VPD criticized for response to women’s support groups on Downtown Eastside

The VPD is being criticized for their online response to a community group supporting women in sex work in the DTES. As Kier Junos reports, the group has condemned police actions on East Hastings last week, when city staff were continuing decampment work.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is being criticized for their response to women’s support groups in the Downtown Eastside. These groups condemned the police’s use of force while city staff continued decampment work on East Hastings Street last week.

WISH Drop-in Centre Society is an organization that supports women in sex work. It — along with the Downtown Eastside Women’s Shelter, Battered Women’s Support Services, ATIRA Women’s Resource Society, and Safety Changes Everything — spoke out against the VPD Tuesday, a week after police were present while tents on East Hastings were being dismantled due to a fire department order.

In a statement the groups says police “violently dismantled the encampment along East Hastings” and it “condemns the absence of any consideration for women’s safety despite our organizations’ perpetual warnings about the escalation of gender-based violence in ‘tent cities.’”

“Given the fact that women make up 40 per cent of the Downtown Eastside population the solutions, priorities and commitment must at least reflect these proportions,” said WISH’s Executive Director Mebrat Beyene.

“Women deserve to be and feel safe in their communities and in public spaces, and women deserve to be safely and appropriately housed.”

Related links:

On Wednesday night, the VPD responded on Twitter: “Your suggestion that a police operation violently dismantled the Hastings Street encampment is intentionally misleading and only stokes division at a time when we should be working together to solve complex community problems.”

In a follow-up statement to CityNews on Thursday, police say in part “we continue to see divisive rhetoric and misinformation about the Vancouver Police Department and its members” – adding that the “rhetoric is being fueled by anti-police activists.”

Some Twitter users, seemingly unconvinced by the police’s position, say it’s the VPD that is stoking division.

Police say they were responding to what they say was an unrelated assault at the Carnegie Centre on Main and East Hastings happening at the same time city staff were asking people to take tents down on Aug. 9.

The VPD says city staff did ask for officers to be nearby during their work, but maintain that police had no role in removing structures.

Women’s organizations reiterated their priorities in the wake of the VPD’s tweet, saying on Friday:

“We will not let the fight some are trying to manufacture overshadow women’s safety. Women are being threatened, harassed, beaten, and raped. This is our focus. Women must have appropriate, safe, independent an where requested, supportive housing. We call on our officials, yet again, to implement a structured, concerted, anti-sexist, trauma-informed response, not just to the encampments, but to women’s long-term safety, which must include housing.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today