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After a three week wait, B.C. Supreme Court judge Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled in favour of Victoria's Super InTent City on Tuesday and refused to grant an injunction to the Province of B.C. to remove the camp's residents.
The camp has been in place since last spring when there were a handful of tenters on the provincial courthouse property. Now the camp has grown to over 100 people who have a strong sense of community, despite the province's expressed concerns over health and safety within it.
"It was a fantastic release. It was really stressful not knowing what we were going to do," Ana McBee, SuperIntent City resident told rabble. "We can breathe easy."
Tent city supporter and housing advocate Kym "Hothead" Hines agreed with McBee that the verdict was positive and that his reaction was "pure relief."
Hinkson's written ruling resulting from March's court hearings between the province and the tent city stated that the campers have benefitted from "responsible leadership and organization, and have established effective lines of communication between themselves and police, fire and public health authorities."
Hinkson also stated that he was dissatisfied with problems brought forward by the province, suggesting that he was unsure that they "are the unique result of the existence of the Encampment, and are not simply part of the reality of homelessness."
Not all are pleased with the verdict, however, particularly a collection of Victoria residents, who have united under the group name "Mad as Hell", and are trying to mobilize opposition to tent city.
"There's a small number of people everywhere who are ignorant and they don't want to see the poverty in front of them," said Hines. "But a lot of people have gone to the other side and realized they were being judgemental."
Victoria's not the only city fighting for housing as the crisis continues to grow across the province. In Campbell River, local non-profit, Grassroots Kind Hearts, established an ongoing "tent-in" protest last Thursday outside of City Hall to put pressure on the city to work towards local housing solutions.
McBee commented on this province-wide issue, suggesting that there are deeper issues that B.C.'s government needs to address.
"We're asking the province to step up and do some of those things that would help alleviate this for everybody. Raise the minimum wage. Liveable income for everybody including seniors, people on disability and social assistance needs to keep up with inflation," she said. "You can see that there's a few key issues all across B.C. that cause a lot of problems so hopefully we get to look at addressing those."
Ultimately, while the judge's ruling is a positive step for residents of Victoria's tent city and housing advocates across B.C., the province has also applied for a permanent injunction that will be addressed in court in September.
Hines, however, is optimistic, and suggests that a lot of support for tent city and the strong community it has become can be raised between now and September.
"The court case and the trial, I believe, is going to be amazing for us and threatening to the province," he said. "We have the time. We have more evidence and proof of how much healthier people get every day and every week when they're loved and able to lead themselves."
Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble’s News Intern.
Photo: flickr/ Mike Gabelmann
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