VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s acting attorney general says the province has been “clear” with Vancouver officials that the crown corporation responsible for subsidized housing does not have enough spaces available for people who are told to take down their tents along a street in the city’s Downtown Eastside.

Murray Rankin, who is also minister responsible for housing, says housing is a human right, and the “deeply concerning scenes on Hastings Street show how much work remains to be done to make it a reality for all members of our communities.

Rankin, in a statement on Friday, said BC Housing has accelerated its efforts to secure new homes for camp residents, including finding new sites to rent or buy and accelerating renovations to single-bedroom occupancy units. as they became vacant.

He says BC Housing aims to make a “limited number” of renovated units available next week, with more openings later in the fall.

Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry ordered the dismantling of tents erected along Hastings Street sidewalks last month, saying there was an extreme fire and safety hazard.

Police blocked traffic on Tuesday as city staff began what was expected to be a week-long process of dismantling the encampment, but little had changed by the end of the week, with most residents staying put. , claiming they had nowhere to go.

The city said staff plan to approach camp residents with “respect and sensitivity” to encourage the voluntary removal of their tents and belongings.

Community advocacy groups, including the Vancouver Area of ​​Drug Users and the Pivot Legal Society, said the camp cleanup violates a memorandum of understanding between the city, the BC government and the park board. of Vancouver because people are being told to move without being offered suitable housing. .

The stated objective of the agreement concluded last March is to connect homeless people to housing and preserve their dignity during the dismantling of camps.

The City of Vancouver can enforce bylaws that prohibit structures on sidewalks “when suitable spaces are available for people to move around inside,” it reads.

The province is not involved in the fire chief’s order or enforcing local bylaws, which prohibit structures on sidewalks, but it is “mobilizing all of BC Housing’s resources to do what we can to ensure housing to people,” Rankin said.

“I recognize the deep uncertainty and upheaval faced by those affected by the fire order, and we will provide updates on this work as we have news to share,” he said.

Rankin, who served as minister of Indigenous relations, was named acting attorney general after David Eby resigned to run for the leadership of the BC NDP.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 12, 2022.

The Canadian Press