SFU Institute for the Humanities and The Mainlander
Policing the Crisis in Vancouver
Tuesday, April 29th – 7:00pm
Please note location change to Wosk Centre for Dialogue – Room 420, Wosk Centre for Dialogue SFU, 580 W. Hastings St.
Louise Lagimodiere (right) and Dave Hamm (left) – Photo by Ward Perrin, The Province
Louise Lagimodiere (picture above) is a 70-year old Indigenous senior and member of VANDU. “I got two tickets more than a year ago,” she in an interview with The Mainlander yesterday, “but yet I’m still being called to court. I didn’t harm anybody yet they are spending thousands of dollars trying to get money out of me I don’t have. I wouldn’t be vending if I had the money to pay these fines.”
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPPC) has now rejected the reasons given by the Vancouver Mayor and Police Department for dismissing a complaint of discriminatory by-law enforcement in the Downtown Eastside. The complaint was filed by VANDU and Pivot Legal Society when it was revealed that 95% of all vending tickets and 76% of all jaywalking tickets were handed out in the Downtown Eastside. In September 2013, the Mayor dismissed the joint legal complaint and spoke in favor of a VDP board decision to dismiss the VANDU delegation.
The OPPC is a watchdog formed in 2011 in response to a systemic lack of police accountability in British Columbia.
VANDU members have been fighting against discriminatory by-law enforcement for more than a decade. In 2010 VANDU members collaborated on the Pedestrian Safety Project to address traffic safety concerns for pedestrians in the DTES. The VPD opposed the changes, including a 30km speed zone along Hastings. Many of the recommendations of the Project have since been implemented. At a press conference today, however, VANDU vice president Laura Shaver stated that police need to do more to focus enforcing speeds limits for drivers instead of fines for low-income pedestrians. “It is not the people hitting the cars, it is the cars hitting the people,” Shaver said.
Last week the Vancouver Police Board voted to dismiss a joint complaint filed in March 2013 by VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users) and Pivot Legal Society. The complaint was based on a freedom of information request revealing that up to 95% of Vancouver’s vending by-law tickets are given out in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Pivot and VANDU called on the police to implement the recommendations of the Murdered and Missing Women’s Inquiry, which called on the VPD stop the disproportionate ticketing of poor, homeless, and under-housed residents in the DTES.
Immediately after the Mayor’s decision, PIVOT announced that it will be filing an appeal with Office of Police Complaints Commission. PIVOT and VANDU will also continue with their constitutional challenge against the City’s vending by-law. According to Pivot lawyer Doug King, the challenge will be heard in the courts next Spring, 2014.
On Monday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson confirmed his support of the criminalization of dissent. Following the Vancouver Police Department’s recent threat of arrests against peaceful protesters, Robertson stated: “I support the Vancouver Police Department’s prudent steps to ensure that the right to protest is balanced against the right of all residents and businesses to peaceful enjoyment of public and private spaces.”
The Police Department’s “prudent steps” include the publication of a blanket letter warning the public that they may be arrested on criminal charges for “shouting, screaming, or swearing”; VPD Spokesperson Brian Montague’s April 17th announcement that the VPD were “anticipating an arrest” of an unnamed individual on unspecified charges “related to the PiDGiN protest”; armed officers’ surveillance of the PiDGiN pickets, five nights a week; visits to protesters’ homes and workplaces; and the constant monitoring of “all the protests that go on in the City of Vancouver.”
Photo credit: DM GILLIS
After ten steady weeks of nightly protests by anti-poverty activists in front of the PiDGiN restaurant in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, police have stated that they plan to arrest picketers. In a press conference delivered yesterday, Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Brian Montague stated that his department is “anticipating an arrest soon.”
A letter issued yesterday by the VPD states that PiDGiN picketers can now be arrested for “shouting, screaming, or swearing.” The statement cites section 430(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which means that the VDP is seeking to label the protest a criminal action. An associated VPD release states that the police are issuing the arrest order to prevent Vancouverites from being “denied the lawful use and enjoyment of property.”
