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.Read more
BC’s income support programs, shelters, and hospitals exist to serve people in need. But across the province, people are experiencing barriers to accessing income assistance, there are not enough safe and accessible shelter options, and stigma and racism are surfacing in how people are treated in hospitals. These are public services that should serve the public good, but their inaccessibility is putting the health, safety, and human rights of marginalized people at risk.
Read the other chapters of #ProjectInclusion:
- Policing: The Impacts of Police and Policing
- Justice System: Everything Becomes Illegal: How Court-Imposed Conditions Set People up to Fail
- Stigma: Making Stigma Visible – Why a Stigma-Auditing Process Matters for BC
- Read our recommendations for change
This Tent is My Home tells the story of the residents of Anita Place tent city in Maple Ridge. In May of 2017, around 90 homeless individuals banded together to find safety and security in community by setting up a tent city to survive outdoors. Over the following year, that community grew to nearly 200 people. We have followed them in their journey as they’ve taken a stand against the bigotry and stigma that fuel BC’s homelessness crisis to show their courage and determination in the face of systemic discrimination.
Testifying against harmful laws before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
(Lawyers Naomi Moses [Rosenberg Kosakoski LLP] and Caitlin Shane [Pivot Legal Society] before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights | September 2018)
Criminalizing poverty threatens the health and safety of marginalized communities and traps them in an unending cycle of danger and fear of arrest. That is why Pivot lawyer Caitlin Shane and lawyer and Pivot board member Naomi Moses (Rosenberg Kosakoski LLP) recently spoke to members of parliament in Ottawa: to remind them of the impacts of unconstitutional laws on the health, safety, and Charter rights of Pivot’s clients.
Last month, Caitlin and Naomi testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, urging them to adopt certain proposed amendments under Bill C-75: An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.Read more
(Photo credit: Parksville Qualicum Beach News/JR Rardon | Residents attend open house for 222 Corfield St. | March 2018)
People experiencing homelessness endure life-threatening conditions, and the harsh realities of sheltering outdoors are often intensified by unimaginable stigma and harassment. After years of neglect, the provincial government has begun to offer some desperately needed funds to ameliorate BC’s ever-growing homelessness crisis. With funding flowing through BC Housing, new shelters, temporary modular housing, and more permanent solutions have been proposed in communities across the province.
Federal and provincial governments seem aligned around principles of “Housing First”, drawing on years of research and pilot studies validating the approach. These first signs of positive change are encouraging, yet there is a significant threat to even incremental progress. New housing projects that could offer respite are routinely slowed down or stopped altogether because of community opposition.Read more
Why do we care more about peacocks than humans? Reflections on the displacement of the “Surrey Strip”
(Photo credit: CTV Vancouver & Meenakshi Mannoe | Peacock seen in Surrey's Sullivan Heights and Surrey RCMP during the clearing of Surrey Strip | June 2018)
The plight of Surrey’s peacocks is raising eyebrows and attracting headlines and sympathy, while homeless humans and their belongings are being power washed away to clear a path for the city’s urban renewal.
Two weeks ago, a stretch of tents serving as home and refuge for homeless residents along 135A Street in Surrey, the “Surrey Strip,” was dismantled through the concerted efforts of the City of Surrey, RCMP, Fraser Health Authority, BC Housing, and Lookout Society personnel. City and BC Housing staff said that the residents sheltering there had three days to move off the Strip. Some had been offered modular housing units; others, shelter beds.
The province’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing advised that the offerings were based on “assessed need.” The Ministry did not clarify who did the assessment nor what the needs were. Over the course of three days, residents of 135A were moved off the Strip at the behest of the Surrey Outreach Team after years of increasing frustration about the situation in Whalley.
(City staff clearing belongings of people who are homeless along Surrey Strip | June 2018)
Since 2016, the City of Surrey responded to concerns, primarily originating from housed community members and business owners, by creating the City Centre Response Plan. This Plan included the creation of the Surrey Outreach Team, comprised of RCMP and bylaw staff deployed as an “on the ground manifestation of the four priorities of the Public Safety Strategy – Ensure Safe Places, Prevent and Reduce Crime, Build Community Capacity and Support Vulnerable Persons.”
Despite widespread acknowledgment that people become homeless for many reasons, including a lack of affordable housing, inadequate health services, or unsuitable shelter options, the City mobilized law enforcement to deal with the issue. Pivot staff who have spoken with residents heard reports of constant police surveillance, harassment by bylaw officials, requirements to dismantle tents and tarps daily, weekly displacement for street cleaning, seizure of personal belongings, and a general climate of instability.
(Surrey RCMP look on as belongings and tents of homeless residents are thrown away | June 2018)
Over many years, 135A in particular and the Whalley region became increasingly notorious as an epicentre of “crime, poverty, and homelessness.” At its peak, the Surrey Strip housed around 300 people and stretched four blocks. The area became a flashpoint for bitter debate and acrimony between people who were homeless and their advocates, and business owners and housed residents who lacked compassion and a basic understanding of how poverty manifests.
To the people who lived there—because of no other viable alternatives—it was home. Then, in the course of a week, they were told they had no option but to move along. Yes, some were offered spots in the new modular housing units, but many were referred to existing shelter accommodations. People had to uproot their lives in 72 hours and make life-changing decisions about their next moves while packing up all their possessions.
(City staff clearing belongings of people who are homeless along Surrey Strip | June 2018)
While an increase in supportive housing units is a welcome first step for many, the units are far too few to house everyone who was living on the Surrey strip. Insufficient and institutional housing and emergency shelters are not the ultimate, aspirational goals for people experiencing homelessness. Shelters are not housing—they are temporary overnight mats or beds, often in overcrowded, stressful, and inaccessible conditions.
Supportive housing programs often come with conditions, such as no pets, strict curfews, and prohibitions on having friends visit, rendering them inaccessible for many people experiencing long-term homelessness. It is precisely the individuals who cannot avail themselves of temporary shelter or supportive housing who require the most urgent and accessible forms of housing.Read more
(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