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Discrimination Media Release

Updated: August 9, 2022

Vancouver –

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner has sent a letter to the province’s housing minister and the Mayor of Vancouver, urging them to respect human rights when removing homeless encampments on city streets.

A copy of the letter is available here.

“The eviction of people and dismantling of their homes without adequate consultation and collaboration with those being evicted and without providing suitable alternatives is contrary to human rights law,” said Commissioner Kasari Govender. “These are among the city’s most vulnerable people. Only half of the 400 people in tents have any other shelter options and that leaves many with nowhere to go.”   

Under international law, the right to an “adequate standard of living” through necessities like food, water and housing are protected. The right to adequate housing is reaffirmed in Canada’s National Housing Strategy. Both provincial and local governments have a legal responsibility to take action to ensure the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing through improving laws, regulations, policy approaches and investments.

“I understand that important concerns remain including issues of fire safety, access to services, and reports of violence. These must be addressed for the wellbeing of all in the community. However, the proposed approach undermines the human dignity and autonomy of those who have made their homes in the Hastings Encampment by forcing their eviction without consultation and will exacerbate other health and safety concerns (especially during a heat wave and in the context of two ongoing public health emergencies),”[1] said Govender.

The Commissioner acknowledges the efforts that have been made to provide food, water, sanitation and secure and accessible storage options, and to promote fire safety in the Hastings encampment.

The Office of the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner recently released a statement calling for human rights protections for the unhoused, after a spate of violent incidents.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first or last encampment of unhoused people in Vancouver or across British Columbia. While the health and safety concerns currently facing residents in the Hastings corridor have now become urgent, this urgency cannot be used to justify overriding human rights without exploring all reasonable alternatives, especially when such concerns were fully foreseeable. Indeed, we can already foresee them arising in future encampments and action to prevent them must be taken now to prevent a replay of the same situation,” she concluded.

Resources

Media contact

Charlotte Kingston, Director, Communications, at media@bchumanrights.ca or 1-250-216-4534.

Media kit

Download our media kit for images of Commissioner Kasari Govender.

About BCOHRC

BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner exists to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in B.C. by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures. We do this work through education, research, advocacy, inquiry and monitoring. Learn more at: bchumanrights.ca

About the Commissioner

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, started her five-year term on Sept. 3, 2019. Since then, our Office has been working swiftly to build a strong team, to listen deeply to the concerns of British Columbians, to deliver education materials on our rights and responsibilities, to issue policy guidance to protect marginalized communities and to lay a human rights-based foundation for our work. As an independent officer of the Legislature, the Commissioner is uniquely positioned to ensure human rights in B.C. are protected, respected and advanced on a systemic level throughout our society.

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