CRAB Park residents don’t move, two days before bulldozer arrives

Resident advocates say the tent space and storage space offered by the park board is not enough and that too many possessions are prohibited.

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With a deadline quickly approaching, none of the approximately 30 people living in a three-year-old camp at CRAB Park in Vancouver had left on Friday to make room for a scheduled cleanup.

The City of Vancouver plans to bring in heavy machinery on Monday to clean up the area at the northwest point of the park, which it says is littered with non-compliant structures, combustible materials and unsanitary debris, such as needles, feces and discarded rats. .

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“We’re hearing (from park rangers) that the fences and bulldozers have been moved up a day to Sunday night,” said Fiona York, a local housing advocate. Postmedia News could not confirm with the city whether the deadline was moved up.

Campers at Crab Park on Friday, March 22, 2024. Unless they voluntarily move to a designated area by Monday, they will be removed by Metro staff. The area where they are camping has become unsanitary with significant amounts of debris. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Liaison workers from the Atira Women’s Society tried to talk to residents on Friday, encouraging them to sort their belongings for storage at a city or non-profit site so none would end up in the trash, but to no avail.

Park rangers rushed to respond to a fire burning that morning in one of the camp’s unoccupied tents. Its cause was unknown.

Otherwise, most residents remained peaceful in their makeshift homes on Friday.

The city’s cleanup plan, which was finalized March 18, indicates it reviewed feedback from CRAB Park residents and implemented what was “feasible.”

He says if residents don’t move voluntarily, Vancouver police could be called to escort them out of the encampment.

Residents who move into nearby three-by-three-meter spaces will be able to return to the designated CRAB Park area once cleanup is completed in early April, the plan states. They are not allowed to move motorcycles, generators, lumber, pallets, propane tanks or construction materials that the city says put personal and park health and safety at risk.

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Park rangers visit CRAB Park three times a day, monitoring law enforcement actions, and Vancouver police have been ordered to maintain a safe distance, according to city documents.

Dave Robinson, a volunteer with the activist group Stop the Sweeps who has been regularly at the scene, said he suspects it could come down to arrests.

“The size of the stores and the boxes they have displayed are too small for most people’s belongings,” he said.

Campers at Crab Park on Friday, March 22, 2024. Unless they voluntarily move to a designated area by Monday, they will be removed by Metro staff. The area where they are camping has become unsanitary with significant amounts of debris. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

The ultimate goal, Deputy City Manager Sandra Singh has said, is to have all of the camp’s residents housed inside as soon as possible and clear the camp for good, hopefully before next winter.

But advocates and residents continue to oppose the disruption and displacement, saying the cleanup must stop.

Marie-Josée Houle, Canada’s federal housing ombudsman, tweeted on Friday: “I urge the park board to pause and work in good faith with the camp’s residents in an approach that upholds their dignity, protects their belongings and respect their safety and human rights.

More than 200 people, including lawyers from the BC Civil Liberties Association and law professors from the University of BC and Simon Fraser, also signed an open letter, calling on the city to pause its stated plans and allow residents to carry out carry out the cleaning action themselves.

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“While residents agree and want the tent city to be healthier and safer – and put in hours of work to make it happen – destroying their homes will make people less safe and less healthy,” it reads. in the open letter.

If the city cleanup goes ahead, it says “the CRAB Park tent city will be…replaced by a city and a nonprofit-run tent city in which no one will be allowed to live.” new residents… park rangers, backed by the VPD, will determine Who is allowed to live in the tent city?

It also alleges that claims made in February by Amit Ghanda, acting director of parks and the park board, that Vancouver Coastal Health conducted a review of the camp and found a rat infestation, were “to justify the destruction of homes and homeless people.” living place”.

In an email statement on Friday, Vancouver Coastal told Postmedia that “at the request of the city,” a VCH environmental health officer conducted a tour of the camp with city staff on Feb. 20.

“The EHO confirmed evidence of rat activity and provided advice on strategies to address this,” the authority said, mentioning its recommendation to involve the city’s integrated pest management coordinator.

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“No issues were identified that required a public health order and no public health orders have been issued to date related to the Crab Park encampment.”

Homeless residents have been living in makeshift structures at CRAB Park since May 2021. Since then, the Vancouver parks board has sought enforcement of bylaws that dictate that people sheltering overnight in parks must dismantle temporary structures every morning.

But after a British Columbia Supreme Court decision in January 2022 denied the park board the legal authority to clear the tents and prevent people from sheltering in the park during the day, based on the conclusion that there was not enough space for residents in indoor shelters in Vancouver: established an area of ​​CRAB Park where residents can camp 24 hours a day.

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With files from Joseph Ruttle

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