British Columbia

46 arrested during tent city eviction near Vancouver port, police say, as campers relocate to Strathcona Park

Police have ordered several dozen homeless people to leave a tent city near CRAB Park on Vancouver's waterfront, a day after campers moved to the gravel lot from their original encampment nearby.

Campers ordered off gravel lot near CRAB Park on Tuesday morning, and have now moved to Strathcona Park

Campers leave a parking lot near CRAB Park in Vancouver on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Dozens of people ordered out of a tent encampment near CRAB Park on Vancouver's waterfront early Tuesday have moved their community to another park a few kilometres away, changing location for the third time in just over a month.

More than 100 campers brought their tents, bikes and other belongings across the Downtown Eastside to Strathcona Park early in the afternoon, after police enforced an injunction at their previous waterfront site around 6 a.m. PT.

The residents had been on the waterfront property, controlled by the Vancouver Port Authority, since they were ordered out of their long-term encampment at Oppenheimer Park on May 8.

Many forced to move on Tuesday said they have not had any direction from police or other officials on where they were expected to go next.

Campers moved their tent city to Strathcona Park on Tuesday afternoon, hours after being ordered to leave property controlled by the Vancouver Port Authority earlier in the day. (Eva Uguen-Csenge/CBC)

"We've got nowhere to go, so we'll find a place to go and go there," James Low said early Tuesday. "We're homeless, but we're not helpless."

In response to the removals, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart is calling on the federal government to step up and support plans already in place to build housing for the homeless and underhoused.

"The only way to end homelessness is by building housing, not evicting homeless residents without a plan for where they go next," said Stewart.

"If Ottawa came to the table, we would be able to drastically increase the amount of housing we're able to provide."

A meeting between Stewart, B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson and federal Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen has been scheduled next week.

A protester is arrested at the site of a homeless encampment in a parking lot next to CRAB Park. (Mike Zimmer/CBC)

The Vancouver Port Authority was granted a 15-day injunction on June 10 against members of the illegal tent city next to CRAB Park. The campers were given three days to move upon receiving notice. They moved to another lot 20 metres to the west on Monday, thinking they were out of the injunction's reach, but that area was also covered by the order.

Dozens of people remained in the parking lot Tuesday evening to protest the eviction, until police officers began arresting those who were still there at around 6 p.m. According to a police press release, 46 people were arrested for civil contempt of court.

Vancouver police officers dismantle a tent in a homeless camp on Vancouver Port Authority property beside CRAB Park on Tuesday morning. Police raided the tent city while carrying out a B.C. Supreme Court injunction evicting campers. (Wawmeesh Hamilton/CBC)

'Our stuff is still in there'

Low was sleeping in his tent when officers raided the encampment Tuesday morning.

"They said I had to get up and go, so I woke my uncle up and we left," he said. "Our stuff is still in there and I don't think we're going to get it back."

Lance Gariepy, 55, was ordered to leave the encampment near CRAB Park on Tuesday. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Lance Gariepy, another resident, said he didn't have anywhere else to go, either. 

"These are just humans," said Gariepy, 55, who also goes by the name Michael Miracle.

Elizabeth Ramsden, a nurse working in the community, said there was no warning police were coming and no support on site to help campers find somewhere else to live.

Homeless people have been camping near CRAB Park since May 8, after people were ordered out of Oppenheimer Park. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"This is, I think, abhorrent," Ramsden said Tuesday. "I'm speechless that, during a pandemic, this is the response that people want to demonstrate. We have medics [here], we have food services around the clock, and you want to tear that down with no warning, no housing, no plan?

"I have been working during a pandemic and stopped working so that I could come here because people need health care. It's really important for people to have outreach and no one is outreaching here because it's been determined to be a dangerous space. This is a community-organized space."

Police said in a statement one person was arrested early Tuesday morning on suspicion of mischief and was later released without charges.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, denounced the decision to clear out the encampment as "absolutely deplorable" and said the city and province need to provide permanent housing immediately for those affected.

In a written statement, Phillip said the use of armed police officers created a dangerous situation.

"During a pandemic in which the province committed to preventing evictions, the VPD seized this opportunity to evict some of the most vulnerable residents of the Downtown Eastside, many of whom are survivors of ongoing Indigenous genocide," he said.

"Residents were given a sheet of paper with a few phone numbers to call for housing, but the outstanding issue is that we understand no housing is available at this time. Where are they supposed to go?"

With files from Yvette Brend and Wawmeesh Hamilton

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