Most Occupy campers plan to leave

Couple gave up home to protest, now ready for movement’s next phase

Pom Pom the dog gives a yawn as his owners Céline and Gerry Daoust start their last day occupying Centennial Square on Wednesday. The B.C. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments for an injunction against Occupy Victoria tomorrow

After a contentious emergency vote Tuesday night, tensions are running high at the Occupy Victoria encampment.

One 40-something swears a blue streak at a group of younger men, breaking the quiet of the morning.

“I got pepper-sprayed last night,” says a 21-year old, adding he doesn’t know who did it. When he called out for help, other voices told him to shut up.

A handful of encampments delineate the factions at Centennial Square.

“That’s crack corner, and that’s prostitute corner,” points out Céline Daoust, a 43-year-old involved since Oct. 15. The homeless are welcome, she says, but she’s surprised there aren’t more people like herself camping.

The People’s Assembly of Victoria, the official name of the protesters behind the Occupy movement, have clustered in two spots, she explains.

Daoust and her husband of 21 years, Gerry, have been spending the nights in sleeping bags, exposed to the elements. The couple own a $1,000 tent, but it’s too valuable to leave outside, she explains. They also took a break, checking themselves into a hotel for a time.

At Tuesday’s emergency general assembly, they were among about 50 people who voted on whether to disband, move, or mount a legal battle against the City of Victoria’s petition to the court to remove the encampment.

The assembly voted to decamp, says Daoust.

But others have a different impression of the proceedings. The young men are planning to move their tents to better accommodate the city’s plans.

The vote “just dissolved into a contentious argument,” explains Anushka Nagji, a law student at the University of Victoria. Between her studies and three jobs, she’s been spending a few hours a day at the square, and acts as unofficial spokesperson. While there is no consensus, most people plan to leave, she says.

The countdown is on for Nagji.

On Tuesday morning, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the People’s Assembly 48 hours to mount their legal defence. Nagji and lawyer Rajinder Sahota are giving it their best shot, fully acknowledging their chance of success is minimal given the timeline.

“We just want to make the reply and have our day in court,” Nagji says. The hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning, after the News deadline.

Nagji and two others have volunteers to be named as respondents in the court case, and submit affidavits, which could open them up to liability.

“The city’s bullying David-and-Goliath tactics needs to be addressed,” Nagji says. The people’s assembly have few resources compared to the city, which draws on tax dollars to make its legal case, she adds.

Nagji boils down the Assembly’s defence as follows: While the city argues an injunction is needed to make way for city-planned events, the protesters have already made accommodations and will continue to make accommodations if given the chance.

Mayor Dean Fortin, however, says the protesters’ presence is more than an inconvenience to upcoming events, such as the skating rink, lighting of the trees, carolling comeptitions and others.

“What can be accomplished trying to work around people can be very difficult, I suspect, which is why we’re looking forward to a court injunction,” he explains. The injunction, he adds, isn’t about removing people, but just their structures, such as tents.

Although Céline and Gerry’s cold nights have likely come to an end, their protest has not.

While Gerry leaves to add $2 to the meter to keep his Jeep parked nearby, Céline explains the couple gave up their apartment to join the Occupy movement.

They are here representing the working middle class who struggle to get ahead.

“We’re resourceful,” says Gerry upon his return. In the evenings, they earn money by offering a designated-driver service.

We’re also lucky, he acknowledges.

Unlike some at the camp, they have savings to draw from, to afford comforts like the coffee-to-go cups they sip from to keep warm.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
A 1900s writing box found in Greater Victoria contained ink, photos and a letter addressed to Clara McCaubry dated October 14, 1898. (Photo courtesy Suzanne Hervieux)
Mysterious 1900s writing box finds a home among Saanich Archives

Wooden chest owned by early Saanich resident Clara Isabelle McCaubry

(Black Press Media file photo)
Spooky online class cooks up funds for Greater Victoria Imagination Library

United Way Greater Victoria offers how-to for witch cookies, tasty coffin as fundraiser

Murray Rankin has announced he will seek the nomination for the Oak Bay Gordon Head riding in the 2021 provincial election (which could happen in the fall of 2020). The former Minister of Parliament for the Victoria riding from 2012 to 2019.
(MurrayRankin.com)
New Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Murray Rankin says he will use his federal connections

Rankin said being part of NDP majority government gives him a strong voice

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read