Deputy City Clerk / Manager of Legislative Services
City of Victoria
1 Centennial Square, Victoria BC V8W 1P6
May 5, 2021
Re: Beacon Hill Park Trust
Dear Ms. Havelka
I am a long-time resident of James Bay living adjacent to Beacon Hill Park (BHP). I am interested in participating in the proceeding related to the Beacon Hill Park Trust. The following is my letter which outlines the nature of my interest and my position on the questions posed by the City.
I would like to start by acknowledgingI recognize there are several people in Victoria experiencing homelessness and that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. In my immediate community, there are many homeless currently living peacefully in BHP as they await housing. There are also people who are homeless with mental health issues, addiction, or both who are causing a great deal of disruption in the community while living in BHP. And finally, there are others who are not “homeless” living in the BHP. My interest in the proceedings is in relation to the latter 2 groups of people and their impact on those sheltering peacefully in the park as well as the surrounding community.
After 10 years of living directly across from BeaconHill Park and observing first-hand what takes please each day, I am of the opinion that the land known as Beacon Hill Park, held in trust by the City of Victoria, should not be used by persons experiencing homelessness for temporary (unmanaged)sheltering. I say this for the following reasons:
1. There is currently no mechanism to identify if those sheltering in BHP are experiencing homelessness.
Pre-pandemic, throughout the fall, winter and spring, there are few people sheltering BHP and those that are, are mainly hidden from public view. In the summer however, there are a large number of people from other provinces on their way to tree planting jobs or work in the service industry in Tofino or other parts of the province who shelter in the park; some for weeks at a time as they visit the city. These folks are not homeless.
Throughout the pandemic, the City Bylaw staff have worked hard to identify the individuals sheltering the parks and track their tents. They have not however, to my knowledge, validated that those sheltering in the BHP are indeed homeless. BHP has become a place where a diverse mix take shelter for a variety of reasons including runaway youth, people living with addiction and mental health issues, known offenders including sexual predators, tree planters in transit, van-lifers, drug dealers and homeless. The combination of some of these groups has proven to be damaging to the homeless in the park, and those living in the surrounding community. (see attached Beacon Hill Park Media List)
2. BHP is predominantly a forest where it is easy to hide crime from plain sight and criminal activity can flourish.
Most city parks are open spaces where it is easy to see the activities taking place. BHP is not. This makes it easier for sexual predators, drug-dealers, thieves and other criminals to hide their activity, particularly at night. The terrain also makes it very difficult for first responders and law enforcement come to assist victims. Each time responders enter the park they are at risk. Imagine being called to duty at 2:00 AM for an assault that has taken place in the middle of a park where there are known offenders with a history of violence hidden amongst the trees.
The ability to easily hide crime in the forest, unsafe access to victims and known criminals sheltering in BHP has led to a significant amount of crime both in and around the park. The park is not safe for the homeless who are sheltering their awaiting for housing or for the community members around the park.
As we have seen from other parks in Victoria, sheltering in parks attracts crime and over time becomes unsafe. The tent city on the court-house lawn in 2016 closed based on evidence of deterioration and safety concerns. The camp became unsafe for both those in the camp and the neighbouring residents.
More recently, in April of 2020, the camp at Topaz Park was ordered to close by the BC government under a public safety order. Residents in the near-by community reported violent attacks, assaults and home invasions.Centennial Square, directly outside of City Hall, was also shut down by the city of Victoria for problems ranging from drug trafficking to violence.
Section 7 of the Charter states that” everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” The first part of this clause has been used to provide people with the right to shelter in parks. The second part has been used to dismantle encampments. Beacon Hill Park has become a progressively dangerous place and centre for crime. Any continued camping will allow this to continue flourish. It would also continue to put first responders and police officers at greater risk they attempt to attend to victims in the forested terrain.
3. The city has not been specified what is meant by temporary in their request.
Temporary is defined as lasting for a limited period of time. It can be an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or more. We have seen through the pandemic that temporary can easily become long lasting.
