The Week — July 26: Camp Compassion finds none

Central Saanich camp faces bylaw debate, waste selection time and Ontario prisoner Kelly Rose Pflug-Back receives sentence

Camp Compassion finds none

Homeless camps are no more welcome in designated Central Saanich farms than they are in downtown Victoria, apparently, as residents and council leaped on the NIMBY tractor this week, and declared bylaw war against a camp at Woodwynn Farm.

Camp Compassion sprouted up July 7 on the 78-hectare property at the corner of West Saanich and Mount Newton Cross, when a group called the Creating Homefulness Society wanted to develop a “therapeutic farm community” at the farm for up to 96 former street people. However, Central Saanich acting mayor Cathie Ounsted told media on Monday, July 23, the municipality will be ramping up bylaw enforcement in response to complaints from residents. Council received over 30 letters on the topic, though almost half of those were from Keating Elementary students asking that council allow housing for homeless people at the farm.

“This is definitely a geographical question. There are always going to be reasons why a camp can’t work, especially downtown,” says Victoria coun. Lisa Helps. “But the situation in Central Saanich is entirely different — this is a place that is being purpose-built … if I was on Central Saanich council, I would say what a wonderful thing someone is trying to do.”

Bylaws currently permit only four permanent residents to live on the site, but, despite the fact that Central Saanich Police Cpl. Pat Bryant said police have not had to attend the farm for any reason (and occasionally even refer homeless people to Woodwynn), the farm’s previous application to rezone one-hectare of the property to allow housing on the site was turned down by the Agricultural Land Commission. Camp Compassion arose in response.

“They would need a temporary land-use permit for camping, and they have not applied,” Ounsted told media. “We are hoping for voluntary compliance.”

Farm owner and Creating Homefulness head Richard Leblanc told media that, despite the enforcement threat, “We will just keep doing what we are doing.”

“Bylaws can get in the way, but if you are homeless and want a better life for yourself than living on Douglas Street, there is a bus that can take you away from all that, to people who welcome you. It’s incredible that we have a place that can offer that,” says Helps. “I don’t even see this as being about homelessness. It’s about building community, it’s about second chances … and, it’s about changing our perspectives.”

No time to waste

Scrapers, get out your chopping boards — it’s time to decide how much waste you create.

Starting now, Victorians have the opportunity to select the size of their new garbage bin in a use-more-pay-more model, to welcome the city’s new “Kitchen Scraps and Garbage” program. For all residential garbage customers who would like a bin other than the standard 120-litre size, the mailed-out “Grey Bin Selection Card” must be returned to City Hall by Aug. 17.

Starting next February, kitchen scraps and garbage will be collected from backyards every two weeks. The standard cost will be $183 per year (a $19 reduction from the current garbage-only program), but can go further up or down depending on your scraping/composing tendencies. Large families may be stuck with the larger 180-litre $204-a-year size, while avid recyclers may get away with a small 80-litre bin for $168 a year.

Best not to waste your choice. Heh.

The price of activism

Former Victoria activist and current Ontario prisoner Kelly Rose Pflug-Back has been sentenced to 15 months in prison with three years probation after pleading guilty to several charges in connection with Toronto’s G20 riots.

As part of a non-cooperative plea bargain, Pflug-Back accepted six charges of mischief over $5,000 — a feat for a single woman armed with a stick and a bandana — and one charge of wearing a mask with intent to commit a crime. Her sentence will be reduced by four months to compensate for time already served during the nearly year-long controversy surrounding prosecution for G20 protesters.

While she maintains her charges are over-exaggerated, Pflug-Back explained to media that her plea bargain was accepted in order to avoid additional charges of conspiracy, assaulting an officer with a weapon, obstruction of justice and intimidation of a justice system participant — charges for which the police have not produced any evidence.

Throughout her trial, Toronto police have accused the 21-year-old activist of being a leader of the ostensibly leaderless Black Bloc, and giving orders to other protesters during the riots. Responding to these claims, Pflug-Back stressed that, “I’m definitely not the leader of anything, nor do I want to be.” M

— Simon Nattrass

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