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Battle between Penticton and B.C. over homeless shelter officially before the court

The city filed their official petition before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, July 6
Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)

The city of Penticton’s battle with the province over a homeless shelter located on Winnipeg Street is now officially before the courts.

On Wednesday, July 7 the petition was officially filed with the B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the provincial government over their use of paramountcy powers to overrule the city’s council bylaw and decisions regarding the shelter.

The shelter, run in the former Victory Church building, was originally proposed as a temporary winter housing solution in October 2020, but the province has since extended the building’s use as a shelter months past the date it was originally meant to close. The city wants the shelter that houses over 40 people closed immediately.

Penticton council has previously sparred with the Ministry of the Attorney General over the continued use of the shelter beyond its previously approved temporary permit. That permit was set to expire at the end of March, 2021.

READ MORE: Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

“This matter involves a community land use problem and council remains united on the position it’s taken with the province since first learning of Mr. Eby’s decision to ignore the will of our community as it relates to 352 Winnipeg Street,” said Penticton mayor John Vassilaki in a press release issued July 7.

“Council has listened and by way of polls, petitions and letters, thousands of residents have told us that 352 Winnipeg Street is no place for a shelter, and we agree. That is why council denied renewing the permit and why we continue to oppose the facility, at this location. We hope BC Housing will do the right thing and close the shelter, adhere to the city’s bylaws and avoid the necessity of going to court.”

The press release noted that the city has approved spending up to $300,000 on the legal challenge, citing approval from residents based on an April community poll.

That poll found 51 per cent of the public and 39 per cent of random people surveyed support legally challenging the province in the courts.

The public survey generated 3,472 responses. Meanwhile, the survey of a random sample of the database of 5,700 ‘Shape Your City’ active members generated 421 responses.

The Penticton Western News has reached out to Attorney General David Eby for comment.

READ MORE: Penticton city staff recommend legal action against B.C. over shelter

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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