Coalition Submits Complaint for the Cancellation of the VPD Trespass Prevention Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2021


Vancouver, Territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, səl̓ílwətaʔɬ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nations — Today 8 legal and community-based organizations submitted a formal Service and Policy complaint regarding the Vancouver Police Department’s Trespass Prevention Program (TPP). The TPP program authorizes police officers to remove people without a call for 911 service if they have allegedly violated the provincial Trespass Act. Complainants are calling for the termination of the TPP and a public accounting of its operations to-date.

Trespass Complaints Process is Littered with Flaws

This complaint, filed with the VPD Professional Standards Section, outlines ongoing concerns related to the VPD’s use of the TPP. Organizations and local advocates began sounding the alarm in January, specifically raising concerns about its intrusion on the rights and liberties of people who rely on public space. Complainants characterize this law enforcement program as a discriminatory practice that disproportionately impacts Indigenous and racialized people and communities who navigate systemic poverty.

The very foundation of the TPP is reminiscent of the colonial laws that confined Indigenous people to reserves and gave police authority to restrict the movements of racialized groups.

Grand Chief Stewart Philip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls for the elimination of the program: “We call upon the Vancouver Police Department to immediately end the Trespass Prevention Program, and to address the racist and discriminatory undertones that initiatives like this are grounded in. The very foundation of the TPP is reminiscent of the colonial laws that confined Indigenous people to reserves and gave police authority to restrict the movements of racialized groups, while preserving and protecting a culture of whiteness. The VPD must respond to the multitude of calls for systemic reform and accountability, which must include the cessation of all programs and policies which continue to support a police state and the ongoing criminalization of poverty, Indigenous peoples and racialized minorities.”

The TPP Lacks Oversight and Regulation

There are no written policies or public guidelines that guide the use of the TPP within the police force. The TPP enables VPD officers to enforce the BC Trespass Act 24 hours per day, through an agreement that does not expire unless it is revoked by the land-owner/occupier. In the absence of any governing policy, the TPP represents a marked departure from the existing regulations of the VPD. Despite glaring gaps, the TPP remains operational, and the VPD confirms that more than 100 businesses and stratas have signed up for the program. This allows members of the VPD to potentially expand its collection of personal and identifying information.

The TPP is undemocratic, discriminatory, and undercuts efforts to end street checks. The program must end immediately.

Meghan McDermott, Interim Policy Director and Senior Counsel (Policy) at the BC Civil Liberties Association says: “The TPP is undemocratic, discriminatory, and undercuts efforts to end street checks. The program must end immediately.”

The BCCLA has been raising complaints about BC’s Trespass Act since 1982 according to the Service and Policy complaint.

Stigmatizing Solutions Are No Substitute for Policy Change

BC Provincial Policing Standards on the “Promotion of Unbiased Policing” stipulates that police decisions to stop people must not be based on identity factors, including race, economic or social status. The TPP, however, enables the VPD to enter into a series of agreements with private property business owners. These agreements serve as the basis for the displacement of people who rely on public space.

VPD needs to stop taking their direction from the rich and elite business owners and start listening to the community.

BeeLee Lee, Vice-President of the Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War, reiterates the call for the end of the program: “I call on the VPD to cease and desist the displacement of unhoused people for any reason, including use of the Trespass Act. Shame on them as well as City Workers for causing harm and trauma to an already vulnerable and marginalized population. These public servants trespass, displace, harass, and throw out peoples’ belongings daily. Vancouver claims to be a city of Reconciliation yet Indigenous people are continuously targeted by the City’s “Transient Crew” and never-ending street sweeps. Programs like the Trespass Prevention Program are not an asset to our community. They cause harm. We want this harm to stop immediately. VPD needs to stop taking their direction from the rich and elite business owners and start listening to the community.”

When the VPD creates band-aid solutions such as neighbourhood response teams and trespass prevention programs, they are wasting vital public dollars that could be better invested in root cause solutions.

Meenakshi Mannoe, Criminalization & Policing Campaigner at Pivot Legal Society calls for public dollars to go into public solutions, rather than policing solutions: “While the TPP may offer a quick-fix, it simply continues harmful and degrading practices of displacing people who rely on public space. When the VPD creates band-aid solutions such as neighbourhood response teams and trespass prevention programs, they are wasting vital public dollars that could be better invested in root cause solutions.”

The establishment and operation of the TPP exacerbates the criminalization of poverty and permits the recurrent displacement of people who rely on public space. Complainants call on the Vancouver Police Board and VPD to dismantle the program immediately.

Media Contact

Meghan McDermott, BC Civil Liberties Association

Please contact Sozan Savehilaghi to arrange interviews with:

  • BeeLee Lee, Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War
  • Meenakshi Mannoe, Pivot Legal Society

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Background

Complainant Coalition
The groups and individuals who have signed on to the complaint are:

  • BC Civil Liberties Association
  • Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War
  • Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre
  • Karen Ward (Drug Policy Consultant)
  • Pivot Legal Society
  • Union of BC Indian Chiefs
  • Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
  • WISH Drop-In Centre Society

Service and Policy Complaint Calling for End to Vancouver Police Department Trespass Prevention Program (June 15, 2021)
Service & Policy complaint filed with the Vancouver Police Department Professional Standards Section calling for an end to the Trespass Prevention Program.

Coalition of Organizations Call for End to Vancouver Police Department Trespass Prevention Program (January 28, 2021)
A coalition of Indigenous, women, Downtown Eastside, and legal organizations voice their opposition to the Vancouver Police Department’s Trespass Prevention Program, which authorizes police officers to remove people without a call for 911 service if they have allegedly violated the provincial Trespass Act.

Vancouver Police Department – Regulations and Procedures Manual (Effective: March 25, 2021)
Policy 1.4.8 (at page 59) outlines VPD policy regarding the legal statute of the Trespass Act.

Provincial Policing Standards, section 6, Promotion of Unbiased Policing (In effect January 15, 2020)