A commentary by the person who finished second in the 2018 Victoria mayoralty election.
Victoria councillor Ben Isitt has complained to the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission about CFAX radio host Adam Stirling’s “unbalanced and misleading programming on the matter of homelessness and poverty in the Greater Victoria area.”
While I don’t have the luxury of listening to Stirling every day, I have a pretty good idea of his criticisms of the dangers of “tent cities” and camping in parks where none should be taking place.
If Isitt wants to complain about people who are critical of tenting in Victoria parks, he’s got a lot of work to do.
For example, will Isitt make a complaint to the National News Media Council about the Feb. 19 Times Colonist banner headline, “Bylaw officers threatened, chased in parks, police chief says”? Perhaps the TC is being too critical and should have reported on the bright side of bylaw officers being attacked.
Will Isitt make a complaint to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner about Victoria Police Chief Del Manak? The chief was quoted in that TC article saying: “There continue to be weapons. There continue to be people that are living in fear. There’s a level of violence and safety is compromised.”
Manak noted that his officers had to seize “a baseball bat with nails and razor blades attached from an abandoned tent in a parking lot encampment next to Royal Athletic Park.” That kind of uncaring anti-homeless sentiment must surely be added to the complaint.
Isitt better make a formal complaint about the audacity of Victoria city manager Jocelyn Jenkyns saying: “We are not going to put our employees at risk or in potentially very dangerous situations,” when she asked the police chief for more protection of bylaw officers.
I expect any day now, Isitt will be making a formal complaint about NDP Attorney General David Eby. According to a Feb. 24 TC article, Eby said the park encampments are “profoundly unsafe” citing “fires, overdose deaths and vulnerable people being exploited by predators.” Eby should know better as the former executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
Of course, Isitt will have to bring out the big guns for the complaint he will clearly have to make to the Canadian Judicial Council about B.C.’s Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson. In his July 5, 2016, decision to disband the tent city at the provincial courthouse, Hinkson wrote: “The Encampment poses a fire safety risk to both its residents and the residents and businesses in the area of the Encampment.” Hinkson further wrote: “I find that the violence and criminal activities at the Encampment have markedly increased … to the point where the Encampment is unsafe.” Shame on the Chief Justice!
This next complaint might lead to family friction, but when an important principle is at stake, Isitt must take a stand. On March 9, 2016, Melissa Ann Moroz swore an affidavit for a case with the B.C. Supreme Court. Chief Justice Hinkson wrote: “She attested to having discovered human feces, hypodermic needles, garbage and uninvited persons in her backyard while there was a significant camping presence in the nearby Kings Park.”
Hinkson wrote that Moroz was concerned that if the encampment at the courthouse was removed, “overnight sheltering will resume at Kings Park, along with the negative impacts on her and her neighbours.” Moroz is Isitt’s ex-wife and mother of their daughter, but that’s no excuse to disparage the poor and homeless in her neighbourhood.
Now this next complaint may be difficult, however. In August 2016, Isitt voted for a complete ban of overnight camping in four Victoria parks. One of them is Kings Park, the very same park that is right across the street from his daughter.
Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Isitt voted to ensure any of the dangers of overnight tenting would not affect his family. By doing so, Isitt is clearly showing contempt for people wanting to camp wherever they please. Just not sure where he’ll file this complaint.
I agree that we have a housing crisis. But when we allow criminals and predators to attack persons inside the encampments and their surrounding neighbours, without proper (and expensive) protections, we are living in a dangerous city.
Victoria is already facing record criminal activity due in no small measure to the policies supported by many of our city councillors.
In your fantasy world, Ben, do spend your time filing formal complaints. I just hope the rest of council wakes up and starts giving serious protection to the citizens of this city who deserve it. Just beware that you may find yourself in the middle of a formal complaint.