The Coalition of Progressive Electors stands in solidarity with the tent city at Oppenheimer Park, and calls on Vision Vancouver to refrain from using its unconstitutional anti-tenting Bylaws to evict those tenting in the park.
Vancouver City Council passed a resolution June 25th, 2014 acknowledging that Vancouver occupies unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
In an open letter to the City of Vancouver, the residents of Oppenheimer Park tent city declared:
The City of Vancouver recognizes the unceded and enduring existence of our Aboriginal Title here. Under this recognition, we now require that you leave this place and cease any attempts to remove people or their belongings from this place. Because we are the title holders to this land, we assert that you do not have jurisdiction over this place until such time as our title to it is lawfully resolved. Any actions against this camp are thereby unlawful actions against our title; we demand an immediate cease and desist of action or the threat of action against this camp or those within it.
In the wake of the Idle No More movement and the Year of Reconciliation, COPE believes that the city can’t stop at symbolic gestures.
“Recognizing this is indigenous land is not a symbolic act. It must change the way the City treats the land and indigenous people. Park Rangers walking into this tent city, with its important message about inequality and indigenous sovereignty, threatening to use force to arrest people, steal their belongings, and dismantle the longhouse they have built, is totally unacceptable. Recognition without action is hypocrisy,” said COPE Co-Chair Heather Gies.
Twice Vision Vancouver has created new anti-structures bylaws they have used to fine homeless people for sleeping outdoors, and protest camps by groups like the Falun Gong. In 2013, the Vision-led council attempted to increase the fine for homelessness up to $10,000, which was challenged by Pivot Legal Society.
Some of the campers are recent evictees from the York Hotel, and many say they are safer in the camp than in SROs, where bed bugs, overcrowding, and unlivable conditions are the norm. The City of Vancouver says they are trying to find shelter spots, but that provides no long-term stability or security for people without housing, Shelters are not homes, and are not an acceptable replacement for actual affordable and social housing.
The Adams v. Victoria BC Supreme Court decision established that it is unconstitutional to punish people for sleeping outside when there is no adequate housing. Right now in Vancouver, homelessness is at its highest rate in recorded history. There are fewer emergency shelters this year than in past years, and all the winter shelters have been closed. Meanwhile, renovictions are increasing as landlords upscale their buildings in the context of Vision’s gentrification plans for DTES, Grandview-Woodlands and other neighbourhoods.
Rosanne Gervais, COPE’s Aboriginal Caucus Representative said: “The City of Vancouver has not taken steps to protect SRO’s from renoviction and has stepped back its plans to build social housing that is affordable for low-income people. Now they are trying to hide the city-wide homelessness that is a direct result. Until the City of Vancouver takes real actions towards ending homelessness and finds solutions to the problems it has created, it has no business using force to try to hide the problem it refuses to solve.”