Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

June – July 2024 : Reflections READ ONLINE


Charities squabble with politicians over homeless rights

September 09 2009
Row blew up over the city‘s policy of not allowing homeless people to sit or sleep on pavements Canadian politicians and local businesses have become embroiled in a bitter dispute with drug charities over the rights of homeless people in Vancouver. The disagreement started when support group the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and the Pivot Legal Society complained to a human rights tribunal over the city's policy of not allowing homeless people to sit or sleep on pavements. Commerce group the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and council leaders immediately tried to have the complaint thrown out. But in a ruling last month, a tribunal upheld the complaint that homeless people are being discriminated against because of a new policy called the Ambassador's programme. This programme, implemented last year, is a policy whereby homeless people are removed from the street by security guard patrols, as part of a drive to improve business. Pivot and VANDU complained that the programme discriminated "on the basis of race, colour, ancestry, and physical and mental disability," contrary to the Human Rights Code and that the tactics of removing homeless people were "humiliating and shaming." Council leaders and the business group tried to quash the complaint, arguing that homelessness was not a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Code and that the complaint was nothing more than a "politically motivated attack." But tribunal member Tonie Beharrell rejected that argument, and accepted the premise that homeless people in Vancouver comprised a disproportionate number of Aboriginal people and those with mental disabilities. An outcome is yet to be decided.