End displacement, honour UNDRIP commitments; Support for people sheltering in CRAB Park

End displacement, honour UNDRIP commitments; Support for people sheltering in CRAB Park

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CRAB Park Solidarity started this petition to Donnie Rosa and

Open Letter:  End the cycle of displacement and honour UNDRIP commitments; Support for homeless people sheltering in CRAB Park 

Unhoused people sheltering in CRAB Park are being threatened with eviction - yet again. This is the fourth tent city eviction in fifteen months for homeless people in Vancouver.

About 30 people, many Indigenous, have been sheltering in CRAB Park since May 2021. Some residents have already left, and some are refusing to leave.

On July 8th, the Vancouver Park Board issued an Order from the General Manager against any camping in CRAB Park in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) and informed homeless residents that they must vacate the park or face enforcement.

Recent evictions efforts by the Vancouver Police (VPD) and Vancouver park rangers have dramatically escalated, including fencing off the entire perimeter of the park on July 22.

With recent Order — in conjunction with the  Memorandum of Understanding on Support for Unsheltered Vancouver Residents (MOU) signed March 31, 2021 by the Province, City of Vancouver and Vancouver Park Board — there is currently no legal place for daytime sheltering for homeless people and almost no legal place for overnight sheltering in the DTES. 

We are requesting an immediate moratorium on eviction efforts, the upholding of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Act (specifically Article 10) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Articles 25, 26 and 29), and housing for all. 

See the complete list of demands and background information below. 

Background 

The MOU has the stated objective to “reduce the total number of unsheltered residents in parks and public spaces in Vancouver to zero.” — but there isn’t sufficient housing for unhoused people and no place to go that isn’t subject to ongoing displacement and street sweeps.

https://parkboardmeetings.vancouver.ca/files/MOU-SupportingUnshelteredVancouverResidents-BC-COV-PB-20210331.pdf

Given the disproportionate number of Indigenous people sleeping in Vancouver parks, we believe the enforcement of the Park Control By-law to be in violation of [so-called] British Columbia’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Though this enforcement violates many aspects of DRIPA, Article 10 is worth noting specifically:

“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return."

Complete List of Demands

We, therefore, request the following: 

•A dissolution of the Memorandum of Understanding;

•That a new policy be created in collaboration with unhoused residents, advocates, First Nations and other groups to ensure a harm reduction, trauma informed, decolonial approach is taken. This document will be radically different that the MOU. It would accept that people may be unhoused and propose means to support them rather than bring enforcement upon them – this policy would enshrine the rights of unhoused individuals on this land;

•An immediate moratorium to enforcement of the Parks Control By-law and the Order evicting residents from CRAB Park in lieu of the creation of a new policy;

•Cease with enforcement orders and decampment of Indigenous people on unceded territory in CRAB park;

•That no other new enforcement measures, including new directives to the VPD, be issued;

•A commitment to meet with representatives involved in the authorship of this letter to discuss next steps;.

•Take down the blue fence around the south east corner of the park, (traditionally an area where homeless and under housed people rest and sleep);

•Renovate the field house, washrooms and showers in consultation with, and hiring local community members;

•Unlock the gate for community resource access, provide running water, water fountain and electrical access ;

•No enforcement by Park Rangers or VPD as part of daily displacement under Park Control Bylaw;

•Place a moratorium on the Park Control Bylaw section 11 on Temporary Sheltering in Parks to end daily displacement and allow for daytime sheltering in place;

•Housing for all - real, permanent rights-based housing not temporary housing, shelters, “programs or hotels (or “supportive housing” without funding for supports and stop disproportionate investment in shelters, “shelter pods” and navigation centres);

•Immediately house the “Strathcona 35” – former Strathcona Park residents that didn’t get housing;

•A meeting with Vancouver Park Board General Manager Donnie Rosa and residents of CRAB Park; 

•Lift the bars against Fiona York and Josh Beauchamp and allow them back in CRAB Park;

•No unnecessary “wellness checks” conducted by Park Rangers [when peers or volunteers are present] including no unzipping or shaking of tents; 

•Respect that a tent is a home and occupants do not consent to have their tent opened, entered or looked into without written permission; 

•Treat those living in the park as equals in society and entitled to the same rights and respect as others;

•That these measures be agreed to – in writing – by Aug 30th, 2021;

•We also declare our solidarity with the CRAB Park Community Demands:

  • Immediately remove the containers and tankers in Lot 5
  • Expand the Freshwater Bird Marsh
  • Lot 5 become entirely public green space
  • Build an Indigenous Longhouse
  • Return the land to the host nations, the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Swx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations.
  • No TMX (Trans Mountain Pipeline) oil barge tankers in Burrard Inlet
    Both Berths in front of CRAB Park must only be used for clean, environmentally friendly shore power. No dirty freighters in front of C.R.A.B Park!

