July 22nd, 2024

Rights boss starts inquiry into Vancouver police media restrictions at camp removal

By The Canadian Press on December 12, 2023.

Police officers stand by while an unhoused person collects their belongings as city workers with the assistance of Vancouver police continue for the second day to remove tents and structures from encampments, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 6, 2023. British Columbia's Human Rights Commissioner is launching an inquiry into police restrictions on media covering the decampment in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner has launched an inquiry into police restrictions on media covering the decampment in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in April.

Kasari Govender says in a news release that reports of Vancouver Police denying access to some journalists covering the decampment “raise serious red flags and merit investigation.”

Govender says it is crucial for media to be able to gather information on possible human rights violations when police are conducting operations where they may come into contact with marginalized people.

She says there were “multiple reports” of journalists encountering blockades or not having access to parts of the Downtown Eastside during the police operation where police were pulling down tents and disposing of campers belongings.

Vancouver Police said last month there were no media exclusion zones during the tent-clearing operation, but reporters were gathered at a “muster point” for safety reasons.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim had said the tent removals were ordered due to police and the fire chief’s warning of rising crime and fire risk stemming from the East Hastings Street camp, which reached about 180 structures at its peak.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2023.

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