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Maple Ridge camp opens doors after police leave

People walking in without verification check
There was free access to tent city on Tuesday morning. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

While barricades and police officers barred entrance to Anita Place Tent City on the weekend, by Tuesday morning people were freely walking into and out of the camp on 223rd Street.

Bylaws, fire officials and dozens of police from neighbouring cities converged on the camp on Saturday and Sunday, as part of the City of Maple Ridge’s enforcement of a Supreme Court order allowing the city to remove hazardous materials and fuels and requiring camp residents to show identification for verification purposes.

Anyone without verification wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the camp, according to the city’s notice on Feb. 22.

But Ivan Drury, with Alliance Against Displacement, said on both days over the weekend that once enforcement was over and police disappeared, there was no screening of who came and went into the camp.

That continued Monday and Tuesday, with security guards only making visual checks of people entering the camp and stopping them if it was evident they were carrying contraband or banned materials, such as fuel, into the camp.

As a result, Drury said, people are starting to bring back heaters and fuel into the camp.

“Guess what happens when there’s no police?” Drury said. “You’re going to take them away, people bring them back.

“So what’s the point of this? It’s just an exercise in force.”

Drury, who was arrested on the weekend and charged with obstructing police, was released on bail.

Three others were charged with violating the injunction order and appeared in B.C. Supreme Court, while Dwayne Alain Martin faced three charges, including uttering threats, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and obstructing a peace officer.

Drury said that that only a few people were verified on Saturday and that some of those had to wait more than an hour to be let into the camp and to go through the process.

While propane tanks and hazardous materials were hauled out on the weekend, tents and tarps remain mostly untouched.

According to the city on Saturday, access to the site “will be restricted to verified camp occupants, their legal counsel and housing support workers.”

But Wednesday morning there were no city workers on site.

Meanwhile, Pivot Legal Society is appealing the city’s actions over the weekend and claims it contravened the Feb. 8 Supreme Court order allowing the safe cleanup of the camp.

Pivot objected to the shutting down of the electric and propane supplies.

But according to a city release, the propane tanks had been tampered with and the supplier decided to remove them.

“This represented an extreme fire hazard …” said the release.

The electrical panel also was tampered with and was open to the elements, creating a risk of electrocution, said the city.

Former Maple Ridge councillor Craig Speirs said he supports the clearing of the camp, but that the city is proceeding the wrong way. He claims that there is no housing being offered to residents.

“We’ve got to house first before we clear the camp. We at least have to have a plan, a transition plan,” Speirs added.

He supports measures to improve safety, but criticizes what he said was the withholding of heat and power in the warming tents and washrooms.

“It’s cruel and unusual punishment. You have to treat people with compassion and you can’t do that by withholding heat from them.

But Jesse Stretch, who’s on the community advisory committee with the modular housing on Royal Crescent, criticized both Pivot and Alliance Against Displacement for focusing on helping their members when they were arrested instead of tent city.

“They clearly do not have homeless people’s interests at heart.”

Tent city volunteer Chris Bossley asked at council’s Wednesday meeting when power and propane will be restored to the camp, with recreation manager Kelly Swift saying that B.C. Housing is working to restore power and propane to the site.

Mayor Michael Morden told council that more than 100 propane tanks were removed from tent city on the weekend.

“We’ll continue to make decisions, as this situation is fluid,” Morden added.

Norm Forbes, however, praised the city’s action at tent city.

“I just want to thank mayor and council for all their excellent work they’re doing to make Maple Ridge start to feel a little safer again. So thank you all,” he said to applause in the council chambers.

However, no one from the city or council will talk directly about tent city, about future next steps and why the verification process has been abandoned.

Drury got to tent city on the weekend driving his 1991 Toyota Previa van, which he parked nearby. Overnight Sunday, three of the tires were slashed on the vehicle.

As a result, he sent the vehicle to the scrap yard because he said he can’t afford to buy new tires.

“Slashing someone’s tires is kind of a low blow.”

One former resident of the camp who’s first name is Cody said some people have moved out of the camp have scattered around the city.

“That’s why tent city was so good, everybody was in one area,” he added.

“I grabbed my stuff and left before any of this stuff went down.”

Now, he stays at several locations, either at the Salvation Army, with friends or at the camp.

“I walk around every day.”

There was free access to tent city on Tuesday morning. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)
One of the shacks in tent city with notices. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

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