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City wants out of case.


Monday Magazine - August 29th, 2007

By Andrew MacLeod

Homeless campers who took over Cridge Park in 2005 will be denied their day in court if the City of Victoriaís lawyers get their way.

The city is applying for a "discontinuance" of a case that would have tested the constitutionality of Victoriaís anti-camping bylaws and a temporary injunction the court granted in 2005. Nine days of court time were scheduled starting September 4.

"Their intention was to end the intolerable situation that arose at Cridge Park in October 2005," says Bruce Jordan, a Staples, McDannold, Stewart lawyer, who represents the city. The campers left, he says, therefore itís no longer necessary to argue in court about whether the bylaw and injunction are constitutional. The park is at the corner of Blanshard and Belleville streets.

But the lawyers defending the campers, Cathie Boies Parker and Irene Faulkner, say the campers have stayed out of the park partly because they knew they would get their day in court. "People have waited in good faith for two years to have the matter decided," says Boies Parker. "If the discontinuance is granted, the bylaws would still be on the books."

The judge in 2005 granted the injunction but set a one-year limit on it so the city would be motivated to come back to court to defend it, she says. "I was very surprised the city would take this step. I thought it was clear from the first injunction application that it was appropriate the constitutional issues be heard."

Faulkner says they will argue the case should continue. "The court recognizes that at this point in the process the plaintiff doesnít wholly own the litigation. The defendants have an interest in the outcome. Itís an issue thatís in the public interest to decide."

Corporate administrator Rob Woodland says it would be a waste of taxpayersí money to hold a trial, and he hopes the court will approve the discontinuance in the next few weeks.

If itís granted and the city fails to defend its bylaws, watch for David Arthur Johnston and others to erect a new tent city faster than you can say "cowardly abuse of process".