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Judicial review sought of fire order to remove tents off Vancouver street

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A tent is seen on the sidewalk on East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Thursday, July 28, 2022. A legal group in Vancouver says an order to remove tents on the Downtown Eastside is being challenged in B.C. Supreme Court. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER — Two women who were sheltering in tents on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have launched a court challenge of an order to dismantle the street encampment. 

A petition for judicial review filed to the B.C. Supreme Court argues the city's fire chief made the order without procedural fairness to those living on Hastings Street.

The city's fire chief issued the order July 25, saying the tents posed an extreme fire and safety risk.

The petition, filed last week by law firm Arvay Finlay on behalf of the women, argues the fire chief did not properly weigh the consequences or consider alternatives. 

It says the Charter recognizes the right to shelter in public spaces and argues the process leading up to the order was unfair because residents had no notice of it, nor opportunity to address concerns with the fire chief. 

No one from Vancouver Fire Rescue Services could immediately be reached for comment. The City of Vancouver, also named as a defendant for having jurisdiction over the fire department, declined to comment as the matter is before the courts. 

"Residents of Hastings tent city and their supporters remain hopeful that the court will recognize that fire safety cannot be considered in isolation from the harms and safety risks that people face while sheltering outside," Pivot Legal Society says in a news release announcing the petition. 

"Mass displacement, whether through street sweeps or enforcement of fire orders, is not a reasonable response that respects the rights of unhoused people."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2022.

The Canadian Press