UPDATE: Fire Quickly Extinguished At Abbotsford Homeless Camp

The following statement has been released by Mayor Henry Braun regarding the City’s response to the life-safety issues at the Gladys Road encampment:

“Following the fire incident last night at the encampment on Gladys Road, the City of Abbotsford’s Fire Chief conducted a thorough inspection of the site with a view to life-safety issues this morning.

Due to the amount of material located around the area, including numerous combustible and combustion items, the City will be undertaking an immediate clean-up of the site over the next few days to ensure the safety of all those located in the encampment is maintained.

The City is in the process of contacting local service providers and community resource agencies who will be available to offer services to all those seeking assistance.

This is the second fire in recent months at this location and we are extremely concerned for the safety of the people there.

I will personally be on-site with the Fire Chief at 12:00noon today as the clean-up efforts begin and I welcome any questions from media regarding this incident.”


A small fire in three storage tents at the homeless ‘MCC Dignity Village’ protest camp on Gladys Avenue occurred Sunday evening. No one was injured and firefighters, who were quickly on the scene, had control of the fire quickly.

The Abbotsford  Police Department (APD) attended as well as the Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service (AFRS).

Witnesses told Abbotsford Today residents of the protest camp were welcomed at the Salvation Army for the night and that, after the fire, all was quiet and back to normal.

The protest camp has been occupied by homeless men and women of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) who are locked in several legal battles with the City of Abbotsford.

A six-week trial is set to begin in June over the evacuation of the homeless from Jubilee Park in December of 2013. There are a number of case in small claims court against the City for damages and the BC Human Rights Tribunal is engaged in the process of dealing with human rights complaints against the City.

The APD is so far refusing to provide documents requested by the DWS through Pivot Legal Society citing the cost of providing the documents ($24,000 to $29,000) which the APD says the homeless men and women it is accused of abusing and harassing should pay. Pivot Legal Society will be challenging that stance on Tuesday as they seek to make their case in the BC Supreme Court case which is being watched by municipalities, lawyers and activists from across Canada.

City officials and representatives of the DWS have been talking since the new mayor and council took over in an effort to determine if a negotiated settlement is possible.

Reached Sunday evening, founder of the Abbotsford DWS Barry Shantz said the fire as another unfortunate example of the conditions under which his members have been forced to live since being evicted from Jubilee Park.

“If any good is to come out of this I hope this incident puts more pressure on the City and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to help these man and women by providing a safe. stable place for them to live.”

The DWS has a proposal which it provided to the City a-year-and-a-half ago which involves housing those who do not qualify for assistance or shelter in Abbotsford’s high barrier shelters (other than during, emergency weather conditions), in pre-fab cabins on municipal land which is of no value to the City. The previous administration ignored the proposal but Mayor Henry Braun has brought it forward for discussion.

The City confiscated the building materials for that project from the DWS and has been keeping them in the City’s public works yard since Christmas of 2013.

“These men and women deserve better than being stranded on a small strip of land between the road and the railway tracks,” said Shantz. Shantz says that since the APD has retreated from its policy of ‘Displace and Disperse’ there has been less abuse and harassment than before.

But, as recently as last month a volunteer with the City of Abbotsford trashed the camp of a homeless man and women for which Mayor Braun apologized.

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