Tent city provides significant benefits for its residents without “materially” decreasing the health safety of the surrounding neighbourhood, argued Discontent City this morning in B.C. Supreme Court.
That was one of the main claims made by Noah Ross, the attorney representing a number of occupants at Discontent City, during the second day of a petition hearing on Wednesday at Nanaimo courthouse.
A petition filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia last month by the City of Nanaimo seeks a statutory injunction to shut down Discontent City and its occupants removed 1 Port Drive.
On Wednesday morning, Justice Ronald Skolrood heard arguments against shutting down Discontent City from Ross, who claimed the camp is a safer alternative for homeless individuals than the current options available in Nanaimo.
“The campers feel a lot safer at the camp,” Ross said. “They feel safer with the community around the camp, and they feel that they are cared for by the community that is there and the services they have access to and they feel better protected.”
Throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, Ross laid out a range of arguments and rebuttals in support of Discontent City. Ross told the court that there is a lot of “conflicting evidence” around the negative impacts of the camp and disputed claims of increased theft in the neighbourhood around the camp.
“There is nothing beyond anecdotal evidence of an increase in theft in Port Place mall or any of the surrounding business areas,” he said. “There has been an increase in calls to the police, but that doesn’t indicate that those calls were well-founded or that any stores specifically have sustained an increase in shoplifting.”
Ross addressed the fire safety issues raised by the city by explaining that Nanaimo Fire Rescue was acting unfairly for telling campers not to have fires and tarps at Discontent City, adding that the city hasn’t even provided fire extinguishers to campers. He also disputed that the site was a fire hazard, that campers are complying with the city’s demands and that there has never been a major fire on the camp.
“There have been no evidence of significant fires on site breaking out,” he said
There were numerous statements and affidavits from nearby residents and business owners, including Lucid, Gabriel’s Gourmet Café, Kismet Theatre Academy and Arbutus Books, presented by Ross as evidence that Discontent City isn’t causing issues downtown.
Ross pointed to a statement from one business owner who said no one is sleeping in the doorway to her business since Discontent City was formed and highlighted a statement from a resident living on Cameron Island, who claims she feels safer with Discontent City.
“I feel safe when I visited Discontent City and I feel safe when I walk to and from my building while at Port Place mall. I am an older lady and I feel safe at the mall and my apartment so it can’t be that dangerous,” according to the woman’s statement, read aloud by Ross.
Should the camp be shut down, the campers will be at greater risk of overdosing, theft, physical and mental abuse according to Ross.
The City of Nanaimo laid out its arguments on the first day of the hearing yesterday.
More to come