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Past GoFundMe Updates

August 13 2020 to August 19 2021

By Roy Fletcher

August 23, 2021

City Withdraws Application to BC Supreme Court

The City of Victoria withdrew its application to stop the Friends of Beacon Hill Park (FBHP) from including the affidavit of a professional landscape architect in the upcoming legal case regarding sheltering in Beacon Hill Park.

Roy Fletcher, chair of Friends of Beacon Hill Park Society says, “Having the City withdraw this application is a great step forward for us and we are very pleased this affidavit will be allowed.”

The affidavit from Professor Ronald Williams speaks about the original intent of urban parks.

The major court case is still ahead. The week of September 20th will see the FBHP as the only group arguing that sheltering should not be allowed in BHP. The two groups in favour of sheltering include campers represented by Shea Smith and Dennis Davies, and Together Against Poverty Society.

Fletcher says, “There are many threats to the Park with sheltering. Fire is one of these and is especially a concern with current weather conditions.” There was a fire in the Park on August 12th and the Fire Department reported evidence of camping activity at the Fire location.

A major challenge for the FBHP is to raise funds for the upcoming court case in order to protect the Park and permanently end sheltering there.

August 5, 2021

Beacon Hill Park Trust and Sheltering

While the City Council says it does not support camping in Beacon Hill Park “now”, behind the scenes in a B.C. Supreme Court case, the City of Victoria is doing all it can to ensure it does not have to respect the 1882 Trust under which the City holds the Park.

In March 2020, in response to the growing homelessness problem and the COVID-19 pandemic, Victoria City Council decided that it would allow “full time sheltering” in several of its parks, including Beacon Hill Park. In the summer of 2020 Council changed its park regulation bylaws to allow such sheltering. The Friends of Beacon Hill Park (FBHP) went to court in an effort to enforce the 1882 “Beacon Hill Park Trust”, which has for close to 150 years been upheld and enforced to ensure that the land is used only for a … “public park and pleasure ground” … “set apart” … “for the recreation and enjoyment of the public”, as set out in the Trust.

The City blocked the involvement of the FBHP in the first court proceeding. FBHP then filed a claim directly against the City, seeking to enforce the Trust. The City’s legal team in its response, denied that Sheltering is prohibited by the Trust, and said that “sheltering” , including building structures and occupying the Park indefinitely by the homeless is “using the Park as a public park”. In the spring of 2021, the Council appeared to react to the pressure from local residents and FBHP, and temporarily ended sheltering in Beacon Hill Park, for a 2-year period. Council also agreed to ask the Court for a ruling on whether sheltering is or is not permitted in Beacon Hill Park. The City said it would put the question forward in a neutral fashion, so the court could provide direction to the Council as the “Trustee” of the Park. On that basis FBHP suspended its claim and agreed to participate in that process.

But that is not what the City is doing in the ongoing legal case. Instead, the City by its actions has rallied behind several groups, including the shelterers it sued last year, who urge the Court to interpret the Trust to allow sheltering. Most troubling, the City continues to take every conceivable procedural step to block FBHP in the Court proceeding. It is extremely expensive for the only citizen group working to defend the Park and the residents of the area to stay in the process.

FBHP is now facing the City’s third preliminary application to the Court, simply to defend its ability to provide the Court with a helpful opinion of a very respected expert in the historical development of urban parks. The opinion provides the context for the 1882 Trust document, offering historical insight into what the early provincial officials meant upon the creation of the Park.

Basically, the FBHP is being shut out, or silenced by the transparent tactic of using taxpayer dollars to outspend FBHP.

If the public is concerned about the special significance of this park, or homeless camping in our parks generally, it is now that financial support is needed. FBHP and the public is at risk of a Court decision that undoes close to 150 years of previous Court protection for this park if there is no one to defend the Trust.

June 2, 2021

Friends of Beacon Hill Park Needs Your Help.

It should come as no surprise that the legal costs are mounting.

On June 8th, the five identified legal teams - Friends of Beacon Hill Park, City of Victoria(CofV), Attorney General of BC(AGBC), the campers in the park, and Together Against Poverty Society(TAPS) - go to BC Supreme Court for a pre-trial conference.

FHBP expects to have Respondent status in the Court proceedings with the understanding that we do not advance any arguments other than the previously-stated question regarding the Trust that is before the court.

The full hearing is now proposed for mid-to-late September, and CofV has indicated that it will require up to five court days. We are hopeful that the court gallery will be completely open by then, so any interested people can attend.

We expect both the campers in the park and TAPS to argue that Charter Rights restrict the CofV from halting all camping in the park.

