The BC Supreme Court has ruled that, despite the fact the City of Abbotsford has been “less than zealous” in moving the case forward since getting the protesters kicked out of Jubilee Park a year ago, and, despite the fact there is not enough shelter for those in Abbotsford who suffer from mental illness and drug addiction, there is not enough evidence to retract the injunction which moved them out of Jubilee Park on Christmas Eve 2013.
Cover: Bas Stevens photo of ‘MCC Dignity Village’ protest camp on Gladys Avenue.
As a result, the protesters, who have been living at their ‘MCC Dignity Village’ camp on Gladys Avenue, will be forced to stay in what the judge described as unsanitary and less than ideal circumstances until the trial date in June of 2015.
In making his ruling Judge Williams scolded the City of Abbotsford for what the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survicors have referred to as delay tactics. Judge Williams said, “Abbotsford has not been sufficiently conscientious in prosecuting this action in a timely and diligent fashion.
“Given the fact that this Court made clear that there was an expectation that the matter would be brought on for trial in a timely way, and particularly given the extra discomfort and extraordinary inconvenience of being homeless in winter conditions entails, the applicants say that this delay is inordinate and that it constitutes real prejudice to them.
“I believe it is fair to say that Abbotsford has been less zealous to move the case along quickly at all costs. There is some basis for the applicant to believe that the trial could have been scheduled sooner than June 2015.”In another important part of the ruling, Judge Williams rejected the City of Abbotsford’s repeated attempts to have Barry Shantz, head of the DWS, disqualified as a spokesperson fro Abbotsford’s homeless population.
In dismissing the City’s motion Judge Williams stated, “I will consider this to be an application on behalf of and for the benefit of homeless persons in Abbotsford.”
Click to read Judge Williams’ Reasons For Judgment
In reaction to the decision, Pivot Legal Society issued the following statement:
Abbotsford’s ban on Jubilee Park homeless camp continues
Vancouver, B.C. [December 17]—A BC Supreme Court justice has described trying to find shelter in Abbotsford as “profoundly challenging” in his decision to deny a request to lift an injunction prohibiting homeless people from living in Jubilee Park.
Pivot Legal Society argued that the injunction should be dissolved because the City has failed to provide any meaningful housing or shelter alternatives to the people evicted from Jubilee Park. In reconsidering whether the injunction should now be vacated, Mr. Justice James Williams found that people are currently living in worse, more cluttered, poorly maintained circumstances, but that those conditions are not a “great deal” worse than their previous camp in Jubilee Park.“It is clear that there is a hard-core faction of people who are homeless, whose situations are particularly difficult to address, because of factors such as mental health and substance abuse,” Mr. Justice Williams wrote in his decision. “These are persons whose difficulties make the matter of finding acceptable shelter and other fundamental services profoundly challenging.”
Last December, the City was granted an injunction to evict nearly two dozen homeless people who had been living in Jubilee Park since October 2013. On December 21, 2013, their tents were dismantled and they were removed from the camp. Many of those evicted from the park have spent the last year living at a camp set up Gladys Avenue, which they argued is a far less safe option than Jubilee Park.
“Today the court recognized that the most vulnerable homeless people in Abbotsford have had no safe place to live,” says DJ Larkin, lawyer at Pivot Legal Society. “Jubilee Park is not the best option, but it did represent a safer option to our clients until meaningful housing alternatives are made available. Until that time, homeless people will be forced to live in dangerous conditions that puts their lives at risk.”
Homeless residents of Abbotsford have argued that there is insufficient shelter space available and that barriers exist preventing many people from accessing it, leaving public spaces as one of the few options available.
“I moved to a tent on Gladys Avenue after living in Jubilee Park because I didn’t feel like I had anywhere else to go,” says Harvey Clause. “Here on Gladys it’s really, really dirty, way worse than in Jubilee Park. And I felt safer at Jubilee because there was a community there where I knew people were around to help in an emergency.”
Clause is a member of the Abbotsford chapter of the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (DWS). Pivot Legal Society represents DWS in their challenge to Abbotsford’s Parks Bylaw prohibiting anyone from being present in any park overnight. In combination with the city’s Street and Traffic and Good Neighbour bylaws, erecting a basic survival structure—or even sleeping in a car—is prohibited throughout Abbotsford. If successful, the Pivot Legal Society and DWS lawsuit would eliminate the bylaws and recognize access to safe shelters a basic human right.
“Our goal has been to raise significant attention to create a healing process with the city, police, Mennonite Central Committee, service providers, and community stakeholders,” says Barry Shantz, founder of the Abbotsford chapter of the DWS. “We remain hopeful in the understanding that if it is good enough for the lowest-functioning individual in our community than it is good enough for us all. Everyone’s constitutional rights and dignity must considered at all times.”
