Letter to Mayor Ken Sim and Vancouver City Council - DTES Street Sweeps

Letter to Mayor Ken Sim and the Vancouver City Council

The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU) Executive, First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Student Association (FNMISA), and Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG) are vehemently opposed to the City of Vancouver’s deplorable actions against houseless peoples in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). 

Displacement only exacerbates other, serious risks that those living in the DTES face such as gender-based violence, toxic drug supply, access to medical and shelter services, and shelter from extreme weather conditions. The City has reduced these encampment homes and the folks living in them to garbage through its forced removal and “sweep up”. Humans are not garbage that can be “swept away”, and this sentiment, clearly displayed by the city’s actions of literally throwing away personal shelters and belongings, is both horrendous and oppressive. Further, the lack of safe and affordable housing has made these encampments the safest shelter option for many residents. The city's removal of the encampments only exacerbates the safety risks houseless people face, such as greater risk of death or illness from extreme weather and greater rates of gender-based violence. The city's actions have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with advancing the interests of parasitic business owners and developers. 

Considering that many individuals living in these DTES encampments struggle with mental illness, addiction, disability, and poverty, the City’s actions are a clear representation of stigma and discrimination. Many of the DTES residents are also Black, Indigenous, or people of colour, especially women, who already face disproportionate violence in Canadian society. For the City to respond to safety concerns through further violence shows its racism, sexism, and ignorance about what those living in poverty face daily and the negative impacts of street sweeps, especially on those who are already marginalised by the colonial system. Further, this is a demonstration of colonialism in action. The City of Vancouver and Vancouver Police Department removing unhoused people from their homes, especially on unceded Indigenous land, mirrors the removal of Indigenous communities from their original lands. This is not justice, equity, or reconciliation in practice. 

In a recent research report by Pivot Legal Society (2022), street sweeps were found to be ineffective at addressing poverty and houselessness since these methods only recycle poverty and displacement without resolving underlying conditions. Pivot also claims that street sweeps are a violation of human rights of people sheltering outside, and provides qualitative evidence of the harm and trauma caused by these displacement methods. 

Thus, the TSSU Executive, FNMISA, and SFPIRG stand in solidarity with those living in the DTES encampments and echo the demands of both Stop the Sweeps’ Calls to Action and Former Councillor Swanson’s Motion (B.3) for the City to immediately uphold human rights and cease the Two Stage Approach to Ending Encampment

In solidarity, 

The Teaching Support Staff Union Executive 

Feminist, directly democratic, and non-hierarchical since 1978.


First Nations, Metis, Inuit Student Association 


Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group 




Students of Caribbean and African Ancestry


Graduate Student Society (SFU)


Since 1978

The Teaching Support Staff Union (TSSU)