Woman fights for right to call police without being evicted

Vancouver- On January 20, The BC Supreme Court will review the case of a woman who was evicted for calling the police as a result of harassment by a male tenant in a shared housing situation.
Pivot Legal Society Lawyer Scott Bernstein and Amber Prince of Atira Women's Resource Society will be holding a "media scrum" outside the BC Supreme Court before the hearing, to answer questions about the case.

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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.

What: Media Scrum
When: Friday, January 20, 8:30 am - 9:00 am
Where: BC Supreme Court, corner of Hornby and Nelson streets, Vancouver

In early 2011, Pivot's client was living in a shared house with four male tenants.  As a result of ongoing violent harassment and damage to her computer and clothing by one tenant, the woman phoned the police four times in the period of two weeks.  The Vancouver Police came to the residence each time and warned the tenant that continuing his actions could lead to criminal harassment charges, but did not make an arrest.  The police also advised the woman that she should bring her claims to the Residential Tenancy Branch.  Soon after, the woman received an eviction notice from her landlord for unreasonably disturbing the other tenants by calling the police.  At the Residential Tenancy Branch, the adjudicator upheld the eviction on the grounds that calling the police in these circumstances was unreasonably disturbing the other tenants of the house. The adjudicator reasoned that because the police did not press charges or take further action, the calls had not been valid.

"My client has been let down by two systems that are not communicating with one another" says Pivot lawyer Scott Bernstein, who is judicially reviewing that decision. He added that "this decision creates a dangerous precedent and puts vulnerable people in a difficult place that could result in them not phoning the police when in danger.  There is no reason that an adjudicator of the Residential Tenancy Branch should decide whether calling the police was appropriate or not.

“Everyone has the right to call police when they are in an unsafe situation, says Atira legal advocate Amber Prince, who was the woman's advocate before the RTB . "They should not fear being evicted for doing so.  If the Residential Tenancy Branch decision stands, marginalized tenants, especially women, could be forced to choose between unsafe conditions or risk eviction for calling the police.”

Amber Prince, Legal Advocate (604) 908-0048