North Cowichan has adopted a new Parks and Public Spaces Bylaw.
The bylaw aims to protect local parks and increase public safety by placing regulations around camping on these lands.
Mayor Jon Lefebure says the courts have said a local government cannot prohibit overnight shelter in parks for a homeless person, but this new bylaw introduces regulations around how camping may occur. He admits this is part of a much bigger issue that the municipality is working on.
Lefebure says the bylaw was modeled after those that exist in other communities like Victoria and Duncan. Should a tent city situation happen in North Cowichan, the bylaw is now in place to protect the parks.
The bylaw prohibits fires, damage to trees and plants, littering or leaving personal belongings in parks. There is an exception for homeless people to camp overnight from 7pm to 9am, but it cannot be in an environmentally sensitive area, 40 metres from a playground or sports field, or 10 metres from a sidewalk or private property. Lefebure says this bylaw is not against homeless people, but rather is a proactive step to protect these community spaces.
Lefebure is also urging the community to be a part of the solution. He encourages the public to have some compassion toward homeless people, and they deserve our support, not our fear.