We will keep our members and supporters up to date as the matter develops.

These legal proceedings are incredibly important. The court ruling will have a direct impact on the Trust and on Beacon Hill Park in the years to come and we need to ensure that we have the resources to make our voice heard right to the end. No amount is too small.

Please visit the GoFundMe page and donate what you can. FBHP has raised $26,500+ to date, which is amazing. Another $15,000 is needed to make sure there are resources to properly present our legal position. FBHP’s new GoFundMe target is $40,000 to finance all of our efforts to date to protect and preserve the Trust. Your support is much appreciated.

April 24, 2021

We previously said the deadline is April 30th. It has now been extended to May 7th.

However, if you are not applying for full court participation but instead are going through the Friends of Beacon Hill Park(FBHP) and our lawyer as explained below, submissions should be in by May 5th.

The Friends of Beacon Hill Park(FBHP) would like people to know that the Notice published by the City of Victoria about the Beacon Hill Park Trust is to request that people or organizations who wish to formally appear in court and present evidence and formal legal arguments write to the City, to let the City know they wish to do this.

The Notice is not seeking your views on the use of the Park, or the Park Trust. The City is not soliciting input for any City decisions. Instead, the Court is seeking to know whether you wish to participate in the proceedings, and how to best manage that participation and has requested that the City collect the names of any individuals seeking such participation.

The FBHP have retained lawyers to represent the society, and to argue that the 1882 Trust that governs the Park does not permit use of the park for sheltering for individuals experiencing homelessness. If you share our views and wish to ensure those views are fully and carefully presented and argued in court, we urge you to let FBHP know by email: [email redacted]. We ask that you keep your comments factual, brief and that you include your name and address. Lastly, we request you consider donating through the Friends of Beacon Hill Park GoFundMe page, to support the legal team.

April 5, 2021

The City of Victoria (CofV) has finally committed to proceeding with the Application for Direction in BC Supreme Court (BCSC).

On April 13th, the City Solicitor " seeking the Court's direction as to who the court thinks expedient to serve the application materials with or include in the hearing of the petition".

The City Solicitor will request the following orders :

1)An order that the City give notice of the petition by publishing, no later than April 16, the following notice in the Times Colonist newspaper and on the City’s website :

"Can the land known as Beacon Hill Park, held in Trust by the CofV, be used by persons experiencing homelessness for temporary sheltering".

2)An order that the City give notice of the hearing of the petition to all those who file and serve on the City a response by April 30, 2021.

3)A declaration, pursuant to section 86(2) of the Trustee Act, that subject to the directions of the judge hearing the petition, it is sufficient and expedient that the petition proceed to a hearing in accordance with the above orders.

The date of the hearing and which parties will participate will be decided after April 30th.

Friends of Beacon Hill Park have received notice from CofV and will be filing with same before the April 30th deadline.

Four others have also been served notice.

It is not known whether the Province or the Attorney-General will respond.

We are expecting a hearing in mid-to-late May.

March 10, 2021

The City of Victoria (CofV) has finally filed the Application for Direction with the BC Supreme Court under the BC Trustees Act

While the question for the Court appears to be a straight-forward question on camping in Beacon Hill Park, it refers to temporary sheltering, without defining what that means. It will be important for the Friends of Beacon Hill Park to ensure the Court addresses what has actually been going on since last spring, whether that is considered temporary or not.

The CofV appears to be taking a stance that camping is allowed despite the Trust, but if it is not a permitted use of the park under the Trust, then a constitutionally protected right to erect shelters overnight overrides the Trust.

The CofV also appears to rely on the fact they have installed supportive services in this park. Other parks in the city are not suitable to shelter and BHP has washrooms, running water and road access for services. It will be important for the Friends of Beacon Hill Park to ensure the Court addresses the fact that the City could provide these services in “non-trust” parks.

There is no indication so far that the Province of BC will participate in the court hearing.

The format of the hearing has not been determined and no dates have been assigned to hear the Application.

It will be important for the Friends of Beacon Hill Park to ensure the Court grants us standing to protect the Trust in accordance with our mandate.

February 14, 2021

Again, a big thank you to all who have contributed to the Help Preserve Beacon Hill Park fundraiser.

We have word from our lawyer that the City of Victoria (CofV) will file the application for direction in the BC Supreme Court the week of February 22. The CofV is awaiting word from the Attorney General of BC as to whether they will participate.

In late February we will know the question. Then the City Solicitor and our lawyer will apply to the court to set the date and format and also who can make a verbal submission. FBHP will be represented by a lawyer and expert witnesses, so directors of the Society will not be able to make individual submissions.

