Coalition of Organizations Boycott City Panel on Decriminalizing Poverty

The following open letter was issued to the City of Vancouver and representatives responsible for convening the City of Vancouver's Community Panel on Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Initiatives. Organizational endorsements can be made by filling out the endorsement form.


Kennedy Stewart, Mayor
Rebecca Bligh, Councillor
Christine Boyle, Councillor
Adriane Carr, Councillor
Melissa De Genova, Councillor
Lisa Dominato, Councillor
Pete Fry, Councillor
Colleen Hardwick, Councillor
Sarah Kirby-Yung, Councillor
Jean Swanson, Councillor
Michael Wiebe, Councillor
Paul Mochrie, City Manager
Sandra Singh, General Manager of Arts, Culture, and Community Services
Mary Clare Zak, Managing Director Social Policy & Projects Division, City of Vancouver
Shabna Ali, Senior Social Planner

City of Vancouver
453 West 12th Ave
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4

Via Email

 

June 22, 2021


Re: City of Vancouver's Community Panel on Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Initiatives


We are a coalition of organizations that have been invited to support the formation of the Community Panel on Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Initiatives. This Community Panel is in response to the July 2020 Motion Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Safety Initiatives.

While we acknowledge and applaud the stated commitment to decriminalizing poverty, we share considerable concerns with the presented process.

Based on the presented process, we have decided to forego any participation in the Community Panel. We recognize and restate the urgency for defunding police while supporting community-led safety initiatives. We see the violence of policing and criminalization every single day: through the use of street sweeps, the surveillance of street stops, the targeting of overdose prevention sites, the inadequate attention or response to gender based and sexualized violence, and the inability to hold police accountable for illegal, unethical and dangerous conduct.

The proposal set forth by City staff outlines an unsafe process that does not respect the realities of people who have lived and living experience of the criminalization of poverty. Notably, the Community Panel involves a number of police and police-adjacent representatives that do not serve the interests of people living in poverty. Communities that experience marginalization are directly harmed by the police on a daily basis. Furthermore, the Vancouver Police Department—including senior force and union leadership—consistently refuse to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism in policing. This is an unsafe environment that lacks any provisions for safety, anonymity, and accountability. To reiterate, the focus must not be on tweaking this proposed panel but to return to the original request to defund the police while supporting community-based initiatives.

There have already been numerous recommendations set forth, and we believe the City is positioned to take immediate action on policies related to decriminalizing poverty, as outlined in reports such as:

Previous City of Vancouver planning and consultation processes have failed to adequately meet the needs of the community. These processes (which took considerable time, energy, and labour on behalf of community members and organizations) each failed to engage with the realities shaping the livelihood and survival of the most adversely-impacted communities—women and people of marginalized genders, Black and Indigenous people, people who use illicit substances, people who work in criminalized economies including sex work, and people living at the intersections of these, and other, interlocking oppressions. Ultimately, most of the recommendations generated through each of these—and many other—processes remain unimplemented.

At this time, we are making the difficult decision to cease any involvement with the process. We have outlined our concerns here and to City staff and representatives of Reciprocal Consulting. In order to move forward with defunding police while supporting community-led initiatives, police and/or police-adjacent organizations cannot be at the table. We remain committed to this work and remain open to working with the City to ensure previously-made recommendations are fully implemented.

Sincerely,



Ash MacLeod
A Better Life Foundation

Adriane King
A. King Law

Janice Abbott
Atira Women's Resource Society

Angela Marie MacDougall
Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS)

Harsha Walia
BC Civil Liberties Association

Lizzie Howells
Binners' Project - MakeWay Charitable Society

Eris Nyx
The Black Lab Artists Society

Udokam Iroegbu &
Azuka Nduka-Agwu
Black Lives Matter-Vancouver

Constance Barnes

Ritica Ramesh
Centre for Gender and Sexual Health Equity

Eris Nyx
Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War

Alice Kendall
Downtown Eastside Women's Centre

Rory Sutherland & Tintin Yang
DTES Neighbourhood House

Eris Nyx
Drug User Liberation Front

Michelle Lackie
Exchange Inner City

Sarah Common
Hives for Humanity

Lama Mugabo
Hogan's Alley Society

Sarah Blyth & Trey Helten
Overdose Prevention Society

Lyra McKee
PACE Society

Meenakshi Mannoe
Pivot Legal Society

Eris Nyx
Tenant Overdose Response Organizers

Vince Tao
Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU)

Tracey Axelsson
Vancouver Community Network

France-Emmanuelle Joly
Vancouver Women's Health Collective Society

Irwin Oostindie
Voor Urban Labs

Ingrid Mendez
Watari Counselling and Support Services

Tracey Draper
Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS)

Mebrat Beyene
WISH Drop-In Centre Society

 

Endorsements received after June 22, 2021, 12 noon

Health Initiative For Men (HIM)

Radical Access Mapping Project

Bonfire Counselling

Moms Stop The Harm (MSTH)

Megaphone

Hua Foundation