Press Release: VPD Siege on the DTES Furthering Displacement and Endangering Women

Apr 18, 2023

April 5, 2023

Emergency: VPD Siege on the DTES Furthering Displacement and Endangering Women

Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh/Vancouver, B.C – The Downtown Eastside (DTES) was forced into a state of emergency this morning as the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) erected barricades at the direction of the City of Vancouver (COV) to restrict movement in and out of blocks of Hastings Street. Bolstered by additional numbers of officers to carry out the leaked strategy of the City of Vancouver, the VPD are aggressively moving unhoused people in the DTES including women, who have had no warning and have nowhere to go.

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC) and Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) are appalled that the COV and VPD’s operation to clear the DTES is being carried out with no supports available for women and no secure housing to move women into, and with no regard for impacts this siege will have to women’s safety. Each person is being given a rolling barrel to put personal items in and everything else is being disposed of.

“Had we known about this in advance, we could have pointed out concerns and at the very least, planned to make sure the women were safe,” stated Alice Kendall, Executive Director of DEWC. “I was finally allowed entry into the exclusion zone this morning. What’s happening is disgusting and degrading, and there is no opportunity for anybody to get any support at all. Women cannot currently access our services.”

Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of BWSS, stated “The destabilizing of the DTES today will increase violence for women in this neighborhood. Women, and particularly Indigenous women and women of colour, are already at a higher risk for violence than their male counterparts, and being unhoused is a particular risk. Safe and secure housing for women in the Downtown Eastside and throughout Vancouver is desperately needed. Poverty is not a crime, and neither is being unhoused.”

Encampments are unsafe and people should be housed. Moving people along doesn’t make anyone safe, it puts them more at risk, especially women. They can’t get to services such as Insite right now without going through a barricaded area and asking for police permission.

“We are appalled with the militaristic tactics that the VPD is deploying against unhoused people in the DTES and are echoing the calls for de-escalation and an immediate stop to clearing the streets without secure housing,” stated Andrea Glickman, DEWC Board Member. “If the goal is to create safety in the DTES, we are failing miserably. People should not be moved in the absence of safe and supportive housing. What’s happening today is an absolute trespass of human rights by all governments permitting this displacement to happen.”