In Saanich, campers ‘slowly’ pack up

Times Colonist - - The Capital And Vancouver Island - CINDY E. HARNETT ce­har­nett@times­

Home­less campers on a pri­vate ru­ral prop­erty in Saanich were ex­pected to leave overnight Fri­day.

About 15 campers were “slowly, slowly” pack­ing up their be­long­ings from a 1.4-acre prop­erty at 5090 West Saanich Rd., said land­lord Sam Seera, who owns the prop­erty with Gur­pal and Pavnit Au­jla.

The campers were try­ing to meet a self-im­posed dead­line agreed to last week by camp or­ga­nizer Chrissy Brett and Seera.

The campers, who were pre­vi­ously at Saanich’s Regina Park and Gold­stream Pro­vin­cial Park, de­scended on the pri­vate site on Oct. 2 at the in­vi­ta­tion of Saanich may­oral can­di­date David She­bib, whose son Andrew McLean rents a house on the prop­erty. How­ever, She­bib never asked McLean nor Seera if he could host the campers.

The next day, Seera served a one-month evic­tion no­tice to the home’s ten­ants as a way to force the campers out.

On Oct. 4, he or­ga­nized a peace­ful demon­stra­tion. That ended in Brett and Seera agree­ing that campers would vol­un­tar­ily leave on Oct. 12.

Seera said he turned up on the prop­erty on Fri­day morn­ing and didn’t see any sign of move­ment, but by the af­ter­noon, he said he was con­fi­dent the deal be­tween the campers and land­lord would be hon­oured.

“I think there’s a great chance they’ll leave in the mid­dle of the night,” said Seera.

The se­crecy was in­ten­tional: Once po­lice know the campers’ next in­tended lo­ca­tion, it can be shut down be­fore they can set up camp, Brett said.

Seera said he paid $600 to pro­vide the campers with a portable toi­let with a sink, bought $400 worth of food, and gave Brett $250 on Thurs­day to pay for two U-Haul trucks to move out the camp­ing gear.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, one U-Haul was be­ing filled and the site was slowly be­ing dis­as­sem­bled. A garbage truck was also on site ready to haul de­bris from the camp.

One cam­per help­ing to pack up was not con­vinced the move could be com­pleted be­fore early morn­ing.

“As long as they keep mov­ing,” said Seera.

What will hap­pen to Seera’s ten­ants is un­clear. Seera sug­gested McLean is mov­ing to Salt Spring and that all of the ten­ants have to go.

How­ever, McLean in­di­cated on Fri­day he doesn’t know what he is go­ing to do next.

Seera said McLean and his fel­low ten­ants were caught in the mid­dle of a plan de­vised by She­bib alone as an elec­tion stunt.

She­bib, a re­tired junk seller, ran in all 13 re­gional may­oral races in 2014 and two in 2011. He left for Bella Coola for a few days shortly af­ter the campers ar­rived and was gone again on Fri­day, said Seera.

Seera said he’s hav­ing to jug­gle ten­ants up­set they have been evicted and neigh­bours up­set about the en­camp­ment.

Brett said campers aren’t in­ter­ested in tem­po­rary shel­ter beds, be­ing of­fered by the province, that would di­vide the camp’s two cou­ples and leave campers on the street be­tween 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. when shel­ters are closed.

She said a hand­ful of more se­cure hous­ing spa­ces were of­fered by the province in re­cent weeks as the two sides ne­go­ti­ated, but those spa­ces have now been taken off the ta­ble by the province.

This week, mu­nic­i­pal land that Saanich of­fered to the province for up to 60 mod­u­lar homes was re­jected due to the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the prop­erty and the cost to up­grade it.

Tents and be­long­ings are moved from the en­camp­ment at a pri­vate ru­ral site on West Saanich Road.

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