Vancouver has a zero tolerance policy on tents and structures set up on its sidewalks, boulevards and alleys. ((CBC))

Vancouver police and the city are defending their policy of throwing out homeless people's belongings, after a B.C. Civil Liberties Association member shot footage of city crews dumping a man's possessions into a garbage truck as an onlooker pleaded for them to wait.

The video, shot Feb. 18, shows officials dumping several cardboard boxes while the bystander — the owner's friend — scrambled to save blankets and other items by putting them in his own cart.

The man whose items were tossed would only identify himself as Dennis. He said his things have been thrown out before and that it leaves him feeling bitter.

"Sometimes, if you're not quick enough, it's gone, or if you're not here, if you head out to go to the bathroom or get a coffee, too bad," said Dennis.

The city said when police, residents or businesses inform them of illegal structures or dwellings, crews are sent out to remove them.


Homeless people are sometimes given the option of storing their belongings in a city locker for up to 30 days. ((CBC))

"Nobody is allowed to set up a tent or some sort of living structure on any of our city sidewalks or boulevards or inner lanes," said Murray Wightman, manager of city operations.

David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association shot the footage and the rights group took their concerns about such incidents to the police board last week but was told that police were not doing anything wrong.

"The policy was, in fact, exactly what I saw, which is, if no one is there with the belongings, that they would throw them away as abandoned goods," said Eby. "To my eye, they didn't look abandoned. They looked like someone's."

The city said it takes every opportunity to explain its policy to all individuals it deals with. As well, the city offers a five-page list of shelters where individuals can stay and sometimes it makes arrangements for people to keep items in a city storage locker for up to 30 days.