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Victoria Mayor Lowe: camping defeat fault of province, feds

In his response to today's Supreme Court of B.C. decision that struck down his city's anti-camping bylaws, Victoria mayor Alan Lowe took aim at the provincial and federal governments.

“Over the past decade Victoria has seen an increase in the homeless on our streets, as have all other urban centres in this country,” he said. The decision sets a precedent across the country, he said. “We need the other levels of government to pay attention to this Supreme Court decision.”

Justice Carol Ross ruled that it is unconstitutional to prevent people from erecting shelters to protect themselves when there are clearly many more people homeless than there is space for in housing and emergency shelters.

More spending is needed on housing, emergency shelters and support services, Lowe said, adding that camping in parks and forming tent cities are intolerable. “This judgment demonstrates what years of cuts to social programming and housing programs has done.”

He observed that the ruling came on the same day as the federal election, but housing has not been a campaign issue. “The homelessness issue was barely mentioned.”

Similarly, Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Carter said in a statement, “It is time for the Province and [Vancouver Island Health Authority] to make the necessary health care services available and for the federal government to increase funding and incentives for housing to meet the desperate needs in our community.”

Provincial housing and social development minister Rich Coleman was unavailable for an interview on the day of the ruling.

One of the lawyers who represented the homeless, Irene Faulkner, said it will be interesting to see how the city and other levels of government work with the ruling. “I think it needs a whole diverse number of responses. There's no one-size-fits-all solution.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. You can reach him here.

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