Vanier Park tent encampment residents refuse to leave
Residents of a tent encampment on Vancouver’s west side are defying orders to leave, despite being given 24 hours' notice to vacate the area.
Park rangers attended the site in Vanier Park Tuesday morning, telling the five residents that they were in violation of city bylaws and had to leave the next day.
Crews returned Wednesday, but the residents weren’t ready to leave. Rangers and a representative from the City of Vancouver were on site to discuss shelter options with the campers, but advocates who spoke to CTV News on the campers’ behalf said they didn’t want to leave.
“This is where they live. They’ve tried shelters, they have tried SROs,” said Kaylayla Raine, a member of the Stop the Sweeps campaign on the Downtown Eastside.
Raine said she had never met or spoken with the campers before Wednesday, but came to the park when she became aware that they were being evicted.
“This isn’t a tent city, this is just a couple of people looking to make a safe space for themselves,” she said.
Roughly an hour after rangers arrived on scene, a small fire started in a pile of garbage. It appeared to be deliberately lit by someone from outside the encampment. One ranger reported seeing a man with a dog flee the area just minutes after the blaze was discovered. It was quickly extinguished and Vancouver firefighters said it is considered suspicious and under investigation.
Due to safety concerns, all garbage and debris was ordered removed from the park. The large structures however, are still there.
Scott Jensen, chair of the Vancouver Park Board, told CTV News the plan is to return the park to its original condition and help transition the residents into supportive housing. He also raised concerns about propane tanks and other chemicals that had been removed Tuesday.
“That gas is leaching into the environment (and) those individuals living in that area, without proper facilities, are using the park for a bathroom,” Jensen said. “These are not ways that we want to have our parks being used.”
The swift action at Vanier Park has been met with criticism, with some suggesting the city is prioritizing issues on Vancouver’s wealthier west side.
“This is not an east-side-west-side issue,” Jensen said. “We will be applying the bylaw equally across the city to ensure that individuals that are setting up permanent structures anywhere across the city, that will be addressed.”
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