Ashes of loved ones. Art handed down through generations. Family photos. Each of these items was destroyed and discarded by Vancouver Police during street sweeps on Downtown Eastside, homeless advocates say.
Lorna Bird, a board member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), said she heard from a homeless woman who claimed Vancouver police threw her mother’s ashes, her brother’s ashes and her uncle’s ashes.
‘When she told them what they were, they said‘ there are enough drugs ’. They threw them in the trash. Another lady who was a picture of her baby with footprints and fingerprints. They smashed it in front of her and threw it into the truck. It really hurts me that they do this because they are irreplaceable things. ”
The practice of street sweeping is meant to keep sidewalks free of debris and debris so people can safely walk on sidewalks.
However, the Pivot Legal Society, a Vancouver-based organization that advocates for marginalized people in Downtown Eastside, calls for an end to the practice of street sweepers, saying they are disproportionately targeted at the homeless.
In a press release, the community said they saw officers and city workers dispose of people’s personal belongings, including tents, tarpaulins and rainwear provided by local charities.
These sweeps took place during the city’s “Homelessness Action Week”, which takes place from 10 to 17 October.
Meenakshi Mannoe of the Pivot Legal Society said city workers and Vancouver police changed their behavior in response to seeking out their group.
“We saw them leave the Downtown East Side for three days in a row, drive away and not do the street sweeping. Even though they did, we still saw them taking people’s belongings.”
Pivot drafted an “invoice” to highlight the cost of the street sweeps. Mannoe said the teams include up to six city workers, two uniformed VPD officers and heavy equipment such as pickup trucks and garbage trucks. Pivot also showed the price of items thrown away in street sweeps.
Alexandra Flynn, an assistant professor at UBC’s Allard School of Law, said police are violating the charter’s rights to the safety of the person while making their sweeps.
“If you do not have things that belong to you to stay safe, dry and healthy, you will suffer on a day like today. That’s what people live with all the time,” she said. “This is not just “It’s a matter of human dignity, it’s a matter of rights. These possessions are the property of the people. They belong to them, and taking them away is a form of theft.”
VANDU board member Myles Harper, who has lived experience on the streets, said the public should be “disgusted” that this is happening in Canada.
“One of the things that disgusted me the most was seeing the young people on the streets – 16 years, 15 years old – they are out there and they do not know they have rights. Many of them come from broken homes, nursing homes “Do you think they really want to be out here on the streets? They want to be loved by people. They want care. We need everyone to care about them.”
The Pivot Legal Society calls for the full removal of Vancouver officers from street cleaning teams, an end to current practices and the replacement of street sweepers with locally run sidewalk cleaning programs, the repeal of statutes banning shelter in public spaces and a repeal of the safe. Street law.
In response, the City of Vancouver said in a statement to Black Press that they are an “active participant” in Homelessness Action Week, and that they provide grants to a number of non-profit associations working to address homelessness in the city. The city added that staff “do their utmost” to ensure personal belongings are not taken during street sweeps.
“The staff is trained to remove material that has been left behind – not to remove objects that are clearly personal belongings. We sincerely regret that personal belongings have at times been mistakenly mixed into the significant amount of garbage cleared from sidewalks every day, City of Vancouver communications manager Phoenix Lam said via email.
However, photos taken by Pivot show workers reading garbage trucks with tents and other personal belongings under the supervision of Vancouver police. Lam said police are accompanying crews so staff can feel safe at work.
The city said they are discussing with staff about a possible meeting with the Pivot Legal Society to discuss their proposed solutions.
In an email, Vancouver police said people are being notified daily that city staff will clear and clean sidewalks.
“If people camp or wander in areas to be cleaned, they will be asked to relocate during the cleaning process.”
Do you want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.