Homeless advocate Ivan Drury is confident Anita Place Tent City will win its case in Supreme Court on Monday, because there is simply nowhere else for Maple Ridge’s homeless to go.
The City of Maple Ridge has applied for an injunction to force the camp to move from its location near the south end of 223rd Street, next to the Haney Bypass. Arguments will be made in Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday morning.
Drury is with the Alliance Against Displacement. He has been involved in similar court hearings in Victoria, and most recently in Vancouver, and said the courts are reluctant to force homeless people from a place where they are safe, into situations where they will be more at risk.
“Whever I’ve seen a judge find in support of a camp, it’s because the state… is not providing alternative housing.”
Drury said the campers will argue that if the city is granted its injunction, homeless people will be “chased into isolation,” whereas they are safer at Anita Place.
The Pivot Legal Society will represent the homeless camp in Maple Ridge, and will be armed with 51 affidavits from Anita Place residents and their supporters in the community, swearing that they are safer in the tent city.
Drury called the city’s application for an injunction “purely hostile,” and said the city would be “punishing homeless people for their existence.”
He said a loss would mean homeless people being “pushed off into the bush and dark corners.”
But a win for Anita Place would mean the city being denied the right to use force to move the camp.
“That would put a lot of pressure on the city to come up with a solution,” said Drury, adding that’s the point of the “civil disobedience” that is the camp.
Mayor Nicole Read said the city lawyers will attend the hearing, which could last two days, but she will not.
She said the city’s case will argue the camp is not a safe place for residents. One example being Fire Chief Howard Exner’s report last month the fire department has not been able to get compliance to resolve dangers such as electrocution hazards, the use of combustible liquids on site, and propane being used outside of cooking areas.
“For us, the biggest issue is safety for everybody,” said Read.
The city had begun an injunction process against the camp when if first was established, but it was adjourned in June to allow the province to develop a plan that would result in voluntary decampment.
Drury said he has met with BC Housing officials more than a month ago, and proposed 200 modular housing units in Maple Ridge, in order to get voluntary decampment.
He said they are “scouting a bunch of sites” as potential locations for the units, but they are not getting local cooperation.
“The province will put money on the table,” said Drury.