People camping out at city hall have been ordered to leave.
The City of Nanaimo has issued an eviction notice to dozens of individuals who have been camping out on the lawn at city hall for the past few days.
Karen Fry, Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief and director of public safety, said an eviction notice was issued yesterday. She said campers have until 2 p.m. today to vacate the lawn and those who remain will be “relocated” by Nanaimo RCMP and bylaw officers.
“They are probably going to be moved along by the police,” she said.
Organizers estimated there were 40 individuals camping out on the lawn at city hall earlier this week. The camp-out first began as a protest in response to the loss of $7.25 million of provincial money for a low-barrier housing project in Chase River, which was rejected by councillors over concerns from residents.
Fry said while some campers have left since receiving the eviction notice yesterday, many still remain. She said Nanaimo Fire Rescue has not responded to any overdoses at city hall, but they have responded to other calls including fires near tents.
Fy said she was at city hall this morning and noticed a pedestrian go out of her way to avoid walking near the campsite. She said the campers can be intimidating to some and that there have also been conflicts between campers.
“They’ve had a fire on two occasions that was really close to a tent, which is really dangerous,” she said. “There are fights and arguments breaking out.”
The city could have prohibited the campers from being on the law in the first place, but decided to allow them the right to protest, says Fry, adding that finding a balance between an individual’s right to protest and violating city bylaws and creating an unsafe environment is not easy.
“It’s always a tough position to be in because we want people to be able to have freedom of speech and be able to display and demonstrate peacefully and for people to hear their concerns,” she said. “We could have had security there and not permitted them to camp, but we chose at that time to let them demonstrate until the council meeting was followed through with.”
Where these individuals move to next is up to them, but they cannot camp out in city parks because it violates existing bylaws.
“There is no tenting permitted anywhere, people can have overnight shelter in several locations in the city. I know someone is reporting that I said they could have a tent city at Barsby Park, but that is not the case,” she said. “[Barsby Park] is close to a riparian area. There are currently a few tents there and they will be asked to leave as well because they are near the [Millstone River]. It’s one thing if they are near the parking lot or something, but it’s another thing if they are near an area that could damage the fish habitat.”