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A judge has dismissed an appeal of an injunction against campers at a controversial Maple Ridge homeless camp, the city announced Wednesday.
The ruling, which was handed out Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court, sided with the city in keeping the injunction in place, which allows the city to remove fire hazards and other safety issues from the Anita Place camp.
“I would like to thank citizens for their patience as we follow the legal processes required to move forward with the work to enforce the Feb. 8 B.C. Supreme Court ruling,” Maple Ridge mayor Mike Morden said in a statement Wednesday.
“We will maintain our vigilance relating to fire safety on the property and will continue to work with the BC Government to house the occupants and bring the camp to an end.”
The injunction was requested by the city in response to several fires in the camp thanks to heating and electrical equipment. After much of the equipment was removed, three more fires were sparked within 48 hours, prompting an evacuation order that sent the campers into temporary shelters while crews swept the camp and removed more safety hazards.
The evacuation order was lifted on Monday, with the city allowing “verified occupants” to return to the camp.
The Pivot Legal Society, which represents the campers, launched the appeal in response to the city’s enforcement of the injunction. Six people were arrested and dozens of officers stayed on site to keep the peace, which lawyers say led to “brutal” and “rough” treatment of the campers.
The society also took issue with the removal of the equipment and warming shelter itself, which they say are crucial to the campers’ survival.
In a statement to Global News Thursday, staff lawyer Caitlin Shane said the society was disappointed in the ruling.
“We are discouraged that the City of Maple Ridge and the province sided against the residents of Anita Place, who were trying to appeal an order that puts their lives at risk, disbands their community, and threatens their ability to keep warm and survive in the absence of any support from the city,” Shane said.
The city said that since the evacuation order was issued on March 2, staff had removed 35 propane tanks, 611 cubic metres of “fire-related debris” and a variety of other combustible material and accelerants.
Shelters and structures on the site have also been moved away from the camp’s perimeter, and BC Housing is working on installing a heating system for a warming tent and restoring power to an on-site washroom and shower facility, the city added.
On Tuesday, the city presented its social housing plan, which includes “some additional temporary modular housing units” for Anita Place homeless campers at the same site as Maple Ridge’s one existing modular housing project on Royal Crescent.
It also calls for additional housing projects aimed at renters and seniors, and aims to develop a “Made in Maple Ridge” pilot model for permanent social housing along with BC Housing and Fraser Health.
The plan drew deep criticism from Minister of Housing Selina Robinson, who called the plan “not workable” and inadequate for the Anita Place campers in a terse statement Tuesday.
Shane echoed those criticisms, adding the minister’s rejection of the plan is “not surprising.”
“The city’s new housing plan is beyond inadequate,” she said. “If Maple Ridge continues to rely on its gross undercount of Anita Place residents, long-time residents of the encampment will be denied housing, as will other people experiencing homelessness throughout Maple Ridge.”
According to the city, “numerous” occupants of the Anita Place camp have been housed since it was established in 2017.
— With files from Simon Little
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