority said they are now drafting an order the judge will have to sign in order to serve to campers. The lawyers expected this to be accomplished as early as Wednesday afternoon. Once served, campers will have 72 hours to leave the property; the port authority must take action against them within 15 days or their authority to do so will expire.
CTV News made several attempts to reach the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority for their response. Those attempts unanswered for most of the day, until a spokesperson provided the following response.
"Following the ruling on the injunction, we are in contact with local police authorities to assess next steps."
The port authority added that it would share more information in the coming days.
In an email, Vancouver police say they "are aware of the injunction and will not be conducting any enforcement at this time."
Lawyers for the campers had argued that it was a safe place for them during the pandemic since all campers hadn’t been offered reasonable accommodations when they were removed from the encampment at Oppenheimer Park in May and that with a ban on cruise ship travel, the parking lot they’ve set up on will be empty until at least October.
The chief justice noted the Oppenheimer encampment was established without permission and the subject of an interlocutory injunction to remove the campers. The majority were housed in hotels and social housing after the provincial government said they needed to help ensure physical distancing during the pandemic with individualized, clean places to live.
“The need for them to be at VFPA lands has not been established,” he ultimately decided.
Chief Justice Hinkson made several references to the pandemic and noted the long-term difficulties faced by campers in finding somewhere to live but also noted there were dozens of complaints of human waste in the area, open burning, strong smells of smoke in the air for those living nearby as well as a lack of social distancing.
He also referenced several cases he’d presided on himself, including one where he’d found that government lands aren’t automatically opened to public access, citing airports as an example.