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).

121 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.

    • billy bob says:

      Very few people in the DTES want ‘rehabilitation’. There are already so many programs in place that feed and house the people living down there that they have very little motivation to rehabilitate. Why would they choose to change when they can get multiple hot meals for free each day and have a place to sleep for free too?

      • Anon says:

        So your saying working is mandatory, we are forced to be in servitude in Canada ?Slavery in all forms was not abolished as i see..

      • meals at a soup kitchen and a fee bed a homeless shelter! It sounds great! I’m quitting my jobs right away, so I can take advantage of this glorious opportunity to retire in luxury!! Which is the best shelter, billy bob? I assume you must have already moved into one, since you think they are so great..

  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!!!


  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.
    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.

  15. Jack Williams says:

    As mentioned several times in the comment section. It doesn’t matter what the fine is because homeless people would always be unable to pay it making the fine irrelevant. Why is increasing the fine such a big deal?

    If the issue is that society has to respect the rights of homeless people to live on some of the most coveted real estate in the world I would disagree with the assertion that the homeless population has that right.

    While some of the population has been living in the area for their whole life and could justly claim that it is their home their are those who are new to the area and cannot make that claim.

    Why is it society’s responsibility to support new low income housing downtown Vancouver? Wouldn’t it be more cost effective and better for society at large to support low income housing where the real estate is low cost?

    This would lower societies burden allowing more money to be allocated to schools and addiction prevention programmes.

  16. says:

    No payment equals jail time gets them out of sight and mind even though it de humanizing I’m poor so no be default I guess I’m a fri all too repulsive

  17. Joanne says:

    Well the fine is ridiculous and the big deal is that it will cost money to enforce this law (police), then there’s the court’s time and again that cost money for courts and free lawyers, and probably would clog the courts right up. Then there is housing and feeding all the homeless again that cost money and will clog up jails (how long does one stay in jail for not paying a 10 000$ fine) and then you let them all out when their jail time has paid for the fine only to arrest them again for being homeless and the process goes round and round. Cut the crap, get affordable housing, that way they can have a roof over their heads and maybe get a job and their own food. A lot cheaper.

    • dionne lemay says:

      the prisons are for criminals, not the homeless. I was beaten with a bat on the head 350 plus stiches in home invasion in Prince George. We went to court they were druggies from Vancouver. The judge let them go because they were females, I was told the prisons were to full . Some of the homeless can’t get jobs because they are homeless, they don’t have washer & dryer or shower. Give them housing first rather than putting them in jail ,where we tax payers have to pay to support them. Some are elderly or mental patients, who we should be taking care of in the first place. I use to be proud to be Canadian, but no longer I am ashamed of you Vancouver

  18. Jase says:

    Good call, let’s say a homeless person gets a job and gets a house, finally get on their feet. OHH WAIT you owe 10k. Great idea fuckwads

  19. Shevz says:

    Honestly, I don’t see why people are making such a big deal about this. I respect everyones opinion. However, acting on this will send a message that drug use/ spending time on the street is not okay or acceptable. Most of these individuals get arrested, go through the criminal/medical systems, and get released and continue in cycles. Which we pay for with our taxes. This will force some to change their life or move somewhere else. Simple.

  20. Concerned says:

    Wow, lets just lock them all up. Waaay cheaper than affordable housing. Or better yet lets privatize the prisons so these politrickcians can get a kick back from their puppetmasters. Dickensian indeed!

  21. Steve Jay says:

    should just give them all free heroin R.I.P.

  22. JZ says:

    I would really like to see an article or hear about the government doing something to help people. It seems like all they do is take away things or infringe on someone’s rights. These are still people and they deserve rights, not to be punished for their circumstance.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Lol first off all this is one of the richest provinces around. Second of all homeless people don’t have money, if they did they wouldn’t be homeless, third of all its the governments fault we even have homelessness because they shut down all of the facilities for the homeless people to go so theres know where else but the streets. The irony of it all.Like why don’t they just have a genocide then and kill them all? That would end the slow suffering of their already intolerably hard existence’s. Thats pretty much what they are doing just making it sound prettier for the public to read. I am ashamed to live in such a rich province and have this shit going on. Makes me so angry they aren’t treated as human beings.

  24. Jeremy says:

    Wow like giving someone a 10k fine is gonna give them a chance at getting a job and a place to live, especially after they don’t pay it, go to jail and get a criminal record. Yeah good to go Government, I mean mafia, creating more homeless people lol. What about the people that are living in an apartment, working, paying rent yet can’t afford food? One little mistake they miss a month of rent and bam 10k fine.
    Quit being so ignorant and think about these people, some don’t have a choice whether or not they get to live inside.
    What if someone who has narcolepsy falls asleep on the side of the road and forgets their id or doesn’t have anything to prove their address, 10000 dollar fine?

