The Vancouver Tenants Union calls upon the City of Vancouver for an immediate moratorium on evictions of the Hastings Tent City and all encampments throughout the city.
Over the past months, the City of Vancouver has continued to forcefully evict people sheltering outside while failing to provide adequate, accessible housing. The recent leak of a City document details the plan for even further escalation, entailing a one-day police-led decampment of all unhoused individuals living on Hastings. This document also makes it clear that there is not adequate housing in place for encampment residents. The VTU condemns this plan as a gross violation of the basic rights of encampment residents.
Residents have repeatedly stated that they have no safe, accessible housing alternatives, yet the evictions continue. This creates an unending cycle of displacement and criminalization, pushing people into greater precarity and endangering lives. A recent milestone court case in Kitchener, Ontario found that the bylaws used to evict homeless encampments violates section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, based on the lack of “available and truly accessible indoor sheltering spaces.” This is one of several Canadian cases establishing that encampment evictions breach Charter rights.
Further, using mass police presence to forcefully evict encampment residents has been criticized by the Federal Housing Advocate and the UN Special Rapporteur On The Right to Adequate Housing, both stating that this is a practice that must end. The violent police-led encampment clearings by the City of Toronto in 2021 were recently condemned by the Toronto Ombudsman as a failure to uphold a human rights approach to housing. Yet the City of Vancouver plans to go forward with a similar decampment operation involving “a significantly larger Eng and VPD staff deployment.”
For our unhoused neighbours, two of the only options are to live in hyper-surveilled and hyper-policed shelter environments where their rights are revoked, or to live in public spaces where they are at constant risk of displacement and hostility at the hands of police and city workers. This situation is a failure of all levels of government to respond to the urgent need for safe, accessible, autonomous, welfare-rate housing. The BC Premier’s current plan involves building temporary “work camp” housing, which will not be ready until June, and still does not create long-term liveable homes for encampment residents. Meanwhile, the City prepares to close existing modular housing and has done little to make existing SRO units habitable and dignified.
As Hastings Tent City resident Syn says, “All we’ve been asking for is somewhere to go. Instead, they want us to disappear.”
The Vancouver Tenants Union condemns the City for evicting unhoused residents to nowhere and cruelly punishing those most deeply affected by the housing crisis.