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Abbotsford Homeless Ruling Unconstitutional – Homeless Can Camp In Parks

Abbotsford (With files from CP/CBC) – A BC Supreme Court Judge has ruled the Abbotsford bylaw banning homeless from camping in parks overnight is unconstitutional.

BCCLA (BC Civil Liberty Association) spokesperson Josh Paterson said they are very happy with the decision. Personal safety is paramount for the homeless as well as the right to personal liberty. Paterson acknowledges that Chilliwack and Victoria as well as Metro Vancouver and Maple Ridge will be analyzing wording of the decision, very carefully.

CBC continued their coverage with: A B.C. Supreme Court judge has struck down Abbotsford bylaws that prohibit homeless people from erecting temporary shelters and sleeping in city parks.

Cheif Justice Christopher Hinkson ruled that not allowing the homeless to sleep in parks constitutes a violation of Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom which ensures the right to security of the person.

The 81 page judgment did attempt to put a limit on permanent homeless encampments in public parks.

“I conclude that allowing the City’s homeless to set up shelters overnight while taking them down during the day would reasonably balance the needs of the homeless and the rights of other residents of the City,” wrote Hinkson.

“The evidence shows, however, that there is a legitimate need for people to shelter and rest during the day and no indoor shelter in which to do so. A minimally impairing response to balancing that need with the interests of other users of developed parks would be to allow overnight shelters to be erected in public spaces between 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. the following day.”

The lawsuit was filed by the B.C./Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors with the help of the Pivot Legal Society after city workers spread chicken manure on one homeless camp, and police pepper-sprayed residents and slashed tents at another.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman apologized for the chicken manure incident, but said the camps were a safety issue and had to go.

​At the hearing this summer, Abbotsford’s lawyers told the court that the local homeless population chooses to sleep outside rather than in available shelters, while the Pivot Legal Society argued it’s wrong to blame the homeless for their circumstances.

It’s the second time the high court has struck down a municipal bylaw aimed at preventing homeless people from setting up tents and sleeping in city parks.

In Oct of 2008, the B.C. Supreme Court threw out a Victoria bylaw, ruling it deprived the homeless of life, liberty and security of the person in violation of the Charter — a ruling later upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

ORIGINAL STORY – A decision is expected Wednesday morning in BC Supreme Court, as the City of Abbotsford faces accusations it has violated the rights of the homeless.

A group of homeless people is challenging three city bylaws that Laura Track with the BC Civil Liberties Association says have been used to get people out of public spaces.

“I think it’s really unfortunate that another group of already incredibly marginalized, disadvantaged individuals has had to go to court to assert their constitutional right to take steps to protect themselves when they have no choice but to sleep outside,” Track says.

A lawyer acting for Abbotsford told the court the local homeless population chooses to sleep outside rather than at available shelters, but Pivot Legal Society — which represents the homeless — says it’s wrong to blame them for their circumstances.

Track says there was a similar case in Victoria a couple of years ago.

“People who had no choice but to sleep outside because of the lack of affordable housing and the lack of available shelter beds, and those people also went to court and established for themselves a right to sleep outside when there is no choice but to do so.”

The lawsuit was launched after nasty incidents that saw city workers spread smelly chicken manure on one homeless camp and police pepper spray residents and slash tents at another encampment.

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