Frequently Asked Questions

As part of a Visitor and Camping Management plan for 2021, the District has introduced a number of bylaw changes. The suite of bylaws:

  • Do not permit camping in District parks;
  • Do permit a homeless person to erect a temporary overnight shelter in specific places at set times in accordance with a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling;
  • Help us manage the large influx of tourism traffic each summer;
  • Do not criminalize anyone;
  • Provide more enforcement tools;
  • Are supported with additional facilities like portable toilets, garbage cans, and additional bylaw officers on evenings and weekends.

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About the bylaw changes

  • What is the goal of these bylaw changes?

    The goal of the bylaws is to provide regulatory tools to manage and enforce on unlawful seasonal visitor camping outside of lawful/permitted campgrounds and recreation sites.

    The bylaw changes also correct a prohibition against anyone being overnight in municipal parks, which was ruled unlawful by the Courts as it relates to the homeless. Further, the Camping Bylaw identifies and regulates where homeless people can erect temporary overnight shelters.

     

  • Why does Council believe the bylaw changes are necessary?

    The District has heard extensively from the community over recent years that greater bylaw enforcement attention is needed to manage the high volume of seasonal visitors who arrive during the spring, summer and fall. The bylaws provide the necessary enforcement tools to help manage the influx of seasonal visitors and mitigate against impacts within our neighbourhoods.

     

  • What hasn’t changed?

    The District has always had a prohibition on sleeping on roads, contained in the Traffic Bylaw, dating back to 2007.

    The District has never allowed camping in parks. This has not and will not change.

    The neighbourhoods closest to the Chief, Smoke Bluffs and the Estuary (Valleycliffe to Downtown) have always been impacted the most from the influx of visitors and seasonal camping. They are the hotspot areas that generate the greatest number of complaints from residents.

    Amendment: These neighbourhoods are no longer identified as part of a Blue Area. The 'Blue Area' has been deleted from the bylaw. The focus for visitor enforcement will remain, however, on the current and historical complaint areas of Downtown and Valleycliffe/Stawamus River area.

     

     

     

  • What do the Visitor Camping and Management Plan and associated bylaw changes aim to achieve?

    There are four main goals of this work:

    • Manage and mitigate against environmental and social impacts resulting from increased seasonal visitation activity during the summer in all neighbourhoods.
    • Support tourism in a way that moves campers to designated campgrounds and recreation sites, of which there are 728 sites within Squamish.
    • Consider the needs of the most vulnerable (i.e. homeless persons), including their right, established through the courts, to erect temporary overnight shelters.
    • Focus enforcement efforts on seasonal visitation, historical areas of concern, and places where people congregate inappropriately.

     

  • What are the various areas identified in the Camping Bylaw, and what is allowed within each?

    The Red Areas were introduced in 2019. They identify no-go zones where no-one is allowed to camp or shelter overnight with a temporary shelter. These include the Estuary and the Mamquam Forest Service Road, and now Smoke Bluffs Park.

    Amendments (May 18):

    • Smoke Bluffs Park has been added as a third location within the Red Areas. 
    • The Blue Area has been deleted from the bylaw and replaced with the following language in 3.1: “This bylaw applies to any Public Place within the territorial jurisdiction of the District”.

    Public Places within the territorial jurisdiction of the District of Squamish allow homeless persons the ability to erect temporary overnight shelter within the parameters outlined in sections 4.1 and 4.2 of the Camping bylaw. These exceptions and rules apply to all public land and include the following:

    • EXCEPTIONS (where one cannot erect a temporary shelter): A trail, a school, Municipal Hall, the Adventure Centre, a Parking Lot, Rose Park, Stan Clarke Park, Brennan Park, the area indicated in red in Schedule A of the bylaw; or within 20 metres of any permanent structure, building, skateboard park, playground, or playing field.
    • RULES: Must vacate by 9 a.m. with all belongings and not return to the same location the next night.

    View the Camping Bylaw Schedule A (map) denoting the Red Areas. 

     

     

  • Where can I view the Bylaws and the Schedule A map within the Camping Bylaw?

