RCMP to keep an eye on Nanaimo tent-city rally on Sunday

RCMP will be on hand Sunday in Nanaimo to watch over an early afternoon rally announced by a Facebook page called Action Against DisconTent City which is working with the Soldiers of Odin.

“We are aware and will be monitoring the event,” RCMP Cpl. Tammy Douglas said Wednesday.

A couple of extra officers will be on duty, she said.

 

 

Meanwhile, supporters of DisconTent City, a tent city on city-owned industrial land at 1 Port Dr., are planning their own counter rally.

 

It is unknown how many people are behind the anti-tent-city Facebook page or how many people are involved. It has 152 followers.

Times Colonist questions via Facebook to the Action Against DisconTent City page were referred Wednesday to the Soldiers of Odin.

The Action Against DisconTent City page announced the march this week.

A Facebook message to the Times Colonist from a writer, who identified as the president of the Soldiers of Odin’s Vancouver Island chapter, said the march starts at approximately 1:30 p.m. at Bowen Park, goes to city hall and then to DisconTent City.

“The Soldiers of Odin will be conducting a safety walk and providing escort for a group of concerned citizens,” the message said. “This action is to be peaceful and meant to draw attention to the inaction of local and provincial governments in dealing with DisconTent City.”

The group will be there to ensure “the protesters can safely exercise their right to free speech,” the Soldiers of Odin message said. “SOO is sympathetic to the plight of the homeless and working poor in our community. We hope the government steps in to provide safe housing and services to these people and closes DisconTent City in the near future.”

The writer would not reveal a name, stating, “due to security protocols we do not give our name to the media.”

Nanaimo does not require a permit for such an event, Mayor Bill McKay said.

The tent city was established in mid-May. Nanaimo is among several communities where tent cities have been founded at a time when rental housing is hard to find and the province is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis.

Many tent city residents, whether in Nanaimo or elsewhere, say they have nowhere else to go and few resources.

McKay said there are about 95 campers in Nanaimo but Mercedes Courtoreille, a tent city spokeswoman, said the number is closer to 175.

Two overdose deaths, two fires, and a stabbing have been linked to the site.

The City of Nanaimo has asked the Supreme Court of B.C. to impose an injunction permitting the municipality to take down the camp. It is also going to court this month seeking permission to enforce a court order that campers must comply with fire safety rules.

“The health and safety of people living in the camp is our primary concern,” a B.C. Housing spokeswoman said. “We recognize the urgency of this issue, and we are actively working alongside the City of Nanaimo to address the matter by providing supports that take into consideration the health and safety of campers while making sure we adhere to any fire orders.”

B.C. Housing is working with Island Health, RCMP and the Nanaimo Fire Department, she said.

It has brought in outreach workers from its housing action response team to assess the needs of campers and suggest housing or shelter options, she said.

Island Health outreach workers go to the tent city daily with harm-reduction supplies, she said.

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