Mayor Nicole Read was back at Maple Ridge city hall on Monday, “easing my way back in this week,” but already facing some tough issues.
Nor would she publicly second guess her council’s decision, in her absence, to direct staff to dismantle a homeless camp that sprung up at 223rd Street and St. Anne Avenue.
The decision to remove the campers from the undeveloped park next to the Haney Bypass was rendered in a behind-closed-doors meeting with the city’s legal counsel.
After bylaws tried unsuccessfully to move the camp on Thursday, the city is now seeking a court injunction to force the campers out.
At the same time, the clock is ticking on a May 31 deadline for the RainCity homeless shelter. After that date, homeless people will again be housed at the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries.
Homeless people and their advocates marched from city hall to the camp on Saturday, to speak out against the city’s actions to evict.
“There’s a lot of politics involved in what’s going on now,” said Read, noting when the camp first started it was by people who are housed, with a political agenda.
Homeless people joined these advocates later, some coming from the shelter, and it has grown to more than 30 people.
“They [advocates] want them housed, and so do we,” Read said of the city “We have the same goal.”
But she said the actions of Ivan Drury and the Alliance Against Displacement aren’t helpful.
“It’s creating divisions in our city again,” said the mayor. “Advocates and Pivot [Legal Society] come out and protect peoples right to a tent, and what we really need is housing.
“The city, right now, needs to be fighting for and working on housing,” she added. “We have this May 31 deadline.”
The matter has been complicated by last week’s provincial election. The Maple Ridge-Mission riding could still be won by the Liberal Party if Marc Dalton gets enough votes from absentee ballots,to force s recount, or it could go to the NDP’s Bob D’Eith, who is presently in the lead by 120 votes.
The balance of power in the province awaits the counting of ballots, so council needs to wait and see who it will be dealing with both in Victoria and in the local MLA offices.
“It’s a difficult situation all-around,” Read said.
The mayor responded to online criticism that she is a longtime friend of Drury, who is a frequent and high-profile protester in the Lower Mainland.
“The first time I knew anything about Ivan Drury was when he wanted a barbecue on Cliff Avenue,” she said.
She advised him against bringing people to a “party” in a homeless camp on a residential street, and the barbecue was called off.