VICTORIA (CUP) ? Homeless people in Victoria have won a small victory in their upcoming Charter challenge to have their rights to sleep outside recognized.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge has dismissed an application from the City of Victoria for a permanent injunction that would have restricted homeless people from setting up another tent city in a downtown park.
The application, which was rejected on Aug. 13, is a small victory in an ongoing campaign for homeless people’s ?right to sleep.?
Irene Faulkner and Catherine Boies Parker, two lawyers working on the case, said that bylaws which make it illegal to sleep overnight in parks violate homeless people’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They plan to challenge the constitutionality of those bylaws in September.
?The way things are standing right now, we’ll be looking to move ahead with the trial on Sept. 4,? Faulkner said. ?This is great news on our side.?
In a video posted on HomelessNation.org last month, Boies Parker said, ?The underlying issue is the constitutionality of the bylaws that make it illegal to sleep outside.?
Boies Parker and Faulkner argue that Victoria’s laws deprive homeless people of security by preventing them from sleeping outside while the city that lacks shelter spaces. Section 7 of the Charter guarantees security of the person. They also said that the bylaws have a disproportionate effect on homeless people, violating their Section 15 right to equality before the law.
If the application for an injunction had been successful, the B.C. Supreme Court may have refused to hear their case. The details of the injunction would have banned people from damaging trees and preventing others from enjoying Cridge Park, which is located at Belleville and Blanshard Streets in downtown Victoria.
According to Bruce Jordan, a lawyer for the city, the point of the application was to prevent the park from being ?occupied,? as it was in October 2005, when a group of about 20 homeless people set up camp there.
The activities targeted by the injunction, though, are already prohibited by local bylaws. But, while the city usually hands out fines for broken bylaws, this isn’t as effective with homeless people, Jordan explained.
?They could issue tickets, but many people are saying that they are homeless, so issuing tickets wouldn’t achieve the desired end,? Jordan said.
Violating an injunction, on the other hand, can result in a contempt of court charge.
The issue is not new. In 2005, the City won a 10-month injunction that banned people at Cridge Park from activities such as sleeping outside, which Victoria’s bylaws also prohibit. Although that injunction has expired, the bylaws remain in place and continue to generate controversy.
David Johnston, who has been arrested before for sleeping at St. Ann’s Academy, a provincially owned property next to Cridge Park, said that he is willing to be arrested again so that courts will face the issue.
He also said that he will not eat as long as he is in jail. Johnston fasted for 36 consecutive days in prison last year.
?Government has a responsibility not to maliciously attack people who are providing for themselves,? Johnston said.