DABC Statement on DTES Forced Displacement 

Disability Alliance BC’s mission is to support people with all disabilities to live with dignity, independence, and as equal and full participants in the community. This includes meeting people where they are at, at any stage of their life, regardless of social or economic status, race, gender, and sexuality. This includes people who are housed, unhoused, transient, or at risk of being unhoused. 

With costs of living skyrocketing in BC, and many people with disabilities unable to work and/or unable to afford stable shelter, a lot of people with disabilities end up unhoused. This results in the development of encampments —commonly known as tent cities—such as the encampments seen in the Downtown East Side in Vancouver. The reliance on these tent cities to live safely is a clear human rights issue, as every individual has the right to safe housing. It is also reflective of the failure of the BC and Canadian governments to effectively implement the right to housing for all. 

However, for unhoused individuals, living in community spaces like tent cities is often safer than living on their own. There is less risk of fire, possessions being tampered with or thrown away, and less risk of overdose through drug use as a result of neighbouring together with a structure of community care.  There can also be a higher risk of violence for people with disabilities, which makes living in community even more vital.  

In light of the recent forced displacement through the decampment of houseless people in the Downtown Eastside (DTES), DABC openly opposes the action taken by the City of Vancouver. This action further enacts the systemic violence that unhoused people and people with disabilities face and increases the human rights issue surrounding tent cities in Canada.  

While the City states they refer unhoused people to shelters, Vancouver shelters all report being over-capacity and are unable to take on the individuals who were displaced by decampment efforts. Safety is also cited as a reason for decampment; however, breaking down the communities formed in tent cities leaves unhoused people at greater risk. The impact of this action – as seen through the past decade of decampment efforts – only results in more violence against equity-deserving groups in BC. 

Foremost, DABC advocates for safe, affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities. Decampment efforts are not the solution and DABC stands with those facing discrimination and violence from the forced displacement in the DTES this April. 

Article: DABC Supports Challenge to Mental Health Act

This article was written by Andrew Robb, and originally appeared in the edition of DABC’s Transition magazine, Dying for Health Care: Navigating An Ableist System (Fall/Winter 2022). Read the issue here.

If you’re interested in contributing to Transition as an individual or an organization, please email transition@disabilityalliancebc.org

On June 23, 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada released a decision finding that the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) has public interest standing to challenge parts of BC’s Mental Health Act (MHA) because it violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Attorney General of BC had argued that CCD was not entitled to public interest standing, unless there was an individual co-plaintiff who had been directly affected by the MHA.

This decision is part of CCD’s ongoing challenge to laws regarding involuntary psychiatric treatment. CCD says the MHA violates the Charter and the courts should force the government to change it.

BC is the only place in Canada where patients with involuntary status, including people detained in psychiatric facilities, are “deemed” to consent to all forms of psychiatric treatment, without safeguards.

For example, under the MHA, a patient can be forcibly administered psychotropic medications and electroconvulsive therapy, without consent from the patient or their legal guardians or family members.

The issue before the Supreme Court of Canada was a procedural question about whether CCD would be allowed to bring the case forward at all, without an individual co-plaintiff. The Supreme Court of Canada did not consider whether the MHA violates the Charter. That issue will now be decided by the BC Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision is very important to CCD and people in BC who are detained under the MHA. It means CCD’s legal challenge to the MHA can continue, but the legal process takes a long time; it may be years before the courts make a final decision about whether the MHA must be changed. The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision will also set a precedent that will be helpful to other groups who want to challenge discriminatory and other unconstitutional laws in court.

CCD is a national organization of people with disabilities working for an accessible and inclusive Canada. Disability Alliance BC is a member organization.

DABC staff assisted the CCD committee that works with CCD’s pro bono lawyers. We are proud to play a role in this important case.

Andrew Robb is staff lawyer with DABC’s Disability Law Clinic.

#RewriteTheRules campaign

Yesterday, BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner launched their #RewriteTheRules campaign, designed to raise awareness of and combat ableism.

Learn more in this video featuring BC’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender and DABC Community Advocate Lauren Stinson!: https://youtu.be/twsQWQsrjHU

See how you can take action at www.bchumanrights.ca/rewrite-the-rules