Nanaimo city council has decided it won’t allow Discontent City campers to remain where they are, but camp organizers say they won’t leave voluntarily.
The City of Nanaimo released a statement Friday afternoon advising that city council, at an in camera meeting, passed a motion requesting Discontent City campers vacate the 1 Port Dr. property within 72 hours. The city says it has requested the RCMP’s assistance. Failure to comply with the trespass notice could result in ticketing, enforcing the Trespass Act or a court injunction, the city notes.
According to the statement, occupants at the site have been provided with information about areas of the city in which they are permitted to seek overnight shelter.
Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay told the News Bulletin that the informal settlers at Discontent City are trespassing and must vacate the property.
“Some of those folks are activists and they are not homeless, others are folks who simply want a safe place to be and hopefully we will come up with some alternative locations for them,” he said.
Mercedes Courtoreille, a camp advocate, said the government doesn’t protect people experiencing homelessness and that’s why they’ve had to create their own community for safety and survival.
“It’s unfortunate that the City of Nanaimo doesn’t see this as an opportunity for homeless people to be safe and supported,” she said. “By removing this camp, or attempting to, they’re not solving homelessness, they’re just pushing people back into the woods and ignoring it again.”
She said “we will stay here; we are not leaving,” and said Discontent City is asking the community to rally in support on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., half an hour before the deadline campers have been given to vacate the site.
Mike Pindar, one of the campers, said the Discontent City residents feel strongly about what they’re doing.
“We are not going anywhere until it’s either dealt with or we’re all in handcuffs,” he said. “We’re not here to threaten or to hurt anybody; we don’t want to have any fights with the police or anything like that. It’s all going to be in their hands. Whatever comes, we will deal with.”
Organizers of Discontent City have stated that they have a right to be where they are and have used the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as rationale for their actions. However, McKay said while the organizers appear to be well-versed in the area of law, the city also has a legal team that advises council and staff on the decisions and actions that can be done to deal with the camp.
“It’s a difficult issue,” he said. “There is not a single of member of council who does not have compassion.”
City council’s decision to take action comes as a result of complaints from citizens about increased thefts and vandalism in the Port Place shopping centre area, according to McKay, who said he’s heard stories of individuals stealing from Thrifty Foods.
“I am so disappointed that there is an expectation that the community is going to help all these folks, yet they are out robbing everybody blind,” McKay said. “Port Place is under siege right now.”
Pindar said comments about Discontent City campers stealing from the mall are BS and said he hasn’t seen anyone come through the gate with new things or items they’re trying to sell.
One of the people who has written to mayor and council is Gail Revesz, a resident on Promenade Drive, who told the News Bulletin that residents of Cameron Island have become increasingly concerned for their safety since the camp was established. She said more and more people no longer feel safe to walk across the street to Port Place or along the waterfront and if they complain, they’re labelled as people who don’t have compassion or care.
“I am just frustrated that they always seem to get what they want but if we complain we are the bad ones,” she said. “We’re not elitist by any means. We live on Cameron Island but we’re just ordinary people, living ordinary lives, paying our taxes and it just seems like these people can break the law whenever they want.”
Since returning from vacation with her husband in April, Revesz said she’s noticed significantly more people around her neighbourhood and that it’s increased since Discontent City was established. She said the residents in her neighbourhood feel as if their concerns have been ignored and are hoping that council will take action and address the issues of housing and homelessness sooner rather than later.
“Somebody has to solve this,” she said. “Mayor and council are the ones who are getting paid to solve this.”
City council has passed a motion requesting Discontent City campers vacate the property within 72 hours. The city says failure to comply could result in ticketing, enforcing the Trespass Act or a court injunction. #Nanaimo
— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) May 26, 2018