This article was originally posted at timlouis.ca
Much of the past century saw a winning-streak by the right wing NPA, Vancouver’s historic party of wealth and privilege. Pundits talk about Vision Vancouver’s interruption of that NPA legacy, and there has even been talk of the disintegration of the NPA “brand.” By winning two consecutive terms in municipal office, Vision is said to be taking Vancouver in a new, progressive direction.
Both the voting record and the policy agenda of the last four years under Vision reveal that the perceived interruption of NPA rule is a patent illusion. The reality is that Vision’s core policy agenda has been a carry-over from previous NPA initiatives. Eco-density, the Tax Shift, the Chinatown Height Review, increased police budgets and heightened ticketing – for anyone who digs into recent history, these seemingly contemporary initiatives are relics of Sam Sullivan’s 2005-2008 term.
Despite appearances, NPA’s platform is today found front and center, fashioned with a different, greener logo – and with the exception of those bike lanes. On all issues since 2008, Vision and the NPA have voted as a unified block minus the bike lanes.
Eco-density in particular (an NPA initiative under Sullivan) has been slammed down the throats of neighborhoods since Vision’s election in 2008. Rather than forcing monopoly developers to use their empty parcels of land, Vision has used the key tools of NPA ‘revitalization’ policy – area rezoning, tax breaks and fee exemptions – to facilitate the gentrification of existing affordable neighborhoods. Poverty and homelessness are worse then ever, matched in their scale only by the profits of the developers and land owners.
On Saturday, September 2 2012, the Vancouver Police Department once again demolished the cart of a homeless DTES resident. The cart contained personal belongings and all the necessities for surviving on the streets: clothes, bedding, tools and other essential objects.
The VPD prohibits the demolition of a homeless persons’ property under the Abandoned Property Policy, but officers have repeatedly violated the policy.
Last summer the Mainlander published an article on VPD shopping cart demolitions. In response to a documented VPD removal of a shopping cart in the DTES on June 25th 2011, the Mainlander criticized the VPD’s continued contravention of their own operating guidelines. The article noted that by the summer of 2011, nothing had changed since lawyer David Eby documented the removal of a shopping cart in February 2009.
In response to the complaint of the June 25th 2011 incident, the VPD issued a statement on July 5, 2011, admitting the misconduct: “The Vancouver Police Department has taken steps to remind every officer that if they come across items that appear to be abandoned, and that need to be removed from the street for the safety of the public, or for the safekeeping of the items, the property is to be safeguarded until the owner can be identified and retrieve their items.”
This Saturday’s demolition took place at 8pm near Insite on East Hastings. Against a crowd of protesting DTES residents and neighbors, the officer responsible stated that the removal was justified by the fact that the owner of the cart had been absent for several days. But according to staff at Insite, the cart had been there for less than 12 hours.
The cart contained bedding and tools neatly tucked away into separate containers under a meticulous rain-proof cover. The owner of the cart had been in Surrey for the day and for obvious reasons was unable to bring the cart with him.
Across the street from the cart incident lies an abandoned site owned by private real-estate developer Marc Williams. The site contains garbage and rubble, all of which were allowed to ferment for more than a year despite numerous formal complaints against the smell and presence of rats from DTES residents and tenants of neighboring hotels. The city’s message is that a rich person’s garbage is outside the law, while a poor person’s livelihood is garbage.
From their current actions, it is clear there has been no change in VPD’s practice of handling abandoned property in contravention of official policy. This violation of basic rights should come as no surprise. The city’s aggressive revitalization plan for the DTES is being pushed ahead by city hall, despite overwhelming opposition and protest by residents. Vision Vancouver’s Revitalization Strategy for the DTES is part and parcel of the criminalization of poverty and neither can be considered in isolation. As such the demolition of poor peoples’ homes and property is not only a failure on behalf of the VPD but a systematic failure of the city.