Oppenheimer Park injunction puts campers in danger

Vancouver, B.C. [September 26]—The City of Vancouver has failed to provide adequate shelter alternatives to Oppenheimer Park campers, placing dozens of homeless people in danger if the injunction to dismantle the camp is successful, according to Pivot Legal Society.

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

In interviews with people camping at the park, Pivot Legal Society has learned that many of the campers, who are homeless and do not identify with sleeping in the park as part of a protest, have not been offered shelter by the city.

“The city has said they’re committed to providing shelter and housing to everyone in Oppenheimer Park, but they’re about to evict people without actually talking to them,” says DJ Larkin, lawyer at Pivot Legal Society. “These people have nowhere to go, and the city has provided no adequate options and minimal time to seek alternative safe spaces to live. This camp is a last resort for them and the safest place to be.”

According to the city’s evidence, 70 new temporary shelter beds have been made available. However, the city has identified 100 people at Oppenheimer Park who need shelter. Additional housing identified by the city for campers will not become available until between mid-October and December. The injunction gives campers just four days to find alternative shelter ahead of the B.C. Supreme Court hearing scheduled for Monday, September 29.

“Enforcing bylaws in a way that criminalizes people because they’re homeless serves only to put their lives at greater risk,” says Larkin. “The injunction will disperse homeless people to less safe, less populous, and less policed places. The city’s number one priority should be ensuring the safety of all of its residents. This action does the opposite.”

Pivot Legal Society has been asked to represent some of the homeless Oppenheimer Park campers at the court hearing on Monday.

Quotes from homeless Oppenheimer Park campers: 

  • “We have no where else to go. We've been kicked out of other shelters and this is the safest place for us to be.”  -- Miranda
  • “We're not part of any protest. We have no where else to go.” -- Liz
  • “I’ve gotten more sleep here in one day than I have in the past five years and then I got an eviction notice.” – Name withheld
  • “Not all of us are a problem or causing fights. I am helping out around here. It is a few bad apples that are the problem, not the whole camp.” -- Yesterday

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About Pivot Legal Society

Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award-winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.

For additional information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Kevin Hollett

Communications Manager, Pivot Legal Society