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Get Ready For The Homeless in Beacon Hill Park [Video]

Today the Supreme Court of British Columbia handed down a ruling that declared that the City of Victoria’s bylaw against homeless tent cities in city parks was unconstitutional because it violates their Charter rights. This precedent setting ruling has some very interesting consequences for cities across the country, and it should be very interesting to see how it plays out in the months to come. Mayor Alan Lowe goes on record as saying that the city “Is not in the business of providing housing,” and I would have to agree with him when he points out that the senior levels of government (Provincial and Federal) should be responsible for housing the homeless. We need solutions to the homeless problem, and unfortunately, tent cities in city parks are not a viable option. What do you think?

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Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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  • Socraton

    I would say that it is definitely the city’s job to provide housing(not tents) to everyone living in it. People should not be living in tents. If they don’t want the housing they are provided, or for some reason don’t have the right to get housing, then let them sleep on the sidewalk.

    To let them sleep in tents doesn’t solve anything, it just procrastinate the problem. Either help them up, or let them hit rock bottom.

    note: Since I’m Norwegian I might have misinterpreted the problem raised in your post, just ignore my post then. In Norway it’s the city’s problem if the bums have housing or not, and they are not allowed to sleep in tents. The video shows error.

  • I think the ruling is a victory for individual human-rights and an indictment of all levels of government, particularly federal.

    The issue of homelessness has at its root a lack of resources. Unfortunately we live in a time when we elect politicians who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. As money drys up from federal and provincial coffers due to a “changing political climate” more and more expenses are borne by municipal governments. This further taxes their resources, confrontation ensues, more “law and order” candidates get elected and the cycle repeats.

    Notwithstanding the right of a crusader to sleep in a park, the measure of any society is how it supports those who are unable (or even “unwilling” as defined by some) to support themselves. I’ll suggest current Canada doesn’t fare well when compared to its former self in this regard.

  • Hi Tim, first-time visitor to your blog here. Love the video post format, by the way!

    I came here via Doug Symington’s Twitter stream, as he tweeted that he had left a comment on this entry.

    The ruling by Ross is not helpful if it does nothing to bring the various levels of government together to address the problem of homelessness, and I have to voice my disagreement with comments here that the city should be able to fix the problem.

    Far from defending our current municipal leadership — because it has been wishy-washy — I would argue, however, that the cumulative effects of off- or downloading by *all* parties at the senior (Provincial and Federal) levels of government has created the mess we’re in now.

    By all parties I’m referring to how Paul Martin’s Federal Liberal government really accelerated the downloading of federal responsibilities to the provinces; how our current Conservative federal government, when approached for help with infrastructure in cities — which includes *so* many aspects — reduced the issue to banalities by replying that “the Federal government isn’t in the business of fixing potholes”; how at the Provincial level, we’ve lost mental hospitals to cut-backs, are failing to provide detox.

    Most importantly, I’m also referring to how, we, in urban centres, are subservient to rules laid out in a British North America Act that gave Provinces all power over municipalities because cities were considered unimportant, mere entrepots for raw resource export (which is manifestly no longer the case), and how our Canadian Constitution also fails to take into consideration the fundamental importance of cities to 21st century economies.

    And yet the problems of homelessness as well as untreated mental health problems and often attendant drug- and alcohol-abuse as well as the criminality associated with procuring drugs (and paying for them, that’s based on crime often enough) aggregate in our cities. These are problems dumped on municipalities, which in turn can’t seem to deal with them. Yes, people are poor and even homeless in rural areas, people become addicts in rural areas, people lose their minds in rural areas. But when they come for help, chances are they’ll migrate to the cities to seek it, expecting services that those cities are increasingly unable to provide because they’re being asked to do too much with too little.

    In case you’re interested, a number of months ago I wrote a blog post about off- or downloading and how the spectacle of homelessness is the last link in that downloading scheme, “Connect the dots: two articles by Miro Cernetig and Bob Ransford that should be read together.” See http://tinyurl.com/5agt8h

    What I argued was that we citizens are the last link in that chain: the municipalities have dumped the problem on us — and just as the downloading of responsibilities from Feds to Provinces to Municipalities was ill-conceived, downloading to Joe and Jane Citizen is equally wrong.

    It’s wrong for the same reasons: if you download responsibilities (which entail fiscal responsibility) without ensuring that the entity you’re downloading to has a tool kit with which to approach the responsibilities, you’re asking for trouble down the road. When Canadian cities were asked to take on the responsibility for the hard-to-house, the mentally ill, and the drug-addicted, the scheme collapsed. Why? Because there’s nothing in Canadian cities’ toolkit to allow them to create the fiscal arrangements to pay for that responsibility. Canadian cities depend on property and business taxes, while all income and consumption taxes go to senior levels of government. Municipalities can’t keep jacking up property and business taxes, unless they want to drive out their most successful members.

    I’m not excusing poor leadership at any level of government. But Canada is set up in a very weird way, and it’s not as easy as some would believe to deal with these problems. There are way too many silos and too many policy restrictions on how cities can be pro-active.

    What I would like to see (and ask municipal politicians) is “how are you going to be an effective lobbyist for us?” I would ask, “how are you going to break down the party mentality that sets up us-and-them dichotomies?” — something we see far too much of in Victoria, which likes to nurture an NDP chip on its shoulder and complain about the “evil” Liberals. I’d want to know how you (municipal leader) are going to seek out contacts on a personal level, make sure you meet the right people at all levels of government, how you’re going to *schmooze* and wheel and deal, assemble teams, and break down the g-d-damn silos, so we can work toward the common good. I would not want a municipal politician who has lofty ideals and refuses to get his/ her hands dirty by working with “the other side.” I would specifically support politicians who are ready to throw the old partisanship out the window. At least we who are housed still have windows to throw things out of. Let’s use that.

    PS: I don’t work in government or have any professional affliliation with policy making. I am passionately interested in cities, though, and write often about Victoria in particular. Sorry about this rather long comment!