People who have lived in a camp in downtown Vancouver say they are overwhelmed by a judge’s decision Thursday that allows them to stay in CRAB Park after spending months with the eviction pressure hanging over their heads.
Residents and advocates described the decision Thursday as a “monumental” victory after months of fighting with the Vancouver Park Board, which had hoped to remove residents from the park.
“We are all overwhelmed … We took on the system and we won,” said resident Clint Randen. “It’s a wonderful thing, and it’s a great day.”
A Supreme Court judge in BC ruled Thursday that the residents of the camp could stay where they are. In his decision, Judge F. Matthew Kirchner found that the park board did not have sufficient justification to issue expulsion orders on July 8 and September 7 last year.
The original orders forced dozens of homeless people to leave their shelter in CRAB Park, located on the waterfront just east of the Vancouver Convention Center.
Following Thursday’s decision, both eviction orders have been overturned and sent back to the park board for reconsideration.
“These types of eviction attempts happen in cities across Canada. They happen all the time,” said Fiona York, a volunteer advocate for residents of the park.
“People who are homeless find a place to shelter, find community, find a place that is safer for them, and then very often there is a very violent exposure, which is enforced by the police.
“We are very grateful and truly overwhelmed, as Clint said, at the decision not to do so and to allow people to stay in the community.”
York said up to 100 people moved to the park last May. It was the most recent park near Downtown Eastside that became home to those experiencing homelessness.
The July 2021 order closed CRAB Park for overnight stays “to ensure the park remains accessible to all park users.” The September 2021 order closed part of the park to all users for repairs and maintenance.
Two camp residents, Kerry Bamberger and Jason Hebert, asked the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the orders. Thursday’s decision is the result of their petition.
‘Someone is listening’
In its written decision, Judge Kirchner Bamberger and Hebert supported the argument that both orders unreasonably assumed that there would be enough indoor shelter spaces to accommodate those living in the park after they were forced out.
He also found that the residents of the camp were not given sufficient notice or opportunity to be heard before the eviction orders fell.
Lawyers and residents were in the courtroom when the case was heard.
“I feel like I can not quite fathom it all,” said Andrew Hirschpold, who now lives temporarily at a Holiday Inn hotel.
“It means to us that someone is listening. I was in the courtroom one of the days and it felt like the judge seemed human. The question he asked the parks lawyer was: ‘Where does the responsibility come from for these people standing against expulsion? ‘… So there is someone listening. “
In another decision Thursday, Kirchner also suspended the Vancouver Park Board’s application for a court order that would have forced camp residents to obey eviction orders and remove all their shelters and belongings from the park.