Coalition CALLOUT

This callout was sent to several groups in the Vancouver area. Since then, the Carnegie Community Action Project, Impact on Communities Coalition, Pivot Legal Society, Streams of Justice, DTES Women’s Center, UBC Social Justice Center, and VANACT have formed a working coalition. To join the coalition, email vanact.hub@gmail.com

To Whom it May Concern:

This is a callout for support and coalition-building against the proposed Assistance to Shelter Act, Provincial Bill 18. We invite you to work with us and other coalition members towards stopping the passage and subsequent implementation of this highly unjust legislation. This callout comes with great urgency: the bill has passed its second reading (Nov. 7) and will be going into its 3rd and final reading in the next week. It is extremely important for us to respond to this tool of gentrification with a swift, coordinated response.

We hope to build on the open letter sent by Pivot Legal Society to the Minster of Housing on Nov. 5, signed by a coalition of signatories. Our goal is to expand opposition to include active campaigning and community organizing.

There will be two ways for groups and individuals to contribute to the coalition: first, in the capacity of signatory to coalition documents, petitions and callouts; secondly, as an active member of the coalition, with an active representative at coalition meetings. We hope the coalition will harness the collective creativity of its members, and use all the tools in the activist toolkit – including community mobilization, marches, letter-writing campaigns, etc.

As there is, unfortunately, no time to lose, we propose an initial meeting at 5:30pm, Thursday November 19 in the 3rd Floor Gallery of the Carnegie Centre (401 Main St, corner of Main & Hastings).

Should the proposed legislation pass its 3rd reading, the coalition can continue to organize against the Act’s enforcement in the lead-up to the Olympics. A cohesive network of organizations will be needed to respond to ongoing displacement and criminalization of poverty.

Problems with the legislation

Unjust: There is no justice in legislation that grants enforcement officers the authority to coercively displace persons against their will.

Unconstitutional: By forcibly sheltering the street homeless, the proposed law violates Canadians’ fundamental Charter rights to “not be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned” (Section 9 of Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

Breach of Olympic contract: The proposed legislation undermines the Olympic Inner-City Inclusivity Commitment to “Ensure residents are not involuntarily displaced”.

Open to abuse:
The proposed legislation grants the Minister the power to declare a weather emergency at his discretion and to direct police to round people up during the Olympics, and contains no language to explicitly guard against such abuse.

Bad for the homeless: reasonable force is not defined in the legislation, leaving open the possibility of increased violence against those perceived to be homeless. The legislation does not explicitly protect the property or belongings of those captured. The law would push British Columbia’s street homeless and most marginalized into harder-to-find locations, and place them at an increased risk of abuse.

Bad for shelter providers: shelter providers will be left to accommodate people who have been coercively brought to their doorstep; those captured may have been violated or deprived of their possessions, and may as a result: be agitated, require medical attention, or wish to file a complaint.

We look forward to your response, and to working together.

Signed,

Vancouver Action (VANACT)

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