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RELEASE: OneCity statement on CRAB Park Evictions

OneCity condemns Vancouver Park Board's eviction of people experiencing homelessness from CRAB Park, calls for housing solutions over displacement.

VANCOUVER (Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Territories) - OneCity is deeply alarmed by the Vancouver Park Board’s dismantling of the City’s only legal daytime sheltering area for people experiencing homelessness, at CRAB Park. Over the past few weeks, residents have been evicted, tiny homes have been demolished and personal possessions have been seized. Many of these actions have been justified as necessary for health and safety – or to open the park for recreational use – despite the significant risks these actions pose to the lives and well-being of some of the most marginalized people in Vancouver.

This February, the Park Board informed CRAB Park residents that the Park Board would clean up the designated CRAB Park sheltering area for health and safety reasons, and ordered residents to move to another portion of the park while the work was underway. The residents were repeatedly told the move and clean-up was not for decampment purposes.

Legal Daytime Sheltering at Risk: The Importance of CRAB Park

After the clean-up was completed, which included destroying shelters that individuals had built, CRAB Park residents were told that only those who resided in the designated sheltering area as of February 24 were permitted to return to assigned tents. Further, if returning residents did not continue to “regularly” reside at their assigned tent, as determined by Park Board, they would have their designated area permanently removed. The spot would not be available for future residents.

This incremental, de facto decampment has already resulted in a resident reporting that they have been de-camped after being absent one evening from their designated spot. The Park Board has also failed to provide many former residents a designated spot on the basis of the Park Board not having information they were residents prior to February 24. There are currently only 14 individuals legally remaining in the designated area – less than half of the residents who lived there prior to the clean-up measures.

CRAB Park is an extremely important area for unhoused residents in Vancouver because it is the only public place in the City where individuals are allowed to erect shelter during the day. Soon this will be lost.

"Housing scarcity is the result of years of policy decisions whose health consequences are becoming clearer and more dangerous. As is the case with most public health crises, it is the most vulnerable in our society who are bearing the brunt of the impact. The Park Board's decision doesn't just fail to correct this unjust health inequity, it makes it even worse. People are sleeping in CRAB Park because they have nowhere else to go. Evicting them only increases their risk of more serious harm. Whose 'health and safety' is the Park Board thinking about?"
– Dr. Ian Cromwell, OneCity Director

This is not the first time the Park Board has taken steps to evict residents from CRAB Park. In 2021, the Park Board issued several orders displacing individuals sheltering in the Park. However, the BC Supreme Court overturned these orders on the grounds that persons cannot be prohibited from sheltering in parks overnight if they cannot access indoor spaces that are responsive to their needs. The Court further directed the Park Board to consider the necessity of daytime sheltering “in a positive and compassionate way,” accepting evidence that decamping each morning is a substantial hardship for campers. In response to the Court decision, the Park Board established the City’s only designated daytime sheltering area at CRAB Park.

These hardships haven’t changed since 2021. If anything, they have intensified with an increase in the number of people who are unhoused in Vancouver.

Challenges of Compliance: The New Rules at CRAB Park

Prohibiting tent and shelter use during the day seriously increases the risk that people are exposed to the elements and lose essential survival possessions. It also severely impacts people who are older and who have mental and physical disabilities – for whom carrying their possessions around during the day imposes a disproportionate burden.

The Park Board and the City of Vancouver are constitutionally required to consider the impact of their decisions on individuals’ rights to life and dignity. The Park Board’s recent actions show no such consideration, and there is nothing “positive” or “compassionate” about the Park Board’s recent actions.

If we have learned anything from previous encampments, it’s clear that shutting them down does not solve the problem. Instead of investing public resources in intimidating people from their homes in parks, what is needed is rapid action to provide access to safe, secure and suitable housing options. Until such housing exists, parks remain a place of shelter and community for unhoused Vancouverites – to whom the City has legal and moral obligations.

OneCity Vancouver media contact:
[email protected]

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