FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2022
Community rally at Carrall and Hastings to protest the City of Vancouver’s brutal practice of street sweeps
WHERE: Pigeon Park, Carrall and Hastings Street
WHEN: 12PM, June 15 2022
Vancouver, BC – Today’s rally at Pigeon Park is the fourth in a series of public events leading up to Councillor Jean Swanson’s June 22 motion to end and replace the CoV’s practice of street sweeps – the daily patrol that displaces and seizes the belongings of unhoused DTES residents. Swanson’s motion directs City staff to work with DTES community groups to develop and implement alternatives to the street sweeps, which include expanding existing community-led sidewalk cleaning programs and reinvesting in direly-needed public infrastructure such as washrooms, low-barrier storage, and garbage disposal facilities.
They’re not solving anything. We pack our things up and we’ve got nowhere to go so we run around the corner, wait for them to leave, and then come right back because we’ve got nowhere else to go.
Street sweeps are carried out in the DTES by CUPE Local 1004 City Engineering workers and VPD constables to clear ‘structures’ from the sidewalk. In reality, street sweeps target, brutalize, and displace low-income residents of the DTES who rely on public space. According to a report documenting the effects of the sweeps during the CoV’s Homelessness Action Week 2021, the #StopTheSweeps Coalition found that residents regularly had survival gear, important documents, and irreplaceable personal belongings seized from them with impunity by the street sweep patrols. Surveyed residents described the sweeps as violent, degrading, and senseless:
“They’re not solving anything. We pack our things up and we’ve got nowhere to go so we run around the corner, wait for them to leave, and then come right back because we’ve got nowhere else to go.”
– T, DTES resident affected by the street sweeps
Since October 2021, the #StopTheSweeps Coalition – which includes the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, the Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War, Pivot Legal Society, and Defund604 – has been liaising with the CoV’s Street Sweeps Working Group to explore alternatives that will support unhoused DTES residents rather than replicate the daily cycle of humiliation and displacement caused by the sweeps.
In May 2022, the #StopTheSweeps Coalition requested to discuss the issue with CUPE 1004 Executive Officers, but Acting President Dennis Donnelly rejected the Coalition’s offer to meet and collaborate on solutions that respect the rights and dignity of unhoused people.
If they really, really care about this community, they wouldn’t even be throwing away the toys that the community has gathered and placed there for a memorial...
The report by the #StopTheSweeps Coalition concludes that street sweeps can be unconstitutional, against human rights law, and grounds for a civil lawsuit based on the seizure and destruction of private property. Sweeps can also violate section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by endangering people’s lives and security of the person, and by discriminating against protected groups, including Indigenous Peoples, Black people, People of Colour, drug users, and people with disabilities.
“Indigenous people are obviously overrepresented down here, and the City of Vancouver speaks about being a city of reconciliation, and when I see them going over there and throwing away the memorial belongings for the children from residential schools, that is just…. The word reconciliation is just a buzzword. If they really, really care about this community, they wouldn’t even be throwing away the toys that the community has gathered and placed there for a memorial, you know?”
– B, DTES resident affected by the street sweeps
The #StopTheSweeps Coalition, whose public pledge to end the sweeps has garnered nearly 200 signatures from individuals and organizations, will be presenting testimonies from affected DTES residents at City Council on June 22 in support of Councillor Jean Swanson’s motion.
Tintin Yang, Community Organizer, #StopTheSweeps Coalition
Dave Hamm, Board of Directors, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.