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To signatories of the Open Letter to the GVFB,
It has come to our attention that the Greater Vancouver Food Bank is now inviting law enforcement – Vancouver Police Department and Burnaby RCMP – to occupy their food distribution sites under the auspices of “helping out.”
We are deeply concerned about the invited presence of law enforcement, in armed uniform, to food bank locations. A diverse group of people access the GVFB, including individuals who experience racialization, oppression and criminalization due to overlapping identities – many of whom experience fear, intimidation, and danger of harms from the police.
We do not support the Greater Vancouver Food Bank’s poor and ill-informed decision to invite the police, in uniform, to their locations. We further do not support using needed social services as a public relations stunt for the VPD or RCMP.
These continuing decisions reinforce the fact that the GVFB is not making informed decisions to support their clients, but in fact hurt them, and continues to call into question the leadership of this organization.
A recent article in the Tyee also speaks to these alarming issues: https://thetyee.ca/News/2020/08/14/Food-Bank-Photo-Ops-Police/
This is particularly egregious in a time of rising global and local public momentum calling for immediate action to address the harms of policing and anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and racialized policing practices. Just last week, a probe was ordered due to the shocking and excessive force used by Vancouver police against a man living in poverty for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk with no helmet.
Best available evidence also highlights that police and RCMP are ill-equipped to work in contexts where client needs are influenced by substance use, mental illness, disability, vulnerable housing and homelessness, poverty and sex work, and that criminalization creates additional harm and is counter-productive in terms of rehabilitation, healing and community safety.
These actions directly contradict City of Vancouver policy to “enable residents with uncertain immigration status to access services without fear.” While the GVFB isn’t a city service, the spirit of becoming an Access Without Fear city (or Sanctuary City) necessitates a shared commitment to keeping all folks safe while accessing any service. The GVFB is acting in complete disregard for this care.
As folks committed to dignified and just food access, we invite you to: