“The key political challenge… is to replace the fear-inducing language of ‘disorder and decline’ with a more capacious, just and inclusive public discourse… Such a political appeal would aim not at fear and castigation but at the human capacity for empathy and respect.”
̶Katherine Beckett & Steve Herbert in
Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America
You are invited to participate in a discussion based walking tour on the policing of poverty and the pursuit of social justice in Victoria. In partnership with The City Talks, this walk will take up some of the themes in Steve Herbert’s lecture, The Battles in Seattle: Paradoxes of Social Control in a Seemingly Progressive City, and apply them to sites in Victoria.
Here are the details:
Here’s a map of the sites we’ll visit and the route we’ll take:
During the walk we’ll consider these broad questions:
- How is poverty policed in Victoria?
- How is poverty discussed, experienced and explained by regular citizens, mainstream media, police, activists, academics, service providers, and most importantly, the poor themselves? Does the way we think and talk about poverty need to change?
- How should we pursue social justice? What types policies should we implement to alleviate poverty?
Here are the sites we’ll visit and some of the questions we’ll discuss:
- How do Swift House and Cool-Aid’s other supportive housing sites mesh with the call for “harm reduction” and “housing first“ by local organizations and by scholars like Katherine Beckett and Steve Herbert (Banished, 155-156)?
- What role should non-profit and charitable institutions play in providing housing, alleviating poverty, and pushing for social change? What role should governments play in these areas?
- How is Centennial Square physically constructed to encourage certain uses, while discouraging others?
- How has Centennial Square been used historically by marginalized groups, like hippies or homeless people (Midenhall, 24)?
- How has it been used more recently by protest groups, like the Occupy Movement or anti-Olympics protestors?
- How has it been used by more conventional groups, like the Downtown Victoria Business Association?
- Why does the City of Victoria ban people from “squatting, kneeling, sitting, or lying down” and putting “any structure, tent, object or thing” on sidewalks or medians? How are these provisions enforced? What groups do they disproportionately apply to? How do civic regulations like these, symbolized by City Hall, affect people at some of the other sites we’ll visit today?
GVPL Central Branch Courtyard
- Is this public space or private space? Does the privatization of public space create tensions between the institutions and their users?
- How is this space controlled and regulated? Who is allowed to use this space? When and how are they allowed to use it?
- In 2010, the Victoria Integrated Court was formed. Rather than funding judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys, police and probation officers, and other justice system officials to coordinate social programs, would it make more sense to fund increased income assistance, supportive housing, and addictions treatment instead?
- Is it a problem that “the police presence on the team means that some clients who could benefit from team support are reluctant to be engaged with law enforcement” (VICOT Annual Report 2012, 4)? Should laws be changed so that we no longer “criminalize some aspects of economic marginalization” (Beckett & Herbert, 152; also see Out of Sight, 33)?
- Does it concern you that the DVBA prioritized business interests in creating the Victoria Integrated Court?
- Do programs like Victoria’s Integrated Court create the risk of a conflict between citizens’ rights to a fair hearing in court and their rights to access social services?
- The BC Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling that allows camping in municipal parks has implications for “the debate over negative and positive rights,” the “underlying sociological issue of homelessness,” and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ “potential for effecting transformative change” (Young, 105). (The ruling was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in 2009.) What are these implications?
- Do you agree with the current municipal regulations governing camping in parks? What unintended effects might these regulations have? How else might homelessness be dealt with?
- In what ways did recent changes to Pioneer Square physically change the park? How might these changes affect homeless, poor and otherwise marginalized users of the park?
- What is a Good Neighbour Agreement (GNA)? How does the GNA for this block “pressure Our Place to police the people who it serves”? How has the GNA “shape[d] the cityscape in the interests of property owners” and diverted “scare resources from service provision”?
- How does this GNA compare with the one covering Cool-Aid’s Rock Bay Landing?
- In what ways did the City of Victoria physically harden the boulevard in this block to discourage marginalized people from using it as a place of “ongoing, vital social interaction” or “to meet their daily needs” (Beckett & Herbert, 138)? How did City and Provincial officials justify this reconstruction?
- What provisions might be included in an agreement like this in order to protect and include members of marginalized communities?
- Katherine Beckett & Steve Herbert, Banished: The New Social Control in Urban America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).
- Dorothy Mindenhall, “Centennial Square,” in Unbuilt Victoria (Toronto: Dundurn, 2012 ), 24-29.
- Out of Sight: Policing Poverty in Victoria (Victoria: VIPIRG, January 2012). Online: http://www.vipirg.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/PolicingPovertyVictoria-VIPIRGonline.pdf (accessed February 15, 2014).
- Victoria Integrated Community Outreach Team, VICOT Annual Report 2012 (Victoria: Vancouver Island Health Authority, June 2013). Online: https://www.vicpd.ca/sites/default/files/board_reports/attachments/sept._2013_vicot_2012_annual_report.pdf (accessed February 15, 2014).
- Margot Young, “Case Comment: Rights, the Homeless, and Social Change: Reflections on Victoria (City) v. Adams (BCSC),” BC Studies, no. 164 (Winter 2009/2010), 103-113. Online: http://bcstudies.com/pdfs/BCS_164_YOUNG_103.pdf (accessed February 15, 2014).