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Don’t donate property in the City of Victoria

Reeson Park is a mess. Every night, the park is filled with a mixture of vagabonds and criminals, activists and agitators.  Every morning, scarce police resources are expended to ensure the tents come down. Tensions with neighbours are rising.

This public disorder can be traced to the dissolution of the Provincial Capital Commission by the BC Liberal government. Say what you will about the PCC, but they had clear signage prohibiting anyone from being in the park at night. Let alone tents.

This latest disaster reminds us of the words of the Honourable Mr. Justice R. D. Wilson.  In Provincial Capital Commission v. Johnston et al, 2005 BCSC 1397, he wrote:

[14] If I understand the speakers correctly, the notion of “tent cities” has entered the lexicon of social discourse. It is a phenomenon for political lobbying.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Look at the February 2014 media release from the BC government:

The four inner harbour properties given to the City are key to inner harbour revitalization and advancing a planned 5 km harbour pathway from Rock Bay to Ogden Point.

Three years has passed since this press release came out. Is this what the provincial government intended when it transferred Reeson Park to the City of Victoria? Is this what “revitalization” looks like?

The status quo dishonours the memory of Gordon Reeson, a person who built hundreds of rental units within the City of Victoria. Here are excerpts from his obituary in the November 17, 2002 edition of the Times-Colonist newspaper:

Gordon Stanley Reeson, a major figure in Victoria’s development industry in the 1960s and 1970s, has died in Arizona.

Born in Winnipeg in 1923, Reeson was a developer in Regina before moving to the West Coast in the 1960s.

His friend, former mayor Peter Pollen, said Reeson retired here from the Prairies, but within three months was busy again with building projects.

With partner Harvey Pinch, he built Fernwood Manor on Begbie Street with 210 apartments. On opening day in the late 1960s, it was the largest apartment building on Vancouver Island.

They put up other major rental projects in city neighbourhoods, including some in James Bay.

Pollen described him as a quiet businessman with tremendous drive who stayed out of the political backrooms and got things done.

 *snip*

Reeson was part of a generation of developers in Victoria’s building boom in those decades, said Denford, who was also starting to put up apartments then.

“They were on a much bigger scale than me,” Denford said.

Reeson is remembered here for Reeson Park, a half-acre on the Victoria waterfront at the bottom of Yates Street. Pollen and Reeson bought the property and donated it for a park in 1980.

 *snip*

I avoided quoting too much of the article as a nod to fair use. But the parts I snipped reflected well on Mr. Reeson’s character. He was generous.  His colleagues and employees liked him. He helped build this city.

The bottom line? Reeson Park is a pocket park in the heart of Victoria. It should have been excluded from the Victoria’s overnight camping bylaw on the same day the property was transferred.  To me it’s a no-brainer. And until that happens, I’m adding a new rule:

  1. Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria.
  2. Don’t donate property in the City of Victoria.

A new RCMP police academy for British Columbia

Note: Permission is granted for the following essay to be reprinted in any newspaper, provided the author info and disclaimer at the end remains intact.

Since 1885, the RCMP has been training recruits at “Depot,” its police academy in Regina, Saskatchewan. While the quality of instruction is not in doubt, Depot’s monopoly on training new officers could be hurting our national police force.  British Columbia needs – and deserves – its own RCMP recruit academy.

“E” Division is responsible for all provincial and federal policing in British Columbia. It also provides municipal policing services, on a contract basis, to 63 municipalities across the province. About one third of all RCMP officers work in E Div. That’s more than 7000 officers, making it the largest division in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Yet time and time again, there are media reports of staffing shortages. These shortages have real impacts on sworn officers, civilian employees and the communities they serve. It is, perhaps, not surprising that the yellow stripe protest originated in British Columbia. This protest has quickly developed into the largest police labour action in Canadian history.

Would officers still be wearing their yellow stripes if every detachment in BC was fully staffed? It’s tough to say. But what we can say is that a new police academy would improve recruiting and training outcomes. It would provide municipalities with confidence that detachment vacancies will be filled. It would create a more diverse candidate pool. And it would send a signal that the RCMP is changing.

