British Columbia

Maple Ridge mayor ramps up rhetoric, says homeless addicts 'raping and pillaging'

The rhetoric in Maple Ridge reached the boiling point this week with the mayor complaining on YouTube that too many homeless people are "basically raping and pillaging" the community, and it has to stop.

Mayor Mike Morden says Maple Ridge is a hot spot for the homeless and it's got to stop

The Anita Place camp built in 2017 was cleared out March 2 after the B.C. Supreme Court authorized a city injunction to allow the removal of fire hazards. Some people have returned to the camp, which is now kept under tight security. (Valerie Gamache/Radio-Canada)

The rhetoric in Maple Ridge reached the boiling point this week with the mayor complaining on YouTube that too many homeless people are "basically raping and pillaging" the community, and it has to stop.

Mayor Mike Morden spoke out in a 34-minute interview he did with a private public relations firm, where he outlined his views on the growing problem with homeless people in Maple Ridge.

Watch as Morden video slams NDP for "forcing its will" on the community

In the interview, Morden says he believes drug dealers are keeping homeless people addicted so that they will steal from local businesses.

He said Maple Ridge went from having 84 homeless people to close to 1,000.

Morden says he's tired of his town being a hot spot for theft that's forcing "many businesses" to fold.

He blamed addiction on people's genetic makeup and rejected being forced into a "battle of wills" with the province

The interviewer never challenges Morden's statements or statistics. On Wednesday, Morden wasn't returning reporters' calls.

But he's still on the hot seat.

Maple Ridge residents are divided over how to deal with a growing homeless problem. Some people are against any shelter for people that allows drug use. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)

Homelessness is a divisive issues in Maple Ridge. It drove the past mayor into hiding after she was bullied by people who were against her plans for housing them.

Morden says the homeless camp is "untenable" and he is not pleased with the move by the province to force council to create temporary modular homes.

In a written statement, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson said Wednesday that while she understands the frustration in Maple Ridge, the mayor's comments are not helpful.

"This has been going on for four years, through two tent cities. They want to see workable solutions. No one is helped by pitting the community against people who are homeless," she wrote.

The province is pitting itself against the city by building 51 supportive housing on a Burnett Street site, a plan rejected by the city council last May, according to Morden.

His outspoken video is applauded by some residents.

No more 'bicycle bandits'.

Mark Lancaster runs North Fraser Auto shop not far from the controversial Anita Place encampment that was evacuated by court order in early March after a series of fires sparked safety concerns.

Lancaster said before that he dealt with everything from discarded rigs to robberies, and even the odd human lying in his lot.

"It's been a relief since the camp has been under full surveillance and security. I can have my life back," he said.

But he says the problem has just moved. Last Saturday a business up the street had a scooter stolen, he said.

Mayor Mike Morden says his community of Maple Ridge has become a magnet for homeless people who come 'to carry on doing drugs and basically raping and pillaging our community and all of our businesses.' (Yvette Brend/CBC)

He says he's against housing with no treatment.

"Treatment, not homes. We don't want them to go around all night long doing drugs and stealing. Bicycle bandits we call them," he said.

Lancaster said that he feels for people like the sober homeless senior who parks a van in his auto lot and who can't afford a home.

"If he was doing drugs, I am sure he could get a house no problem," he said.

'Abstinence-based housing doesn't work'

But others say that much of the push against supportive housing is misunderstood.

Listen Chen of the Alliance Against Displacement says Morden's language incites anger and hatred but solves nothing.

"This kind of crime and punishment language of homeless people raping and pillaging the community is clearly a way to mobilize  narratives around crime and violence to paint homeless people as outsiders," she said.

Chen says she's been arrested three times in the past six weeks for various breaches of court orders that have placed a security guard at Anita Place after several fires there in February led to a forced emptying of the long-time encampment.

She says Morden is ignoring science and appealing to people's fears.

"The idea that putting a roof over people's heads is somehow enabling drug use is just — I mean by any kind of evidence-based, empirical standard — I mean abstinence-based housing doesn't work," she said.

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a CBC Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@CBC.ca @ybrend

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