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City of Nanaimo wants conditions placed on any Discontent City extension

City wants to see nine conditions should the homeless camp remain after Friday’s court hearing
Discontent City. News Bulletin file photo

The City of Nanaimo wants to place nine conditions on Discontent City should it remain open following a court hearing on Friday.

Nanaimo city councillors voted in favour of opposing an application filed by Discontent City lawyer Noah Ross to extend the camp’s deadline for closure to the end of November, according to a press released issued by the city on Tuesday.

Ross filed an application last Friday in the Supreme Court of British Columbia for an extension to enforcement of an injunction, causing the city to delay shutting down Discontent City. A hearing date for the application has been set for Friday, Oct. 19, in Nanaimo and will be heard by Justice Ronald Skolrood. The city is opposing any extension.

However, should the deadline be extend, the city is requesting that nine conditions be put in place as part of an effort to “improve public safety” and stop more people from moving into Discontent City, according to the press release.

Conditions include permanently closing Discontent City at 2 p.m. on Nov. 23, banning all vehicles and trailers, forbidding anyone under the age of 19 to be at the camp, and giving Nanaimo Fire Rescue the ability to remove all “fire hazards” with the exception of tarps.

Anyone who is “genuinely homeless,” wants housing, and who wishes to remain on at Discontent City after 5 p.m. on Oct. 25, would need to provide the city with photo identification, according to the conditions, which also state that those who are not homeless and remain at Discontent City “may be” escorted off the property and arrested by the RCMP.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay told the News Bulletin the conditions are important and needed because the city’s intentions have always been to close Discontent City. He said the city believes the camp should not remain in its current form as it is “not healthy for the community.”

“You have residents and business people alike down in that area who are going through a lot anxiety right now,” he said. “There are people who are afraid to go to Port Place mall, so we can’t leave it in its current form.”

McKay said the city wants to control who comes and goes from the property, but that there are still “a lot of details” that will need to be worked out beforehand, including whether that ban will mean restricted access for social workers and health care providers.

“At this particular point we haven’t worked out how that is going to work,” he said. “We certainly would like to carefully control the comings and goings, however, we will have to see what is technically possible. At the end of the day, the only people we want at that camp if the judge grants an extension are the folks that have signed up for housing and are truly homeless.”

Asked about whether he has concerns that a legal challenge could be filed regarding the condition around photo identification requirements, McKay said he’s not worried about it because it has “been tested by the courts.”

“It’s already been in front of the courts,” he said. “If you don’t have official ID, then just let us take a picture of you and give us your full name and if you’re one of the homeless you will be granted free access. We just need to know who is coming and going.”

McKay said it is his understanding that the province will provide financial support for security around Discontent City, but doesn’t know further details.

“Our question is what type of security guards,” McKay said, adding that he doesn’t want to see 16 full-time RCMP officers patrolling the camp.

B.C. Housing and other “support services” will continue to be provided to Discontent City residents according to McKay, who said the city’s nine conditions would still need to be approved by Judge Skolrood and both legal teams.

“We want to move along,” he said. “We want to get the people the help they need but we also want to ensure the residents that the camp is not going to stay in an uncontrolled fashion.” 
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