Case To Be Argued December 5
By Mike Archer. The City of Abbotsford may be forced to allow the homeless men and women, who were forced out of Jubilee Park on the basis of a City-sought injunction last December, to move back to Jubilee Park as a result of a motion put before the court Monday challenging the injunction.
Pivot Legal Society, representing the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS), entered a motion asking that the court set aside the injunction on the basis of a year’s worth of evidence that, not only is there not enough shelter space in Abbotsford (nor was there when the City told the judge there was), but that the City has engaged in a series of actions over the last year designed to further marginalize and isolate the homeless men and women it evicted from Jubilee Park.
The homeless men and women who were evicted from Jubilee Park last Christmas were quickly shuffled into extra shelter spaces under the provisions of the emergency cold weather shelter plan which was quickly put into effect after the injunction. The short-term plan is designed to save lives on an emergency basis when the weather gets so cold people might die. People who would otherwise be denied shelter are brought inside as long as the weather is a deadly threat.
Within days, and in some cases hours, the men and women of Jubilee Park were back on the street as the situation reverted to normal. Before long a new camp, “MCC Dignity Village,” had been set up on a narrow piece of property opposite the giant new MCC building on Gladys Avenue where it sits to this day.
Through a variety of actions and means, the motion alleges that the City, in partnership with other landowners in the area, including BC Hydro, systematically removed access to all pieces of vacant property being used by homeless people to find shelter close to the services provided by the Salvation Army or other service providers. Almost all of those services are in the downtown core.
Barry Shantz, head of the DWS, says, “The homeless have, in effect, had their options reduced to the tiny piece of property on which the ‘MCC Dignity Village’ sits and, because of the increase in the number of people seeking shelter and safety there, it has become an unsafe place to live. It is the only option the City has effectively allowed for those who can’t find shelter in this City.”
In July, on the Friday before the long weekend, a mass evacuation was arranged of homeless men and women from the side of Gladys Avenue, from south of the Salvation Army all the way to the public park at the intersection George Ferguson Way and Gladys.
“They could either disappear into the woods, where they are not safe, or they could move down to ‘MCC Dignity Village,’ where they have some sense of community and security,” says Shantz.
The motion will be argued before a BC Supreme Court judge on Friday, Dec 5, and includes a request for the City to provide for the immediate needs of the homeless men and women including: toilet facilities, power and safety.
Meanwhile, the City of Abbotsford has successfully delayed a trial on the matters before the Supreme Court of BC resulting from the infamous Chicken Manure Incident and the damage inflicted by Abbotsford’s notorious ‘Anti-Harm Reduction’ bylaw, as well several cases which are in small claims court and before the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The City has been submitting motions, all of which have been rejected by the court, and appealing the Chief Justice’s ruling that the case before the Supreme Court could go ahead.
Despite the City’s tactics and its appeal, the Chief Justice has gone ahead and set a trial date for June 2015. The City has not released figures for the amount of money it has spent over the last three years fighting its homeless citizens in court nor has it indicated if there is any limit on the amount it is prepared to spend fighting its most marginalized citizens.
Mayor-elect Henry Braun, together with several of the new councillors elected November 15, have said they do not believe the City should be wasting money, time and energy fighting its own citizens in court but should be re-directing its energies and taxpayer funds towards finding a solution to the problems surrounding homelessness, mental illness, drug addiction and poverty.
The DWS will not say if it intends to move back to Jubilee Park if the judge grants their motion and sets aside the December 2013 injunction but Shantz says that conditions at the ‘MCC Dignity Village’, due to what he says are City-caused overcrowding conditions, are getting such that many of those at the site will definitely want to move.
The DWS has a proposal before the City since autumn of 2013 which would see the City allow them access to several pieces of municipal property, close to downtown but not in municipal parks, which the DWS has described as unusable and of no commercial value.
The DWS, together with Chad Brechin of Integrity Design, has provided the City with a detailed plan that would see some of those properties used as safe zones where the homeless could live in the prefab housing which they already own (but which has been confiscated by the City).
An Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) financed plan to move as many homeless people as possible out of downtown to a piece of property at Valley Road off the Mission highway, has been withdrawn due to planning conflicts over use of the property.
Henry Braun and the new council take over December 1 at the inaugural meeting of the new council.
Short Summary of Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis:
First came John Smith’s announcement to the national media that he had instructed the APD to handle homelessness in downtown Abbotsford; then the Abbotsford Shuffle – otherwise known as Chief Bob Rich’s “disperse and displace” strategy for solving homelessness; then Mayor Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident (first revealed on Abbotsford Today); then there was the Standoff in Jubilee; followed by the ‘MCC Dignity Village‘ protest camp on Gladys Avenue and the gathering of more and more of Abbotsford’s homeless to the security of living with others and out in the open in the growing size and number of camps across from the Salvation Army and along Gladys Avenue.
Along the way a few embarrassing revelations were uncovered and published by Abbotsford Today including
the fact that the Salvation Army knew about and was in agreement with the use of chicken feces to encourage the homeless to move from their camp across the street from the Sally Ann; and the rude and demeaning emails shared by police chief Bob Rich and his senior staff after the Chicken Manure Incident went worldwide.