Paramedics respond to a call to tent city on Sunday. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

Final arguments made at tent city hearing, court won’t rule immediately

Lawyer says City of Nanaimo is concerned occupants would consume hand sanitizer

The City of Nanaimo is hesitant to provide hand sanitizer to Discontent City because it is concerned that camp occupants might eat it.

The revelation was made during the rebuttal stage of a two-day petition hearing in the Supreme Court of British Columbia at the Nanaimo courthouse on Wednesday afternoon involving the City of Nanaimo and Discontent City.

RELATED: Discontent City argues that it’s keeping occupants safe

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Troy DeSouza, the city’s attorney, said the city has followed orders from Island Health except for providing hand sanitizer to Discontent City because the occupants may eat it, which drew laughter from the crowd.

“The issue on the hand sanitizer, which continued to be discussed because hand sanitizer has alcohol in it my lord and so there is a concern, frankly, for the health and safety of the occupants, that will be consumed rather than used,” said DeSouza who made the comments while rebutting earlier claims from Noah Ross, tent city attorney, that the city has not followed orders from Island Health.

During the final portion of the hearing, DeSouza refuted various arguments made by Ross earlier. He said organizers of Discontent City have “no authority” to make decisions about what happens on Port Drive because they do not own the land.

“If they choose to make decisions on land use in the city, there will be an election in October, they should run for office and get elected,” he said.

There have been two overdose deaths at Discontent City, according to DeSouza, who said one of those deaths is unconfirmed. He also said it is better to have homeless individuals scattered throughout the city rather than all at one location.

“This conglomeration and concentration is harmful, in my submission, to the community surrounding it and there is evidence for that, but it is also arguably harmful for those choosing to live there,” DeSouza said, adding that there are children there and fire issues and it is not a long-term solution.

DeSouza also mentioned a series of e-mails between tent city’s attorney and Allan Millbank, the city’s fire inspector, in which they discuss what is considered a fire safety risk, as an example of Discontent City not complying with regulations.

“Part of the problem with fire safety my lord, has been this back and forth between Mr. Millbank and Mr. Ross’s office over what constitutes as a fire safety risk … Rather than comply with the order or orders it is challenging the orders and so what tends to happen there my lord is that he provides the campers, the occupants with reasons not to comply with the order,” DeSouza said.

Near the end of the hearing, Ross was allowed to comment on some of the rebuttal points raised by DeSouza. He said it’s potentially “out of stigma” that the city would think people would consume hand sanitizer, adding that the courthouse has hand sanitizer with alcohol in it .

“I would note in the alcoholic form is considered safe for use in the courthouse and much of the similar population is in the courthouse,” Ross said.

At the end of the hearing Justice Skolrood thanked the lawyers and said he will be making a decision, but didn’t disclose when that could happen.

Speaking to the media afterwards, Ross said he was happy with how the hearing went. He said the e-mail conversations between himself and Millbank that were referenced by DeSouza during the hearing had to do with tarps at Discontent City.

“There has been an ongoing dialogue between my office and Mr. Millbank about whether or not tarps are allowed at camp,” Ross said. “He has maintained, from the start, that tarps should not be allowed and I have been trying to make a distinction that the tarps that are at camp are camping tarps that are generally approved for use in camping situations.”

DeSouza told the News Bulletin he couldn’t comment further on the issue of hand the issue of hand sanitizer at the camp, explaining that city staff are in a better position to comment on the situation, but was pleased with how the two-day hearing went.

“We feel very happy with completing the case … within the two-day estimate that city provided from the very outset,” DeSouza said, adding that he has no idea when a ruling will be issued.

nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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