In a decision issued Wednesday (Feb. 23) Supreme Court Judge Simon Coval denied the City of Prince George’s application for an interim injunction to allow the removal of a homeless encampment known as “Moccasin Flats,” located within a vacant lot.
It was the city’s second attempt after losing an initial court case in October 2021 that also sought to take down the camp.
Coval found the city “inflicted serious harm on vulnerable people” and violated a court order by destroying the belongings of people seeking shelter at the lower Patricia Boulevard “tent city” during a partial demolition of the site in November 2021.
The city had attempted to shift liability for the Supreme Court violation by claiming that BC Housing had organized and executed the effort. But evidence from the city’s bylaw manager stated that bylaw personnel were involved.
This week’s ruling also affirmed that Prince George’s current shelter availability does not always translate into actual space accessible to encampment residents. Coval found that a location leased by BC Housing failed to meet the requirement in last year’s ruling that the encampment can remain until suitable alternatives become available for the occupants.
B.C. Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN) Regional Chief Terry Teegee called the ruling a “win for First Nations and human rights.”
The BCAFN said multiple attempts by the city to remove Moccasin Flats before working to address the “root cause” for such encampments have created additional strain on service providers and “inflicted further trauma on unhoused individuals in Prince George,” of whom at least 80 per cent are Indigenous.
“Evidence-based policy solutions and trauma-informed practices are integral to lasting reconciliation with First Nations, particularly as survivors of the Residential School system, the 60s Scoop, and other destructive colonial policies,” Teegee wrote on Feb. 25.
The BCAFN called on the City of Prince George to “work collaboratively” with First Nations, service providers, and other community partners to “develop housing for our most vulnerable and marginalized community members.”
The City of Prince George called the encampment “unhealthy and unsafe” in a written statement on Wednesday.
“The city brought this application to request a temporary injunction to allow the removal of the encampment from city property, as they are unhealthy, and unsafe. The city will continue to work with BC Housing, and other service providers, on these multi-jurisdictional issues for the benefit of all Prince George citizens.”
The municipality said it is reviewing the judgment and won’t comment further.