Why Friday’s BC Supreme Court Date Matters

By Mike Archer. On Friday, December 5, the BC Supreme Court will be hearing arguments on a motion from the Pivot Legal Society to set aside the injunction which forced the eviction of homeless protesters from Jubilee Park nearly a year ago.

If the judge rules with Pivot it will pave the way for the homeless men and women currently living at the ‘MCC DIgnity Village’ protest camp on Gladys Avenue to move back to Jubilee Park. Pivot is also asking that the City provide for their immediate needs over the winter by providing power, toilets and food.

Part of the City’s argument to the Court in seeking the injunction was that there was plenty of shelter space in Abbotsford and that the camp at Jubilee Park was made up of people who were either from away or were deliberately refusing shelter.

The grounds for Pivot’s motion are simple and straight forward:

1) There are not (and were not) sufficient shelter spaces in Abbotsford.

2) The City of Abbotsford and others have engaged repeatedly, in the months since the injunction, in deliberately provocative and aggressive actions against the homeless rather than show any real interest in helping them.

A report has been concocted by service providers helping the City with its battle against the homeless which reportedly shows as many as 300 shelter spaces available in Abbotsford. The City is expected to use this piece of fiction as a defence before the court on Friday.

I use the word ‘fiction’ to describe the report because only by including every possible available space which is made available during life-threatening freezing weather conditions could they have come up with any such number.

While an interesting number for the sake of the few days in Abbotsford when we experience life-threatening freezing temperatures, it in no way addresses the problem faced by the people forced to live on the streets.

These are temporary shelter spaces. Not solutions.

When the City drove the homeless from Jubilee Park last Christmas, most were housed in emergency shelter spaces and within days they were back on the street.

Whatever shelters are listed in this report have nothing to do with solving homelessness for the vast majority of the growing number of helpless people on our streets.

The reality on the streets – and the caregivers who participated in this deadly charade know it – is that the world has changed since the 1930s when Abbotsford’s approach to homelessness was devised. The majority of those chronically living on the streets in Abbotsford are victims of mental illness and drug addiction.

And Abbotsford does not have the facilities, the services or the wherewithal to help them. The City and its police department’s decision to criminalize those who cannot live up to the barriers placed by the city and its service providers is the issue before the courts.

Those who are helping the City pretend there is enough space for the men and women who have been made unwelcome by service providers, shelters, and the care community of Abbotsford should pause and ask themselves why they are helping the City and the APD – the two organizations which have systematically discriminated against Abbotsford’s defenceless victims of poverty, mental illness and drug addiction, instead of helping them find solutions to their miserable existence.

All of this could have been avoided.

The City and the APD could have decided that the welfare of Abbotsford citizens was more important than denying them their constitutionally guaranteed human rights.

The City could have spent the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has spent on police and lawyers fighting its most marginalized citizens, on things like housing alternatives, allowing life-saving health care and services, food and security.

The City could have chosen to help the homeless instead of criminalizing them and fighting them.

And all of the missed opportunities over the last year and the last few eeks to just do the right thing and stop this further abuse have been skipped, avoided or ignored by the men and women who pride themselves in the way they run this city.

Merry Christmas indeed.

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