More than a dozen police and bylaw officers descended on Duncan’s homeless camp at approximately 9 a.m. Friday.
The officials ordered the campers to remove their tents and possessions from Charles Hoey Park, and most began to dismantle the camp site with no problems reported.
Crissy Brett, the leader and spokeswoman for the group of approximately 15 campers that have been camping in the downtown park since last month, was handcuffed and read her rights.
She was the only one reportedly taken into custody.
But Brett, a member of the Nuxalt First Nation, fell to the ground and began chanting a native prayer while her rights were read to her.
Several police officers then picked Brett off the ground and placed her in a carrying blanket before she was taken to a nearby police van and taken away.
“Shame on Canada, B.C. and Duncan,” Brett shouted as she was being carried to the police van.
“People can’t be treated this way. You can be charged with cruelty to animals but people who are left out in the cold will be arrested.”
A statement from the City of Duncan shortly after the police raid said the campers were removed because they were in violation of a court injunction issued by the Supreme Court of BC on April 18.
“When the campers did not cooperate with the injunction to leave the park by 3 p.m. on April 20, they were given a final notice to vacate the park and remove their possessions,” the statement said.
“This morning, the RCMP worked collaboratively with the city to enforce the provisions of the order. Throughout the duration of the encampment, the city maintained regular contact with Warmland House to ensure there are beds available for those campers who wished to relocate the shelter.”
But Celestine Norris, one of the campers who was taking down her tent Friday morning said she has no idea where she will spend the night.
“I’ve been banned from the shelter,” she said under the watchful eyes of RCMP officers.
“My ban is supposed to be reviewed in a month. I’m told there’s a place for me in a shelter on Saltspring Island, but I have a meeting with my probation officer on Tuesday so I can’t go anywhere yet. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said Charles Hoey Park is a central gathering place for the community.
“While we appreciate the need for more affordable housing in the area, we don’t agree with the campers violating city bylaws and impeding the Duncan residents’ use and enjoyment of the park,” he said.
The homeless camp, which at its peak had approximately 12 tents, was originally established in Charles Hoey Park on March 31 as a temporary protest to advocate for affordable housing.
The city repeatedly requested that campers vacate the area and when those efforts were unsuccessful, the city sought an injunction against the campers.
The Supreme Court heard the merits of the case on April 18t and an injunction was granted to have the campers vacate the park by 3 p.m. on April 20.
The campers refused to comply with the conditions of the injunction.