Discontent City advocate Mercedes Courtoreille speaks at a rally Thursday afternoon at the homeless camp at Front Street and Esplanade. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Discontent City advocate Mercedes Courtoreille speaks at a rally Thursday afternoon at the homeless camp at Front Street and Esplanade. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo’s Discontent City campers resisting fire safety order

Court order required Discontent City to adhere to numerous provincial fire safety regulations

Organizers of a downtown Nanaimo tent city are resisting a court-imposed fire safety order, claiming it isn’t safe for occupants.

On July 18, the Supreme Court of British Columbia ordered Discontent City occupants to comply with a fire safety order placed by the Provincial Fire Commissioner within one week.

Issued by Justice Ronald Skolrood, the order followed the conclusion of a two-day petition hearing involving the organizers and occupants of Discontent City and the City of Nanaimo, which is seeking a statutory injunction to have the camp shut down and destroyed.

The fire safety order sets out a number of conditions that must be met by Discontent City, such as ensuring all tents are at least one metre apart, storing propane tanks properly, removing all open flame lighting and heating from all tents, removing all tarps currently placed on all structures inside the campground and removing all combustible materials.

On Thursday morning, the city issued a press release stating that the camp is not complying.

“We are proceeding with all legal options including contempt, police enforcement and increased costs which will be made against the remaining occupants,” Troy DeSouza, the city’s legal counsel, said in a press release.

Mercedes Courtoreille, Discontent City advocate, said campers won’t comply with the order because it is unfair and unsafe for those living there. She said the requirement to remove all tarps from the property is a huge reason for their disobedience.

“Do you know how hot it is outside right now? Tarps on tents are essential,” Courtoreille said.

She said the city and the fire department are unwilling to help camp residents comply with the order in any capacity. She said city officials are bowing down to “anti-homeless hatred” and are only making the situation worse.

“The city is scared of losing the injunction case and they are using the fire department to dismantle the camp instead. They are successfully politicalizing the fire department for their own means,” she said, adding later that she’s worried about the camp being shut down by law enforcement.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay said he could not comment on what the city’s next step will be, but expected organizers to comply with the order. He said the property is city-owned and that the tarps need to be removed because they are flammable.

“They are erecting tents too close to brush, too close to each other and they are using flammable tarps overtop, so we are trying to protect the citizens from liability and them and I don’t understand what is unfair about that,” he said.

McKay said he can’t understand “what part of compliance” Discontent City organizers don’t understand. He said their own legal counsel agreed to the court order.

“This is not us being unreasonable, this is a court order and if they’ve got any issues with that, they need to take it up with the court because a judge ordered this and their lawyer agreed,” McKay said.


nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

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