Earlier today, homeless and underhoused residents of the Downtown Eastside took over a vacant and shuttered building on the city-owned grounds of Lord Strathcona Elementary School, launching the second squat in the #SQUAT2SURVIVE movement: the Kennedy Stewart Squat!
The squatters explain:
We’ve named our squat after Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, whose policies of opening Vancouver to business and closing buildings to the poor are clearing the way for the COVID-19 pandemic to spread unchecked through the streets and shelters of the Downtown Eastside. While the Mayor celebrates the installation of hand washing units in the Downtown Eastside, we are dying in alleys, tents, shelters, modular housing, and SROs. Rather than watch our friends die while we wait for politicians like Stewart to throw us some crumbs, we are taking action into our own hands.
Like the Hothouse Squat in Surrey, the Stewart Squat argues that displacing homeless and underhoused people from the safety of an empty building would put them at greater danger of dying of COVID-19 and violate their Section 7 Charter Rights. But in order to be a functional safe haven from the dangers of poverty and the pandemic, the Stewart Squat needs your help!
There are friends and family members waiting to join the Stewart Squat, but they won’t be able to unless we defend the squat from eviction. Reach out to police and politicians and tell them to back off the Stewart Squat and let the courts decide on the squatters’ Charter claim.
Here’s a sample message for politicians:
I’m reaching out to express my support for the Stewart Squat in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I’m concerned that if squatters are displaced back into homelessness and unsafe living conditions like shelters and SROs, it will put them at increased risk of dying from COVID-19. As the owner of the vacant building the squatters are occupying, the City of Vancouver has a responsibility to ensure that it does not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in any of its actions. As the land owner, the City should instruct the Vancouver Police to refrain from evicting the squatters.
Here’s a sample message for the police:
I’m reaching out to express my support for the Stewart Squat in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. I’m concerned that if the Vancouver Police evict squatters from the safety of a publicly-owned, vacant building, it will increase their vulnerability to dying of COVID-19 and violate their Section 7 Charter right to “security of the person.” The VPD can set enforcement priorities and should refuse to enforce the Criminal Code against the squatters so long as their Charter claim is outstanding and not yet presented to a court. If the City requests the VPD evict the squat, the VPD should refuse unless the City is able to obtain an injunction.