Regional District of Nanaimo introduces restrictions on homeless camping in district parks

The Regional District of Nanaimo has updated its park bylaws following a Supreme Court of B.C. ruling saying individuals have the right to sleep and erect shelters in public spaces and parks. 

Ian Thorpe, chair of the Regional District of Nanaimo, said the district recognizes that people are allowed to camp in park space, but wanted to make clear which areas are off-limits.

"If the rules aren't made clear, then camping could have occurred anywhere without any repercussions," Thorpe said. 

Under the new bylaw, people can camp in certain parks from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. Campers must take down their tents and remove all their belongings when they leave in the morning.

The regional district covers Cedar in the south, the city of Nanaimo, up to Parksville, Qualicum, and as far north as Qualicum Bay and Bowser. It contains more than 220 parks, Thorpe says. 

He said 77 per cent of those parks will be restricted from camping. These include small community parks, playgrounds, maintained sports fields, or areas of particular environmental or ecological sensitivity. 

"We can't ban homeless camping in all of our parks even if we wished to, but we have to try and balance the rights of homeless individuals with the interests of the public and the protection of our parkland," he added.

He says the bylaws will be enforced by bylaw enforcement officers and if they require, they can call RCMP as backup.