Discontent City won’t be shut down until the courts have had a chance to consider an extension to an order to shut down the camp.
The City of Nanaimo announced today, Oct. 12, that it won’t enforce an injunction, obtained in B.C. Supreme Court, against the downtown homeless camp, and will instead wait for a Supreme Court hearing next Friday, Oct. 19, when a lawyer for Discontent City supporters asks for an extension on the eviction order.
“The city is respecting the court’s need to consider the application and will defer the existing court order for closure until the outcome of the application is known. Closure is still the goal…” said Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay. “Public safety continues to be the city’s No. 1 priority. The city is committed to a phased approach of the camp closure that is compassionate, respectful and structured and addresses the concerns raised in the fire safety order.”
McKay told the media that the city will continue to be at Discontent City every day and that it wants to ensure the fire safety order is being followed. He said the city is continuing to ask the province for help and resources so that Discontent City doesn’t grow in population.
“It’s been a difficult time for everyone but I think we are making progress,” he said.
Asked whether the city could have done better job of communicating the Discontent City situation, McKay blamed the media.
“Members of the media, in some cases, have taken bits and pieces of information, they’ve run with them,” he said, adding that there have also been misleading social media posts made by people who aren’t media.
McKay clarified that the “phased approach” that was being discussed by the city actually covered a period of time from when the court ruled Discontent City be closed until the Oct. 12 deadline.
“In actual fact, the phased approach was from Sept. 21 until Oct. 12, some folks have taken liberty with that and extended that to much further beyond,” he said.
No instructions have been given to the city from its legal counsel about how to proceed, according to McKay, who said he believes Justice Ronald Skolrood will preside over the Oct. 19 hearing.
“I hope [Skolrood] renders a decision on Friday, so we can take the next steps,” he said.
McKay said costs associated with Discontent City will continue to increase as a result of the upcoming court case. He also said Alliance Against Displacement’s actions at Rutherford Elementary School last weekend were not helpful.
“I think the community’s biggest challenge right now is that when we get these encampments that are uncontrolled and unmanaged and the people aren’t getting the supports and the help they need, that you end up with a certain amount of lawlessness. We saw that up at Rutherford school. They certainly didn’t help their cause,” McKay said. “The support in the community is big for the people who need their help. The alliance, as I say, is passionate, however the community has told me loud and clear that when we put our hands out to help, please don’t bite our hands.”
The injunction took effect today.
On Thursday, the city set up service tents along Esplanade adjacent to Discontent City to assist with relocation for campers.
By day’s end Thursday, the City of Nanaimo was sent a letter from the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition and 70 other signatories urging the city not to shut down the camp until supportive housing promised by the provincial government is in place next month.
Speaking to media earlier today, Amber McGrath, an organizer of Discontent City and member of Alliance Against Displacement, said there have been so many mixed messages that people remained confused and unsure of what is going on. She said communication from the city officials and politicians has been “atrocious.”
Discontent City residents have been given maps of Nanaimo, indicating where they can stay overnight.
Yesterday, Coun. Jerry Hong expressed similar concerns about communication, explaining that councillors were in the dark for the past few days. He also felt that B.C. Housing put the city in an “unfair” position by providing 170 units of housing, when there are more than 300 people at Discontent City.
“There is a huge communication gap that is still lacking,” Hong said yesterday.