VANDU Protests Vancouver Police Board for Targeting Downtown Eastside


Members of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) shut down the Vancouver Police Board (VPD) chanting “Hey Gregor, watcha gonna do? Who’s in charge the police or you?” after the board decided to whitewash and cover up discriminatory ticketing of people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for vending and jaywalking. The 45 VANDU members in attendance, appearing in the image gallery below, then walked out of the meeting singing “Ain’t gonna let nobody, turn us around…”

The following content was submitted to BASICS Community News Service by VANDU, and includes pictures, a statement delivered to the VPD by VANDU, and a fact sheet detailing the criminalization of vending and jaywalking in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
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The issue before you today is really pretty straightforward.  95% and 75%.  The statistics revealed by the VANDU / PIVOT FOI show the disproportion and unfairness of the VPD bylaw ticketing in our neighbourhood.  95% of all vending tickets and 75% of all jaywalking.  Really the only question is whether you are going to buy the spurious VPD claim that this disproportion is justified by some kind of public good.  These claims do not stand up to scrutiny.

75% of all jaywalking tickets. But there is not evidence that jaywalking tickets contribute to pedestrian safety and we’ve been challenging the VPD to provide such evidence since 2009!  So either the VPD are incompetent and are conducting a social experiment on our neighbourhood without any evidence base or (more likely) they are simply using feigned concern for the well-being of people in our neighbourhood to justify a practice that is discriminatory, mean-spirited and really reflects the over policing of our community.  In either case, we need some leadership from, you Mr. Mayor, and our elected politicians. We have a very good guide for measures that would actually improve pedestrian safety in the VANDU Pedestrian Safety Project Report.  Things like lowering the speedlimit, creating new mid-block crossings, and countdown pedestrian signals and a host of other recomendations are evidence based interventions for improving pedestrian safety, that actually support the health of our community rather than beating down and further marginalizing an already poor and oppressed segment of the population.

Jaywalking tickets are a punitive practice.  We all know that any police, on any given day, and in any neighbourhood in the city could spend all day handing out jaywalking tickets and you know perfectly well that if you implemented this level of enforcement anywhere else in the city you would be dealing with a massive community outcry. Unfortunately people in the Downtown Eastside are used to being treated badly, by the police, but we are unwilling to accept this discriminatory practice any more!

95% of all vending tickets. These tickets are really just a means of targeting and punishing very poor people.  No one with a yard, or the money to rent a stall in a flea market or any real options would choose to vend on the streets of the downtown eastside – this is a matter of basic economic survival. Again the police are raising the specter of stolen goods and drug selling, but don’t we have more than 650 police making over $100,000 a year on the VPD payroll to investigate these kinds of crimes?  Are vending tickets a substitute for actually doing real police work?  They even go so far, in that report, as to say they are concerned about people selling past date food.  Really? If this is such a concern they should really be raiding the foodbanks because mostly what they give out is expired food!  No, this is just again a price that downtown eastside residents are paying for being poor and for having way more police in our neighbourhood than we need.

Again, civilian leadership is called for.  If street disorder is such a concern then lets fund and expand the community controlled vendors market, let’s bring in new and innovative ideas that actually support the health of the community! VANDU has been more than willing to engage in generating and supporting these community based solutions, but in order to do it, we need the police to take their boots off our neck and just back off!

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  • More than 5000 people in the DTES live in SRO units

  • The Downtown Eastside has the lowest per capita income of any urban area in Canada with 63% of the population considered low-income

  • For many people in the Downtown Eastside vending is a way of making ends meet from month to month

  • While the police claim that stolen goods and drug dealing are ‘concerns’ in dealing with vending, those issues are covered by other criminal laws

  • A vending ticket for $250 is more than the entire ‘support’ portion of a person on welfare, with which they are expected to pay for food, transportation, clothing and all other expenses.


  • There is no evidence that tickets for jaywalking tickets either deters jaywalking or increase pedestrian safety

  • The VANDU Pedestrian Safety Project Report included over 20 short, medium and long-term recommendations to improved pedestrian safety in the Downtown Eastside, handing out jaywalking tickets was not one of them.

  • The six block 30km/hour zone on Hastings has had a significant positive impact on pedestrian safety in the Downtown Eastside

  • The VPD wrote a letter and made a presentation opposing the CoV Council motion to create the 30km/hour zone on hastings


  • Jaywalking and vending tickets can result in an arrest warrant, usually for failure to appear for a court date

  • Over 40% of all people held in Provincial remand in B.C.  are being held as a result of a ‘procedural crime’ like failure to appear, or breach of a condition of release

  • Missing Women’s Commission of Inquiry recognized that warrants generated from non-criminal matters (such as vending and jaywalking) deter women from approaching the police about more serious matters



Tags downtown eastside , policing , vancouver


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