The impact of 24/7 camping in Beacon Hill Park has been significant and it is likely that the culture that has entrenched in the park. It will take years to recover. Allowing people to continue to shelter in the park, even if just at night, will make it more difficult to return the park to a state where it can be used by the public.
4. Sheltering in Beacon Hill Park has prevented the public from using it for their enjoyment without putting themselves at risk.
The Beacon Hill Park Trust maintains that the park “shall be maintained and preserved by the saidCorporation and their successors for the use recreation and enjoyment of the public”. With the amount of violence in the park, and the fear of being assaulted, residents have been not been using the park as they have in the past.
Even if sheltering was limited to evening only, the debris left behind by some of the campers, ranges from unpleasant to dangerous. Many of those camping in the park eliminate outside throughout the parks. There are needles left behind in bushes and in public washrooms.Garbage from their evening stay has been left behind where a tent once sat.
With unmanaged camping, it is impossible to manage who, when, and where people camp as well as what they leave behind.All of this has a significant impact on the park and will continue to do so should any form of sheltering be permitted.
- May 3, 2021 – Man on outing with family threatened with knife in Beacon Hill Park
- April 29, 2021 – Man with ‘extensive criminal history’ arrested in Beacon Hill Park, police say
- April 21, 2021 – 15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening
- April 20, 2021 – Police arrest suspect after attack on man with Down syndrome in Beacon Hill Park
- April 12, 2021 – VicPD search for man who evaded police in Beacon Hill Park
- March 4, 2021 – One person dead after vehicle fire in Beacon Hill Park
- March 3, 2021 – Victoria police investigating a sudden death in Beacon Hill Park
- Feb 24, 2021 – Statue of Queen Elizabeth II beheaded in Victoria’sBeacon Hill Park
- Feb 26, 2021 – Dispute over tent structure in Beacon Hill Park may have fueled graffiti spree,
- Feb23, 2021 – One Arrested After City of Victoria Vehicle Damaged In Beacon Hill Park
- Feb 8, 2021 – Two Arrested After Beacon Hill Park Assault With Weapon
- Feb 8, 2021 – Man arrested for allegedly choking woman, brandishing gun in Beacon Hill Park
- Jan 1, 2021 – Couple Assaulted In Beacon Hill Park
- Jan 23, 2021 – Victoria police investigating assault and fire in Beacon Hill Park
- Jan22, 2021 – Fire rips through tents, wooden structures in BeaconHill Park
- Nov 5, 2020 – Man arrested for starting a tent fire in Beacon Hill Park
- Sept 25, 2020 – Homeless Victoria man ‘terrorizes’ common-law partner daily for six months
- Sept 16, 2020 – VictoriaMan assaulted, threatened while walking his dog near Beacon Hill Park
- Sept 15, 2020 – Officers Investigating Beacon Hill Park Stabbing
- Sept 5, 2020 – Dozens of needles found in Beacon Hill Park, police say
- Aug 28, 2020 – Victoria police find replica fire arms while searching Beacon Hill park for a different fire arm call
- Aug 27, 2020 – VicPD searching for man with a gun after two reports in Beacon Hill Park
- Aug 23, 2020 – Man pricked by uncapped needle in Beacon Hill Park: VicPD
- Aug 19, 2020 – City considers moving Beacon Hill tents away from South Park Elementary
- Aug 7, 2020 – Victoria woman warning of suspicious man at Beacon Hill Park
- July 31, 2020 – Extra officers to be deployed in Beacon Hill Park
- July 27, 2020 – Victoria parks staff threatened in Beacon Hill Park, refuse work
- July 15, 2020 – Victoria police track down bicycle chop shop in Beacon Hill Park
- July 10, 2020 – Disturbance calls up more than 80 percent in Beacon Hill Park
- June 24, 2020 – More victims come forward after man allegedly exposed himself at Beacon Hill Park
- July 7, 2020 – VicPD Chief says crime rising at Beacon Hill – random attacks concerning
- April 1, 2020 – Witnesses Sought In Beacon Hill Park Vehicle Arson