By Mike Archer. The City of Abbotsford, its police force, as well as members of its business community, its church community and its care community are all, whether they understand it, like it or not, faced with some tough decisions in the coming months.
Cover photo: Roy Colin Roberts is a DWS member and grew up in Abbotsford. He has been chased, bothered and evicted more than any other Abbotsford citizen. Last spring he was shot with rubber bullets by the APD in a shocking incident which led to no charges being laid against him. We are still waiting for a report from the APD on its actions. The City of Abbotsford raided his spot opposite Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) and took his belongings to the dump. The ACS has since moved the fence across the street in an apparent attempt to keep Roy away from them. Photo by Bas Stevens
A lot of bad things have happened over the last decade. Some of those were deliberate; others were unintended. All were avoidable, unnecessary and wrong.
Some of the victims of systematic abuse have managed, through the help of the Pivot Legal Society, to seek legal redress from the City of Abbotsford and its police force.
The fact that these citizens had to go outside of the community to seek protection from their City and its cops, should tell us everything we need to know about just how effectively we take care of or protect our own – especially the weakest among us. Not very well.
While politicians like John Smith, Bruce Banman and Patricia Ross have slapped together a hodgepodge of old and new ideas and fantasies called the Mayor’s Homeless Task Force report, few in the community are fooled by the ridiculous waste of time and money the report represents.
Spending $175,000 on a ‘Homeless Coordinator’ is that what John Smith, one the main political architects of Abbotsford’s inhumane and disastrous criminalization of the victims of homelessness, came up with. He calls it the sort of thing ‘We should be spending our money on.’
Honestly John, that’s just stupid.
This kind of inane, head in the sand while humming furiously, PR nonsense suggests that no one in the power structure of this city has learned anything from the last year. If Bruce or Patricia or John think that coming up with a snazzy report and hiring a slick bureaucrat are going to make the homelessness crisis go away they clearly haven’t been paying attention.
Any politician in Abbotsford who intends to stay in public life and who participated in creating or allowing the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis to grow and take over our public agenda must face the community and explain the role they played in the crisis.
Some will have to explain an active role in creating the situation, others will have to explain standing passively by while it happened. All of them must explain why they did what they did. Furthermore, the citizens of Abbotsford, homeless or otherwise, deserve an apology and a clear plan for what council intends to do to repair the damage it has caused.
Vacuous, meaningless PR will no longer pass muster. In this municipal election, it will be those who sat around the council table who will be judged, not the mayor. Everybody knows where Bruce stands. “Lock ’em up,” he has repeatedly offered while comparing people with addictions to pedophiles. No hope for redemption there.
If the political class thinks they are going to simply shift the focus of their PR they don’t know the citizens of Abbotsford very well.
Lawyers, campaign slogans and PR maneuvers will only delay any reconciliation and prolong the healing this community so desperately needs. If they aren’t prepared to do what is right, they should take the opportunity to retire this fall.
This uncomfortable truth extends to Abbotsford’s business, church, and care communities as well. Many members of each have either acted deliberately against the best interests of Abbotsford’s homeless, or stood by and watched as the injustices took place.
If they wish to retain some moral standing in this city, they are going to have to admit their culpability, apologize, and join the drive to make things right.
This is Part One of a series on the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis. Part Two – Healing, Redemption And Accountability
The Shooting of Roy Roberts was not justified by any charges being leveled against him
Short Summary of Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis:
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.
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.