City Asks Court to Clarify Question of Sheltering in Beacon Hill Park

The City of Victoria today filed a petition in the Supreme Court of B.C. asking the court to clarify whether Beacon Hill Park can be used by people without homes for temporary sheltering. This has become an item of high public interest because of an increase in homelessness and sheltering during the pandemic.

The City is posing this question to the court to seek direction on how it should manage and operate the park under the provisions of the Trustee Act. Beacon Hill Park is held in trust by the City under an 1882 Crown grant by the Province.

“Chronic homelessness, a global health pandemic that has closed shelters, mental health and addiction supports stretched beyond capacity – these are modern realities that did not exist in 1882 when the trust was created and we need clarity on how this trust affects people’s rights today,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.

It is important to note that this application under the Trustee Act is not an action against people experiencing homelessness currently sheltering in the park. The City’s Parks Regulation Bylaw was amended in 2009 to allow for some sheltering in City parks after the Court of Appeal ruled that people experiencing homelessness have a constitutionally protected right to erect overnight shelters in public parks when there is inadequate in-door shelter space.

The City seeks the opinion, advice or directions from the court on the following question concerning the management or administration of the trust: “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?”

Neither the 1882 Crown grant nor the Public Parks Act, 1876, under which the park was granted to the City, expressly identify all the uses to which Beacon Hill Park may be put by the public – the only limitation is that it be maintained and preserved by the City as a public park or pleasure ground.

“As we work closely with the Province and our partners to end homelessness in our city, it is important for the City, as trustee, to have a definitive answer to this question once and for all,” said Helps.

By proceeding with a petition under the Trustee Act, people and organizations with a legitimate interest in this question will be given an opportunity to participate in the proceedings. 

BackgrounderCity of Victoria - Petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia Re: Beacon Hill Trust, March 2, 2021