June 29, 2017
Vancouver, BC – Residents of Anita Place homeless encampment in Maple Ridge have filed court proceedings against the Province of British Columbia for leaving them with nowhere to go but the streets. BC is in the midst of is an unprecedented homelessness crisis. The 2017 Metro Vancouver homeless count revealed that there are more than 3,600 people homeless in the greater Vancouver area alone.
“On any given night, 35,000 people in Canada will be homeless; thousands will have no other option but to live in parks and other public spaces,” says DJ Larkin of Pivot Legal Society who is representing the campers.
For many, homelessness is an early death sentence. We know that homeless people have about half the life-expectancy as people who are housed. Ensuring that everyone in BC has access to adequate housing is the right thing, the smartest thing, and the cost effective thing to do for all British Columbians.
Despite the BC Liberal government’s promises to address homelessness in Maple Ridge, it cancelled plans to purchase or develop two housing facilities in the municipality. Then on May 31, 2017, the Province closed a 40-bed shelter—the only low-barrier shelter in that area.
Housing Justice for all.
Knowing their shelter was closing, homeless residents of Maple Ridge set up the encampment. The campers have dubbed the land “Anita Place” in honour of a friend who had long advocated on their behalf and died while binning in Maple Ridge.
“We have nowhere else to go and you can’t find housing on welfare rates,” says Dwayne Martin, one of the residents of Anita Place. “We are tired of being kicked out of every doorway. We are just trying to protect ourselves from the weather, from violence, from having every last thing we own taken away."
We are forming a community of survivors.
On May 30, 2017, the City of Maple Ridge, like many cities where homeless encampments have been set up, filed for an injunction to evict all the homeless people from Anita Place. But when faced with evidence of the immense challenges homeless people in Maple Ridge experience, the city asked the BC Supreme Court for an adjournment of its injunction application.
The City says it will focus efforts on persuading the provincial government to develop and execute a housing and health care strategy to address the crisis in Maple Ridge. Pivot has filed a Third Party Notice on the Province of British Columbia, adding it as a party to the litigation between the City of Maple Ridge and the residents of Anita Place, alleging that the Province has violated the constitutional rights of people living homeless in Maple Ridge.
On behalf of the campers, Pivot is arguing that the Province has put the lives, liberty, and security of homeless people in Maple Ridge at risk by actively creating the conditions that led to the encampment and the vulnerability of everyone living there. Previous court rulings in relation to tent cities have made it clear that governments cannot displace the residents of a tent city if adequate alternatives are not available.
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DJ Larkin, Lawyer, Pivot Legal Society
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.