Imagine your dream is to become an RCMP officer. You grew up in Kelowna, earned a degree from the University of Victoria, and now you live and work in the Lower Mainland. You’re excited by the Force’s existing commitment to allow you to return home to BC after graduation from Depot.

But there’s a problem: You’re in a new relationship, and you’re not sure it will survive a long-term absence. Or, maybe you have an aging parent whom you’re not in a position to leave for months at a time. Perhaps you have young children of your own. There are all kinds of reasons why someone can’t pick up and move across the country for six months.

Facing this dilemma, would you apply to the RCMP? Or would you apply to a municipal police department in British Columbia? My own choice, made over a decade ago, was the latter.

The winter in Regina certainly doesn’t help. At one point this week – the middle of April – it was minus five degrees Celsius, with winds of more than 20 km/h. And it snowed!

The end result is that instead of hiring the very best candidates, the RCMP is hiring the best candidates who are able to move to Regina.

There is a better way for our province. Pacific Region Training Centre, located in Chilliwack, is the most logical place for a new recruit academy. It is currently used by the RCMP to offer advanced courses to law enforcement agencies across Western Canada. In 2015, the facility opened a $20 million, state-of-the-art indoor firing range. The 60 acre campus has onsite living accommodations for over two hundred students.

Alternative locations include the new E Division Headquarters in Surrey, as well as the Justice Institute of British Columbia in New Westminster. So there are suitable places that exist now. This doesn’t have be a big project involving land acquisition, zoning, construction, etc. The first recruit class could be up and running in ninety days.

British Columbians are headed to the polls on May 9th. During the campaign it is important to discuss positive solutions to challenges faced by the RCMP. For more than 130 years, Mounties have been trained in Regina. Depot is a place that is steeped in honour and ceremony. Now it is time for the RCMP to create new history, and new traditions, by adding a second recruit academy.  Right here in British Columbia.

David Bratzer is a police officer in British Columbia. He is a certified police candidate assessor as well as an experienced field training officer. The opinions expressed in this essay are his own personal views and do not represent those of his employer.

Using 810.1 and 810.2 peace bonds to reduce violence in Canada

The document Handbook for High-Risk Offenders – A Handbook for Criminal Justice Professionals was published in 2001 by Public Safety Canada. Although dated, it provides a basic description of 810.1 and 810.2 peace bonds:

On August 1, 1997, Bill C-55 came into effect and created the section 810.2 order. The 810.2 order focuses on violent offenders, including sexual offenders. Both of these sections are designed to be preventative and not punitive, hence, it is not necessary for an offender to have a previous criminal record in order to qualify for one of these orders.

These orders can be made for a maximum of one year [this has since been extended, in some circumstances, to two years]. Conditions can be attached to these orders and a breach of an 810 order constitutes an offence. These orders are quite broad in their application, as a crime need not have been committed and the potential victim need not be named. Should a defendant refuse to enter into an 810 order they can be imprisoned for up to one year.

Two of these orders, 810.01, (When fear of a criminal organization offence); and 810.2, (Where fear of a serious personal injury offence) require the consent of the Attorney General of the province, or if in the territories the consent of the Attorney General Canada, to proceed. Each of the 810 orders has standard conditions set out in the Code. In each case the court will consider whether to impose these conditions based on the interests of society and the interests of the safety of the potential victims. The court also has the discretion to impose any additional conditions it sees fit as long as these conditions meet the test of reasonableness. Additional conditions are commonly applied to 810.1 orders (Where Fear of a Sexual Offence) and to 810.2 orders (Where Fear of a Serious Personal Injury Offence).

The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled in R. v. Baker (1999) [B.C.J No. 681 (B.C.S.C.)] that it is not necessary for the informant (the person who has the fear) to have had contact with the defendant in order to lay an information under section 810.2.

Generally, while the conditions associated with 810 orders do impose some restrictions on the defendant, they should not prevent the defendant from leading a reasonably normal life. See R. v. Budreo (1996), 104 C.C.C. (3d) 245, 45 C.R. (4th) 133 (Ont. Ct. (Gen. Div.)), affd (unreported, January 19, 2000, Ont. C.A., Court File No. C23785).

