Standing up to Lower Mainland’s tent squatters

Tom Fletcher is a B.C. legislative reporter and Black Press columnist.

Two B.C. municipalities were in court last week, trying to get injunctions against new tent camps that are trying to get established in their communities.

One is on a city-owned vacant lot on Main Street in Vancouver. Another is next to the highway bypass in Maple Ridge, an area plagued by transient camps in the past.

Contrary to the impression left by careless and conflict-happy media reports, these camps are not spontaneous, or the result of harsh economic conditions and cruel government policies. They are staged and funded by an outfit that currently calls itself the Alliance Against Displacement.

The Vancouver squat is also being supported by the Pivot Legal Society, a long-time supporter and apologist of anarchist and anti-police mayhem that despoils public and private property. Alliance social media posts show campers at the Main Street camp shouting the usual demands for more free stuff, in front of a banner that says “F— the Vancouver Police!” and “Homes Now!”

The front man for Alliance Against Displacement calls himself Ivan Drury. He’s been at this for a while. It was Drury who organized a busload of thugs last summer to come from Vancouver and invade Victoria’s notorious downtown “tent city,” when it was already overflowing with more than 100 mostly out-of-town drug users, gangsters and street tourists.

He’s no slouch as an organizer. The Victoria tour was timed to coincide with a visit from federal Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi, who met with B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman at a Victoria hotel.

Drury led his posse from the tent squat to the hotel, where they shouted their demands for hundreds of thousands of housing units to be funded by hard-working taxpayers, then staged an assault on the door, trying to force their way in. TV ate it up, as designed, with no effort to explain what was actually going on.

Fast-forward to the recent B.C. election campaign. Drury picked a site in Maple Ridge, brought in his occupying force of drifters, junkies and career protesters and supplied them with tents. Then he led a group to crash a campaign event for NDP leader John Horgan, demanding that Horgan visit the camp he had just conjured up.

Horgan played along, apparently willing to capitalize on a scene that could be made to reflect badly on the governing B.C. Liberals in a region with two closely contested seats. At least Horgan was cautious enough not to make any commitments to this self-appointed “activist,” as these guys are invariably described.

When the RCMP and Maple Ridge bylaw enforcement officers moved in last week to clear the tents, Drury grabbed them off the truck and thew them back on the ground, where the squatters dragged them back to the camp, while spewing profanities at the police.

I tip my cap to Maple Ridge acting mayor Tyler Shymkiw, who has struggled along with the rest of the community to provide shelters and “low-barrier” housing to a seemingly endless stream of transients looking for a free ride.

“This politically designed camp by people from outside our community was set up for the media,” Shymkiw told the the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News. “It’s not a response to the true need of the local population.

“This travelling circus is dangerous to those both inside and near it – we’re going to move Heaven and Earth to shut it down before anyone gets hurt.”

If only there was a politician at the provincial level who had the guts to say it like it is.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press.

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