Which one of these guys runs B.C.’s supportive housing policy? Squat organizer Ivan Drury demands housing from NDP leader John Horgan after crashing his campaign event in Maple Ridge, May 2017. The B.C. government is leaving thousands of people on its waiting list while it rushes to satisfy squatter demands. (Michael Hall/Maple Ridge News)

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The latest “tent city” atrocity in Nanaimo should have signalled the end of soft, uninformed support by politicians and media for the professional organizers of urban B.C.’s neighbourhood-invading squatter camps.

In case you missed it, self-styled anarchist-communist-whatever “housing activists” broke into an elementary school and trashed it. This went beyond the usual squatter filth and scattering of government-supplied needles amid the garbage. The destruction was systematic, smashing doors and windows and tossing desks around to make some kind of deluded political statement. The school district is facing a six-figure security and repair bill.

The invaders had time to do this because police didn’t know if they were armed, so they called in the emergency response team for an armoured entry. If this sounds like a response to low-grade terrorism, that’s because it was.

Nanaimo’s notorious tent camp and its associated crime is the latest project of an outfit calling itself Alliance Against Displacement. I started tracing its activities three years ago, when green space next to Victoria’s courthouse was taken over by squatters.

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In 2016, organizer Ivan Drury bused in “supporters” from the Lower Mainland to the Victoria camp, where among other incidents, a CTV camera operator was assaulted. Drury and company boast of establishing squats in Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, the notorious Whalley “strip” in Surrey and now Nanaimo.

Island organizer Chrissy Brett burst on the scene at the Victoria squat, going on to stage a series of tent camps around the baker’s dozen of municipalities that make up the Capital Regional District. It’s apparently quite easy to round up drifters who have been kicked out of the region’s many shelters, and gather them where they can vent their anger against the system that tries to help them.

Brett constantly plays the Indigenous “stolen land” card. She says she’s from Bella Coola, and as CFAX radio host Adam Stirling revealed in the only critical interview I’ve found with her, she asserts aboriginal rights without any effort to contact the Songhees, Esquimalt or other communities recognized as the actual holders of those rights.

Alliance Against Displacement’s mission statement claims B.C.’s housing crisis is caused by “colonialism and capitalism.” The website gives no hint of how it finances its buses, lawyers, and full-time organizers. It merely appeals for donations from those keen to help smash capitalism and disrupt private property rights.

A couple of weeks ago, an Alliance squad invaded B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson’s constituency office, yelling slogans until they were arrested. Apparently Robinson’s efforts to rush out temporary housing and catered meals for residents of their squatter camps aren’t sufficient.

I asked Premier John Horgan about this. He acknowledged that some of these squatters aren’t homeless, and said his priority is to deal with the many “hard to house” people in B.C.

I agree, helping people who demonstrate they can’t provide for themselves is an urgent problem. But that’s not what the B.C. government is doing. Instead, they’re rushing to these staged squats with resources, most recently with “workforce housing” to appease the mob in Nanaimo.

The housing ministry advises me that as of the end of September, there were 7,050 people on its supportive housing waiting list. Why would the squatters bother to sign up?

Municipal governments are key to this mess. Your only chance for four years to elect councillors who will stand up to the bullies is the Oct. 20 election. Candidates either get that or they don’t.

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


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