NANAIMO —Discontent City residents will be allowed to stay at the downtown Nanaimo site until Nov. 30, when temporary housing units from the province are expected to be ready to move into.
The decision was made by BC Supreme Court Justice Ronald Skolrood Friday afternoon, following a successful delay application from tent city legal representative Noah Ross.
"I am of the view it would be consistent with the intent of the order and my orginal reasons to extend the deadline for dismantling to allow more opportunity for the alternative housing proposed by the province to be established," Skolrood told the court.
Skolrood said he does harbour some reservations about the housing situation proposed and he "shared the City's concern that the proposed plan is at this stage simply a proposal and there are no clear timelines in place. I note the province was provided notice of this application, but declined to appear and to provide any further information."
Several conditions, proposed by the City, were included in Skolrood's decision.
- No vehicles, trailers or structures are permitted
- No person under the age of 19 is permitted at Discontent City at any time
- Nanaimo Fire Rescue and their agents are authorized to remove all fire hazards by 9 a.m. on Oct. 26, excluding tarps covering individual tents
- By 5 p.m. on Oct. 26, any occupant at Discontent City who wishes to enter into the alternative housing must provide ID or agree to have their photograph taken by service providers and give them their full name
- By 5 p.m. on Oct. 26, any occupant at Discontent City not entering into alternative housing must vacate the property.
Under Skolrood's conditions in his decision, every Discontent City occupant must be off the land at 1 Port Dr. by 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30. The new date will stand even if the alternative housing on 250 Terminal Ave. and in the City-owned Public Works Yard on Labieux Rd. isn't ready for occupancy by Nov. 30.
He said the conditions are in place because he isn't satisfied the public safety risks within the camp, which he said were the main motivating factor in his original eviction order, were remedied.
During the submissions earlier Friday morning, City of Nanaimo lawyer Troy DeSouza told Skolrood tent city residents were defiant and unwilling to work with the original eviction order and described them as "more combative, resistant (and) obstructionist."
Synthesizing three affidavits submitted by the City, DeSouza said "The occupants are entrenched, they're not willing to go. They've already had...sufficient time to work and make plans to leave but there's been no movement."
Discontent City lawyer Ross, citing affidavits submitted in favour of tent city, told Skolrood it's only provincial entities and service providers working to make the situation better in the camp.
"There's no evidence provided by the City that they've provided any services to the camp, contrary to what was the stated intention in the letter which was distributed to the camp."
Ross originally asked for the eviction date to be extended to Dec. 31. The City, though opposed to the extension, was open to the possibility of the camp staying until Nov. 23 as long as conditions were attached.
Since the original eviction order on Sept. 21, the size of Discontent City has decreased slightly. At its peak, it was estimated between 300 and 350 people lived there.
A contentious issue from the moment people moved in on May. 17, it has sparked deep divisions in the community and prompted two sizable rallies outside the camp during the summer.
Nanaimo mayor Bill McKay told NanaimoNewsNOW he's pleased the process of closing Discontent City is moving forward in a constructive way after Skolrood's decision.
"We can start getting minors out of there, get the folks who don't belong out of there, start reducing the size and deal with the safety issues both in the camp and in the neighbourhood," he said.
Starting Friday, no less than two province-provided security guards will be posted at Discontent City 24 hours a day to patrol the perimetre and ensure the conditions in Skolrood's order are being followed.
McKay admitted the tent city issue is a contentious one which has divided the community.
"I would suggest that society and all levels of goverment have dropped the ball. This thing caught us all by surprise but we all knew it was coming."
The positive of the situation, McKay said, is the housing Nanaimo desperately needs to handle the substantial homelessness population is finally arriving.
On Twitter: @NanaimoNewsNOW
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