    Links to the amended bylaws and Schedule A of the Camping Bylaw are available here

Right to Shelter for homeless - provisions and regulation

  • Why are homeless people allowed to sleep on public lands within the District of Squamish?

    The District is bringing our bylaws into compliance with a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that upholds the right of homeless persons to erect temporary shelter overnight on public land. The bylaw provides language that outlines where that can take place, and under what conditions, in order to ensure that we have the tools to manage this in the best way possible. The Court ruling was also clear that sleeping over night is temporary, may not be in the same location night after night, the shelters and all belongings must be removed daily, and that local governments can identify exceptions to where the homeless can stay overnight.

    To be clear, the priority of the District is to continue to enable housing to be built for people across the affordability continuum, including supportive housing.

     

  • Do some neighbourhoods have different rules as it relates to where homeless people have the ability to erect temporary shelters?

    The bylaw applies to all neighbourhoods equally. Through an amendment on May 18, the bylaw states that it "applies to any Public Place within the territorial jurisdiction of the District." 

    PUBLIC PLACE means any land which is a Park, a Parking Lot, Crown Land, or otherwise owned or leased by the District but does not include Highway.

    Public Places provide homeless people with the ability to erect temporary overnight shelter. There are clear criteria defined as to the conditions s. 4.1(a) of the bylaw which define where a temporary shelter cannot be erected.

     

  • Where can a homeless person set up temporary overnight shelter in the District of Squamish?

    Any Public Place within the territorial jurisdiction of the District.

    Except (s. 4.1 of the bylaw): 

    • A trail, a school, Municipal Hall, the Adventure Centre, a Parking Lot, Rose Park, Stan Clarke Park, Brennan Park, the area indicated in red in Schedule A of this bylaw, or within 20 metres of any permanent structure, building, skateboard park, playground, or playing field.

    (PUBLIC PLACE means any land which is a Park, a Parking Lot, Crown Land, or otherwise owned or leased by the District but does not include Highway).

     

  • What measures are in place to ensure that a homeless encampment does not form within Squamish?

    The bylaw requires that a person’s belongings and temporary shelter must be moved by 9 a.m. each morning, and cannot be set up in the same place the next night - it must be 50 metres away from the original spot. 

    The bylaw states: Any Bylaw Services Officer and any employee, contractor or agent of the District may remove or cause to be removed any structure, shelter, tent, vehicle, trailer, possession, chattel or other item which is in a Public Place in contravention of this bylaw, and the Bylaw Services Officer or the employee, contractor or agent of the District may then immediately dispose of the item.  

     

  • How will the District ensure the public spaces are clean after homeless people have vacated these areas?

    District Bylaw Enforcement Officers have been working with the homeless in Squamish for many years. This bylaw doesn’t change the scenarios in which we already work to support the needs of those experiencing housing challenges and homelessness and mitigate impacts to our neighbourhoods (such as garbage and disturbances). Today, Squamish is in a much stronger position to support the homeless with the incredible new facility located in Downtown Squamish – Under One Roof. It’s important to note that those experiencing homelessness are generally located in the vicinity of Downtown Squamish because of access to the services they need. That is not expected to change.

     

  • What is the District doing regarding the homeless and housing?

    Work to address the availability of affordable housing in Squamish is a key priority of Council and the District of Squamish, and this is where efforts are being focussed to help residents who are under-housed.

    • 417 supportive or affordable residential rental units have been recently built (45), are under construction (308), or are at building permit stage (64).
    • Advocacy efforts with provincial funding partners continue to secure additional affordable housing units for Squamish residents.

    The District is very pleased to have been able to contribute municipal land to the incredible new Under One Roof facility that provides centralized health and housing support to homeless people in our community. Learn more about this facility, operated by Squamish Helping Hands here: underoneroofsquamish.ca 

     

Enforcement and additional supports

  • What is preventing visitors from setting up tents in a neighbourhood park and claiming they have a right to be there because they identify as homeless?

