The provincial government and BC Housing has filed a response to the City of Penticton’s July civil lawsuit over the operation of the Winnipeg Street shelter.
The shelter, run in the former Victory Church building, was originally proposed as a temporary winter housing solution in October 2020, but the province has since extended the building’s use as a shelter months past the date it was meant to close. The city wants the shelter that houses over 40 people closed immediately.
The response, along with four affidavits, were filed in Vancouver Supreme Court on Sept. 14.
In the response, BC Housing refuses to consent to any of the city’s requests. The main request was to recognize that Penticton’s zoning bylaw actively applies to the property which would require it to cease operating as a shelter, as well as two other requests for the government to pay costs to the city and any other relief and requests as directed by the courts.
As part of the filed response, BC Housing rejected those requests and further stated its intent to operate the shelter until March 2022.
BC Housing argues that per section 14 (2) of the Interpretation Act the government and its agents and organizations such as BC Housing is “not bound by or affected in the use land by an ‘enactment’, a defined term that includes the bylaws of local governments.”
That section lays out the principle of paramountcy, under which the government has overridden Penticton city council’s attempts to close the shelter, and which the city argues is being used by BC Housing to assert more power than the act intended.
In the government’s arguments for its powers, the response states that municipal governments have no authority to bind the provincial government or its agents.
One of the arguments that the city made was that the Interpretations Act can’t be invoked for Winnipeg Street, as it is not owned by the government or operated directly by them, while BC Housing’s response argues that the Act applies regardless of who owns the property. The shelter is currently being operated by the Pentiction and District Society for Community Living, on behalf of BC Housing.
BC Housing stated that the continued operation of the shelter, as it provides food, shelter and protection from the pandemic is “vital to the public interest.”
The risk of encampments or tent cities arising should the shelter be closed was also laid out in the response and referred to the affidavit of Dale McMann, the vice-president of operations for BC Housing.
Neither the claims by the City of Penticton or the arguments by BC Housing has been proven in court.
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