VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Pressure is mounting for the City of Vancouver or its park board to take immediate action at Strathcona Park after police arrested one of the camp’s “leaders” in connection to a deadly attack on a 78-year-old woman.
Some park board commissioners and a city councillor argue waiting for three months to have the park residents moved to different housing isn’t enough, prompting calls for the City of to take immediate action.
Park board commissioner John Coupar wants an injunction to clear Strathcona as soon as possible.
“We have a situation where actually there is a public safety, I would say, emergency here, and we need action,” he says. “The mayor is talking about housing, but he is not making any strong statements condemning the criminal activity and what’s happening around the neighbourhood of Strathcona.”
He says it has been one incident after another in the park, without a “real solution.”
“We’re seeing an escalating problem,” Coupar adds.
Coun. Pete Fry also tweeted that waiting months for a plan to “hopefully” house people isn’t sufficient. “We need to assert an official presence in #StrathconaPark that supplants the thugs who are exploiting/endangering housed/unhoused residents alike.”
One of men charged w/ beating 78-yo Usha Singh to death idenfitied as “mayor of Oppenheimer” a Strathcona Park camp boss and protest leader. Yesterday council colleagues and I were ordered away from park by camp “warriors” – we cannot continue to indulge https://t.co/f4syFdLQE3
— Pete Fry (@PtFry) February 4, 2021
Displacing residents not the answer
But not everyone on Vancouver’s park board agrees that clearing the park will solve all the issues, and other parts of the solution need to be in place before any moves are made.
While commissioner John Irwin sends his condolences to the victim’s family, he says not everybody living in the park is a criminal, and they need appropriate housing.
“It’s not a great idea to react too precipitously and also disperse people during a pandemic,” he says.
Commissioner and park board chair Camil Dumont also believes displacing park residents is not appropriate without a place for them to go.
“You know, we’re not comfortable with just shoving people across the street and saying, ‘Okay, our job is done.’ It has to be approached with a bunch of different organizations, and institutions, and levels of government,” he says.
There are growing calls for City of Vancouver or its park board to take action, after the arrest of a Strathcona Park camp leader in connection with Sunday's killing of an elderly woman. But others argue displacing those in the park during a pandemic not safe — more @NEWS1130
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) February 4, 2021
Dumont explains work is being done on the municipal and provincial levels to have an alternative for people living in Strathcona.
“It would also just push people into another park the next day as we saw after Oppenheimer to the parking lot next to CRAB [Park], or after CRAB to Strathcona,” he adds. “The puzzle is a little more complicated.”
Two men were arrested and charged for the senior’s death Tuesday. The two men are believed to have dressed as police officers and knocked on the woman’s door early Sunday. She was left severely hurt and later succumbed to her injuries.
NEWS 1130 has reached out to Mayor Kennedy Stewart.