Everyone deserves to feel safe in Vancouver. Period.

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Kennedy Stewart
February 16, 2022

Conversations about public safety in our city have intensified in recent months.

I have heard from residents, businesses, and frontline workers with their concerns about street disorder.

I have heard from people who don’t feel safe because they lack access to proper health and well-being services.

I have heard from people who don't have confidence they will be treated fairly by the police. 

And I have heard from people who have experienced hatred or violence due to their gender, race, or religion.

For a lot of people, Vancouver feels safe, but clearly, for many, it doesn’t.

I am working hard to address these concerns and ensure that people from all walks of life feel safe in our city.

Street Disorder

Busier streets are generally safer streets and COVID-19 has unfortunately made our streets less bustling. With fewer people working and recreating downtown, we have seen a corresponding increase in street disorder here and in surrounding neighbourhoods.

While not the only solution, policing services are an important part of addressing street disorder. That’s why I, along with City Council, have fully met the VPD’s  2022 budget request. The VPD has been using these resources to tackle crime, reporting a city-wide decrease this year, although there is still much work to be done in some neighbourhoods and in some crime categories.

But as important as policing is, Vancouverites know we can’t just arrest our way to safer streets. 

We need to get serious about combating poisoned drugs and their role in random attacks and violence. Cities across North America are struggling with the impacts of these stronger, unstable drugs, including a new form of methamphetamines that causes intense paranoia, violence, and brain damage.

I continue to work with Mayors from across B.C. and Canada on pushing the immediate rollout of physician-prescribed safer alternatives to poisoned street drugs and additional treatment options.

Housing and Support Services

COVID has hit vulnerable people in our city harder than anyone else - especially those living in poverty with severe mental health, trauma or addiction issues. It is impossible to feel safe without a roof over your head or access to proper health care services -- especially during a pandemic. 

I have made delivering housing for the most vulnerable a top priority, securing over $1-billion in housing investments to fund 10,000 new homes to get folks off the street and into warm beds.

I have also worked with B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson to invest in Complex Care Housing for those with the toughest mental health and addiction challenges -- with 55 complex care housing units soon to be delivered in Vancouver and with many more to come.

Equitable Policing 

Everyone should feel confident they will be treated equitably by the police. I have worked with the Vancouver Police Board to make sure marginalized and racialized people feel safer when interacting with law enforcement.

In June 2021, I formally acknowledged all government institutions are systemically racist, including the VPD, and that Black and Indigenous peoples, people of colour, drug users, members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and those experiencing homelessness face disproportionate - and often negative - police attention.

The provincial government answered my call for reform by undertaking a comprehensive Police Act review due to report this year. The Vancouver Police Board also now acknowledges the VPD is built on a foundation of structural racism and colonization and have begun new initiatives to modernize accordingly.

This is a good start, but we constantly need to ensure our service delivery matches the expectations and needs of the whole community.

Hate Crimes

Finally, and perhaps most worryingly, COVID-19 has resulted in a small minority of people coming into our neighbourhoods to commit hateful acts.

I denounce these heinous actions and stand with victims. These have been shocking, unacceptable incidents and I am glad suspects are being identified and charges laid.

Hate has no place in our city. We all have to stand up together and push back against anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, anti-Asian, and anti-Semitic hate, Islamophia, poor-bashing, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and those targeting frontline and healthcare workers.

Vancouver is the best place to live in the world, but we continue to be severely tested by COVID-19 and entrenched issues that affect all cities. I am convinced Vancouver will soon begin to feel much more normal as the pandemic subsides, we begin to return to their usual activities,and the actions I have undertaken begin to take effect. 

Until then, I will continue to ensure police have the resources they need to do their job; keep investing in the housing, mental health and addictions care required by our most vulnerable residents; carry on my work to eliminate systemic racism in all institutions; and unite Vancouverites against hate.

To everyone working to make our city safer and get us through these challenging times, thank you.

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