Homeless residents of Abbotsford may pursue legal action again the city and Abbotsford police, after a series of incidents seemingly targeting the homeless.
DJ Larkin, a lawyer from Pivot Legal Society, has met with representative of 5 and 2 Ministries and members of Abbotsford homeless population to discuss the possibility of civil claims and a human rights complaint against the city and police.
“That would be for chicken manure, the alleged tent slashing, throwing out people’s property, destroying memorabilia, family photos, that kind of thing.”
Larkin said Pivot has agreed to take on homeless clients as individuals to file claims for property damage against the city and police.
On June 4, city workers dumped chicken manure on a known gathering spot for homeless residents on Gladys Avenue. Following the incident, the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) launched an investigation into allegations that its officers damaged the tents of homeless people and used pepper spray in areas where those tents were placed. The allegations were relayed by representatives of 5 and 2 Ministries at a meeting of the city’s social development advisory committee in June. At that time, Const. Ian MacDonald said that because APD respects the work of the 5 and 2, they would look into the allegations.
Larkin said about 10 people have expressed interest in filing claims, though she is unsure how many will go through and against whom.
“It depends on the individuals’ cases, each individual will be in a bit of a different circumstance.”
At this point no claims have been filed, though Larkin said she hopes to have a few filed in the next couple of weeks.
“In terms of the small claims, it actually is financial reparations. People had all of their belongings destroyed, some people anyway, and they should be compensated properly for that.”
Larkin said Pivot has also been asked to contemplate filing a human rights complaint against the city and police for harassment and discrimination of the homeless.
“There we would be looking for a more systemic change. We’d be alleging discrimination against homeless people in Abbotsford and just asking the tribunal to consider that and make a finding that these people need to be respected.”
Ward Draper, a pastor with 5 and 2 Ministries, said they are working with Pivot and Abbotsford’s homeless residents to “find ways to protect the rights of people who are living on the streets throughout the Lower Mainland and the rest of B.C.”
He said he hopes any action taken will help bring the city to a greater level of accountability when dealing with homeless citizens.
Larkin said following the manure incident, and allegations against police, Abbotsford has hit a “crisis point.”
“It’s really hard for someone who is homeless or in precarious housing to come forward and ask for compensation from the city or police, or to try and defend their rights, as they are vulnerable.”
Larkin said they want the city and police to sit down with organizations that assist the homeless, and the individual homeless residents that are affected, and “make some really, really serious promises that they are going to enact policies that respect and support the homeless people in Abbotsford.”
Larkin said the human rights complaint wouldn’t be filed for a few months, and it would take some time after that for the BC Human Rights Tribunal to process.