Orchestrated ‘tent city’ protest camps demanding transition housing have plagued Abbotsford, Victoria, Nanaimo, Vernon and other B.C. communities, none more bitterly opposed than the “Anita Place” camp in Maple Ridge.
The camp was finally dismantled this month after explosions, fires, citizen protests and legal action by the city carried on for more than two years. Its organizer, Ivan Drury, also backed a long-running camp beside the Victoria courthouse, and squats in Vancouver and Burnaby.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities executive has backed a resolution from Maple Ridge council, calling on the province to respect municipal authority for land use, after the province overruled the city and imposed social housing facilities in an effort to get rid of the camp.
The resolution will be debated at next week’s UBCM convention in Vancouver. It states “B.C. has shown a willingness to overrule municipal land use regulations, dispense with public consultation functions mandated by the Local Government Act, and forego collaboration with local government.”
The resolution prompted pre-convention discussions between UBCM officials and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson, who described the use of provincial veto power to impose interim modular housing at two Maple Ridge sites a last resort.
“Minister Robinson subsequently provided assurance that the use of paramountcy … in Maple Ridge was a special case, designed to provide a temporary solution to the urgent situation created by the city’s evacuation of the tent city, while discussions about a longer-term solution continued with the local government,” the UBCM executive says in a note accompanying the resolution.
The Provincial Fire Commissioner issued an evacuation order for “Anita Place” in late February after a series of fires, some accelerated by exploding propane tanks amid the assembly of shacks and tents that had accumulated at the site. The city then obtained a court order restricting access to verified residents, and the camp was finally closed and cleaned up last week.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden, who won election last year with a harder line against tent campers, said the city has done more than its “regional per capita share” in housing homeless people.
The NDP government established a program in 2017 to set up 2,000 units of modular housing, giving priority to communities with persistent tent camps.