December 5, 2008: From David Arthur Johnston’s Journal of the Occupation of St. Ann’s Academy
The ‘order’ is something all parties involved in the Charter case must sign to finalize the case. The city says its going to ask the judge to amend the ruling to add the words ‘at night’. They are going to be told to shape up or face the consequences, I presume. Their continued adamance that they have the right to tell people they can’t sleep during the day will be dealt with by the same Supreme Court judge that gave the ruling. Of course, if the judge is compromised or the city finds new ways to delay I will still put them in a position that they must kill me or do the right thing.
The right thing in this case is to accept that the city must provide space for tenting if it wants to regulate it elsewhere. To create new zoning regulations that allow for people with means and opportunity to apply to have tents on their ‘properties’, or even make use out of motorhomes and trailers (and the such). The cities obligation (to not impede) can be quite lessoned with private participation… make no mistake, the city must fundamentally always present the option.
A year ago, I asked him for his prediction, should he win the Charter challenge. After a sigh, he said, “A lot of really beautiful stuff and a lot of huge stuff. Stuff like no Canadian has seen before. Essentially, the anti-camping bylaw will be struck in this town and also the chattel bylaw, and then that would set precedent in every municipality in Canada meaning that anyone who would want to assert themselves in any municipality would have that option — to do it without much obstruction. Essentially it would mean the police to some degree would have to learn some measure of innocence presumption. They would have to be able to determine if someone is actually being peaceful in their attempt to sleep under a tree and, if they are, then they have to leave them alone.”
With his second victory, that is at least temporarily true. As of this writing, Victoria’s police have acknowledged that anyone may sleep, sheltered, in any public space at any time. However, Victoria City Council has already passed an amended bylaw that, put through the appropriate legal hoops, Judge McKenzie has suggested will pass constitutional muster. Johnston is once again preparing to challenge it.
The stress sometimes appears to take its toll. “I’m being made crazy,” he writes in a recent post on his Journal of the Occupation of St. Ann’s Academy, which long ago became a chronicle of his entire five year struggle, “and the looming possibility of never seeing freedom, never seeing a just end to this sleeping court stuff, never seeing the city held accountable hurts real bad.”
He has help now, though, in the person of Kristen, and the momentum of two wins. And perhaps most of all, the talent he has cultivated since the night in Beacon Hill Park when he launched his Right to Sleep campaign. “Patience,” he told me in 2007, his blue eyes lighting. “It’s the key.” In fact, it may not even matter what the next court decision is. To the extent that he’s lived the last eight years precisely on his own terms, and put his belief in the dignity of every human being into convincing action, David Arthur Johnston has already secured a rare sort of victory.