A physical border and round-the-clock police presence will be the new reality of Regina Park. This comes following a court ruling against the homeless camp that had first popped up in the spring as clean-up of the site is underway.
Megan Catalano, spokesperson for the District of Saanich, said Monday that Saanich Police will patrol Regina Park round-the-clock starting Wednesday morning. Staff will also erect construction fencing, she said.
“I’m not able to disclose any operational plans,” she said. “[However], police and Saanich Parks staff will work with the occupants to attempt to achieve compliance with the court order.”
It is not clear at this stage how long the 24-7 police supervision would last or exactly how long ‘park remediation’ will last.
Saanich is taking these steps after Justice Ward Branch issued an injunction against the camp in a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that gives camp residents until 7 p.m. on Sept. 11 to leave the park, where homeless individuals have camped since May, if not earlier, citing fire regulations.
Saanich staff would then start remediation of the site, a process said to last a few weeks. They would remove hazardous materials, mow the lawn, and put down eight to 12 inches of wood chips. Once deemed fire safe, Saanich would allow residents to seek overnight shelter, while prohibiting camping during the day.
Notably, efforts to re-mediate the site appeared to have started already, as Saanich crews spent their Monday afternoon picking up garbage and landscaping the site. Camp residents, for their part, appeared unfazed, perhaps even resigned, in the face of the activity, with many watching from their tents or preparing meals. This said, it appears that few residents, if any, are preparing to resist the court order.
Camp leader Chrissy Brett had said Sunday that some residents are leaving open the possibility of staying beyond Tuesday’s deadline.
Monday, though, she appeared to have backed up from this position. Efforts are currently underway to find alternative arrangements for Camp Namegans residents, she said.
“My hope is that we figure out solutions for everyone by the end of the week, but for those who don’t have solutions, there will probably be a group of us that stays together.” When asked whether this group would stay in Regina Park, Brett replied “probably not.”
They will discuss their options during the course of the week, she said.
Brett expressed frustration that stoarge units promised by Saanich had not yet arrived as of Monday afternoon.
Overall, comments from the District signal resoluteness with a dose of accommodation as the deadline approaches.
“After 7 p.m. Tuesday anyone who remains in the camp is in violation of the court order, and [police] will have the authority to arrest them,” said Catalona. Furthermore, there is no “grace period” as such, but [police] will use all reasonable means to achieve voluntary decampment before relying upon the power to arrest.”