"All Labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A joyful word from the desks of TAPS’ advocates as we celebrate with you yesterday’s decision by the Honorable Chief Justice Hinkson, from the Supreme Court of BC. This moment marks an important and historic juncture in our collective work in coming together against poverty.
Yesterday we learned that the Province’s effort to displace the homeless through an interim injunction application has been denied, offering stability and renewed hope to the residents of Super InTent City (SIC). The labour that it took to bring us to this moment was a remarkable effort of community organizing, advocacy and sheer determination. We are proud of the role that this organization has played and we thank each and every one of you from across TAPS’ family for supporting this work. We may be small but together we are mighty.
With love and admiration we also give thanks to the incredible work of counsel, Cathie Boies Parker and Jasmine MacAdam of Farris Law. Your tireless efforts on behalf of those living at SIC and your passionate defense in the public interest is commendable and inspiring.
This decision is an important one not only because it is just but moreover in its analysis of the realities faced by people living in poverty. Hinkson worked through the affidavit evidence of SIC residents and members from the community at large and in doing so demonstrated a depth of understanding that is rarely found in legal decisions of this kind.
This decision recognizes that there is a gap in understanding between government and service providers who seek to remedy homelessness without the homeless themselves leading the solutions. This decision recognizes that displacement of the poor from the only community available to them is not the answer. Justice Hinkson confirms these sentiments in finding that…
the balance of convenience is overwhelmingly in favour of the defendants, who simply have nowhere to move to, if the injunction were to issue, other than shelters that are incapable of meeting the needs of some of them, or will result in their constant disruption and a perpetuation of a relentless series of daily moves to the streets, doorways, and parks of the city of Victoria.
While I strongly recommend you take some time to read through this decision for yourself I will share with you a quote from the affidavit of the Reverend Deacon, Nancy Ford of Christ Church Cathedral. In it she lays out the important role that relationship building can play in transforming community…
In all the times that I have attended the camp I have been welcomed. I have been welcomed to sit at the sacred fire and have, through individual conversations, grown to admire and respect the capacities SIC residents. I have learned and been gently taught about the realities of being homeless from the perspective of those who have been homeless for a long time and those who have become recently homeless. I have been invited into the community, into their personal lives and struggles, and through this process gained insight and deepening awareness with respect to the hardships and diversity of needs found in the camp.
We believe that the citizens of Victoria and indeed the Province have benefited a great deal from the gentle teachings generously offered by the residents of SIC. It is these lessons that we all must keep in mind as we continue our labour to uplift all members of our community and to restore the dignity that has been wrongfully taken away for far too long.
Prior to the courts’ decision TAPS demonstrated leadership in this effort by initiating collaboration among 16 member agencies of the Downtown Service Providers. These groups share in a collective effort to support those in need and powerfully spoke out against potential displacement in a letter to BC’s Attorney General. At TAPS we undertake the labour of social justice with painstaking excellence and we do this by bringing people together.
The struggle is never over and the next stage of our work is already underway as we prepare for an expedited trial date beginning this fall, September 7, 2016. In September the Province will seek a permanent injunction and the residents of SIC will be under even greater pressure than they have faced to date. Trust that TAPS will do everything in our power to ensure that the rights of the poor are respected while we work toward housing that restores dignity and autonomy to the un-housed. A home is a human right.
To be a member of our family is to know that financial support for social justice initiatives is more difficult to come by then it is for organizations that fit into the more traditional charity models. If you can spare $5 or $5000 please do by clicking on the link below. I would not ask if we did not need it.
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Together we have won this early victory and I am restored by the knowledge that at least for now, the residents of SIC do not have to worry that their community will be displaced. The learning, healing and sense of belonging that has begun in this tent city will continue.
Advocacy Lead, TAPS
P.S. Sometimes social change occurs in a legislature, sometimes it occurs in the courts. Whatever the case and for my part, I have come to know that always social change begins in the streets.