(Photo credit: Peter Kim | Anita Place tent city | June 2017)
For the first time in British Columbia’s history, an encampment of people affected by homelessness withstood the headwinds of local government, bylaw officials, and the bigotry and violence of certain members of the community to remain standing for an entire year.
Anita Place has become Canada's longest-standing, community-organized public encampment in living memory. May 2 was the anniversary of the tent city, which was set up to house those sheltering outdoors in Maple Ridge, but also as an act of protest—a visible symbol of government failure and the inability to afford safe and accessible housing to those in need.
(Photo credit: Peter Kim | One of the first tents being set up at Anita Place | May 2, 2017)
This is significant. It is evidence that the rights, health, and safety of marginalized communities can and should supersede local bylaws barring them from public space, and that the rights of people to protect themselves from the harms of exposure and constant displacement should take clear precedence over the disdain of those who lack compassion and an understanding of the current housing crisis. This is a crisis we as a Canadian society have created, and tolerated, for far too long.Read more
Pivot Legal Society fights to abolish mandatory ‘victim fine surcharge’ from Criminal Code at Supreme Court of Canada
For Immediate Release
April 17, 2018
(From L-R: Lawyers Caitlin Shane [Pivot], Naomi Moses [Rosenberg Kosakoski LLP], DJ Larkin [Pivot], Graham Kosakoski [Rosenberg Kosakoski LLP])
Ottawa, ON – Today at the Supreme Court of Canada, Pivot Legal Society and the team at Rosenberg Kosakoski Litigation challenged a law that unconstitutionally threatens the health and safety of marginalized communities, including those dying at an alarming rate because of the opioid overdose crisis in Canada. Together, we argued before the nine justices of the Supreme Court that the mandatory victim fine surcharge amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, and therefore, should be struck from the Criminal Code.
“A mandatory fine constituting a third or more of a person’s monthly welfare income drives people further into poverty and puts their health and safety at risk,” said DJ Larkin, Legal Director at Pivot Legal Society.
The victim fine surcharge is a mandatory fee of $100 or $200 per offence imposed on all individuals convicted of an offence in Canada regardless of its seriousness. For marginalized communities and people receiving income assistance, paying this fine can lead to greater poverty and force individuals to make sacrifices that threaten their health and safety.Read more
Some great news in the fight to advance social justice and human rights: our ally, friend, and supporter, Unbounded Canada Foundation on behalf of Rob Milne, has made an incredible commitment to the Pivot Foundation. Unbounded Canada has pledged $1,000,000 over the next 10 years—$100,000 a year—to support the Pivot Foundation’s mission of supporting charitable programs and projects that work in collaboration with marginalized communities affected by homelessness, drug use, policing, and engaged in sex work.
The Pivot Foundation is the charitable partner of Pivot Legal Society. This commitment is outstanding not only due to its sheer size and generosity, but also because it will directly contribute to the long-term sustainability of the organization. For many non-profits, the struggle to finance ongoing work is one of the things that keep staff up at night.Read more
In response to our earlier letter to the Mayor and Council of Prince George, Councillor Terry McConnachie had some questions. Here are our answers.
(Guest blog post by Patti MacAhonic, Executive Director of the Ann Davis Transition Society. The Society provides education, prevention, and support services to those affected by abuse or violence. This year they are organizing the Women’s March Fraser Valley on January 20.)
After a long day, as I leave my office into the cold, uninviting night, lock the door behind me and turn around, there’s a young woman with a shopping cart hiding in the shadows, her meager belongings folded neatly and her face painted with a terrified look. She’s just been kicked out of her house by her partner and has nowhere to go. There are no beds for women open and the transition houses are once again full.