The DWS challenge will be heard by the BC Supreme Court beginning June 29, 2015.
City of Abbotsford’s Reaction
Court Rules to Uphold Injunction in Jubilee ParkABBOTSFORD December 17, 2014: The Hounourable Mr. Justice Williams in BC Supreme Court today
has ruled that the injunction for Jubilee Park stands as it has been since December 20, 2013. The
court did not allow the application to dissolve the injunction and the injunction remains in place and in
full force and effect.
“While we are pleased the Court has seen fit to uphold the original ruling until the conclusion of the
Court proceedings, it is imperative that we continue to focus on solutions, and solutions that support
the housing first approach to getting people off of the streets,” said Henry Braun, Mayor of
“The City will continue to work with local service providers to offer long-term solutions for finding
permanent housing and health solutions for anyone who requires support.”
The City of Abbotsford is not able to release any further comments on the ruling today as the matter
is still before the court.
Pivot, acting on behalf of its clients the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) and individual homeless citizens, presented evidence during four hours of testimony which showed that, despite the City’s assurances, there simply isn’t enough shelter space in Abbotsford to accommodate the over 170 people living on the streets.
Pivot also detailed a number of actions taken by the City and others which it said were deliberately provocative and aggressive making it impossible for desperate people in Abbotsford to live anywhere but at the tiny protest camp called ‘MCC Dignity Village’ on Gladys Avenue.Conditions at the camp have become almost unbearable over the last year. The City’s latest action, taken just weeks ago, was to raid the camp backed up by Abbotsford Police (APD) cruisers and dismantle the temporary wooden structures the homeless had erected in order to protect them from the cold (with prefab shelters donated to them) and confiscating their materials.
A report has been circulating which purports to show that Abbotsford has some 300 shelter spaces but critics say that number only takes into account the shelters available during emergency cold weather days.
The City of Abbotsford is defending several law suits on behalf of victims of the City’s use of chicken feces to convince the poor to move away from the Salvation Army – the only place they can find food or washrooms; police abuse in the form of theft, destruction of property and the use of pepper spray to control the poor; a collection of Anti Homeless Bylaws attempting to make it illegal for homeless people to stay overnight on City land.
An attempt by the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) to ship as many homeless men and women out of the downtown area to a piece of property out by the recycling dump was quietly withdrawn earlier this year.
Mayor-elect Henry Braun campaigned on a platform of getting the City out of the numerous lawsuits in which it is engaged with the DWS and a number of its homeless citizens.
Under the previous mayor and council the City spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the homeless with police and lawyers while turning down millions of dollars in supportive housing funds from the province of BC.
There are still no low barrier shelters in Abbotsford capable of housing or helping the majority of those who live on Abbotsford’s streets who suffer from mental illness, use of or addiction to drugs and/or alcohol dependence.
The City lost its last battle with the DWS over its draconian ‘Anti Harm Reduction Bylaw’ which stepped beyond municipal jurisdiction and made it an offence for caregivers and health professionals to save lives with clean needles and other harm reduction services and supplies.
*When asked by Abbotsford Today who had made the decision to appeal the BC Supreme Court Chief Justice’s decision to allow the Pivot/DWS cases against the City and the APD to go ahead Rudolph refused to answer saying decisions had been made behind closed doors and were none of Abbotsford Today’s or the public’s business because the matters were before the courts. None of the councillors at the time would admit to knowing anything about the decision to appeal the judge’s ruling. The City has been accused of deliberately dragging out this case, at taxpayers’ expense, rather than let the case proceed in open court and be done with. Despite the City’s decision to appeal, the BC Supreme Court Chief Justice went ahead and set a trial date in the case for next June.
Short Summary of Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis:First came John Smith’s announcement to the national media that he had instructed the APD to handle homelessness in downtown Abbotsford; then the Abbotsford Shuffle – otherwise known as Chief Bob Rich’s “disperse and displace” strategy for solving homelessness; then Mayor Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident (first revealed on Abbotsford Today); then there was the Standoff in Jubilee; followed by the ‘MCC Dignity Village‘ protest camp on Gladys Avenue and the gathering of more and more of Abbotsford’s homeless to the security of living with others and out in the open in the growing size and number of camps across from the Salvation Army and along Gladys Avenue.
Embarrassing RevelationsAlong the way a few embarrassing revelations were uncovered and published by Abbotsford Today including
the fact that the Salvation Army knew about and was in agreement with the use of chicken feces to encourage the homeless to move from their camp across the street from the Sally Ann; and the rude and demeaning emails shared by police chief Bob Rich and his senior staff after the Chicken Manure Incident went worldwide.
Updated 12/17/14 12:32
Updated 12/17/14 13:26