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City has ‘limited jurisdiction’ to clean up First Avenue encampment

Provincial government action is needed to address the situation, a statement issued by the city says.
The encampment at Milllennium Park, located at the corner of First Avenue and George Street, is seen on Wednesday.

The City of Prince George is aware of the safety and security concerns posed by an encampment in Millennium Park, but has little power to do anything about it, according to a statement released by the city on Wednesday.

The park, located at the corner of First Avenue and George Street next to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George office, has been the site of an ongoing encampment since 2022.

“The City is aware of concerns relating to the present use and condition of Millennium Park, located at First Avenue and George Street,” a statement released by the city on Wednesday said. “The current state of Millennium Park is one result of a complex web of challenges facing the City and its residents, including a shortfall not only in housing and shelter space, but also in health and safety supports for the City’s unhoused population.  The City is aware of the safety and security concerns expressed by residents and business owners relating to the downtown core and other areas of the city.”

The legal fallout of the city’s attempt to clean up the Lower Patricia encampment, called Moccasin Flats by residents, on Nov. 17, 2021 illustrated the limited power municipalities have to address those concerns.

“In 2021 and 2022, the City initiated litigation in an attempt to address concerns pertaining to the encampment in the Lower Patricia area, including concerns relating to public safety and security in City parks and surrounding residential and business areas,” the city statement said. “This approach was not successful, however it did serve to confirm the limited jurisdiction the City has in matters pertaining to the unhoused population. It is clear that these issues can only be meaningfully addressed only with the cooperation and support of Provincial authorities.”

City outreach coordinators continue to collaborate with representatives from other agencies and levels of government to help residents of the Millennium Park encampment access services and supports, the statement said.

On July 11, 2022 city council rejected a city administration proposal to designate one or more areas in the city where overnight camping would be allowed.

The City of Prince George is continuing to engage with the provincial government on potential solutions, the statement said, and will update the public when there are further developments. In the meantime, the city is providing garbage bins for residents of the camp to use.

“The City has, on two occasions, facilitated a large bin being delivered to the site. On these occasions the encampment residents were able to get rid of anything they no longer wanted or was considered by them to be garbage,” the city statement said. “The Regional District has also provided a bin on one occasion.”