Rangers confiscate coolers from Vancouver’s CRAB Park residents amid heat wave

Advocates are raising concerns over videos posted online that show park rangers removing coolers from tents located in Vancouver’s CRAB Park on Tuesday.

The advocacy group Stop The Sweeps, which shared the videos, says the coolers were taken from unhoused people during soaring temperatures amid an ongoing heat wave.

Vancouver Park Board Chair Brennan Bastyovanzsky says the coolers were being kept outside of tents, which is in violation of the park’s bylaws

He tells CityNews that the rangers asked to see if their owners wanted the coolers in their tents.

“The rangers would have had no issue enabling the coolers to be brought into their tent, and the items have actually been stored, and the rangers are able to quickly return the coolers in the event that that person wants them back,” said Bastyovanzsky.

Advocates and residents of the park say that one of their main concerns is the imbalance of park rangers and police officers that visit in comparison to the number of people living in the park, calling it “an invasive environment.”

“Every week there’s often a notice with new details about how you can behave, and what you can have, and what you can do. So people feel terrorized,” said Fiona York, a CRAB Park advocate.

“Do we see that same level of by-law enforcement on every single aspect of parks in every single park in the city? I don’t think so.”

Bastyovanzsky claims that the coolers are being kept safe and can be returned to their owners if they ask.

York says that claim is misleading, adding that the process for returns is complicated and can be nearly impossible for an unhoused person.

“There really is very little attention paid to the barriers and the difficulties in place with that. I’ve personally been involved with many, many, 311 calls trying to retrieve belongings over the years, and I can say that it’s like 90 to 99 per cent unsuccessful,” she said.

York says there’s no direct number to reach the parks board or rangers, and the process is fully “phone- or app-based.”

She said, “Most people who are homeless, living in these circumstances, don’t have a phone, don’t have a way to charge it, don’t have a data plan, don’t have wi-fi, don’t have batteries, don’t have, you know, phone access.”

York says the raids only worsen already difficult living conditions.

“It’s just putting people more into dire survival mode and precarity. And it’s dangerous even, in these extreme heat conditions. We’ve seen how dangerous that can be, so it’s really not helping anybody.”

—With files from Cole Schisler.

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