Release. There was a sharp contrast in the arguments being made in a New Westminster courthouse on Tuesday.
Cover photo From the courthouse – Calvin’s talking stick from the camp. Photo by Elsie Neufeld.
The lawyer for the City of Abbotsford was essentially arguing that some broken, defenceless people had disobeyed some camping bylaws by coming together to protect themselves against City staff and the Abbostford Police Department and ought to go to jail for it. Lawyers for Abbotsford’s homeless population were arguing about the need for a trial to discuss the constitutional validity of Abbotsford’s bylaws and it’s persecution and mistreatment of the poor.
“The energies were very positive in court today,” said Barry Shantz, head of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS), “We are hoping for a positive result when the judge’s ruling is read on Friday.”
The homeless men and women the City is asking permission to punish gave emotional testimony about the lives they have been forced to lead in the ditches, along the railways and under the overpasses of the City since they are not allowed in to most shelters in Abbotsford due to mental health and addiction issues.
The judge heard emotional testimony through affidavits, from a series of witnesses about the treatment they have received and the manner in which they have been terrorized at the hands of City employees and the APD over the years.The City of Abbotsford is seeking an injunction to remove the homeless men and women of the DWS, who have been protesting the City’s treatment of the homeless in Jubilee Park for 60 days. The City also wants the judge to forbid homeless people from occupying any public land in Abbotsford and is asking for the right use force and jail people for up to two years for, essentially, having nowhere to live.
“If you have no home or any way of finding one the City of Abbotsford is saying that you either don’t belong in their city or, if you feel you must stay here, you belong in the ditches, out of sight. But even if you go to the ditches in Abbotsford they chase you with chicken feces, attack you with pepper spray, destroy and steal your property, and force you to move 100 ft down the road every few days or weeks. It’s the Abbotsford Shuffle and it has to stop,” says Shantz.
Last week the protesters moved out of the park behind the walls of a wooden fortress built for them by volunteers in the adjacent parking lot. The City then forced them back to a narrow strip of land in the park after the City moved in with concrete barricades, spotlights, fences and 24 hr police guard and surveillance.
On Friday, with only five days ’til Christmas, the judge may order the protesters to scatter back to their ditches and give the City permission to use their police force to continue to harass and even jail them.
He might decide that cooler heads must prevail and order the two sides to stand down until after the holidays giving them an opportunity to come to some sort of negotiated settlement.
The DWS has a proposal on the table, for which senior City staff have expressed support, to set up a home for the ‘unhousable’ on City land with the donated materials sitting in the parking lot to be used in order to start building housing units. The DWS wants to sustain itself by operating a recycling business and a firewood business on property they would lease from the City.The judge could also decide to act on the suggestion made in court Tuesday, by the Pivot Legal Society’s DJ Larkin, representing the homeless, to move to a full trial in order to a deal with the City’s bylaws which, Pivot maintains, go against the Charter of Rights and are therefore illegal.
No matter what the judge decides on Friday, the City of Abbotsford appears determined to spend as much money as it takes in order to carry on its battle with the homeless.
“We would like to forgive the City, the APD and all those who have been trying to exterminate us and just move forward and on to a positive solution,” says Shantz.
“The City of Abbotsford has tattooed a black mark on its reputation it can not cover up. The damage done to individual human beings and citizens of this City may never be repaired but it is time we start the healing process.”
Release from Abbotsford chapter of BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors
The occupation of a portion of Jubilee Park began October 20 when members of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) extended a one-day information session to a long term protest of the manner in which the City of Abbotsford and its police department have treated the poor and the homeless for over a decade.
The DWS is suing the City of Abbotsford and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) on behalf of a number of its members in a variety of court cases which will begin in the new year as well as two human rights complaints which have been registered with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
Some of those law suits stem from the City’s Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw and a number arose of the world famous AAbbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident June 4 when City employees, with prior approval of the Salvation Army, used chicken feces to rid itself of the homeless people huddled in the bushes across from the Salvation Army on Gladys Avenue.