streetmarket Image by Ahamedia

On today’s agenda at City Hall sits a proposal to increase the maximum fines on 42 city by-laws by a factor of five. Among the changes are measures to levy $10,000 fines on low-income people for sleeping outside, jaywalking, and engaging in “illegal” street vending of recycled wares, a crime councillor Kerry Jang recently called “unacceptable behavior.” A homeless person in Vancouver already gets a minimum $1,000 fine for erecting a tent in public (under the illegal Structures By-law covered by The Mainlander here, here and here), but the new revisions propose extending that punitive logic to all aspects of daily life.

The report to city council states that both the ‘Street Vending’ and ‘Street and Traffic’ by-laws will have their upper limits increased from $2,000 to $10,000. Pivot legal society has noted in the Straight that people who are homeless cannot possibly afford to pay the previous fines, nevermind the new fines. The same is doubtless true of low-income street vendors selling recycled wares. With the city’s new measures, the poor can now be jailed for fifteen days for non-payment.

The City is asserting the importance of “compliance with the by-laws” at a time when the city’s homeless shelters are systematically turning away hundreds per night. Since the election of Gregor Robertson the homeless shelters have been over-capacity year (2012) after year (2011) after year (2010).

The City has completely ignored the effect that the fine increases will have on civil liberties or on the poor, as also noted by Pivot: “the failure to recognize that homeless and low-income people are caught under these bylaws – whether intentionally or not – demonstrates a lack of compassion and accommodation for the City’s most marginalized communities.” The City’s staff report does not mention the Housing and Homelessness Strategy or other relevant policies. Instead, the recommendations are framed exclusively around corporate efficiency and urban livability. The proposal is backed up with recourse to the City’s Corporate Strategic Business Plan (2010-2020), which “provides effective regulatory services that make Vancouver a safe and liveable community for residents, businesses and visitors.”

The rationale for the fine increases was further explained to the media by councilor Geoff Meggs, who said that city by-laws continue to be violated because the fines are simply too low, “currently there is no deterrent.” (Meggs is the same councillor who last week declared that yarn bombing should “die” because it makes trees “look homeless”). So, it is because the fines are not high enough that people continue to buy and sell used goods in the streets, and that people are forced to sleep on the streets. By this logic, people eat at food banks only because food banks don’t charge higher prices for food.

Vision: policing the eastside

Instead of dealing with the root causes of poverty and homelessness, such as high rent, city hall has increasingly asked the police to manage the symptoms of inequality. When Vision released their Safe, Livable Neighbourhoods platform in 2011, they hinted that this would mean yet more funding for the police. This tone was already set in the previous elections of 2008. In the lead-up to the Olympics, the NPA gave the VPD more powers to prosecute the urban poor with the Safe Streets Act. Even though Vancouver had experienced a 9% decrease in the crime rate from 2007 to 2008, Gregor Robertson ran a series of negative campaign ads in the 2008 elections to portray crime as “skyrocketing” while attacking his opponents for not hiring extra police officers and for being soft on crime.

Once elected Vision followed through by hiring 100 extra police officers and clamping down on civil liberties. In 2008 the police were already absorbing $180m per year. Today, after four years of consecutive increases, total police expenditures are $213 million — more than 20% of the city’s budget. “Livable and Sustainable Neighborhoods” is another way of saying, “Unlivable and Policed Neighborhoods.”

The new laws reveal the true ideology of the “green” neoliberal city government. The promise to end homelessness by 2015 comes not so much out of compassion as from the marketing department of a real-estate firm. As the Downtown Eastside continues offering margins of profitability to Vision’s primary backers in the real-estate industry, the frontier of an eastward-moving gentrification boundary wants to continue its march. One major obstacle on that march is the DNC Street Market, a weekly institution on Carrall Street where poor people gather to sell used goods and personal belongings.

UPDATE Jan 16th: Public backlash caused the city to postpone discussion on fine increases for items relating to homelessness and street vending only minutes before the hearing was to begin yesterday Tues Jan 15th at 6pm (see Mainlander article here).

90 Responses to Vancouver’s Poor Laws: City council to approve $10,000 fine for homelessness

  1. Russell says:

    Democracy time: start a petition demanding the resignation of everyone responsible for this.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is repulsive and disgusting. They want to enforce the bylaws when police themselves are breakers of laws. Selling used items is not a crime either. It is our choice and it is at our free will that we chose to do so. Yes being put in Jail is warmth food and shelter, but what about when they get out? Will all the stuff that they’ve gathered be gone? It will probably have been stolen. Thus leaving them with even less not to mention the ridiculous fine that they have to pay. They will be forced into a situation where they will have to rob and attack others to stay alive. We need more funding for rehabilitation not suppression.

  3. Donna Martin says:

    Another link in the NWO plan..explains the need for all those new prisons coming soon to a city near you. Re-read Dickens! the work houses. Absolutely ridiculous. Instead of wasting money trying to police this build low cost housing!

  4. W. Roe says:

    This is Pathetic! They should be looking to the root cause of the problem & investing in that. The Politicians should be accountable for the problems in their community, instead of blindly making impossible bylaws. Pffffft

  5. dave says:

    Sadly this is what happens when new prisons are privatized and need occupants.

  6. Ladymam says:

    Read the article ‘Public Outrage’ under LATEST at bottom of this page.

  7. nova ritchie says:

    Vancouver should be ashamed to put their name on something like this. It makes no sense to fine these people, who obviously, if they had 10K, would have a room somewhere, and putting them in jail solves nothing. Put your pedofiles away for vancouver is full of them. I am ashamed to say that I am canadian now. This is simply ridiculous. Make some resonable places to live and give the poor a home, not a fine. Stupid fucking politicians. I hate each and every one of them.

    • Roger Starring says:

      You restore my faith in Canadians (a little).

      • Important to note Roger, it’s NOT Canadians, it’s the govt, which holds true of many countries, it’s not their citizens, it’s the fucking politicians and lobbyist who are the problem. We in the USA are besieged by corrupt fucktards who say the right things to get elected, then turn to the dark side and screw us all, regardless of how much we protest.

        I no longer hold a coutry’s citizens responsible when it’s clear it’s the govts that are the problem… most are in bed with the Illuminati in one way or another, it’s disgusting and it must end.

        Countries with corrupt govt need to emulate Iceland. They did it, arrested every corrupt baker and politician and jailed their asses. Of course the rest of the world didn’t hear much about that because main stream media is owned and run by the corrupt who wouldn’t want us to get wind of something so drastic it could result in other countries following suit. AND THEY SHOULD!!!

        Get involved people… the more we speak up and about unjustices, the more we wake others up and the clearer our message.

        Corrupt govt of the world take notice!!!

        WE’RE FED UP AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!

  8. Rick Hiltz says:

    Nice to see some of you standing up against the over reaching of Council . Remember they are incorporated you are not an employee the laws council pass are only applicable to their employee`s

  9. DOES ANYONE ELSE WANT TO MARCH TO CITY HALL TO PROTEST THIS WITH ME? Let’s PROTEST. Let’s FIGHT this. Are we human beings really going to stand by and do NOTHING, knowing FULL-WELL that there are capitalist SWINE treating individuals like pieces of unwanted TRASH?
    These people need HELP, they need to be FIXED, not broken further.
    I WILL NOT ALLOW THIS!!!!
    I AM TAKING A FUCKING STAND.
    WHO IS WITH ME?!?!?!?

  10. Maureen E Gardiner says:

    Wow-welcome to the smallest minded city on the planet. I sincerely hope that assessment is incorrect and the people who can, will stand up and stop this ugliness

  11. tego says:

    Wow this city takes poor-bashing to another level.

    I highly doubt anyone in the DTES has $10,000 to spare when charged with this ridiculously corrupt law. They’ll likely end up spending a few weeks in prison. Not a dignifying prospect.

    Our lawmakers (and those who feed them greenbacks) should be held accountable for this act of blatant classism and racism.

  12. Jef Keighley says:

    Wow! I’m surprised Vision’s homeless strategy is so modest! Why not raise the fines to a million dollars or maybe ten million dollars. Then Vision could pump all the collected fine monies into providing homes for the homeless. The logic is, dare I say it, brilliant! While they’re at it, perhaps Vision could adopt a new motto ‘Let them eat cake!’ Naw, that’s been used before.

  13. Wow thats a lot of bottles 10G worth, wonder what that looks like. This issue is now on my radar. How quick they are to forget Occupy started here, This is the kind of stuff that will give me more power as they piss people off.

  14. WTF? kinda of stupidity rodeo is this?

    How’s about this for law, every-time a Politician or Government employee gets caught red handed or does something like this kinda of out of the box thinking to fellow Canadians.

    We, the people are allowed to put a bullet in the back of their head…… Simple…No jury ,No trail.Why waste more tax dollars?
    Yup sounds good, can I get a motion to carry? everyone in agreement say I. Motion carried, start the slaughter ;)

    Get the F’k outta here, ya F’Kn ridicules eggheads! Yup another proud day in CANADIAN HISTORY from are elite intellectuals.

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