Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Activists say Victoria in contempt of court with four more anti-camping arrests

While the city of Victoria's police continue to enforce the anti-camping bylaws the B.C. Supreme Court struck down, David Arthur Johnston wanted to know, are they in contempt of court?

He posed the question at the end of a public meeting on October 30, where the lawyers who won that case, Irene Faulkner and Catherine Boies Parker, spoke about what the ruling means.

The lawyers did not answer Johnston's question, saying the would not be providing legal advice at the meeting.

The day before, however, Boies Parker had written a letter to the city's lawyer, Guy McDannold, saying it made no sense for the city to be using a bylaw enforcement policy when the courts have ruled the bylaws “are of no force and effect.”

Following the ruling, the city council had adopted a new enforcement policy that included a ban on tents in public spaces between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m..

“It appears that the Enforcement Policy is not supported by any bylaw,” Boies Parker wrote. “It is our position that enforcement action such as that which was recently taken against the campers in Beacon Hill Park cannot be supported by a mere policy which is not grounded in any bylaw.”

McDannold did not return calls by posting time. Boies Parker said he has promised to respond to her letter this week.

The day after the meeting, Johnston was arrested for the second time in as many weeks after refusing to remove a tent from public property. Three others were also arrested: Kristen Woodruff, Jonathan LeDrew and Tavis Dodds.

In a video of the arrests, posted on the Homeless Nation website, a police officer insists that the bylaws stand and the police can enforce them. He denies that the police and city are in contempt of court.

The bylaw enforcement policy council passed gives the police all the legal authority they need to ask people to force people to remove their tents in the daytime, said Marnie Mayhew, a spokesperson for the department. Asked about Boies Parker's letter, she said, "With all due respect that's one counsels opinion. They're not a judge and they're not a court."

“They wrote an enforcement policy that discarded what the judge said,” said David Shebib, a council candidate who made a movie about Johnston's struggle to win the right to sleep on public property without police harassment.

Enforcing the new policy is an insult to the people who have worked patiently for three years to win the ruling, he said. “If the laws have no value, we're screwed anyway,” he said. The law has come down on the campers' side, he added. “If the law has no enforcement, what the hell's the point of it?”

Woodruff and LeDrew were released on a promise to appear at their bail hearings, Shebib said, but as of the afternoon of November 3 he believed Dodds and Johnston remained in jail.

The Supreme Court ruling took people by surprise, Boies Parker told last week's meeting. "It shouldn't have, but it did," she said. "They're not used to having judges listen to homeless people."

Politicians should not need court decisions to force them to act on the housing crisis, she said. "They should do more than the constitution requires them to do," she said. "Don't let them get away with just that."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus