“The NDP needs to call off their bigots”
Namegans homeless find temporary reprieve in Provincial campground but face immediate danger from an excited anti-homeless mob
On Thursday September 20th the NDP-Green government of British Columbia agreed to a temporary halt to its 3-day long intensive police harassment campaign of the 30-50 homeless people who had been residents of Camp Namegans tent city in Saanich. Since displaced from their tent city by court order last Friday, the Namegans homeless were chased from site to site by police operating under the authority of BC NDP Ministers of Housing, Parks, and Highways. Finally finding temporary sanctuary in the Goldstream campground, where the NDP Province has agreed to allow them to remain like any other member of the public, the Namegans homeless are facing a new, immediate danger: the rage and vigilante attacks of the anti-homeless mob that government and police attacks have whipped up into action.
Camp Namegans founder and leader Chrissy Brett (Nuxalk) says that the Province of BC and the police are responsible for this increased and activated anti-homeless hatred. “The Province and the police are treating Indigenous people who are homeless like we are dangers to the public, not like we are part of the community. The people who are coming out and yelling at us are repeating what the Langford Mayor Stew Young and Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell say, and acting like the Saanich police act. Mayor Young has made his political career with tough on crime language, but when he has focused on bikers, it has only gone as far as language. When homeless people are displaced into his town, Mayor Young’s empty threats are quickly filled with police violence.”
Brett called on the Province and the police chief to speak out publicly against anti-homeless hatred. “Premier Horgan and the police chiefs in all of these towns need to speak out against this hatred and declare that acts of violence against homeless people will be prosecuted as hate crimes. I’m scared about what will happen if the vigilantes are allowed to attack us.”
After the Province’s announcement that the Namegans homeless would be allowed to stay in Goldstream campground, the police closed the entire campground so that only homeless people are inside. On Thursday afternoon Namegans organizer Ashley Mollison said, “Supporters are trying to come in to help set up the campsite but police are not allowing supporters to come into the campground; they are isolating homeless people, making them more vulnerable to the danger of vigilante violence.”
Since the moment the Namegans homeless arrived at the Goldstream campground, Langford Mayor Young has been stirring up anti-homeless hysteria on the radio and in the newspapers. He claimed that homeless people will hide needles and fentanyl in the trees and bushes of the park, making the space dangerous for children for the foreseeable future. He said, “The public is absolutely fed up. They know these are not just campers looking for a home. They’re in there stealing. They’re doing drugs. They leave needles everywhere,” said Young. “I can tell you, parents are already telling me their kids will never go in there again because you’ll never find all the needles, all the drugs and all the opioids.”
When she attempted to use the washroom in a store near the campground, Marilou Gagnon, a UVic nursing professor and camp supporter was interrogated about “being with the homeless people.” The store worker referred to homeless people as the “walking dead” and declared that they had a baseball bat to “take care of” people. According to Gagnon, “The level of hostility and viciousness by BC NDP against Namegans is incredible. It’s sending a clear message that you are not human, not legal persons, and not part of the public.” She said that the government has the responsibility to shelter its most vulnerable citizens, not throw them to the wolves and cheer on the carnage.
On Thursday, a Namegans camp resident Kristy Douglas, a member of the Cheam Nation, told a story of being harassed, threatened, and assaulted when she went to a store near the Goldstream campground:
We went into the beer store to see if they had cranberry juice. I needed cranberry juice because I have a kidney infection. My friend tried to buy me some smokes and the woman said I needed ID. I went outside so she could buy the smokes and five people were standing there waiting for me. One woman said, “You owe this person an apology because you told her to fuck off.” I said I never said anything like that.
She said, “You guys better watch your back because you’re not welcome in this neighbourhood. You better watch your back.” I told her she was disrespecting a Native woman and she said, “You’re disrespecting a white person.”
As I walked back to camp a tall white guy tripped me. He saw me walking towards him and he turned around and put his foot out. I tripped over his foot and stumbled. I have bad ankles and knees and it hurt to trip like that. He said, “I’m sorry that was an honest mistake.” He emphasized “honest” like it was sarcastic.
Another resident of the Namegans camp named Devon said that he is worried about attacks on the Goldstream camp because he has heard threats from those neighbours who came out to protest:
I tried to talk to the people who came out to protest us, to help them understand what we’re going through. I asked one guy what he would do if it was his sister who was dying of an OD, if he would want people around to save her. He said, “I’d just let her die.”
There were about 30 people all grouped up and gesturing towards us. It’s not a good feeling at all. The media is saying that the police held the anti-homeless people back but that wasn’t what I saw. I saw the police laughing and joking around with them.
They are treating us like we are a bunch of bad drug addicts who are going to shit all over the park and leave needles everywhere. A guy in a red shirt said he saw what we did to Regina Park but that wasn’t our mess. That was our stuff that the police forced us to abandon and then they destroyed it all with excavators and piled it up so it looked like a dump.
The Namegans homeless in Goldstream campground are calling for Premier Horgan and police chiefs to immediately speak out against anti-homeless hate and against vigilante violence. Supporter Ashley Mollison warned that she is worried that the residents of the camp are in immediate danger of suffering vigilante violence, “Premier Horgan and the police are responsible for the outpouring of hatred that homeless people are suffering. Anti-homeless bigots are abusers who attack when they think people are vulnerable, and the government and police attacks on the humanity and shelters of homeless people gives the message to potential vigilantes that homeless people are fair game for violence. We need the government to step up and push back against the hate they have helped create.”