A passer-by looks at what's left after the evacuation of a 10-month tent camp in downtown Victoria.

A passer-by looks at what's left after the evacuation of a 10-month tent camp in downtown Victoria.

BC VIEWS: The roots of our ‘homeless’ crisis

It's an epidemic of 'mental health and addictions,' says housing minister Rich Coleman, not just bad behaviour in a welfare state

Victoria’s infamous “tent city” has been evacuated, as others have before it around B.C., with more than the usual ongoing public pain and expense.

The showers, toilets and privacy fencing have been hauled away after serving through spring and summer of the 10-month occupation of Crown land beside the downtown courthouse. Mayor Lisa Helps said she wasn’t around there much, but her main regret was that these services hadn’t been provided sooner, although feces and needles continued to litter the area after they were installed.

As the campers’ daily quarrels subsided, a couple of parting gifts were left for the neighbourhood. A pulse of rats spread out from large nests that had formed under the stolen or donated lumber that had covered most of the filthy lot.

What used to be a pretty little park is now a bare wasteland, dead or dying ornamental trees and shrubs removed, topsoil scraped away and the remaining large trees monitored behind steel fencing to see if they will survive.

The self-styled housing activists who bused in protesters to the site returned to Metro Vancouver, setting up a similarly media-handy squat in the Downtown Eastside and occupying a condemned apartment block in Burnaby. As they offered the usual Marxist remedies via banners and bullhorns, a long-running street-side drug camp in North Surrey also came to the attention of the Vancouver media.

It is assumed by many that the flood of campers is locally grown, although most of the specific evidence I see is to the contrary: drifters from less welcoming parts of B.C. as well as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec that I have been able to identify.

They are assumed to suffer from “mental health and addictions,” as B.C. housing czar Rich Coleman habitually describes the condition. The province plans to provide residence and treatment for about 200 people at the former Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, although half of that project will replace existing adult and youth facilities in Burnaby.

Victoria, by my count, now has around 800 existing or planned “transitional housing” or shelter units. So many buzzwords are used it’s difficult to establish categories, but most of the hundreds of new rooms appear to be modern equivalents of the “single-room occupancy” slums of the Downtown Eastside – containment rather than treatment for this alleged epidemic of “mental health.”

My summer reading included an unusually frank discussion of this world-wide cultural problem, written by British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple. Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass was published in 2001 and chronicles his experience working in a hospital and prison that serve the rougher part of London. It stands up well today and seems to have anticipated the urban subculture we now see in Canada.

He quotes a still-popular Pink Floyd song to describe the culture that has replaced the discipline of family, religion and work among the lower classes. “We don’t need no education/We don’t need no thought control” is now read as a sort of gospel.

Street drugs are the preferred method of escaping the supposed thought control of orderly society. Getting a tattoo of one’s girlfriend’s name is a preliminary step to abandoning her and their shared child. The so-called sexual revolution led not only to a rise in neglected children, but also an escalation of abuse of poor women that he has to treat.

Dalrymple reserves a special scorn for the mass media obsession with injustice in the most just society ever created, and the notion that poverty causes crime.

I’ll discuss that in a future column.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

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

Just Posted

Victoria police are seeking home surveillance video and witnesses following a prowling incident in Esquimalt Jan. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prowler removes air conditioner, peers into person’s home

VicPD is seeking video footage, witnesses following Jan. 20 incident

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

A cyclist navigates the shoulder in traffic along Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria. (John Luton Photo)
Oak Bay council supports Fort Street bike lanes

Victoria bike lanes would connect to Cadboro Bay Road

The Victoria Fire Department extinguished a 15 foot tent fire in the 500-block of Ellice Street Jan. 19. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police investigating after 15-foot flames engulf tent

Flames damage nearby business in 500-block of Ellice Street

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Most Read