BACKGROUND/TIMELINE OF EVENTS:

Since the arrival of the encampment at Regina Park in April 2018, Saanich Parks and Fire Departments, with support from Saanich Police, worked with the occupants to achieve voluntary compliance with respect to Saanich’s bylaws. A notice to vacate was issued to the encampment June 8, followed by a notice to cease occupation July 12. In reply to each notice, the occupants indicated they intended to maintain the encampment.

Following the encampment’s decision to remain, it became necessary for the District of Saanich to commence legal proceedings to achieve compliance with its bylaws. An application for injunction was filed with BC Supreme Court July 23. The court hearing began August 13 with a request for an adjournment by the encampment, which was granted. The court hearing resumed for a five-day period August 27 with the Honourable Mr. Justice Branch reserving decision until September 7.

On Friday September 7, 2018 the Honourable Mr. Justice Branch of the BC Supreme Court granted the District of Saanich and the Province of BC interlocutory injunctions to require Regina Park and the adjoining Trans-Canada Highway road allowance be vacated by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2018.

Since the ruling Saanich Police had been communicating expectations for enforcement of the injunction to the occupants of Regina Park and preparing them for decampment.  Saanich Police informed those encamped at Regina Park of the steps that would be taken to help resolve the situation peacefully and without incident.  At that time, it was also communicated, that any persons which remained in Regina Park after the 7 p.m. court imposed deadline were in violation of the BC Supreme Court Order.  As the injunction is a lawful order, the Saanich Police Department were required by law to enforce this order.

On September 12, 2018 the District of Saanich placed fencing around Regina Park to allow for remediation activities to begin.  The Saanich Police Department moved their mobile command unit to the area and began controlling access to Regina Park in order for decampment to begin.

A number of community support groups were granted access to the park to assist with the decampment process. In addition to these support groups, social agencies were able to connect some people with shelter options.  Those that remained encamped were also informed of the District of Saanich Parks and Management Control Bylaw and where they could lawfully seek temporary overnight shelter. 

On September 13, 2018, at around 6 p.m. the last occupant of the Regina Park encampment peacefully departed. 

DECAMPMENT PROCESS:

Prior to the September 11, 2018 court imposed deadline there were an estimated 115 people encamped at Regina Park.  During the decampment process there were only two incidents requiring Saanich Police to take further steps. 

On the morning of September 13, 2018 an occupant became aggressive and extremely confrontational with others on site. The man was arrested without incident and, after he had calmed down a few hours later, he returned to Regina Park and was able to retrieve his belongings and as able to decamp. 

On the afternoon of September 13, 2018 an occupant of the encampment was openly carrying a weapon (a collapsible baton) inside Regina Park. This man was arrested and removed from the park without incident. After the man was released from police custody his property was transferred back to him.  

CURRENT STATUS:

The Saanich Police remain on site at Regina Park and, will remain there, until they are satisfied the park will not be reoccupied and the court order can be complied with.  The removal of the encampment will now allow the District of Saanich and the Province of BC to address the fire risks, other hazards and to remediate the park. Remediation activities are expected to occur over a two to three week period. During the remediation process access will be limited to authorized personnel and fencing will remain in place.  Once remediated and reopened, the uses of Regina Park will be limited to those uses permitted by Saanich’s bylaws.

POLICE INFORMATION ABOUT ENCAMPMENT AREA:

During the period between May 1 – September 11, 2017 Saanich Police responded to 650 calls for service in the area near Regina Park.  These calls for service increased to 1095 during the same timeframe in 2018 when the encampment at Regina Park was occurring. 

The largest increase in criminal activity in this area involved property crime and persons offences.  During the period between May 1 – September 11, 2017 Saanich Police responded to 103 calls regarding property crime in the area near Regina Park.  Property crime calls increased to 205 during the same timeframe in 2018 when the encampment at Regina Park was occurring.  Person offences, such as assaults and threats, increase from 11 in 2017 to 27 in 2018 during this same timeframe when the encampment was established at Regina Park. 

The overall financial costs associated to policing the Regina Park encampment, and surround area, are unknown at this time. To date thousands of staff hours have been spent directly dealing with the encampment. 

CURRENT BYLAWS:

On July 9, 2018 Saanich Council ratified the amended Parks Management and Control Bylaw. The amendments brought Saanich's bylaw in line with the BC Supreme Court decisions around temporary overnight sheltering in parks.

The District of Saanich Parks and Management Control Bylaw allows temporary overnight sheltering in 102 of Saanich’s parks from the hours of 7 p.m. to 9 a.m., which will include Regina Park, once the remediation work has been completed and the park is safe to re-enter.  In addition, a hygiene station, including washrooms and showers, and storage facility located at Saanich Municipal Hall remain open for use from 7 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. These facilities are offered as a support service to those who may need to seek temporary overnight shelter.  For a copy of the entire bylaw please visit the District of Saanich website https://tinyurl.com/ydfaerq2.

We want to ensure the community that we will be both educate people on the Saanich Parks and Management Control Bylaw and enforce the bylaw.  If you see something suspicious, or something that may be in contravention of the Saanich bylaw, we strongly encourage you to report it via our non‐emergency line at 250‐475‐4321. To report an emergency please call 9‐1‐1.

SPD File 18-11581 refers:

Sgt. Jereme Leslie

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