September 7, 2022
Beacon Hill Park: BC Attorney General's Appeal is Challenged
The Province is proceeding with its appeal to Justice Punnett’s Supreme Court opinion which supported the Friends of Beacon Hill Park (FBHP) position that under the terms of the 1882 Beacon Hill Park Trust, permanent sheltering that we saw through 2021 is not allowed.
The argument of the Province does not directly address the issue of the homeless sheltering in the Park in 2020 and 2021. In stead, the Province claims that Justice Punnett made an "error of law" in accepting that the Trust granted the Park to the City on terms that it be used for recreation and enjoyment of the public. Instead, the Province is claiming that the Trust is an "enactment" and that the term “for the use recreation and enjoyment of the public” must be interpreted in a way that gives homeless people some rights to live in the Park, overriding the terms set out in the 1882 Trust.
What this means in practice is that the Province or the City could do anything they want with the Park and citizens, the real beneficiaries of the Trust, would have no recourse to the courts. They could completely re-zone the Park, for example; they could turn the Park into “affordable housing” or supportive shelters, as well permit permanent sheltering, as was done by a City bylaw in 2020. The Province’s appeal has implications beyond Beacon Hill Park and would affect every park or Trust arrangement in the province.
In addition, the law firm for the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations have advised us and the Court that they “plan on advancing the argument that any interpretation of the trust should be limited so as to not preclude potential future use of the park by indigenous communities for cultural uses, including burials or the interment of remains. “
The appeal will be heard November 2022. The Province’s appeal, and the FBHP and City responses can be viewed on the links below .
FBHP are the only ones who have taken the position in court that the terms of the Trust are clear and must be honoured, sheltering and other uses of the Park should not be allowed. In attempting to uphold Justice Punnett’s opinion, FBHP are now incurring additional legal costs which are beyond our current ability to pay.
Please help us to defend Beacon Hill Park by donating to the Beacon Hill Park Legal Support Fund
Contact us at: Info@fbhp.ca
Joan Halvorsen, President, Friends of Beacon Hill Park
Tom Epplett, Treasurer, Friends of Beacon Hill Park