Jubilee Park in Abbotsford has been the scene of some true ugliness when it comes to the way the city treats it poor, its homeless and its addicts but Saturday night the park represented the extension of an olive branch.
Organizers hoped the people in Abbotsford’s power structure and business elite who are so afraid of homeless people and drug addicts that they appear to want to rid the City of their presence through almost any means available would come out to meet some of these helpless people and discover their humanity.
The protest to mark International Overdose Day drew several hundred people from across the city and at least one member of the power structure – Abbotsford Councillor Henry Braun.
Bas Stevens Photo of Roy, Abbotsford’s most evicted, arrested and harassed homeless person.
Braun pointed out that, with today’s economy, the number of people in Abbotsford who are one or two pay cheques away from the streets is higher than ever.
The protest, which took the form of a BBQ and information session, was organized by the Abbotsford chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors and The 5 and 2 Ministries, both of which operate on a daily and nightly basis on the streets of Abbotsford with drug addicts and the homeless to provide them with the health services and care they can’t receive through normal channels.
The Fraser Valley Health Authority (FHA) is prevented from providing clean needles to addicts in Abbotsford due to a restrictive bylaw – the Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw – which the FHA says has lead to Abbotsford boasting some of the highest levels of HIV and Hep C in the country.The Salvation Army, which was implicated in the Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident on June 4, is unwilling to provide assistance to those who drink or use drugs and, with their approval, The City of Abbotsford tried to rid itself of some of those people who had occupied land across the street from the Sally Ann by spreading chicken feces.
The Abbotsford Police are under investigation as a result of allegations they have routinely destroyed the tents and belongings of homeless people and poisoned them with pepper spray in a campaign which police chief Bob Rich has described as a policy of ‘displace and disperse’ when dealing with the homeless.
The Pivot Legal Society has launched a number of law suits against the City of Abbotsford for its treatment of the homeless as well as a human rights complaint which the BC Human Rights Tribunal has agreed to hear.
On August 15 Abbotsford Today revealed a series of APD emails which show officers joking about the Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident, the homeless, and those who work with them, in what can only be described as demeaning and derogatory language.“Through this entire summer of discontent, Abbotsford politicians (other than councillors Henry Braun and Dave Loewen) have refused to speak publicly on any of the issues facing the city’s homeless, drug victims or victims of the City’s bylaws, policies and actions.
“Other than the bevy of law suits, the BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing, the investigation into the APD’s treatment of the homeless and the Salvation Army’s participation in the chicken manure dump, politicians and the power structure in Abbotsford face a controversial fall discussion of a proposal by The Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) to build a low-barrier supportive housing project near downtown Abbotsford. That proposal drew a fierce reaction from the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) this summer and the ABDA launched a petition filled with inaccuracies and outright lies about the proposal.” – Abbotsford Today, Aug 31, 2013Back in 2008, when John Smith made his now infamous remark to the CBC, he, along with downtown developer Bob Bos and fellow councillor Bruce Beck paid a visit (reported in the Globe and Mail) to Pastor Christoph Reiners insisting he stop feeding the homeless.
Mayor Banman and Councillor Bill MacGregor have both made public comments leading many to believe that councillors’ minds are already made up on the matter and that the last chance for many years to receive any provincial funding for a low barrier homeless shelter will simply disappear amid political statements such as ‘I fully support the need for a shelter, I just don’t think this is the right place for it.’
If Abbotsford is not prepared to do anything other than attack, harass and poison anyone without a mortgage or a deed who also uses drugs or alcohol, it may find the full weight of the Canadian Constitution, the Canada Health Act and the criminal code will force it to adopt Canadian law within its boundaries.
Photos of the event taken by Bas Stevens: