FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - MEDIA ADVISORY & PRESS RELEASE
June 22, 2022
JOINT STATEMENT FROM #StopTheSweeps COALITION
Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nations, Vancouver BC -
The #StopTheSweeps Coalition denounces Vancouver City Council and its refusal to end the practice of street sweeps.
“Street Sweeps have been harming Downtown Eastside residents for over a decade. Anti-poverty activists have spoken out about these practices since 2009. With Motion B3, City Council had the opportunity to step up and stand up for our rights. Instead, they have failed to make meaningful change that could materially improve the lives of Downtown Eastside residents. Instead, they forced our lives back into the dark halls of city bureaucracy”
- Dave Hamm, VANDU Board Member
On Tuesday afternoon, the majority of Vancouver City Council referred Member’s Motion B3 Street Care, Not Street Sweeps: Ending Daily Displacement in Vancouver to a staff report. Referring a motion to staff means that the content of the motion will not be discussed by Council members, and the public will be denied their opportunity to speak in support of the motion. Over 30 community members were signed up to speak in support of Motion B3 and a number of them had prepared personal testimonies to describe the violence of the Street Sweeps.
“The tactics used by City Council reflect their structural reliance on giving marginalized community members the runaround. Referring work on ending Street Sweeps back to city staff is unaccountable and denies directly-affected community members their democratic right to participate in civic issues that affect them the most.”
- Vince Tao, Community Organizer at VANDU
This bureaucratic decision was thoughtlessly made without any input from Downtown Eastside community members or advocates who have been tirelessly campaigning to bring attention to the urgent human rights violations enabled by the City’s actions every day. The decision, led by Councilor Sarah Kirby-Yung and supported by all council members, save for Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Councilors Jean Swanson and Christine Boyle means that once again, the Downtown Eastside is silenced by unaccountable elected officials.
“As a Downtown Eastside resident, I have firsthand witnessed the ongoing violence of Street Sweeps. Everyday people who rely on public space or live in inadequate housing are forced to deal with arbitrary bylaw enforcement that puts their health and safety at risk. Shifting from Street Sweeps to Street Care would have affirmed the humanity of this community - a community I am proud to be part of. I will not stop fighting Street Sweeps - I know they are dehumanizing and am ashamed of our Council’s decision.”
- BeeLee Lee, Vice President of the Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War
Member’s Motion B3 was supported by the #StopTheSweeps Coalition. The Motion, informed by months of research, community meetings, and advocacy with the city, was designed to end the municipal violence of daily displacement in the Downtown Eastside. Council Members failed to pass this Motion, leaving unhoused residents to continue navigating hostile city policies on a daily basis.
“After completing a jurisdictional review of Street Sweeps and associated bylaws, it was clear that Sweeps produce a recurring cycle of humiliation, dispossession, and displacement that circulates poverty throughout the Downtown Eastside instead of constructively addressing it. These activities come at a financial cost, and an even greater human expense. It is unconscionable that Vancouver City Council members have failed to address the inhumane practice, and instead, community members must continue to navigate the dangerous civic architecture that enables the Sweeps.”
- Eli Oda Sheiner, a Vancouver-based independent scholar
Since October 2021, the #StopTheSweeps Coalition has been campaigning for an end to the practice known as Street Sweeps, wherein City Engineering Workers, accompanied by Vancouver Police Department officers patrol East Hastings Street to ‘sweep’ unhoused people and their belongings off the sidewalks.
“Even the Vancouver Police Department no longer want to be a party to the Street Sweeps. Yet, City Council cannot shift from “street sweeps” to “street care.” The criminalization of poverty is a human rights violation that clearly targets Indigenous, Black and racialized community members, as well as people living in poverty and people with disabilities. Motion B3 offered a path away from municipal violence, but our elected officials have failed to end this cruel practice and instead chosen to hide their municipal violence behind city staff.”
- Meenakshi Mannoe, Criminalization and Policing Campaigner at Pivot Legal Society
Prior to the deliberations of Council, Street Sweeps were subject to ongoing attention and public scrutiny. Earlier this month, the Vancouver Police Department stated that officers will no longer be enforcing the Sweeps, a win for the #StopTheSweeps Coalition. Motion B3 charted a path away from the cyclical displacement created by Street Sweeps. The Motion specifically sought to develop alternatives to street sweeps and create directives informed directly by people who rely on public space.
While profoundly disappointed with Council’s decision to refer work on Street Sweeps back to city staff, coalition members will continue to advocate with City of Vancouver staff and council to demand an end to Street Sweeps, and a replacement that does not harm or otherwise marginalize Downtown Eastside residents.
"Passing this motion could have shown the humanity of this council. Instead it did the opposite."
- Jean Swanson
To arrange an interview please contact Taz Khandwani
Background Information and Documents
- #StopTheSweeps: Ending Cyclical Displacement and Criminalized Poverty in Vancouver - May 2022 Report
- Jurisdictional Scan of Street Sweeps in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside - June 2022
- Joint Statement on Homelessness Action Week - October 2021
Residents and advocates have met through Spring 2022 to collect information during Block Meetings at Pigeon Park.
Link to Block Meeting Photographs: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzV3Xn
Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.