B.C. tent city campers break into empty elementary for ‘Schoolhouse Squat’

Homeless camp residents and supporters in Nanaimo announce they’ve ‘claimed’ school

A group of tent city residents and supporters have seized an empty school in Nanaimo.

A press release from Alliance Against Displacement on Friday evening advised that homeless people and supporters from tent city have moved into the recently closed Rutherford Elementary School to begin what they’re calling the ‘Schoolhouse Squat.’

“We have claimed this building as a safe spot for homeless people,” said Amber McGrath, Discontent City supporter, outside the school Friday evening. “For five months, Discontent City has been home for the homeless [to] camp. We were unhoused, but we made a home. The government and courts are trying to make us homeless again and we will not go along with it.”

The civil disobedience begins the same day that the provincial government announced plans to open temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness at two sites in Nanaimo at Terminal Avenue and Labieux Road.

McGrath said the announcement is awesome.

“And if people at Discontent City want that housing, then it’s up to them. They should be part of that discussion if they want that kind of housing. They weren’t [consulted] if they wanted that kind of housing. They were sort of given supportive housing; 24-hour supportinve housing doesn’t leave you any tenants’ rights.”

Nanaimo RCMP are on scene at Rutherford elementary.

“We’re assessing the damage to the school, we’re having some dialogue with the individuals to determine what their intentions are, and we’ll be in consultation with the school district because they are the holders of the land,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.

He said the situation is different than some other break-ins due to the number of people in the school, thought to be upwards of a dozen, and O’Brien said there’s an “officer safety component” to consider.

The press release notes that the the Schoolhouse Squat offers “a home for the hundreds of homeless people displaced by a brutal and unjust displacement order won by the City of Nanaimo from the Supreme Court of British Columbia.”

The Alliance Against Displacement is asking anyone to join the squat or start up others, saying the protest will serve as an appeal to the government for help.

“We’re basically encouraging everybody across the province and across the country, there’s empty schools everywhere,” McGrath said. “Take those schools. Homeless people shouldn’t be out in the cold.”

Sophie Wendling, another Discontent City supporter, joined the press conference via speakerphone from inside Rutherford school. She said those inside intend to stay as long as they can.

“We want to open up this space so that other people can come and be where it’s warm and dry in an unused space,” she said.

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools could not be reached for comment.

RELATED: Supreme Court grants injunction against Nanaimo’s Discontent City

Just Posted

Puff, puff, pass: Cannabis is officially legal across Canada

B.C. has only one bricks-and-mortar marijuana store

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

10 things still illegal in the new age of recreational cannabis

Pot is legal – but there are still a lot of rules, and breaking some could leave you in jail

Denesiuk announced as Liberal nominee for South Okanagan-West Kootenay

Connie Denesiuk ran for the first time in 2015, losing to current MP Cannings

VIDEO: How to roll a joint

The cannabis connoisseur shares his secrets to rolling the perfect joint

B.C. Lions look to cement CFL playoff spot with victory over Eskimos

B.C. can cement a post-season berth in the wild West Division on Friday night with a home win over the Edmonton Eskimos

Canada ban on asbestos takes effect but mining residues are exempt

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna plans to announce the new regulations implementing the ban on Thursday in Ottawa

Harry and Meghan bring rain to drought-stricken Outback town

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day two of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

Demand for legalized cannabis in early hours draws lineups, heavy web traffic

Government-run and privately operated sales portals went live at 12:01 a.m. local time across Canada, eliciting a wave of demand.

Killer-rapist Paul Bernardo set to make parole pitch today

Paul Bernardo, whose very name became synonymous with sadistic sexual perversion, is expected to plead for release on Wednesday.

Hero campaign raises $1.1 million for Canada non-profits

Lowe’s Canada Heroes campaign was held throughout September

Scope of Hurricane Michael’s fury becomes clearer in Florida Panhandle

Nearly 137,000 Florida customers remain without power from the Gulf of Mexico to the Georgia border

Streamlined pardon process for pot possession convictions in Canada

Feds say legalization is first step towards objectives of getting pot out of the hands of kids and eliminating black market

Most Read