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VANDU – “Downtown Ambassadors”

Gratl & Company represents the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users in a human rights complaint against the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and the City of Vancouver in a claim arising from DVBIA's use of private security guards ("Downtown Ambassadors") to restrict the access of homeless persons to public spaces including sidewalks and public parks.

The Human Rights Tribunal initially found that the DVBIA in fact restricted the access of homeless persons to public spaces including sidewalks and public parks, but decided that this did not amount to discrimination under the Human Rights Code.  The HRT decision is at http://canlii.ca/t/fq493

The Supreme Court of British Columbia, accepting that the DVBIA and City deprived homeless people of access to sidewalks and parks, determined that the HRT erred in law by finding that that discrimination against homeless people was not discrimination against persons with addictions, Aboriginal persons, and persons with mental and physical disabilities.  The SCBC decision is at http://canlii.ca/t/gh5ck

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association and the City of Vancouver appealed the decision to the British Columbia Court of Appeal.  The Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and reinstated the decision of the Human Rights Tribunal: http://canlii.ca/t/hrfft.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal did not squarely address VANDU's argument that the R. v. Ipeelee case allows the Court to take judical notice of the fact that systemic historical oppression of Canada's Indigenous people contributes to a disproportionately high percentage (ie. approximately 2/3) of homeless Aboriginal people.

The Supreme Court of Canada denied VANDU's application for leave to appeal on January 31, 2019.

VANDU's Human Rights case against DVBIA is an example of a case that, though unsuccessful in securing a legal remedy, was successful in chanelling DVBIA's energy away from displacing homeless persons from downtown Vancouver into more positive and supportive social endeavours.