We are hoping for a less-than-three-day hearing ; two-and-a-half days may be ideal. From past experience, the hearing will not occur in a single block. Rather, it may be split into two or more blocks when a courtroom and the Justice are available. That is the nature of court hearings during a pandemic. Written submissions and outlines will probably be the ideal way to receive public opinion.

January 22, 2021

The City of Victoria has accepted the FBHP offer to set aside the Notice of Civil Claim and litigation in BC Supreme Court in respect of the BHP Trust.

In exchange, the CofV will apply to the court to address whether camping / sheltering in the park is a permitted use under the Trust.

Other groups may be able to present at the hearing.

An application will be made to the BC Supreme Court with an Application for Direction as permitted under Sec.86 of the Trustee Act.

Interested persons can spare themselves the task of reading the Act, as there is very little in it relevant to this dispute.

Donovan Waters' Law of Trusts in Canada is more relevant and recommended for any interested.

The question may come down to whether the beneficiaries are prevented from "use and enjoyment" and whether the CofV is in violation of "preserve and protect", both phrases being very prominent in the BHP Trust.

I was in the park this evening to observe the tent fire. Three days ago that tent was clearly in violation of the lax bylaws.

Bylaw officers were seen to walk right past the tent with no observation of the violations.

A mound of garbage had accumulated at the tent site and added to the conflagration and damage to the park.

December 23, 2020

On Dec 4th the Friends of Beacon Hill Park(FBHP) filed a Notice of Civil Claim(NOCC) against the City of Victoria(CofV) claiming the CofV was in breach of Trust in regard to BHP.

The CofV has asked FBHP to consider suspending the court case until after March 31. Our lawyer has requested that we not disclose specifics, but the offer contains little more than proposed bylaw changes discussed by Council before our claim was filed. We had already indicated that we would not schedule the hearing date until after March 31, to see if the CofV does bring about an end to the homeless encampment in the Park.

On Dec. 23 the CofV sent a Response to our NOCC that denies every claim we make except for the most obvious. This Response has not been filed at the Supreme Court as I write this summary. Once filed it will be available publicly.

A very quick summary of all this is that City Council claims complete authority over park use and CofV bylaws are superior to the Trust.

Our lawyer will respond to the CofV pleadings, and make a counter-proposal to try to avoid the need for the time and cost to all of FBHP proceeding to court but the CofV response suggests that the CofV is going to make this difficult and expensive.

We expect that this dispute will be heading to court sometime after Mar 31st.

We need your voice, continuing to ask City Council to either respect the Trust, or agree to have the Court consider whether the Trust allows the current situation to continue. We do not believe anyone thinks the Trust should be ignored, or that this situation should continue. We also need your financial support. The CofV has all the taxpayer's money to fight with us, and we need help to ensure the citizens have access to justice.

November 8, 2020

Friends of Beacon Hill Park will have to proceed under the Trust in a separate civil suit.

That will be the next step. On November 6th, Justice Gaul did not grant us responder status for the injunction hearing.

He ruled that the injunction brought by the CofV against the campers was a statutory injunction not an equitable injunction. Trusts are laws of equity.

He also ruled that allowing camping in parks does not effectively rezone parks to residential zoning.

He may be correct on the first judgment but incorrect on the second.

Proceeding with a separate civil suit on trust law allows us to cover a greater range of issues. It will require a very broad citizen coalition to speak as beneficiaries of the Trust.

We will need to begin that action very soon.

October 16, 2020

Thank you to all donors and supporters.

We finally have a firm date.

The case will be heard starting October 19th at 2PM, Justice Jeffery Gaul presiding. It will definitely extend into Tuesday, perhaps all day.

This is a re-hearing of the injunction that occurred on July 27th. Our lawyer will be presenting new information about the BHP Trust that was not entered at the July hearing.

The campers' lawyer, Catherine Boies Parker, is raising first the Charter rights of the campers to seek shelter in BHP. She is also raising the issue whether Friends of Beacon Hill Park have public interest standing to pursue Trust issues in the court.

We do not expect Justice Gaul to have a quick judgment, as the submissions from the campers' side are rather lengthy and also obtuse.

If we are not successful on this petition, we can proceed to a full hearing on the Trust. That will be a very expensive, and very divisive, issue involving many more community voices. But it appears that is what City Council desires.

October 12, 2020

A quick update on the progress of the court case.

The case was due to be heard this past week.

In the interim, the campers hired a lawyer and requested a delay in the hearing so she could familiarize herself with the issues.

