Sleeping in your vehicle should not be outlawed in the District of Squamish!

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Squamish is home to a diverse array of people, including a population who live in vehicles due to socio-economic factors, rising rent, increased costs of living, and/or environmental reasons. Unfortunately, due to the increase in both visitors and residents, there have been negative impacts on wild spaces by irresponsible campers. In addition, some home residents are uncomfortable with vehicle-dwellers. In response, the District of Squamish (DoS) considers sleeping in a vehicle or tent in undesignated areas as both an environmental and social hazard. The DoS is working to pass By-law NO. 2679 which will make it illegal for people to sleep in a tent or vehicle overnight on any public or crown land within the entire DoS - an area encompassing 104.9 km2. While we acknowledge that there is a big problem with irresponsible wild campers, this by-law will have unintended negative consequences in its current form.  

We fear that if the law is not worded to directly target problematic behaviour, the discretionary enforcement principles presently being discussed by DoS officials may be rescinded by future administrations that wish to completely rid the region of all vehicle dwellers. Therefore,

  • We request that the by-law text directly target problematic behaviour such as garbage and human waste, rather than a blanket ban on sleeping in a vehicle. For example, Vancouver’s By-law NO. 12062 targets inappropriate behaviour, like public defecation.
     
  • We also request that the DoS implement a long term solution for Squamish resident vehicle dwellers such as a permit based system that encompasses several locations for vehicle-dwellers to stay safely at night under certain conditions ie: Leave No Trace training and potentially a small fee representing the size of the property to cover public facilities. We can look to Canmore for a good example of trying a solution that does not include hiding certain people from town residents.

We believe there is a better way to deal with irresponsible campers while supporting a subset of the Squamish population. Being poor or having the capability to equip a vehicle for living should not be unlawful. Similar by-laws have been overturned for violating the constitutional provision, Section 7 that protects an individual's right to life, liberty and security of the person. This by-law is the opposite of what “Hardwired for Adventure” stands for.


Related Links:

Vehicle Residents of Squamish

Read By-Law here

View the by-law video discussion meeting here: (scroll down to April 9th)

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Please sign and share this petition against Bylaw, NO. 2679…!

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WHY DO I CARE?

My family work, go to school, rent storage, have gym passes, pay taxes, volunteer, are community involved, etc in Squamish. We also live in a self-contained van, as do many residents. Van-dwelling is on par with my choice to lead a more economical, ecological, sustainable and minimalist lifestyle. It uses far fewer resources than typical houses and is within my economic means. In my case, less is more. Living with the freedom to move is essential to the quality of my life. Regardless, I could NOT afford rental prices in Squamish nor a campground full time. Van-dwelling under a ‘Right to Roam’, is within my economic means.

My lifestyle of van-dwelling encourages a strong connection to place. It exposes me to different experiences unlike that of staying in a hotel or campground. Yet when my daughter and I are peacefully sleeping and abruptly woken and told to relocate, I feel most unwelcome in the town I call home. My lifestyle is an ecologically responsible lifestyle choice. To be unjustly punished due to irresponsible wild-campers and residents who hold prejudice with alternative lifestyles is wrong.

As an environmental steward and passionate “Leave No Trace” advocate, for the DoS to label van-dwelling as an ‘ecological and social hazard’ is incomprehensible! My water and electrical use (propane converted) compared to a BC residence: 10 litres versus 312 litres/day and 64 kWh versus 900 kWh/month! Living with such a small environmental footprint can teach others what is possible! With climate change threatening our very existence, we all have to take less. Living a lifestyle that has minimum impact is a human choice and basic right!

This DoS complains that campers are too concentrated near neighbourhoods, yet over the years, the DoS has closed many ‘go-to’ crown land “dispersed” sites. As development prospecting and gentrification have taken place, our options have diminished. The DoS wants campers to be more dispersed, yet the loss of previously acceptable locations have contributed to the problem, as has the increase in visitors due to marketing campaigns aimed to attract tourism.

There is one exempt area from the by-law which is inadequate. It requires 4x4 which many people do not have, and is so far from town, it would quadruple my daily driving alone. It also lacks appropriate waste management which merely moves ‘the problem’ further from town, making it more difficult to manage.

Both homelessness and houselessness can be a direct result of low-wage jobs, discrimination, disability, gentrification, lack of resources, economic means, and/or choosing minimalism.

There is a chance here to support education, those financially challenged, alternative lifestyles, and address the issues caused by irresponsible campers. Implementing some of these solutions is a far more welcoming and forward way of thinking. This by-law simply removes civil liberties without teaching anything. By saying no to this by-law and seeking alternatives like educating, we work to make this world a better and more inclusive place.

More potential solutions include:

  • amend the by-law so that the focus is on behaviour rather than lifestyle circumstance. 
  • increase the amount of designated overnight parking areas for the homeless, vehicle dwellers, and RV’s
  • invest in composting toilets in hotspots, and public places rather than relocate the issue
  • implement a permit based system or Local’s Pass with daily, weekly, yearly passes upon Leave No Trace training (free online, and DoS could become a partner organization). A small fee to reflect the size of the property to help cover the use of public facilities could be implemented
  • establish a robust system of reporting dumping as a community to appropriately penalize offenders
  • enforcement and harsher fines for those that dump waste, garbage, and inflict any negative environmental impact OUTSIDE the vehicle.
  • Leave No Trace signage for education
  • implement a “Right to Roam” law as found in much of Europe, - in some places the “Right to Roam” is considered essential and basic, and in others they’re protected by law
  • leave No Trace certification, which allows people to camp, and rewards positive practices

Read my Letter to the Editor here.

Leave no Trace Training FREE here.