Supreme Court Set To Rule Monday On Pivot’s Abbotsford Homeless Case

By September 25, 2014Issues

Lawyers for the City of Abbotsford and for the Pivot Legal Society received emails Thursday afternoon notifying them that BC Supreme Court chief justice Christopher Hinkson will rule on the City’s motion to disallow Pivot’s lawsuit against the City on at 10 am, Monday morning, September 29.

Cover photo: Gladys Avenue Homeless Camp prior to latest eviction on July 31, 2014. Bas-Stevens-Photo

On Friday, July 4, the B.C. Supreme Court heard the City of Abbotsford’s argument for why the courts should not allow a Pivot Legal Society-led lawsuit that would recognize access to safe shelter as a basic human right.

The City of Abbotsford is seeking to strike down the lawsuit brought forward by the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (DWS) on behalf of the city’s homeless population. The lawsuit contends that the city’s bylaws preventing access to safe shelter are unconstitutional. A decision by the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday in favour of the city would deny Abbotsford’s homeless from having their case heard in court.

“The City of Abbotsford is using laws to push people into alleys and under bridges, putting them in harm’s way and making their lives incredibly unsafe,” says DJ Larkin, lawyer at Pivot Legal Society. “People living on our streets have the least access to the justice system to uphold their basic rights. Instead of taking action to solve homelessness and protect all Canadians, our governments are denying our most vulnerable citizen’s access to housing and access to justice.”

Abbotsford’s Parks Bylaw prohibits anyone from being present in any park overnight. In combination with the city’s Street and Traffic and Good Neighbour bylaws, erecting a basic survival structure—or even sleeping in a car—is prohibited throughout Abbotsford. However, homeless residents in Abbotsford argue there is insufficient shelter space available and that barriers exist preventing many people from accessing it, leaving public spaces as one of the few options available. If successful, the Pivot Legal Society and DWS lawsuit would eliminate the bylaws and recognize access to safe shelters a basic human right.

Short Summary of Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis:

Nick Zurowski, The Face of Homelessness in Abbotsford. Bas Stevens  Photo

Nick Zurowski, The Face of Homelessness in Abbotsford. Bas Stevens Photo

First came  John Smith’s announcement to the national media that he had instructed the APD to handle homelessness in downtown Abbotsford; then the Abbotsford Shuffle – otherwise known as Chief Bob Rich’s “disperse and displace” strategy for solving homelessness; then Mayor Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident (first revealed on Abbotsford Today); then there was the Standoff in Jubilee; followed by the ‘MCC Dignity Village‘ protest camp on Gladys Avenue and the gathering of more and more of Abbotsford’s homeless to the security of living with others and out in the open in the growing size and number of camps across from the Salvation Army and along Gladys Avenue.

Embarrassing Revelations

Abbotsford Homeless Camp. Bas Stevens photo.

Abbotsford Homeless Camp. Bas Stevens photo.

Along the way a few embarrassing revelations were uncovered and published by Abbotsford Today including
the fact that the Salvation Army knew about and was in agreement with the use of chicken feces to encourage the homeless to move from their camp across the street from the Sally Ann; and the rude and demeaning emails shared by police chief Bob Rich and his senior staff after the Chicken Manure Incident went worldwide.

edited 9:17, 9/26/14

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