Pivot Legal and Anita Place respond to City of Maple Ridge’s Supreme Court Application on first day of winter

For Immediate Release

December 21, 2018

(Photo credit: Geoff Webb | Christmas at Anita Place | December 2017)

Maple Ridge, BC – As the coldest days of the year approach and families settle in for the holidays, the City of Maple Ridge is striving to break apart a community of homeless people living at Anita Place tent city by applying to the BC Supreme Court for an order that would effectively criminalize their efforts to survive. The order would allow City staff to seize all warming devices without offering any meaningful assistance in return and give police the right to arrest any homeless person who resists.

The City of Maple Ridge has not supported the residents of Anita Place in obtaining the necessary supplies detailed in a Consent Order signed last November, which includes the provision of in-tent heaters. At that time we were hopeful that we were entering a new phase in which the City would collaborate with residents facing homelessness to ensure their safety.

Housing Justice for all.

Unfortunately this has not been the case. The City of Maple Ridge has, at best, tolerated the delivery of necessities by provincial authorities and caring community members, and at worst, actively blocked the provision of resources.

Pivot and the residents of Anita Place have repeatedly reached out to the City seeking their advice and support in ensuring the safety of residents during winter. We have put forward numerous suggestions on how residents might make their temporary homes safer in light of the City’s refusal to move forward with housing solutions. These efforts have been met with silence or outright rejection. 

The City has:

  • steadfastly refused to meet with residents directly and work collaboratively on issues regarding fire safety;
  • rejected every suggestion put forward by residents regarding warming options for tents during the winter;
  • refused to provide any advice on how to make structures safer; and
  • repeatedly refused to engage in any meaningful conversation regarding how homeless people are supposed to protect themselves from the elements in winter.

Rather than providing support, the City is choosing to use taxpayer funds and staff resources to criminalize survival, and to litigate and re-litigate the actions people take to survive. This is now the third court action brought forward against the residents of Anita Place. Mayor Mike Morden has publicly stated that “[closing] tent city needs to be done with respect.” This latest court action runs contrary to that sentiment.

Instead of supporting solutions, the City has turned down multiple housing projects put forward by the Province.The City’s position with respect to Anita Place appears to be to make conditions as intolerable as possible in the hopes that residents will simply disappear.But homeless people cannot disappear, they can only be housed. These are actions mired in anti-homeless stigma which thwart solutions and endanger vulnerable people. 

This Application is an unfortunate, but characteristic, development from the City of Maple Ridge. Pivot will continue to advocate for the residents of Anita Place to ensure their safety during the coldest months of the year.

Background

Anita Place was founded in May 2017 by a group of residents in Maple Ridge, BC who shelter outdoors. With homelessness on the rise across the province, the residents of Anita Place came together for survival in the face of community violence, discrimination, and inadequate government support that failed to meet their most basic safety needs.

In May of 2017, the City filed an injunction application to close the camp but adjourned the hearing at the last minute after receiving extensive evidence from residents of Anita Place. In the fall of 2017, the City brought forward a second injunction application to disband the camp and evict its residents. The matter was settled.

Contact
Peter Kim, Communications & Digital Engagement Manager
Pivot Legal Society
604-229-6128 (cell)
peter@pivotlegal.org

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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award-winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.