▶MORE INFORMATION: 

Evictions violate UNDRIP: UBCIC chief

Excerpted from Make Camp, Get Kicked out. Vancouver Rousts Crab Park, Again

https://thetyee.ca/News/2021/07/12/Vancouver-Rousts-Crab-Park-Again/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=130721&fbclid=IwAR3oKTr4gqijAB7fyym9yrWvUbifzCa_CIe0yqLsX7Y8fd94C7elzWRgEGU

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs has expressed support for Crab Park campers, who have a list of demands ranging from removal of the new fencing around the park to the construction of an Indigenous Long house there. They want access to running water, renovated bathrooms, an end to rangers’ regular “wellness checks” on campers and long-term supportive housing. They also want a meeting with park manager Rosa, who hasn’t responded to campers’ multiple meeting requests, York told The Tyee via email.

UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer Kukpi7 Judy Wilson says the park board and VPD should approach First Nations to consult about how to accomplish these goals.

“If the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Park Board are serious about reconciliation, they should be consulting with the titles and rights of these territories and respecting the agency of people to experience structural vulnerability under colonial Canada,” she said to The Tyee.

Wilson finds it “morally reprehensible to force people to leave against their will,” and said the evictions violate the terms of UNDRIP. The people being pushed out “are facing the intersectional crisis of poverty, COVID-19, opioid addiction, fentanyl contamination in their communities,” she said. “We can’t continue sweeping it under the rug.”

In past evacuations, law enforcement officers have seized the possessions of some tent campers. UBC law professor Alexandra Flynn, who is studying the effects on campers, said “when their things are taken, it makes them even more vulnerable than they were before. Then people have to figure out how to get new supplies with no income.”

By evicting campers from Crab Park, she says the City of Vancouver and its park board are exercising their powers as property owners or managers rather than adopting a human rights lens, as she believes they should. Because Crab Park is on federal land, the federal government is obligated under Section 35 of the Constitution to address issues relevant to Indigenous people, reminds Wilson.

“The law has not been as helpful as it should be in just answering this very basic human rights question,” says Flynn. “Legal advocates will continue to push the point in courts of law, but I think cities should understand what their obligations are and eventually I hope the courts will recognize that too.”

Wilson anticipates that as long as the city is trying to keep them out, campers are only going to keep moving from place to place, causing additional hardship to people who are already vulnerable during a pandemic.

“I’m just mystified as to why the government thinks that this is effective,” she said.

From a letter to David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing; Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of [so-called] Vancouver; Paul Mochrie, [so-called] Vancouver General Manager; Camil Dumont, Park Board Chair; Donnie Rosa, Park Board General Manager dated July 8, 2021:

“The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed to by the Province, City and Park Board on April 6, 2021 is a policy that does not work.

“The second objective of the MOU contains a significant flaw. It states that the goal “[is to] reduce the total number of unsheltered residents in parks and public spaces in Vancouver to zero[...].” This puts all unhoused or unsheltered residents at odds and in violation of a document seemingly intended to help them. It is our belief that the “end homelessness” approach inherently creates an adversarial relationship with the unhoused turning them into an obstacle of your stated goal. This has led to an over-reliance on the Parks Control By-law [insert link] to “solve homelessness”, creating an endless cycle of enforcement.

https://parkboardmeetings.vancouver.ca/files/BYLAW-ParksBylawsConsolidated-20200915.pdf

“The MOU advances a strategy of Public Space Displacement – there is no legal place for a person to be “homeless” during the daytime in this city. That the MOU was written without consulting unhoused residents, Indigenous people, community members, advocacy groups and advocates is apparent in its enforcement forward approach – something these groups never would have agreed to.

“What we seek is a harm reduction approach that eliminates enforcement policies such as the Park Control By-law in search of compassionate approaches that cease the daily traumatization of city residents who are unhoused. The current policy is one of prohibition.

“Further, given the disproportionate number of Indigenous people sleeping in Vancouver parks, we believe the enforcement of the Park Control By-law to be in violation of [so-called] British Columbia’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Though this enforcement violates many aspects of DRIPA, Article 10 is worth noting specifically:

“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

“Indigenous residents at CRAB Park have made their belief that enforcement of the Park Control By-law is in violation of DRIPA known to enforcement agents on the ground.

“While we recognize that the Province is building housing, many unhoused individuals believe this housing is unsuitable and does not meet their needs There is, therefore, not currently adequate or suitable housing for everyone.”

“We also recognize that unhoused individuals have a right to exist. Though we want people housed, people need to be supported and cared for wherever they are on the “spectrum of housing.”

“We feel like we’re being swept under the rug. We’re in this situation and we’re pushed around a lot,” says D. “I don’t know how many times we’ve moved. You literally can’t leave the park because they’ll come and take your stuff and give you a business card or something. I’ve been camping by myself and the City will watch and you come back and there’s nothing. It’s a little bit nicer here; it’s a group setting. I don’t know where they expect you to go.”

This violent and traumatic enforcement-first and inhumane approach to homelessness creates displacement, ongoing psychological trauma, loss of belongings, insecurity, and inability to care for day-to-day medical, health, housing, employment and financial needs. 

This latest eviction comes on the heels of dehumanizing and traumatic evictions from Oppenheimer Park (May 2020), CRAB Park Parking Lot 5 (June 2020), Strathcona Park (April 2021) and Raymur Street (May 2021). All of these spaces were fenced off from public use, further stigmatizing homeless citizens and increasingly displacing vulnerable people into life-threatening isolation and invisibility.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs have issued the following statement: 

Re: Removal of Campers from CRAB Park  

The UBCIC and Pivot Legal Society are writing in solidarity in support of campers residing in CRAB park who do not wish to leave. The forced decampment and removal of campers, including Indigenous people, is in direct opposition to statement’s made by the Parks Board, City’s commitment to reconciliation and BC’s commitment to the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Act. 

Recent attempts by park rangers and the Vancouver Police to enforce decampment orders and forcibly remove a First Nations Elder from Haida Gwaii are continual attempts of oppression. CRAB Park serves as a safe haven for those who are disproportionately impacted by homelessness and impoverishment linked to the legacy of colonization. 

Statements by the Parks Board of Canada in support of CRAB Park and the Land Back movement require aligned actions. BC and its institutions have a responsibility to uphold Articles 25, 26, and 29 of the UN Declaration: 

ï†Article 25: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard. 

ï†Article 26(1): Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired;

(2): Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired;

(3): States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned. 

ï†Article 29(1): Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination;

(2): States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. 

The UBCIC and Pivot Legal Society call for the Parks Board and Vancouver Police to live up to the commitments in the Declaration Act and cease with enforcement orders and decampment of Indigenous people on unceded territory in CRAB park. 

UNION OF B.C. INDIAN CHIEFS CHIEFS COUNCIL FEBRUARY 24TH-25TH, 2021 VIRTUAL MEETING 

Resolution no. 2021-27 RE: Improvements to CRAB Park to Address Environmental and Indigenous Concerns   

  • WHEREAS Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh are the Title holders and Host Nations for the land that the City of Vancouver exists in;
  • WHEREAS CRAB Park, on unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territory, is a sacred site of great spiritual and cultural significance for Indigenous peoples that serves as a safe haven for those who are disproportionately impacted by homelessness and impoverishment, which is linked to the legacy of colonization, and is a site in which to grieve, process trauma, and remember the lives of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls from the Downtown Eastside that are commemorated by the Downtown Eastside Missing Women Memorial Stone in the park; 
  • WHEREAS in July 2019, the Vancouver Port Authority (VFPA) announced that $1 million would be going toward improvements to CRAB Park in order to offset the impacts of the Centerm Expansion Project, a $454 million project to expand the Centerm container terminal, and the subsequent opportunity to improve CRAB Park represents an opportunity to address numerous and intersecting concerns and issues, including ecological and environmental considerations, the health of aquaculture, the right of Indigenous people to the conservation and protection of the environment, the right to safe and secure housing, and reconciliation; 
  • WHEREAS the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the government of Canada has adopted without qualifications, and has, alongside the government of B.C., committed to implement, affirms that: 
    Article 25: Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard. 
    Article 26(1): Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired;
    (2): Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired; 
    (3): States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned. 
    Article 29 (1): Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination;
    (2): States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent;
  • WHEREAS despite vocal opposition from First Nations leaders, Nations, and peoples to the construction of the pipeline, as well as their commitment to reconciliation, Canada is continuing the construction of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project which would drastically increase the oil barge tankers in the Burrard Inlet and subsequently increase the risk of oil spills and ecological devastation; 
  • WHEREAS the containers and tankers present in Lot 5 of CRAB Park present ecological risks, including the risk of an oil spill that could devastate the freshwater marsh at CRAB Park that is one of the few freshwater sources for birds on the south side of the Burrard Inlet, as well as endanger the health of people in the community;  
  • WHEREAS parks such as CRAB Park are crucial for homeless populations, particularly as the current COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated housing and employment challenges; however, the June 16th 2020 raid at Namegan /CRAB Park Tent City in which the police forcibly displaced and removed homeless people from their shelters  and arrested 46 people, is a continuation of the Province and the City of Vancouver prioritizing corporate interests and colonial property over the lives and safety of unhoused community members, which is especially damaging in the face of the dual health crisis peoples in the DTES are disproportionately at risk of –  the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis; 
  • WHEREAS the need for an Indigenous healing lodge has been brought forward by a number of groups and peoples, including the CRAB Water for Life Society, the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society founders in 2000, and Indigenous members of the city’s Local Area Planning Committee;
  • WHEREAS Vancouver Park Board commissioners unanimously approved a motion from John Irwin that will ask the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to invest in CRAB park in light of the impending expansion of the neighboring Centerm container terminal, which would include establishing a healing centre and improving access, especially for people with mobility issues; 
  • And WHEREAS the Vancouver City Council approved recommendations for staff to continue to work with community, health sector, foundation and government partners to plan for the development and operation of an Indigenous Healing and Wellness Centre in the Downtown Eastside. 
  • THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the UBCIC Chiefs Council directs the UBCIC Executive and staff to work with local Host Nations, likeminded organizations and peoples to coordinate and advance improvements to CRAB park that align with Indigenous concerns and priorities and address pressing environmental concerns;
  • THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the UBCIC Chiefs Council directs the UBCIC Executive to call upon the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to work with local Host Nations and Indigenous organizations to establish an Indigenous healing lodge at CRAB park
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