A woman has been arrested at a tent city in Saanich after allegedly blasting an air horn in the ear of a firefighter.
The encampment, known as Camp Namegans to residents, has been in place at Regina Park next to Highway 1 and Harriet Road since May.
On June 29, Saanich’s fire commissioner issued an order related to “fire and life safety hazards,” which included requirements for tents to be moved farther apart, the removal of flammable objects and other precautionary measures around flames and burning material.
Saanich police say city staff visited the camp several times in the week that followed, and observed multiple violations of the order.
On Friday, Saanich Parks staff, police and firefighters returned to the camp to “help those encamped at the park achieve voluntary compliance,” according to a Saanich police media release.
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Police said that a 43-year-old woman, who identified herself as a camp founder, attempted to block city staff from entering the park.
“At one point the woman produced an air-horn, pointed it at the ear of a fireman and blasted a loud audible signal in his direction,” police said.
The woman was arrested for obstruction, police said.
Campers have identified the woman as Chrissy Brett, and claim the city had dispatched fire marshals to “intimidate” the homeless residents.
Brett “was arrested for preventing a fire marshal from throwing away someone’s home without their consent,” according to a media release from the group.
“The City of Saanich is attempting to bypass the path of a court-ordered injunction by deploying fire marshals to do their dirty work,” said the group.
“That Brett was arrested for protecting a homeless person’s dwelling is unacceptable, and we refuse to be broken by the City’s thinly veiled attempt to destroy the camp under the duplicitous banner of ‘fire safety compliance’.”
According to the camp’s Facebook page, it is Indigenous led, and its occupants are calling for long-term housing as opposed to shelters.
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A post to the group’s Facebook page, which describes the camp as Indigenous-led and focused on securing long-term housing rather than shelters, said that campers were “working hard in the heat to meet the fire order.”
Campers say they have a constitutional right to the encampment, citing a 2009 Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the right of homeless people to camp in Victoria parks.
The district of Saanich says it is “working toward resolving the Regina Park encampment as soon as possible,” and describes the camp as an “evolving legal matter.”