In my view, these peace bonds are an important tool. Used properly, they can reduce violence and keep potential offenders out of jail.

Here are some of the more important cases I’ve been able to find about 810.1 and 810.2 orders:

R v. Boone, 2007 MBPC 15
This case is useful for its examination of various conditions that can be applied under 810.1 and 810.2 orders.

R. v. J. S. H., 2017 BCPC 12
The Court declined to order an 810.2 for the defendant. Most of the Defendant’s criminal record was as a youth, and his last criminal conviction was five years ago. He spent 14 months on a recognizance of bail pending the 810.2 hearing, and his conduct during that time was upstanding. Of note, at para 21, there is a list of examples in case law where orders have been made under section 810.2 even though the Defendants had similar periods of compliance with their bail orders.

R. v. Nikal, 2016 BCSC 29
This was a provincial court decision appealed to the BC Supreme Court. The BC Supreme Court found that the original judge did not have to articulate imminent harm (para 42). All that was necessary was for the evidence to show that apprehension of the risk is reasonably grounded and is neither speculative nor remote (para 40).

R. v. Fendley, 2013 BCPC 194
The Court granted an 810.1 order even though the Defendant had no criminal record for sexual offences (para 5). The Court also found there was no requirement for the Informant to prove “serious and imminent danger” (paras 20 – 28). The reason this language is important is that a much earlier court decision from another province suggested that “serious and imminent danger” was required (even though this language was not present in the Criminal Code).

R. v. Baker, 1999 CanLII 15135 (BC SC)
The hearing judge need only find on the balance of probabilities that there are reasonable grounds that the appellant will commit a personal injury offence (para 44).

R. v. R.H.G.M., 2010 BCPC 434
This case resulted in a peace bond with comprehensive conditions, including a curfew, a red zone and a no alcohol condition (paras 31 – 34). The Defendant had a criminal record dating back to 1988. He had amassed approximately 30 convictions, including a three year federal sentence for aggravated assault.

R. v. Penunsi, 2015 CanLII 64020 (NL SCTD)
Section 515 of the Criminal Code (judicial interim release) applies to proceedings on an Information laid pursuant to s. 810.2 of the Criminal Code.

R. v. Burton, 2013 ONSC 4531
This case resulted in a substantial sentence for breaching an 810.2 order. In addition to a lengthy jail sentence, the offender also received a probation order with a comprehensive and innovative list of conditions.

Areas of British Columbia with large reductions in violent crime

According to the BC government’s own compilation of crime data, some areas of the province have experienced massive reductions in violent crime.

Look at what happened to violent offences in Prince George during the past ten years. The population decreased by 2% – 1,552 people – during this period. But there was a 43% decrease in violent offences:

  • 2006          2,734
  • 2007          2,516
  • 2008          1,902
  • 2009          2,063
  • 2010          2,275
  • 2011          2,205
  • 2012          2,192
  • 2013          1,819
  • 2014          1,584
  • 2015          1,538

What is going on here? What is this RCMP detachment doing? What is the municipality doing?  What is the community doing? It would be interesting to figure out is happening.

Here is Kelowna. Their population increased by 13%, 14,344 people, over the last decade. But they experienced a 55% decrease in violent crime:

  • 2006         2,479
  • 2007         2,313
  • 2008         2,068
  • 2009         2,126
  • 2010         2,090
  • 2011         1,942
  • 2012         1,806
  • 2013         1,835
  • 2014         1,415
  • 2015         1,097

Here is Nanaimo. Their population grew by 12%, or 9,755 people. But they experienced a 49% decrease in violent crime:

  • 2006         2,225
  • 2007         1,737
  • 2008         1,632
  • 2009         1,636
  • 2010         1,693
  • 2011         1,403
  • 2012         1,429
  • 2013         1,422
  • 2014         1,127
  • 2015         1,134

