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Vancouver encampment residents venture to Victoria legislature to be heard

Those tenting in Crab Park say politicians aren’t listening to their perspectives

Homeless residents of Vancouver’s Crab Park crossed the Strait of Georgia and set up on the B.C. legislature’s lawn Wednesday (May 8) in a bid to capture the attention of lawmakers.

Fiona York, an advocate for those sheltering in Crab Park, said politicians are making decisions that affect unhoused people without consulting or listening to those being impacted.

“They’re not responding to our requests so we decided to come to them,” York said.

She added that park rangers in recent days hauled away three truckloads of tents, blankets and other belongings after seizing the items from encampment residents, and said those actions put people more at risk.

“It’s awful and it’s cruel what they did yesterday and what they did today and what they do everyday to people who are unhoused, so our first message that we’re bringing is stop the sweeps,” she said.

Residents of Vancouver’s Crab Park encampment and allies held a demonstration at the B.C. legislature on May 8 with an aim of having their voices heard by MLAs. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

The Crab Park encampment, located a few blocks from Canada Place along Vancouver’s harbourfront, formed in 2021 and was able to remain after a B.C. Supreme Court judge set aside eviction notices. That decision was, in part, due to the city not having enough indoor shelter spaces to accommodate those living in tents.

Residents were forced to leave the park in March after the City of Vancouver said it had to clean up the area, citing health and safety concerns. Encampment residents were able to return to a designated part of the park in early April after crews removed more than 90,000 kilograms of debris and material, 20 propane tanks and six generators.

Outside the government building in Victoria, Andrew Hirshpold took issue with the lack of engagement the group received from politicians inside the legislature.

“I can’t believe they’re not out here right now, this is an opportunity to engage with the people,” the demonstrator said.

Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Joan Phillip visited Crab Park residents holding a demonstration at the B.C. legislature on May 8. The park falls within the NDP lawmaker’s riding. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

One lawmaker did speak to group as NDP MLA Joan Phillip said she wanted to visit constituents of her Vancouver-Mount Pleasant riding, which includes Crab Park.

“It’s really sad that they have to come here in order to be heard, and seen,” Phillip said.

The province is doing everything it can to provide spaces to live, Phillip said, adding people should only be moved from an encampment if housing is available for them. She also noted the City of Vancouver hasn’t been “very friendly” to those staying in the park.

People sheltering outdoors in Victoria also spoke at the event and said their experiences of having personal items taken mirrored those of the Crab Park residents.

Marge Humchitt, who has been a frontline worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for around two decades, made the trip to Victoria to lend support for Crab Park residents holding a demonstration at the B.C. legislature on May 8. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Wednesday’s demonstration marked the second day in a row where the issue of homelessness was front and centre outside the legislature. The Housing Justice Project, whose members include those with 156 years of experience being homelessness, were at the legislature on Tuesday to release a report containing several calls related to providing people with adequate housing.

Also on Tuesday, Our Place Society announced its goal to get every person tenting on Victoria’s Pandora Avenue into housing by the year’s end.

READ: Victoria’s Our Place commits to helping every person off Pandora by year-end

READ: Victoria project’s homelessness survivors call for reform at B.C. legislature

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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