February 1, 2016 7:13 pm
Updated: February 2, 2016 3:47 am

Abbotsford city council updates bylaw allowing homeless people to sleep in parks

WATCH: Abbotsford City Council votes to approve bylaw which allows the homeless to sleep in public parks. The plan may be approved, but not everyone is happy. Jill Bennett reports.


On Monday, the City of Abbotsford updated a controversial bylaw that prohibited homeless people from sleeping overnight in city parks and erecting temporary shelters.

The update follows on the heels of B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson ruling in October 2015 that homeless people in Abbotsford are allowed to erect temporary shelters in parkland between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. because of a lack of accessible shelter space in the city, if no shelter beds are available.

The key updates made to Abbotsford’s Park’s bylaw by city councillors include:

  • Clarifying the definition of ‘park’;
  • Camping will only be completely prohibited in three parks (Mill Lake Park, Civic Precinct and Abbotsford Exhibition Park) designed as ‘city-wide parks’ and have high community use year-round (Abbotsford has 157 parks in total)
  • Camping will not be allowed in any playgrounds, splash pads, pools, skateboard bowls, tennis courts or sports pads, sports fields, dugouts, stadiums, stages, bleachers, pathways, bridges, docks, wharves, recreation facilities, cemeteries and golf courses.

Hinkson’s 2015 ruling also dismissed Abbotsford’s request for a permanent injunction against homeless encampments on city property. The legal action by Abbotsford was the latest attempt to evict homeless campers that began with issuing bylaw notices, but escalated to spreading pepper spray and chicken manure on the camps and finally damaging or disposing of tents and other personal property.

WATCH: DJ Larkin from the Pivot Legal Society offers her perspective on the bylaw changes.

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At the time of his ruling, Hinkson issued a harsh rebuke against the city, calling its actions “disgraceful and worthy of the court’s disapproval.”

Abbotsford City Council followed the ruling with a commitment to partner with the B.C. government and build a 40-bed shelter that opened in mid-December and will close at the end of April, 2016. The portable shelter, which is made up of six trailers, is located at 1640 Riverside Road.

According to the city, the temporary response shelter has “seen a very positive response since opening its doors with a 93 per cent overall occupancy rate and 90 people receiving case-management services.”

The total cost of the new shelter is estimated at $1.2 million, out of which the B.C. government will provide $450,000 and the City of Abbotsford will contribute up to $750,000.

A copy of the full report and draft bylaw as presented to Council on Jan. 25 can be found here.

WATCH: Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun discusses his city’s new restrictions on homeless people in parks.

~ with files from The Canadian Press


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