New Westminster has a municipal police department (as compared to an RCMP detachment). Their population increased by 18%, that’s 11,169 new residents. They experienced a 39% decrease in violent crime:

  • 2006         1,437
  • 2007         1,314
  • 2008         1,204
  • 2009         1,058
  • 2010         1,122
  • 2011         939
  • 2012         1,014
  • 2013         953
  • 2014         874
  • 2015         876

Vancouver, another municipal police department, experienced an 8% increase in population (49,569 more people). But violent offences in the city dropped by 27%:

  • 2006         11,015
  • 2007         10,769
  • 2008         10,858
  • 2009         10,838
  • 2010         10,442
  • 2011         10,055
  • 2012         9,218
  • 2013         8,832
  • 2014         8,221
  • 2015         8,007

Burnaby, Campbell River, Comox, Delta, Duncan, Kamloops are some of the other cities and towns that saw large drops in violent crime.

According to the definitions and data qualifiers section of the document: “Violent crimes include the offences of homicide, attempted murder, sexual and non-sexual assault, sexual offences against children, abduction, forcible confinement or kidnapping, firearms, robbery, criminal harassment, extortion, uttering threats, and threatening or harassing phone calls and other violent offences.”

Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria

Mayor Lisa Helps and Councillor Chris Coleman are putting the following motion before the Committee of the Whole on April 6th. It’s Item #16 on the agenda:

Recommendation: That Council amend the Streets and Traffic Bylaw to add Section 84(3) as follows: Section 84(3) An exemption to the provisions of this section shall occur when the CMHC vacancy rate for Victoria is at• 3% or lower. When the exemption is in place, people sleeping in their vehicles must not park their vehicles on any street for the purposes of sleeping before 7pm and must not remain parked on any street for the purposes of sleeping after 7am.

Want to know what this will look like?  Take all the derelict boats from the Gorge waterway, multiply by 100 and put them in Fairfield, Rockland, James Bay, North Park, Oaklands, Vic West and downtown. In a city still healing from the crime and violence of tent city, it is incredible that a proposal would be put forward to enable camping on Burdett Avenue and other city streets. These campers will be even closer to houses and apartment buildings than tent city.

What are the dangers? Disposal of human feces, for starters. Noise complaints. Fire hazards (open flame) from candles and portable stoves. Vehicle engines left running all night. Use of loud generators in residential neighbourhoods. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Consumption of alcohol and drugs inside cars. Care and control of a vehicle while impaired. Drug trafficking in and around vehicles. Fatal drug overdoses.  Hoarders and other people with serious mental health problems living inside cars. Car cities – the new “tent city” – popping up throughout Victoria. CarBnB. Extra wake-ups for bylaw and police. A national incentive for every predatory criminal with a vehicle to travel here.  Those are a few concerns off the top of my head. But none of these issues are mentioned in the report from Mayor Helps and Councillor Coleman.

The proposal is based on a Facebook poll with eight responses.  Look at the response from “male 05”:

Oh yeah- my buddy [name removed] was sleeping in his truck-camper (the carry-along kind in the box of the truck), in the parking lot of [name removed] after hosting the Thursday night jam they have there. He was woken up by the cops at 1am as well and told that he had to move along- difficult to do when you’ve been hosting a jam for free beer essentially. He had to go into the hotel lobby with the cops to confirm that he had been working there, and that they knew he was sleeping in the parking lot and were ok with it. He was informed by the cops that if they found him there again he would be ticketed and possibly towed for ‘drinking and driving’ Again, in spite of the fact that the hotel was ok with him being there

Taking this third-hand account at face value, a drunk musician parked overnight on private property.  Police used discretion, issued a warning, and did not investigate him for care and control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. Is this truly a good reason to allow anyone to live in cars on public streets?

This proposal reinforces the uncertainty that has been felt by residents and businesses for a long time. No one in Victoria knows what will happen to the streets, parks and schools in their neighbourhoods. It is completely unpredictable.  Not just on a five year timeline, or a one year timeline, but even on a month-to-month basis.

And this is why I always say to anyone who asks: “Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria.”