When: Tuesday August 16, 2022 at 10:30 am
Where: Balmoral Hotel, 160 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC [Google map]
Who: Hastings Tent City residents, Indigenous leadership, DTES Organizations
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) / Vancouver, B.C. – On Tuesday August 16, Hastings Tent City residents, members of the #StopTheSweeps Coalition, Indigenous leadership, and Downtown Eastside (DTES) organizations will hold a press conference in front of the abandoned site of the City-owned Balmoral Hotel. Residents and supporters will respond to the first week of violent, forced evictions of Hastings Tent City residents in the DTES.
On July 25, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) issued a Fire Order calling for the removal of all tents from Hastings Tent City. This has initiated a mass decampment and eviction of residents who are unhoused and who have not been offered housing options. On August 9, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) instigated a riot, jeopardizing the safety of all those on the block and indiscriminately arresting, brutally assaulting, and pepper spraying Tent City residents, DTES residents, bystanders, and organizers of the OUR STREETS team. Since then, constant surveillance and harassment by the VPD, VFRS, and City of Vancouver is intensifying into a campaign of terror to decamp the tent city, with at least 12 recorded arrests made between August 10 and August 12. This is a de-facto return to the harmful practice of street sweeps and the daily displacement of people and the destruction of their belongings.
On August 9, B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner sent a letter to the province’s housing minister and the Mayor detailing how the City’s ongoing decampment infringes upon the rights of residents, as well as their human dignity and autonomy. This is a humanitarian crisis. Hastings Tent City residents and the #StopTheSweeps Coalition continue to demand that no one living in the Hastings Tent City is coerced or violently forced to take down their tent without any available safe and dignified housing options.
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, states, “The crisis of homelessness on Indigenous lands, and the City and Province's neglect and criminalization of unhoused people is outrageous. Indigenous peoples are disproportionately homeless in one of the world's wealthiest cities, and Indigenous women and children living with disabilities are most vulnerable to violence. The intersecting crises of homelessness, toxic drug supply, MMIWG2S+, and the colonial child welfare and justice systems are killing our people. The City of Vancouver and Province of BC are in violation of their own memorandum on encampments and their stated goals of reconciliation. The City and Province must immediately cease using violence and coercion to evict and displace people to nowhere. Criminalizing the houseless overloads the courts and jails and does nothing to address the root issue of lack of housing options. Instead, all levels of government and the housing sector must immediately ensure safe, sustainable and accessible housing, and uphold the dignity and human rights for those experiencing homelessness. UBCIC calls for immediate action in alignment with the UN Declaration, MMIWG2S Calls for Justice, and Red Women Rising to end the daily violence that has become normalized in the DTES.”
The City and Province must immediately cease using violence and coercion to evict and displace people to nowhere.
Aero, an Indigenous steering committee member of OUR STREETS describes the Block Stewardship Program and the violence that OUR STREETS peer workers and volunteers have been met with since the violent police raid and riot on August 9:
“I was targeted, brutally assaulted, and arrested by VPD, and am facing charges from the police-instigated riot on August 9. I am speaking out because what the police and City is doing is cruel and violent. But even though the City and VPD interfered with our support for Tent City residents, our community is strong. OUR STREETS is still inspiring positive change on the street, and our Block Stewardship program is building community along Hastings. I am so proud of OUR STREETS and everyone who is fighting to survive this awful displacement.”
I was targeted, brutally assaulted, and arrested by VPD...
Scotty, a former resident of the Hastings Tent City, feels that the City’s decampment since August 9 has been dehumanizing:
“The City’s telling us to go – but where? They’re forcing us to leave – but where do we go? The way the City has been carrying out this forced eviction is dehumanizing. It takes away our hope. We’re being made to feel less than human, outsiders in our own community.”
We’re being made to feel less than human, outsiders in our own community.
John, a resident of the Hastings Tent City, comments on the escalating police violence unleashed by the City’s decampment:
“The cops are bullies on the block. Police come into our neighbourhood with unchecked power to scare and intimidate us into submission. VPD constables have been making more vicious comments to residents. We don’t need more police presence, we need more political support to meet our needs – not police force and domination. We’re citizens and we have rights.”
The cops are bullies on the block.
Vince Tao, VANDU Community Organizer, illustrates how every level of government has failed and betrayed Hastings Tent City residents:
“The City and Vancouver Police are attempting to decamp Hastings Tent City through an escalating campaign of terror, violence, and harassment. Meanwhile, the Province and BC Housing are nowhere to be seen, saying they have no indoor shelter options to offer. Hastings Tent City residents are being evicted, but where are people supposed to go? We call on officials from all levels of government to stop shirking their responsibilities to the people, pause their campaign trails, and immediately address this humanitarian crisis. We are still waiting to hear back from the City, Province, and David Eby.”
...campaign of terror, violence, and harassment.
Eli Oda Sheiner, a member of the Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War (CPDDW) and author of a Jurisdictional Scan of Street Sweeps in the DTES (June 2022), highlights the all-too-familiar churn of homelessness:
“The communities most affected by street sweeps and displacement are Indigenous people, drug users, survivors of abuse, and people with mental and physical disabilities. Street sweeps create a recurring cycle of humiliation, dispossession, and displacement that circulates poverty throughout the Downtown Eastside, instead of constructively addressing and ending it. Despite accomplishing little but traumatizing the poor, sweeps incur a significant financial expense for the City, and an immeasurable human cost to the communities who are swept — whose trust in public institutions also gets continuously eroded.”
Street sweeps create a recurring cycle of humiliation, dispossession, and displacement...
Meenakshi Mannoe, Criminalization & Policing Campaigner at Pivot Legal Society, addresses the use of ‘public safety concerns’ to continually displace people who shelter on streets, sidewalks, and parks:
“Across this province, the enforcement of anti-homeless bylaws enables the continued, forceful, and violent displacement of people who rely on public space. Whether municipalities use anti-sheltering bylaws, fire orders, emergency orders, or Memorandums of Understanding, police power undergirds every displacement. What we have seen in the DTES – through the last week of forced eviction, and the harms of daily displacement – is anti-homeless violence. The police have seized this opportunity to strike out against the community both physically and psychologically.”
What we have seen in the DTES...is anti-homeless violence.
Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.