‘Cruel and dehumanizing’: B.C.’s largest union says of East Hastings forced displacement
The largest union in B.C. is calling on Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim to stop the forced displacement of people from East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside.
In a statement Thursday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees BC (CUPE BC) President Karen Ranalletta says the decampment is the “vision” of city council and Sim.
“The Mayor’s tactics, forcibly removing people from their homes and disposing of their belongings as they watch, are unnecessarily cruel and dehumanizing.”
Some of the City of Vancouver workers involved in the ongoing decampment efforts are members of CUPE Local 1004, but Ranalletta says the approach taken by council does not reflect the values of the union.
“City workers are members of our community who go to work every day to provide the services that support Vancouver residents, families, and visitors,” said Ranalletta.
“The tasks demanded of these workers stands in contrast to our advocacy, which calls for a harm reduction and a trauma-informed approach when dealing with vulnerable populations.”
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Renallata says the employees under CUPE Local 1004 cannot reject work under current labour laws and are subject to discipline or termination if they refuse their daily assignment without legal justification.
“CUPE BC believes the actions of the City are irresponsible without the adequate housing solution for anyone and everyone being displaced”
WATCH: Vancouver Eastside tent encampment dismantled
Renallata believes the mayor and city’s actions “only exacerbate” housing insecurity, and safe and dignified housing is needed immediately.
“Until more housing is constructed, we need to make sure that all forms of housing, whether they be in parks or shelters, are as safe, supportive, and as dignified as possible.”
The calls from CUPE BC come as the city, flanked by Vancouver Police Department officers, ramped up the forced displacement of East Hastings Wednesday.
Vancouver Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) issued a Fire Chief’s Order in July 2022 to remove tents and structures along the street to address “fire, life, and safety concerns.”
However, City Manager Paul Mochrie admitted that there are more people seeking housing than the city has available, “that is absolutely correct.”
–With files from John Ackermann