VANDU and Pivot Allege Discrimination by VPD in By-Law Ticketing

Vancouver - Pivot and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) have filed a complaint against the VPD after it was discovered that 95% of some By-Law offences have been enforced exclusively in the Downtown Eastside. The statistics, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show that 1448 tickets were given out in the Downtown Eastside under s. 66 of the Street and Traffic Bylaw over the last four years, with the next closest neighbourhood, the Downtown Core, receiving only 28. Residents continue to report widespread use of the Street and Traffic By-Law provisions by VPD, as well as the Street Vending and Health By-Laws.

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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.

"There was general acceptance that the VPD ticketing blitz of 2008/2009 was an abuse of power and totally ineffective, but the VPD is intransigent and continues to target and criminalize people in our neighbourhood with By-Law tickets for vending, jaywalking, public urination/defecation, and expectorating." said Aiyanas Ormond, community worker at VANDU. "These tickets have many negative consequences for people in our community; increasing stress and anxiety among already marginalized people because they have a ticket they cannot hope to pay".

Residents have long said that the fines and warrants which result from By-Law tickets have created a barrier between the VPD and the city's most vulnerable, and Wally Oppal, head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, recently agreed in his final report. Addressing the relationship between Vancouver's poorest neighbourhood and the VPD he made the following recommendation:

"I recommend that the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department take proactive measures to reduce the number of court warrants issued for minor offences by:

    •    Reducing the number of tickets issued and charges laid for minor offences;
    •    Developing guidelines to facilitate greater and more consistent use of police discretion not to lay charges; and
    •    Increasing the ways in which failures to appear can be quashed early in the judicial process."

Today Pivot and VANDU will file a Service and Policy Complaint to the Vancouver Police Board asking them to turn Commissioner Oppal's recommendation into policy, and to stop the disproportionate ticketing of poor, homeless, and under-housed individuals in the DTES.

"In 2009 our Mayor and City Councillors sent a strong message to the Vancouver Police Board that our By-Laws need to be enforced the same way in Kerrisdale as they are in the Downtown Eastside" said Douglas King, staff lawyer at Pivot Legal Society and head of its policing campaign. "Handing out tickets to people who obviously can't pay fines is just a waste of everyone's time and resources and does nothing to address the underlying social causes".

Ticketing has continued in the neighbourhood despite community initiatives in partnership with the City of Vancouver to establish a legal street market every Sunday on Carrall and Hastings Street, measures to increase pedestrian safety, and efforts to increase access to public washrooms. Dave Hamm, a DTES resident who has received multiple tickets for street vending, explains why he vends: "We don't have front yards because we live in SROs so in order for us to have a yard sale we need to set up on the sidewalk. We can't survive on the current welfare and disability rates, but we are allowed to make at least $200 under the new rules - we shouldn't be criminalized for just trying to survive."

VANDU members who have been given tickets for Bylaw offences will join Pivot tomorrow morning for a press conference to tell their stories.

What: Press Conference on VPD ticketing in the DTES
When: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Where: Pivot Legal Society, 121 Heatley Avenue, Vancouver
Who: Douglas King (Pivot Legal Society), Aiyanas Ormond (VANDU), and VANDU members who have received tickets for bylaw offences.

Graph showing the rate of Vending Tickets Over Time:

Backgrounder on ticketing in the Downtown Eastside: