Blue Line

Vancouver police deployed to end tent encampment in city’s Downtown Eastside

April 5, 2023  By The Canadian Press

Apr. 5, 2023, Vancouver, B.C. – Vancouver police have dispatched officers to a tent encampment on the city’s Downtown Eastside with the aim of shutting down the site to campers.

The City of Vancouver says it has asked police to help bring a close to the encampment, removing all remaining tents and structures.

It says in a statement that it decided to act due to “the growing public safety risk” posed by the encampment on East Hastings Street.

It says more than 400 outdoor fires have occurred over the last eight months and four people have been injured this year.


“The persistent fire risk posed by the encampment and recent fires in neighbouring buildings has made the situation on East Hastings even more precarious. Fires are occurring too regularly in the area and with escalating intensity due to an accumulation of materials and propane tanks,” the statement says.

It says the city has been working on the street daily to address fire, life and safety concerns identified in the fire chief’s safety order issued in July last year.

Vancouver police have reported a nine per cent increase in assaults in the area since the encampment began and have reported an “alarming trend” of sexual violence in the area, the release says.

“As longer-term housing options come online, the city encourages those sheltering along East Hastings to accept shelter offers. While shelters are far from ideal, they provide a safer option than sheltering in an entrenched encampment.”

The release says there are about 80 tents and structures remaining at the site. At its peak, there were about 180 structures, although the city says 600 tents and makeshift buildings have been removed from the area.

Tent communities in Vancouver have been common.

In April two years ago, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told campers at the city’s Oppenheimer Park that they could leave or choose to accept the housing they were offered. More than 200 campers had been living in the park for months, after they were kicked out of Crab Park.

Many of those campers then moved on to nearby Strathcona Park, which was also shut down months later after complaints of escalating crime.

Pivot Legal Society, which advocates for those on the Downtown Eastside, called the dismantling of the Hastings Street site a “gross human rights violation.”

“There is nowhere for people to go,” it says in a tweet. “(This is) a massive waste of public resources and a dangerous ploy to pretend to be doing something.”

The decision to remove the Hastings Street camp comes despite a B.C. Supreme Court order from Justice F. Matthew Kirchner, who said Vancouver’s park board wasn’t justified in issuing two eviction orders for those living in Crab Park.

Kirchner found the orders unreasonably assumed there were enough indoor shelter spaces to accommodate campers who had been forced out.

Similar court orders have since been made allowing camps to remain in Victoria and Prince George.

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