Six homeless individuals, along with the BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors, have filed a human rights complaint on behalf of all homeless people in Abbotsford, demanding equal treatment and an end to alleged harassment by the city and the Abbotsford Police Department.
The announcement was made on Wednesday morning at the homeless protest camp in Jubilee Park. The city filed a notice on Monday morning for residents to vacate the camp by Wednesday at 4 p.m., or the city will file an injunction with the B.C. Supreme Court.
Protest organizer Barry Shantz said the group will wait for a court-ordered injunction.
A few of the complainants and the group’s lawyer, DJ Larkin from the non-profit group Pivot Legal Society, spoke to media and community members about the basis for their complaint, which has been filed at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal but has not yet been accepted.
They state that the complaint follows the incident in June when city workers smeared chicken manure on a homeless camp and police allegedly slashed and bear-sprayed tents and property.
The complaint alleges that, beyond these events, the homeless in Abbotsford have been treated as outsiders and have been subjected to treatment designed to push them out of the community over a sustained period of time.
“Everyone in Abbotsford, regardless of their housing situation, has the right to security, to access public space, and to be treated in a non-discriminatory manner,” said Pivot lawyer, DJ Larkin.
“We are helping this group of people defend their rights because police and municipal officials cannot use harassment to drive marginalized people out of their city. Manure and bear spray are not a solution to the complex social and economic problem of housing insecurity.”
Homeless people and members of the Drug War Survivors have been camping in Jubilee Park since early October as part of a protest.
Harvey Clause, one of the homeless individuals involved in the complaint, is currently staying in the protest camp in Jubilee Park that is advocating for potential solutions for homelessness. He said that being in the park is better than having to hide.
“I came here for safety in numbers.”