Police brawn over brain is eerily familiar

A few years back, Vancouver’s Downtown East Side was surprised to discover it had a problem.

A few years back, Vancouver’s Downtown East Side was surprised to discover it had a problem. This problem — dubbed Street Disorder — was new to an area familiar with life’s underbelly, but for the Vancouver Police Department the existing drug abuse, crimes of poverty, and health concerns were nothing compared to this new threat.

“Street disorder of course was a euphemism for visible poverty,” recalls B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby. The poverty of the DTES was fine when it was hidden in alleyways and behind closed doors, but as undesirables overflowed into the public sphere, something had to be done.

“I think there is a reality among police forces that the way in which the force deals with marginalized populations is dictated by the police chief,” says Eby. Faced with the spectre of Street Disorder, the VPD and its chief — then Victoria’s own Jamie Graham — made the choice to embrace enforcement as the answer to poverty with a series of initiatives which collectively made the DTES one of the most heavily policed areas in the province.

“The effect of this policing was to displace all of the issues of the DTES across the neighbourhoods of Vancouver,” says Eby. “It was a massive disaster.”

The other effect of the VPD’s aggressive policing methods was to act as a catalyst for grassroots police oversight in Vancouver, with organizations like the Pivot Legal Society and Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users leading the charge against the VPD’s harassment of the street community.

Vancouver is beginning to heal, but the drama that unfolded there under Chief Graham’s command a decade ago is now being replayed on our streets.

“The parallels are eerie,” says Eby, only weeks after a trip to The Capital. Over-policing of Victoria’s poorest residents as outlined in this year’s Out Of Sight report and the subsequent backlash of local anti-poverty activists are the logical outcome of VicPD’s brawn-over-brain approach to poverty on our streets.

There’s an old saying — those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We can forgive ourselves for not always remembering the history of centuries past, but when the history of only a decade ago comes back to bite us in the ass, who else do we have to blame? M

Just Posted

Out of the flames comes inspiration for Quinn Bachand

Victoria guitarist and Brishen to unveil new CD in Friday show at Christian Science Church

Irreverent comedy a habit in VOS’ newest show, Nunsense

Musical theatre production by Victoria Operatic Society features three shows in July

Esquimalt artist captures culinary personalities with body art

Mary Ploegsma’s unique chef/tattoo portrait series on display this month in Chinatown café

Jazz bargains available for music lovers this month

Left Coast Jazz Fest offers four-show package deal, extends discount for TD JazzFest ticket holders

WINE NOTES: Wild about the whites

Plenty of reason to try out these affordable whites, writes Monday wine columnist Robert Moyes

COLUMN: Revisiting a decade ago as Victoria celebrates 20 years of Ska

4 million tourists visit Greater Victoria each year and there’s a reason we remain despite them

Rick Mercer-led comedy team in for second Just for Laughs show at UVic

Comedy company will stage two shows Nov. 16 at Farquhar Auditorium

Trade expo a key part of 2019 BC Seafood Festival

Comox Valley hosts celebration of seafood industry; numerous events on tap this weekend

Samoa bans Elton John biopic, Rocketman

Depictions of homosexuality, contrary to law, cause country’s censor to prevent film’s screening

REVIEW: If you like farce, you’ll love Noises Off at Langham Court!

By Sheila Martindale The nine cast members in Langham Court Theatre’s new… Continue reading

Celtic songs tuned up for Sooke coffeehouse

Celtic Reflections to perfrom on June 15

Most Read