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Province drops one case against homeless campers, one more to come

The province stayed charges today against four people arrested last month camping outside Victoria city hall.

“The 'Crown' recognized that the city has no authority with this bylaw enforcement policy,” wrote David Arthur Johnston in an e-mail. Police arrested Johnston along with Kristen Woodruff, Tavis Dodds and Jonathan Le Drew when they refused to remove their tents from the square on October 31.

The Supreme Court of B.C. ruled on October 14 that the city can not enforce anti-camping bylaws against homeless people. People have a constitutional right to shelter themselves, especially when full shelters mean they have no other choice but to sleep outside.

The city responded by adopting a new policy saying tents are allowed after 9 p.m., which they later amended to 7 p.m., but they have to be gone by 7 a.m..

“Officially [today's stay] probably means that there is no 7-7 rule now,” wrote Johnston.

Irene Faulkner, one of the lawyers who fought the Supreme Court case on behalf of the homeless, said the stay does not throw out the enforcement policy, but it will be hard for the city to enforce its policy if the crown has no intention of pursuing the charges.

“I would think that would kind of be harassment,” she said.

Johnston and four others have a court date set for Friday related to earlier arrests in Beacon Hill Park. Crown counsel Christine Lowe was not available by posting time to say whether those charges will also be stayed.

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

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