Press Release: Outraged Community Members Protest Anti-Camping Bylaw Amendment Residents defy streets and traffic bylaw amendment on Pandora Green

For Immediate Release
Oct. 7, 2010
Contact: Nick Montgomery, 250-891-2222

Outraged Community Members Protest Anti-Camping Bylaw Amendment
Residents defy streets and traffic bylaw amendment on Pandora Green

(Coast Salish Territories, Victoria, BC)  Over 50 Victoria residents gathered on Pandora Green to protest the impact that the City’s streets and traffic bylaw amendment will have on the homeless community that lives in the area.  The amendment, which was approved by Council today, prohibits kneeling, sitting or laying down on boulevards and medians from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am.

Members of four local anti-poverty groups sat on Pandora Green to show their opposition to the bylaw that they say will further marginalize the city’s most vulnerable population.  Although Victoria Police were observed hassling members of the street community who were sitting on the sidewalk directly on Pandora, none approached the anti-poverty groups on the boulevard.

“Homelessness and poverty rates have reached crisis levels in the city of Victoria,” said Victoria Coalition Against Poverty spokesperson Nick Montgomery.  “Authorizing police to chase people out of well-lit areas where they feel safe, into invisible corners and dark alleys, is only going to make the situation worse.”

In 2009, a Supreme Court decision recognized homeless peoples’ right to camp on public land.  Since that time, a community of people has been sleeping on the boulevard in front of Our Place, a popular daytime drop-in centre. Under pressure from local businesses and home-owners, the City passed the bylaw by suggesting that the tenters create traffic safety problems.

“This decision has nothing to do with traffic safety.  It is an obvious attempt to sweep homeless people into less visible locations” said Montgomery. “Common sense and best practices from every other city in North America demonstrate that you can’t end poverty by using police to chase people out of sight.”

The Victoria Coalition Against Poverty (VCAP) conducted research in the area, interviewing almost 100 members of the street community about their ideas and visions for the neighbourhood.  When asked about actions that the city could take to solve the homelessness problem people consistently mentioned the need for supported housing, harm reduction services and an end to police violence.  VCAP has posted the preliminary results of this survey (https://vcapvictoria.wordpress.com/83-2/) and will be facilitating discussions with the street community to draft a Peoples’ Plan for Pandora Green in the coming weeks.

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