    Homeless people sheltering overnight is very different than visitors camping. Camping is not a permitted use in any neighbourhood park, as outlined in the Zoning Bylaw. Camping in our parks is currently not allowed and this is enforced. This remains the case and will be enforced. District Bylaw Enforcement Officers are trained and experienced in working with those experiencing homelessness to be able to clearly differentiate.

     

  • What other tools do Bylaw Enforcement Officers have at their disposal to ensure responsible community behaviour?

    The District utilizes a combination of bylaws to regulate behaviour across the community. No single bylaw addresses everything.

    The following suite of bylaws aim to work together to strengthen the District’s ability to manage and mitigate against impacts within our neighbourhoods:

    • Camping Bylaw (NEW version)
    • Traffic Bylaw (Amendments proposed)
    • Parks Bylaw (Amendments proposed)
    • Zoning Bylaw
    • Noise Regulation Bylaw

     

  • Will additional washrooms be available to support visitors and locals in popular recreation spots?

    Yes. The Visitor and Camping Management Plan includes budget to increase the number of portable washrooms that will be made available. An online map of washroom locations will be made available.

     

  • Will there be enough Bylaw enforcement oversight to stay on top of all the problem areas?

    Yes. Additional budget is being allocated to the Bylaw Enforcement Department to ensure they have sufficient resources, especially on weekends and evenings.

     

  • Is this bylaw criminalizing the segment of our community residents who sleep in vehicles?

    No. First, there is nothing criminal about being in contravention of a bylaw. If you walk your dog off-leash, even though it is in contravention of a bylaw, you are not considered a criminal by any interpretation. Second, the enforcement tools provided within the suite of bylaws are to manage and mitigate against the environmental and social impacts of visitors. This is the goal of the District, and this is foundational to how the enforcement tools will be applied.

    The tools that exist in the Traffic Bylaw which might impact anyone who sleeps in a vehicle on a municipal road have been in place and available to Bylaw Enforcement or the RCMP since 2007.

     

  • How will you communicate the bylaw changes to visitors? How will they continue to feel welcomed?

    We continue to be welcoming to all visitors who come to Squamish as we absolutely support and recognize that tourism is an important part of our local economy. Visitors in their vans who don’t have a place to stay will be provided with information and be requested to move their vehicles to one of the many campgrounds or recreation sites that Squamish offers. There are 728 campsites across the District, and there is availability at most times even at the height of the summer.

    Bylaw Enforcement Officers will take an education-first approach and always seek to achieve voluntary compliance before moving to other enforcement methods such as ticketing.

    The District will develop materials and signage, with guidance from Tourism Squamish, to support these efforts.

     

  • Will there be additional garbage cans installed at busy areas?

    The District will be working with partners to determine if additional garbage cans should be installed in some areas. Regardless, education messaging will focus on Leave no Trace principles in natural areas, encouraging people to pack out their garbage for proper diversion and disposal.

     

  • Are these changes being rushed?

    The District has been working on solutions dating back to 2019 with the first Camping Bylaw, which established the Red Area. This bylaw was developed this year to identify additional enforcement tools and areas of focus.

    The goal is to adopt the bylaws so that the District has tools for this summer, to strengthen our ability to manage and mitigate against environmental and social impacts from seasonal visitors within our neighbourhoods, particularly in the areas where the impacts have historically occurred.

     

  • What happens next?

    The bylaw changes are being proposed to support an overall Visitor and Camping Management approach to address the seasonal influx of visitors each summer. We are prepared to make adjustments along the way if needed, and will be evaluating along the way. Our work is focussed on visitor management first and foremost, as we know this is an important topic for all of Squamish. We expect there will be a debrief in the fall to determine whether the measures worked, and where adjustments are needed.

     

  • How is the District working with other organizations?

    Throughout the engagement process, District staff have been meeting with local community groups as well as other governments to understand shared concerns and goals.

    The District has convened a Squamish Visitor Management Roundtable, which is made up of representatives from local organizations, governments, and agencies. The Roundtable will meet throughout the spring/summer with the aim of collaborating resources, aligning messaging, and responding to emerging issues in a systemic way.