  25. E.Wells says:

    We will be the laughing stock of the rest of Canada.Harper just gave billions of dollars for aid overseas and our Vancouver politicians want to fine the homeless .How absurd

  26. mary says:

    look i have lived on the streets of van for 20 years if not more y wood you do that we need some ware to go and not having a place to go is not fun and to give a street kid or adult they wood never pay that they are tiring to mack end meet can you give them what they need to survive they sale stuff to sport them so are you going to give them money to get off the streets and give them a home to live in and the 10,000 for a low income you are not going to get it i think it is stupid good luck on it

  27. Vancouverite says:

    BC alone spends $644 million on services for the homeless every year which works out to about $55,000 per homeless person. A few studies have been done in the last 3 years across Canada on the links between homelessness, drug abuse, and mental illness. The Vancouver report has 93% of homeless individuals have a mental health disorder and 50% spend $100+ on drugs per day. $100+ per day!! It’s difficult to use logic on why you would rather sleep on the streets and spend your money on drugs rather than on housing and food. For most of us that makes no sense but then again neither does imposing $10,000 fines on people you will never get money from to pay those fines. By the the end of the day whatever amount they have, they go get their fix, so as soon as the money comes in it goes right back out. How would you ever intercept that…do pat downs of all the homeless people to pay their fines. I agree with the above, I don’t know what the council is thinking making this fine but it certainly won’t solve anything. It makes Vancouver look like we are trying to get rid of anyone middle class and down. Sad.
    The housing first study does show significant improvement in many of the individuals that were given mental health treatment and housing. All of the issues surrounding the homeless are complex; mental health disorders, drug abuse. Canada’s metal health system has to be rebuilt which will take time.
    What happens if you solve a big issue like homelessness in Vancouver though? You won’t need all of those addictions service workers, health care aids, police officers, paramedics, corrections officers etc. Something like 1/3 of all the emergency situations in ERs and ambulance responses are for mental health and intravenous drug issues. I’m not sure all the politicians out there want the homelessness issue to be solved. That’s a big hole in the economy to lose all of those jobs.

  28. Keith Kennedy says:

    Evil is in the works,,,,and the sheeple will do as they are told.
    The ignorant masses will look the other way, when the homeless (undesirables) are bussed off to the Concentration Camps.

    Stay in denial if you want……It will happen.


  29. Keith Kennedy says:

    If you understand Human Nature,,,,,you will understand why people will look the other way, when the “undesirables” are bussed away to the remote concentration camps.

    Human Beings are 100% about self preservation and only get involved when it is most convenient to do so.


  30. This reminds me of that joke by Louis C.K. about how the bank with charge you $25 for having a balance below $20, then lend your money to someone who doesn’t really need it. The story would be funny if it weren’t so tragic and, frankly, I hope the people of Vancouver step up in protest.

    How about housing for the homeless? How about harm reduction programming? How about work programming?

    How about compassion?

  31. Pete says:

    Very surprising stance from you Canadians to pick on the poor and desperate.

    Complete and utter stupidity to think that a homeless person can raise a $10,000.

    They must be running another sequel to planet of the apes up north in Canada or something like that.

    There seems to be some very heartless and nasty Canadians around for them to come up with a scheme like this.

    Very disappointed in the Canadians to say the least.

  32. liberalworkingclassvancouverite says:

    So, someone says give them all heroin and let them die and their comment stays up but my comment about no responsibilities, no accountabilities and no consequence and getting on transit for free is taken down. Glad to see this is an open forum. Nobody representing the poor and/or homeless like to hear any opinion other than their own.

  33. Alison Duncan says:

    Criminalization of the poor and the mentally ill.

    Jail time for being poor, how incredibly stupid and heartless are we as a society.

    Remember the politicians who thought up this evil plan.

  34. Alison Duncan says:

    No where for our homeless to sleep out of the elements, but we do this…

    Humans are disgusting.

  35. Alison Duncan says:

    Criminalizing poverty and mental illness by fining and jailing people for being homeless.

    Our govt has lost the plot. They forget they serve ALL the people not just the 1%.

    Underfund education and threaten punative fines if teachers try to negotiate.

    They away Special education assistants from mentally challenged children leaving them unhelped and therefore less able to achieve their maximum potential. Thereby putting them at greater risk of becoming one of the criminalized poor.

    Underfund healthcare so people suffer in hallways getting substandard care, recover slower and suffer greater risk becoming jobless>homeless>fined>incarcerated.

    Our govt is EVIL.

    Remember next election day what this govt does to the disadvantaged.

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