Members of Namegans Nation, the roving tent city facing eviction from Greater Victoria’s Goldstream Provincial Park Thursday morning have been told they can stay, according to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
Confusion around campers being given a 24-hour notice to vacate was “unfortunately stated by a BC Parks staffer,” said David Karn, media relations for the ministry.
“The province has no deadline in place for the homeless campers out at Goldstream,” Karn added.
While the campground will remain open to the public for day use, it will be closed to overnight guests, Karn said. That decision was made following concerns expressed by local RCMP to ensure public safety. People with reservations will get a refund.
“The park act allows for a closure,” Karn said, though the ministry is not currently aware of any disturbances in the campground over the past 24 hours.
Outreach teams are there working with them on supports including shelter and housing, Karn added.
According to Const. Matt Baker of the West Shore RCMP, there have already been reports of criminal activity and drug use in the area over the past two days.
“We’ve got reports of recovered stolen vehicles, there have been reports of drug use at the park,” Baker said. “There’s also been recovery of an individual that had a warrant as well.”
According to Langford Mayor Stew Young, his office has received more than 100 emails and phone calls from concerned residents.
“In 24 hours, we’ve had more police incidents in that area than we’ve had all year,” Young said. “This is a problem and the public has a reason to be concerned … Drugs and open drug use is not going to be allowed, I don’t care where you are, that is the law and the RCMP will do their job. We’re not doing anything different than we normally would.”
Young said Langford has spent at least $15,000 a day to manage the camping at Goldstream Park since Camp Namegans Nation moved in Sept. 18.
Those affiliated with Camp Namegans held a protest rally at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, ahead of the directive to evict all campers from the park at 11 a.m.
Young asked the public not to go to the campground.
“Stay away from there, let the police do their job,” Young said, adding the city does not have the resources to manage the situation. “As the mayor, I’m telling the public do not go to Goldstream Park.”
He called for the provincial government to create a rapid response team on the ground and co-ordinate the ministries of housing and health.
The resources, Young said, should take the strain off the municipalities.
In a post on the group’s Facebook page, Camp Namegans said, “the BC NDP’s continued use of police force to break the spirit of Namegans Nation sends a clear message: Indigenous and working class people who politicize their survival and protest the gross negligence of all levels of government in addressing the deepening crisis of homelessness will be banished to physical and social invisibility.”
Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing provided a statement to Black Press that noted Goldstream Park was not an appropriate place to establish a tent city, and urged those staying at Goldstream to work with staff to identify better housing solutions.
She stated that provincial resources were being deployed to work with campers in the coming days to assess and provide supports for longer-term solutions, and referenced the early opening of a 25-space shelter at the Victoria Native Friendship Centre.
The District of Saanich also announced they’re offering land near the Municipal Hall to build modular supportive housing for those experiencing, or at risk of homelessness.