Vancouver police begin removing encampment on East Hastings

Vancouver police begin removing encampment on East Hastings

Wednesday morning, Vancouver police moved into Downtown Eastside to begin the process of removing a street encampment from the neighbourhood. East Hastings Street, where people have been living in tents and makeshift structures. Main Street has been shut down while the process begins.

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Vancouver police, city staff remove tents, structures on East Hastings Street on Wednesday.

The City of Vancouver said it requested support from the Vancouver Police Department in order tobring the East Hastings encampment to a close due to public safety concerns and an increase of fires in the area. This decision has come after eight months of tension between those living in the encampment, those advocating for them, bylaw officers, and police.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, city manager Paul Mochrie said the encampment has made the area more dangerous and the goal is to have all the structures removed by the end of the day. Vancouver Fire Rescue Services reported more than 400 outdoor fires on East Hastings in the last eight months that injured four people. Vancouver Police Department says there has been a nine per cent increase in assaults in the neighbourhood since last August when the encampment began. Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry has issued an order to remove structures on the street because of extreme fire risk.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim told reporters fire, police and city staff are one unified team with a common purpose.We need to restore Hastings as a street that is safe and welcoming for everyone,” Sim said.

Krusty Poirer, 43, who has been living in a structure on the street for two years, said that those living in the encampment were not given enough warning about the removals. Many of them are substance users, so they were likely out looking for their first fix of the day and unaware that their homes were at risk of being removed.

The Pivot Legal Society

The Pivot Legal Society, which advocates for those on the Downtown Eastside, calls the dismantling of the Hastings Street site agross human rights violation.” A coalition of DTES networks also issued an open letter, raising concerns about the city‘s plan and stating that the actions will only serve to further traumatize the community and perpetuate tensions between police, city officials and DTES residents. The letter calls on the City of Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia to prioritize providing adequate housing and support services before displacing individuals.

The decision to remove the Hastings Street camp is similar to what happened two years ago when Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told campers at the city‘s Oppenheimer Park that they could leave or accept the housing they were offered. More than 200 campers had been living in the park for months after they were kicked out of Crab Park. The B.C. Supreme Court has since issued orders allowing camps to remain in Victoria and Prince George.

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