The City of Victoria is now seeking a court order to move homeless people currently sheltering in some areas of Beacon Hill Park to what the city says are “less vulnerable locations within the park.”
The order would require homeless people to shelter in permitted areas of the park and prohibit them from sheltering in areas such as the Garry oak ecosystems, which is part of a protected and endangered natural system.
Less than five per cent of this natural system remains in B.C. Garry oaks are listed as the only native oak trees in western Canada.
The city says about 100 people are currently sheltering in the park.
“This is a challenging time for everyone, especially for people in our city who don’t have a home,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said in a media release.
“While we acknowledge previous court decisions that recognized the rights of people experiencing homelessness to shelter in municipal parks, we all have a responsibility to protect sensitive ecosystems and the natural environment.
“No one is being forced to leave Beacon Hill Park, but we do expect people to relocate to one of the many less vulnerable areas.”
City staff and outreach workers have been meeting with the people sheltering in the park regularly for weeks and say many have already relocated.
In order to ensure the relocation plan goes smoothly, Helps says she hopes residents will be understanding of the needs of those still living in the park as they will be more visible once they move to less sensitive areas.
“Everyone deserves a home,” Helps said.
“No one should have to live outside in a tent because they don’t have a place to stay.”
The order has been filed in B.C. Supreme Court and it is expected the application will be heard the week of July 27. If an injunction is granted, people who have not already moved will be ordered to do so by the court.