Justice Punnett ruling on Sheltering in Beacon Hill Park 2022/02/24
The complete ruling can be found here: Justice Punnett ruling on Beacon Hill Park Trust - 02-24-22.pdf
February 24, 2022
City of Victoria’s decision to allow sheltering in Beacon Hill park was a contravention of the 1882 park trust
In early 2020, Beacon Hill Park began to be occupied by large numbers of people who erected shelters and began living in the park. In July 2020 the City obtained an Injunction that allowed camping to continue in most areas of Beacon Hill Park. Following the Court Order, the City adopted new bylaws and policies that allowed sheltering “structures” to be erected in the Park. The encampments that resulted were in place for well over a year, until May 2021. The park was significantly impacted, and the community use of the park eliminated for much of this time.
The City of Victoria is a Trustee of Beacon Hill Park pursuant to an 1882 Trust Deed under which the City was given the Park. The Trust provides that the City holds Beacon Hill Park in trust to “maintain and preserve the same for the use recreation and enjoyment of the public”.
The Friends of Beacon Hill Park, on behalf of the many concerned citizens and businesses have spent the last 2 years attempting to enforce the Trust, saying that the City should not have, and cannot permit the construction of sheltering within Beacon Hill Park, it is a violation of the terms of the Trust, and contravenes permitted land uses.
Today, in a 43-page decision from the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Justice Punnett, agreed and concluded that the City’s decision to allow sheltering was a contravention of the Trust.
The case sought to answer the following question posed by the City:
Can the land known as Beacon Hill Park, held in trust by the City of Victoria, be used by persons experiencing homelessness for temporary sheltering?
The judge concluded:
“… temporary sheltering cannot be interpreted as a use for the purpose of recreation and enjoyment and is therefore contrary to the terms of the Trust. Under the Trust the Park may not be used by persons experiencing homelessness for temporary sheltering. “
And answered the question, saying:
“In sum, the answer to the question posed by the City is “no”. The Trust does not permit use of the Park for temporary sheltering by persons experiencing homelessness. Such activity by the members of the public is contrary to the purpose of the Trust: preservation of the Park for the use, recreation and enjoyment of the public.”
The Friends of Beacon Hill Park are relieved and pleased with the decision, and hope it will prevent a future City Council from allowing a repeat of the unpermitted use of Beacon Hill Park, and preserve it for the use recreation and enjoyment of the public, as a park.
Further information: L. John Alexander or Lindsay R. LeBlanc,
counsel for Friends of Beacon Hill Park
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
The Friends of Beacon Hill Park is a not-for-profit society and registered charity. The society’s purposes include to preserve and maintain Beacon Hill Park in accordance with the terms of the Trust Agreement made between the Province of British Columbia and the City of Victoria and to oppose all activities that are not needful to nor incidental to the physical maintenance of Beacon Hill Park, or that in any way contravene the intent or the object of the Trust, or the rulings of Begbie, J. (1883) and Wilson, J. (1998).
For more information of FBHP visit: http://www.FBHP.ca