My note: Yup happened in Atlanta, Sydney, Beijing, Athens etc. @corinn So no one is *really* surprised at this new draconian plot to ‘cleanse’ street
RT @Dave_Eby: BC to force homeless into shelters for 2010 Olympics. …
Note: original link dead and not archived in Internet Archive – keeping post for placeholder for backfilling for archival purposes
Note: Original article by Frances Bula in Globe and Mail respectfully re-posted in full here for archival purposes to document civic issues during Vancouver 2010 Olympics / accessed via Internet Archive on Jan. 30, 2020 from capture Sept 21, 2009
Vancouver — From Monday’s Globe and Mail
Last updated on Tuesday, Sep. 22, 2009 03:00AM EDT
British Columbia is drafting the country’s first legislation that would give authorities the power to compel homeless people to go to shelters or even jail during extreme cold- or wet-weather periods.
The plan has sparked intense discussions in Gordon Campbell’s government between the B.C. Housing Ministry and the office of the Attorney-General about Charter of Rights issues and liability problems, according to e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail.
And the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is questioning the timing of the announcement, given the impending Olympic Games.
“This comes after seven years of a lack of concern about sleeping on the streets,” said executive director David Eby.
An internal ministry memo details potential roadblocks to the proposed Assisting to Shelter Act, noting that “requiring people to go to a shelter against their will may make the legislation vulnerable to a Charter challenge. A legal opinion is pending.”
Housing Minister Rich Coleman confirmed Sunday that he is planning to move ahead with the legislation, but it has nothing to do with the Games.
He said the catalyst for the bill was the death of a homeless woman on Vancouver’s streets in December. The 47-year-old woman, known to the police only as Tracey, burned to death while trying to keep warm with a candle.
The police had offered to take the woman to shelter three times during the night after temperatures fell below zero. On the same evening, officers from the Vancouver Police Department offered shelter to 101 people; only 12 accepted and six took blankets.
“I just think we have to do what we can to save people’s lives,” said Mr. Coleman, who is also working on plans for urgent-response facilities where people can be taken besides jail or shelters. “I just believe it’s worth a try.”
An internal ministry memo proposes the mechanisms that would be necessary to make the new law work fairly and efficiently. Police officers or others (which the memo did not specify) would be given the authority to force people to shelters – with a limit specified on the level of force allowable – once a region had declared that Extreme Weather Response plans were in effect. Extreme weather was described as low temperatures or excessive rain. That declaration is already set out in B.C. as the trigger for the opening of emergency shelters in many municipalities.
Outreach workers would give homeless people a written warning that the extreme-weather declaration is in effect and notify police. Police would then try to convince these people to go into shelters and, if they refused, police would contact “an official (to be determined) by telephone who would then issue an administrative order which the officer would then enforce,” the memo says.
“As a last resort and in order for the police officer to discharge their legal responsibility, the individual may be taken to police cells, either voluntarily or involuntarily, where they will be held until the extreme weather declaration is no longer in effect.”
Mr. Coleman said it’s possible that advocacy groups will mount a Charter challenge to the legislation, but he said the government is willing to accept that risk. He wouldn’t say when the legislation would be coming forward, but an internal memo noted that the deadline for the draft was Sept. 10, indicating it could be imminent.
The bill will be what is called an “exposure bill,” meaning it will be tabled and then responses will be gathered from police, homeless-shelter operators and others. It is not aimed at people with mental-health problems, who can already be apprehended under mental-health laws, but at any homeless people who refuse to go to shelters even in life-threatening weather conditions.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s Mr. Eby said the legislation appears to be rife with legal pitfalls, including the Charter of Rights issue of whether you can force into a shelter someone who chooses to stay out on the street. Police will need to come up with ways to prove someone is homeless and that they’re putting themselves in danger.
“Whether we like it or not, staying out on the streets is their right,” Mr. Eby said.
As well, he said it appears ministry bureaucrats are aware that they’re leaving police open to questions of liability such as the ones they faced during a recent inquiry into their handling of Frank Paul, a native man who died after police picked him up for public drunkenness and then, when no agency took responsibility for him, left him in an alley.
The ministry memo states that there needs to be a clear endpoint to police officers’ liability if they pick up a homeless person but the shelters are full or won’t take that person.
Special to the Globe and Mail