Campers decide to defy authorities

Won’t leave park by court deadline of 3 p.m. on April 20

Crissy Brett and the campers in Duncan’s Charles Hoey Park said they would not leave the park by the court-imposed deadline of 3 p.m. on April 20.

Brett said Thursday morning that after a meeting of the campers the previous day, a majority decided to defy the court order and challenge police and bylaw officers to take the tents down.

She said, however, that she’s suggested to the other campers not to intervene when, or if, the authorities come to take their campground down and not risk getting themselves arrested.

“I’m willing to be the only one who will be arrested,” Brett said Tursday morning.

“I suggested to the campers that instead of running the risk of being criminalized, they may want to be observers rather than protesters when the time comes. I have the moral right to do this and, despite what the City of Duncan is saying, we have a lot of support in the community.”

Duncan’s CAO Peter de Verteuil declined to comment on what the city’s plans were as of Thursday morning.

The deadline for the campers to leave the park occurred after press time on Thursday.

The Supreme Court of BC’s Justice Brian MacKenzie ordered on April 18 that the homeless camp be removed.

The campers could face fines, jail or both if the court order is not followed.

The encampment was originally established in the park on March 31 as a protest to advocate for housing.

When it became apparent the campers were intending to stay for a long period in the park, they were served a Notice to Vacate by noon on April 8.

When that did not happen, the city sought and obtained an order from the Supreme Court of BC to hear the merits of the case on April 18.

Duncan Mayor Phil Kent, the city’s CAO Peter de Verteuil and bylaw officers met with Brett and other campers on April 13 in an unsuccessful effort to find a compromise.

“The city offered, if the campers willfully vacated prior to April 18, that the city would drop the charges and support them in transitioning to Warmland House,” Kent said.

“Unfortunately Crissy felt, among other things, that some campers were not welcome at Warmland, and that other campers could not abide by the Warmland House rules.”

Kent said Warmland House has confirmed that there are enough shelter beds available for all campers who are at Charles Hoey Park.

He said even those who have previously been asked to leave the shelter due to inappropriate behavior are welcome to return once their behavior is under control.

“We explained [to the campers] that council is approaching the Municipality of North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes to work on a collaborative approach to advocate for funding for social housing in the Cowichan Valley, but this takes time,” de Verteuil said.

“We also explained that the encampment risks reducing the very strong local support in the Cowichan Valley to advocate for housing and homelessness initiatives.”

In a statement, the city said it is requesting that the public and all stakeholders maintain patience, civility and respect as the municipality works through the court process.