VANCOUVER - A disruptive housing activist who spoke at Vancouver City Hall Wednesday night, causing some city councillors to walk out of a meeting, may have delayed a vote on the Oppenheimer Park issue by more than two weeks.
After hearing from about a dozen people, activist Chrissy Brett was the last speaker scheduled, and continued to speak at the podium past her allotted time, despite repeated requests for her to stop.
"I have showed in three SROs and came out with cockroaches on my bag when I left two of those SROs," she said as some city councillors walked out of the meeting just before 11 p.m.
Brett continued to speak, leaving counsellors Michael Wiebe, Lisa Dominato, and Jean Swanson in chambers as city hall security was called in to diffuse the situation.
Brett is an activist who says she has been living at the tent encampment in Oppenheimer Park. She has been involved in previous homeless camps before, and was arrested last year at a homeless camp near Victoria.
"The province doesn’t have jurisdiction, the federal government doesn’t have jurisdiction and neither does the city," Brett yelled angrily at a security guard. "I'm not going anywhere, call the police."
As security spoke with Brett, the city declared they had lost quorum, and the meeting was cancelled. Police were not called.
A council meeting was cancelled last night due to “loss of quorum” after a speaker on the Oppenheimer Park issue continued talking after her allotted time, leading to some heated moments. Chrissy Brett is living at the park. Issue back here Oct 22. @CTVVancouver @CTVMorningLive pic.twitter.com/EUx0LDFK66— Sheila Scott (@Sheila_Scott) October 3, 2019
Councillor Lisa Dominato, who brought forward the motion with fellow councillor Michael Wiebe says she wasn’t upset by the outburst but is frustrated by the delay it has caused.
"There’s some urgency, its getting colder, we are getting into October," Dominato told CTV News Vancouver Thursday morning. "We heard really loudly, clearly, they need housing. They need safe, secure housing and so we really wanted to address this yesterday."
The motion has several elements to it, including:
"That Council request that the Mayor write a follow up letter to the Park Board, on behalf of Council, expressing Council’s collective hope that the current impasse at Oppenheimer Park, and the various health and safety issues evident in the park at the present time, can be resolved swiftly and respectfully for all concerned, with an expression of support and encouragement for the Park Board to take all reasonable steps within its jurisdictional powers and work collaboratively with the City to facilitate the decampment of those currently living in the park."
It also suggests the city look to the province for urgent funding that could help establish a low barrier shelter and that staff explore options for services including a community kitchen, laundry and 24-hour sanitation facilities with running water.
Vancouver Park Board commissioner John Irwin spoke at the meeting and said decampment should be "as voluntary as possible."
He went on to say if there was a place for campers to go, such as in 2014 when campers were given rooms in a hotel that was closing, the park board would be supportive of decampment. But not until then.
Others at the meeting said Oppenheimer is only one part of a larger housing crisis in the city.
"You can’t resolve Oppenheimer issue because the tent city is not the problem," said Rohana Rezel, a Vancouver resident. "It is merely a symptom of a city that has lost its moral compass."
But Dominato said Thursday many people who live nearby have been expressing safety concerns.
"What we’d like to see is to see those individuals connected to housing services and that is a driver behind this, and also restoring the park to broader public use," she said.
Fire and police have called repeatedly for an injunction that would allow the park to be cleared, citing health and safety concerns, but last week the park board voted against an injunction.
The Park Board had issued notices to people living in the park in August that they would need to remove their tents. While some people were moved in to housing, many have stayed, and the park remains full of tents more than a month later.
Dominato says she is concerned about another delay.
"Let’s move to some action, let's lean in, that's our role. I think the public expects that from us," Dominato said. "That was the motivation behind that was to get to some concrete action that's collaborative."
It’s expected the Oppenheimer motion will return to city council on October 22.