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Lady Minto seeks injunction to remove people living in Seabreeze Inne

Salt Spring hospital foundation bought the hotel last year to serve as employee accommodation
Seabreeze Inne on Salt Spring Island. VIA GOOGLE STREET VIEW

Salt Spring Island’s hospital foundation is seeking an injunction to remove six people living in the Seabreeze Inne, the hotel it purchased in March 2022 for employee accommodation.

The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation is not in a legal position to issue eviction notices because it has no tenancy agreements with the occupants, Roberta Martell, the foundation’s executive director, said Tuesday.

After struggling to fill more than 40 vacant positions at the hospital, the foundation bought the hotel to house hospital staff. The foundation said that at the time, the hotel was being used as a pandemic shelter.

Twenty-two people were sheltering in the building and there was nowhere else for them to go, the foundation said in a letter updating foundation members on the court action.

“We let them stay. We did the right thing for the community, for those occupants and for service providers trying to rehouse 22 people in the building,” said Martell.

The foundation entered into a short-term lease with B.C. Housing, which, in turn, asked Salt Spring Community Services to operate the building. The lease expired on June 30, 2022, and was extended until July 15, 2022.

“At that time, all occupants were required to vacate,” the foundation said. “It is our position that none are tenants and all are trespassing and despite having free housing to move into, with … free internet, free power, free water and free food, and teams ready to move them from the Seabreeze for free, six occupants remain, despite having been asked to vacate the premises for more than a year now.”

Only two of the six occupants have filed claims with the Residential Tenancy Branch claiming tenant status.

The foundation is seeking the injunction to start work on the building as soon as possible.

“We’re ready to start work on the building but we can’t because the building is still occupied,” said Martell.

The delay will push construction back another season and put it at risk of losing the construction team and a $2 million grant, she said.

Rob Grant, executive director of Salt Spring Community Services, said the court case is complex. The foundation has already launched a civil trespassing suit that will be heard in November.

“Lady Minto is trying to dodge the Residential Tenancy Branch. They purchased the property and it had people living there. They have to give them notice and they haven’t and [Lady Minto] wants to work around the whole thing. The tenants just want proper legal notice which anyone would expect,” said Grant.

Proper legal notice takes several months and Lady Minto wants it done faster than that, he said.

“I think all the tenants are fine with that. I think they just want to be given proper legal notice and Lady Minto has not given them notice.”

Grant said the Residential Tenancy Branch couldn’t rule on the determination of the rights of the people living in the hotel, because of the foundation’s civil suit.

“If Lady Minto needs housing, just follow the written rule. Give people proper notice,” said Grant. “We actually have provincial laws that deal with every aspect of this. We just need to follow them.”

The 22 people living in the hotel last year were paying rent for rooms, he said.

“They weren’t brought in for transitional housing or COVID. Some were there pre-COVID, paying monthly rent and just took up residence there. That’s where they lived. The story that they were brought there for COVID is fabrication,” said Grant.

The injunction proceeding is expected to last two days.

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