Vancouver’s downtown ambassadors are being accused of persistently harassing homeless people, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal is expected to hear today.
The complainants, Pivot Legal Society and the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, allege that the ambassadors denigrate street dwellers and drug users in the downtown core, and deny these individuals access to public areas.
Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, disputes the allegations, and said homeless people generally appreciate the assistance the ambassadors provide.
“Given that evidence (of harassment from the complainants) hasn’t been forthcoming, we really don’t understand how this complaint reached (the tribunal),” he said.
The ambassador role also provides job opportunities to inner-city residents, he added.
“(Organizations like the DVBIA) shouldn’t be allowed to hire a private security army to patrol public space,” said John Richardson, executive director of Pivot Legal Society.
Jason Gratl, legal counsel for VANDU and Pivot, agreed.
“The downtown core belongs to all citizens,” said Gratl. He said the third component of the ambassadors’ mandate, to persuade homeless people to relocate from sidewalks and public areas, is disrespectful and unlawful.
The hearing is expected to last 15 days.