BC Housing seeks to have a City of Penticton lawsuit opposing a controversial emergency homeless shelter removed from court.
In a response filed on September 14 in the BC Supreme Court, the Crown corporation says that under the BC Interpretation Act, the provincial government is not bound by municipal statutes.
The city refused to renew a temporary use permit for the Victory Church shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street and is fighting to have the temporary shelter closed.
The city has cited the shelter’s location in the city center, near senior housing facilities, which it considers inappropriate, as a major sticking point.
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BC Housing argues that the shelter is providing a lifeline to 42 homeless people and is reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
“Closing the property would defeat these policy objectives,” said the response.
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BC Housing said it plans to continue operating the homeless shelter through March 31, 2022.
The Crown corporation points to the COVID-19 pandemic and related physical distancing restrictions that limited the number of people who could sleep in the city’s other homeless shelter, Compass House, during the 2020-21 winter season.
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“BC Housing’s use of the property as temporary shelter was and continues to be a successful vehicle through which the Crown’s goals of providing housing for the homeless and preventing the spread of COVID-19 can be met.” , was indicated in the response to the claim.
“BC Housing feared that closing the property while Compass House could not provide the necessary shelter to the residents of the property would increase the risk that some of those people might seek refuge on the streets of Penticton or in camps and be subject to dangerous or dangerous situations. unhealthy living situations “.
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From a legal standpoint, BC Housing said it applied for the initial temporary use permit through the city of Penticton as a courtesy, but that it is not subject to city permits and statutes.
The Crown Corporation cautions that if the courts find that the provincial government waived its immunity from the Crown by cooperating with the municipal government, it could set a precedent in the future.
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“This can seriously discourage intergovernmental cooperation and prevent future Crown entities from working to maintain cordial relations with municipal governments. Although Crown immunity can be relied upon in land use and development, optimal solutions for the people of British Columbia are achieved through mutual trust, respect and communication between different levels of government and their agents, ”BC Housing said in court documents.
According to the city, when BC invoked supremacy, it was “a unilateral move to operate a planned temporary winter shelter at 352 Winnipeg Street as a year-round facility.”
Supremacy is a little-used rule that allows the province to override the decisions of the local council.
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“This matter involves a community land use issue and the council remains united in the position it has taken with the province since first learning of Mr. Eby’s decision to ignore the will of our community in as far as 352 Winnipeg Street is concerned, ”said Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki. it said in a press release issued on July 7.
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David Eby, BC Housing Minister, has publicly criticized the Penticton city council for trying to close the shelter.
“The Council has listened and through surveys, petitions and letters, thousands of residents have told us that 352 Winnipeg Street is not a place for shelter, and we agree,” said the Mayor.
“That is why the Council denied the renewal of the permit and that is why we continue to oppose the installation, in this place. We hope that BC Housing will do the right thing and close the shelter, comply with city statutes and avoid the need to go to court. “
Neither the city nor BC Housing’s arguments have been proven in court.
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