Originally, our lawyer was going to oppose the delay but decided the justice hearing the case may grant a delay anyway.

The case is now scheduled for the week of October 19th.

The campers' lawyer is Catherine Boies Parker, the lawyer who represented the campers in the earlier City of Victoria v Adams case that lead to erecting tents overnight in Victoria parks

Her pleadings have not been filed with the court yet so we have no idea if the campers are claiming a right-to-occupy cultivated areas or even the natural areas.

One thing that is certain is that Beacon Hill Park is destined to become a permanent homeless encampment if the current situation is allowed to continue.

September 27, 2020

Hello, once again, and thank you to all donors and well-wishers.

We finally have a court date. Sometime during the week of October 5th, the injunction hearing of July 27th will be re-opened. Friends of Beacon Hill Park may be permitted to present additional information on the BHP Trust. The City of Victoria is again opposed to our presence at this hearing.

If we are allowed to present this time, Justice Maier will hear information about the two significant previous court judgments of 1884 and 1998.

He will then reserve judgment to a later date.

This is not the final court appearance. If not successful with this date, FBHP and other beneficiaries can initiate a separate court hearing into the City of Victoria 's disregard of the Trust.

The reason the court date is not absolute is because court scheduling is not predictable. The Supreme Court notifies respondents at 3PM the day before they are to appear.

September 19, 2020

Just a quick update from FBHP.

Again, a big thank you to all who have contributed and/or given letters of encouragement.

On Tuesday, September 15th, a petition was filed in BC Supreme Court for FBHP to be added as a party to the July 27th injunction hearing.

As mentioned before, FBHP applied to sit at the July 27th hearing but was denied the ability to present.

This petition addresses that denial and seeks to reverse it.

Sometime in the coming week, Justice Maier will either allow or deny our petition.

If it is allowed, a hearing will be held sometime in the next three weeks.

The purpose of that hearing is to present two court cases relevant to the BHP Trust :the 1884 agricultural hall injunction with Judge Matthew Begbie, and the 1998 folk festival hearing with Justice Dean Wilson.

We are hoping for a quick resolution to this issue, but the City Solicitor intends to again block our participation.

September 12, 2020

First, thank you to all of the donors for their generosity. And also to well-wishers who lack the funds to donate.

In these stressful times, it is clear that Beacon Hill Park is very important to all of you.

Friends of Beacon Hill Park (henceforth FBHP) have held that position for 31 years. FBHP retained a lawyer in mid-July to represent us at the July 27th injunction hearing. On the date of the hearing, the City's lawyer objected to our presence, so the Justice hearing the case would not allow our lawyer to present. The Justice did allow our lawyer to remain seated at a counsel bench. I requested that the lawyer stay to hear the whole presentation as I was anticipating further legal action. At the conclusion of the hearing it became clear that the Society's funds were nearly depleted. I requested the lawyer to suspend legal action until more funds could be acquired.

I had an offer from a resident to start a GoFundMe page to continue legal action. The FBHP directors assented and the page was started. With sufficient funds contributed but not yet in hand, I instructed the lawyer to resume legal action. The lawyer immediately opened communication with the City Solicitor. Without being specific, it is clear that the City opposes further participation by FBHP in the still-open injunction. We had a request from the lawyer to pass a motion requesting them to commence court actions. The directors did approve the motion as worded by the lawyer.

Before commencing full legal action to uphold the Trust, there are some legal steps that must first be taken. We must make every effort possible to negotiate before commencing court action. Failure to do so may prejudice further legal action. We are anticipating those to start the week of Sept. 14th

At this time, the lawyer handles all communication with the City. Full participation by the directors or the citizens is not possible. If the process leads to a full court hearing on the Trust, submissions by the citizens (beneficiaries) will be requested.  If the City should relent and move to enforce no camping in BHP, the funds not used will be redirected in various ways. FBHP have in the past (three times) bought trees and plants for BHP. Funds could be contributed to repair damaged areas in BHP. We have erected six natural history signs in the park. Three more are ready to go. We have in the past contributed to WildARC (SPCA) and Wildlife Rehabilitation in Errington, as animal rescues from BHP have gone to both facilities. We have also contributed to West Coast Environmental Law as they have given us three grants in the past.

FBHP is a charitable society and all funds must go either to the aims of the society or to other charitable societies.
FBHP cannot participate in partisan political activity. We can engage in advocacy that promotes the aims of society's constitution.

August 13, 2020

We are now receiving donations!

Thank you to those who have donated!
The park needs protection now; the damage is growing and shows no sign of lessening.

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Beacon Hill Park! 

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