I hear loud voices in our parking lot, and I go out to investigate. I witness a couple arguing and invite them in from the cold. It’s -10 degrees, an unusually cold early evening. They tell me their situation: The woman has just been released from the hospital for serious medical conditions, he has been released from prison. They have a welfare check for rent, but no phone or vehicle to find a place. They reveal that they once had a home, good life, jobs, and relative stability; but he decided to sell drugs (he takes full accountability) and got caught, went to jail—his house now confiscated—and here they are. She will not last the night outside in the bitter cold, and there are no places for women to find refuge. I borrow my co-workers car and drive them to a cheap motel for a place to rest their heads. The owner gives them two days for the price of one so they can line up a rental.
(Photo credit: www.homesforwomen.ca)
On her way to our thrift shop which houses our Bad Date Program, my outreach worker witnesses a woman being attacked in the alley. Standing only 5 ft. tall, she rushes to help and chases off the two assailants who had robbed and beaten the woman. She brings her to our office for an emergency counselling session. The woman refuses to call the RCMP, which is her right.
The accounts I’ve illustrated are but one week in Chilliwack. We have over 200 women on our waitlist for Stopping the Violence Counselling. There are five emergency beds at the Salvation Army for women and two transition houses for women and children in the community. Nothing low barrier, and the five emergency beds fill up quickly. It’s heartbreaking to witness this happening on a daily basis when we are supposed to be the help, and we can’t. There are simply not enough resources to meet the need.
The impossibly high cost of rent is having a cascading effect across the province, principle among them, keeping women and children in transition houses for longer than the contracted 30 days. It’s quite common for them to stay between 60 and 90 days in search of affordable housing. This traps women in dangerous and violent situations, or drives them out to become part of the growing number of homeless women surviving precariously on the streets. In Chilliwack the ratio for homeless women to men is the highest in the province: 37%.
To further exacerbate this growing problem the many camps that were home to homeless women were shut down right as the weather became colder. These closures created a domino effect with multiple camps closing at staggered intervals. The city has been involved in this process, on the sidelines at least. Frontline workers report that there has been a notable spike in overdose events after the camps began closing—exact correlation is difficult to determine. Chilliwack had the highest percentage increase in overdose deaths in the Fraser Health Authority region in 2017, along with some of the highest rates of overdoses at the ER.Read more
Our letter to Prince George's Mayor and Council
A new year brings a fresh start and renewed vigour to the fight for justice and human rights. Pivot is looking forward to continuing its advocacy and empowering the communities we serve; but in 2018, we're also individually committed to specific goals that will help uplift those struggling with addiction, homelessness, discrimination, and violence. Please join us in our fight for equality and commit to positive social change.
Darcie Bennett, Director of Strategy
"My social justice goal for 2018 is to see BC’s Human Rights Code amended to prohibit discrimination and harassment based on social condition. Social condition refers to the position you occupy in society by virtue of your income level, source of income, housing status, or your level of education. Deep poverty and homelessness are real and specific sources of disadvantage in virtually all aspects of life. Discrimination based on social condition exacerbates inherent harms by intensifying social isolation, by making it more difficult for people to make use of public space, and by putting up barriers to low-income housing and supportive services aimed at people living in poverty.
You can help make a difference by reaching out to your elected representative to make sure they know that British Columbians want our laws to protect people from discrimination based on social condition. You can also stand up for human rights everyday by naming discrimination when you see it in your community."
DJ Larkin, Legal Director
"In 2018, BC has an incredible opportunity to create inclusive and healthy communities. Part of that means ensuring that shelter, housing, and healthcare services are available to everyone in the province. My wish for 2018 is to create a movement of people saying, “Yes in My Backyard” and refusing to see projects halted by fear and discrimination.
You can be a key part of that. Attend your local city council meetings to support shelter, housing, and healthcare services for marginalized members of your community, write to your Member of Legislative Assembly to ask for more services for people in need in your neighbourhood, and listen to people experiencing homelessness, poverty, and addiction. They are the experts in what will make a positive difference in their lives."Read more
This graph was featured in Why we’re doing the Welfare Food Challenge on only $18.00 a week.