Victoria tent city residents claim the Fire Commissioner issued a destruction order against their makeshift courthouse lawn shelter earlier this week.


Victoria tent city residents claim the Fire Commissioner issued a destruction order against their makeshift courthouse lawn shelter earlier this week. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

B.C. Supreme Court petition claims directive from fire commissioner is excessive and unreasonable

By Jason Proctor, CBC News Posted: Jun 15, 2016 1:52 PM PT

Residents of a tent city on the Victoria courthouse lawn have filed a B.C. Supreme Court petition seeking to quash a destruction order from the fire commissioner.

According to court documents, homeless camp residents claim they were issued the directive Monday; they say the measure is excessive and unreasonable.

Legal battle

The 20-page petition filed by Ana McBee, Doug Swait and Chrissy Brett is the latest salvo in a legal battle that has also seen the province file for an injunction against the campers because their site is not in compliance with previous fire safety orders.

A hearing on the injunction is set for the end of the month.

The tent city, home to about 100 mostly-homeless campers, sprang up in the fall, and neighbours, the province, VicPD and fire officials have reported increasing concerns as the camp dragged on.

tent city, victoria

The province has applied for an injunction to pull down the tent city over concerns about fire safety. (Megan Thomas)

Campers defied a Feb. 25 deadline to leave, and the province sought an injunction to evict them in April. That application was unsuccessful.

According to the petition, subsequent fire orders have called for a one-metre space around personal shelters, the removal of tarpaulins, secondary paths from tents to a main escape route and the positioning of tents so as to face the main egress paths.

The campers claim they and their supporters have been addressing safety concerns in the wake of the province’s injunction application and were in the process of organizing a “clean up day” for Tuesday when they received a destruction order the night before.

The campers claim it was unreasonable to issue a destruction order when the fire commissioner’s office knew they planned to tackle the problem the next day.

They’re claiming an abuse of process and accuse authorities of trying to circumvent the upcoming court hearing.

Tent city not a ‘premises’

The campers also claim the tent city is being singled out for special treatment and say the grounds of their camp don’t qualify as a “premises”.

“Other areas where tents are used, such as campgrounds or festivals, are not required to conform to the requirements of a one-meter clearance on each side of the tent or with any prohibition on overhead tarps that straddle more than one tent. There is no indication that this causes any harm,” the petition reads.

“Fires have occurred at (the tent city) and have been easily and successfully extinguished by residents without spreading.”

The petition also argues the number of homeless people residing in the camp “likely makes it impossible” to conform with a requirement for one metre of clearance around each tent.