Homeless campers arrested at Woodwynn Farms

Homeless campers arrested at Woodwynn Farms
Homeless campers arrested at Woodwynn Farms in Central Saanich
Central Saanich arrested 10 homeless campers and removed them from Woodwynn Farms late Saturday afternoon, after the group spent Friday night at the provincially owned property.

The tenters were charged with mischief and are scheduled to appear in provincial court on Jan. 9, group organizer Chrissy Brett said.

Central Saanich police confiscated camping equipment. Campers said they were told that it could be picked up at the municipal public works yard later Saturday or today.

Most of the campers were gathered in the police parking lot in the early evening Saturday, not knowing what to do next. Brett suggested that they spend the night at that location. Where are we supposed to go? she said.

The arrests at the 78-hectare farm marked the latest chapter for the group, which appears to have dwindled in numbers since the original 115 campers set up at Regina Park for five months, starting in April. By mid-September, the group was down to about 20 people.

Central Saanich police said that shortly after 10 p.m. on Friday, a group removed gates at 779 West Saanich Rd. and drove vehicles onto the farm.

Police met with the organizer and group members and talked to B.C. Housing officials, who told police to remove the campers, a Central Saanich Police statement said. Campers refused to leave the property voluntarily and barricaded the entrance, police said.

At 3 p.m., Central Saanich police, the Greater Victoria Crowd Management Unit and RCMP officers arrived to arrest the campers. They were taken to the Central Saanich station.

The homeless campers have shifted from place to place since being forced out of the Regina Park tent city in September. A smaller group headed to Rudd Park and Ravine Way in Saanich, then shifted to Goldstream Provincial Park for two weeks after being told to leave the highway location. After Goldstream, they moved to private property on West Saanich Road at the invitation of a tenant, but were asked to leave by the landlord. They then moved to provincial land near Saanichs municipal hall.

Last week, they set up tents on a gravel parking area at Oak Bays Cattle Point, where police ordered them to leave. Brett announced the campers were going to Songhees Point Park, but after spending time there on Friday, they headed to Woodwynn Farms.

One day after homeless campers occupied an area at Woodwynn Farms in Central Saanich, some have been arrested by police.

Officers say they spoke to campers Saturday morning and gave the group an opportunity to leave the property voluntarily, Central Saanich police then say the campers decided to barricade the entrance to the property.

At 3 p.m. officers from the Central Saanich Police Department, along with the Greater Victoria Crowd Managment Unit and the RCMP arrested 10 individuals for criminal offenses of mischief.

Police say the group drove vehicles onto the property and began establishing an encampment on Friday just after 10 p.m. on 779 West Saanich Road. It is owned and managed by the Provincial Rental Housing Corporation.

Central Saanich police say they met with the organizer and several members of the group who identified themselves as the Namegans Nation or Camp Namegans. Police also spoke with representatives from BC Housing who instructed them to remove the individuals.

Before campers arrived at the property, they briefly stopped at Songhees Park in Vic West. They had been removed from Cattle Point in Oak Bay.