Arabnews24.ca:Tuesday 9 August 2022 02:15 PM: People living in tents and other structures along a busy street in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside have been handed notices advising the spaces are about to be removed.
The notice from the City of Vancouver said removal would first focus on the highest risk areas, adding in a statement that the process would begin Tuesday and continue for weeks.
Mid-morning Tuesday, in one area between Carrall and Main streets, the sidewalks were still packed with dozens of tents. In some sections, sidewalks were impassable because tents and shelters were grouped so tightly.
The city's fire chief ordered the tents to be cleared last month, saying they were an extreme fire safety hazard.
Forced evictions a human rights issue: advocate
Advocacy group Pivot Legal Society said clearing the community will violate a pact signed by the city, the province and Vancouver's park board to ensure supports for those without shelter.
"A big part of the issue is that there is nowhere for people to go. Forced evictions to nowhere run afoul of multiple human rights issues," said Anna Cooper, a staff lawyer with the society.
"The reason there is nowhere for people to go is B.C. Housing and the city have actually admitted we do not have enough adequate housing options available at this moment."
The society said in a statement the city created the deteriorating conditions in the encampment by failing to provide promised storage, hygiene facilities and garbage disposal, but is now citing those safety and health concerns as the reason for the forced removal.
Pivot called on Vancouver to provide "livable, dignified, and accessible housing," and for the fire department to acknowledge the unique needs of encampment residents by creating a harm reduction approach to fire safety that accounts for challenges ranging from toxic drugs to police violence and trauma due to colonization.
City cites risk to public safety
Last month, Vancouver's fire department ordered the immediate removal of tents and structures along East Hastings Street in the city's Downtown Eastside due to "numerous urgent safety concerns."
The city said the order, signed by fire Chief Karen Fry, emphasized the increased fire risk associated with the shelters currently set up along the road.
There had been several fires in the area in the weeks before the order came down, including ones that destroyed a community church and a Value Village store.
Fry said the fire department had seen an increase in fires of 103 per cent since 2018. As of July 25, there had been roughly 840 fires in the downtown core this year.
The fire chief also said crews had seen an increase in tents in the downtown area since July.
"They are becoming more crowded ... and we are getting reports from occupants of buildings that they can't leave through the emergency fire escape," Fry said.
Cooper said advocates agree fire safety needs to be addressed, but disagree with the city's approach.
"Fire safety is 100 per cent a public safety issue and none of the advocates are saying that it isn't," she said. "What we're saying is it's not the only public safety issue and it cannot be addressed in a way that's to the exclusion of other safety issues."
Asked where the people living in the tents were expected to move, the City of Vancouver deferred questions to B.C. Housing. The housing agency has not specified where people might be able to resettle.
LISTEN | Pivot Legal Society lawyer Anna Cooper speaks about the impending tent removal:
The Early Edition9:18Tent removals are set to begin today in the Downtown Eastside