In Light of Opposition to Social Housing, Advocates Urge B.C. to Protect Against Discrimination Based on Social Condition

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Proposals for the construction of new homeless shelters and social housing initiatives in multiple B.C. municipalities have been met with opposition from local community members.

Metro News reports opposition in municipalities including Sechelt, Chilliwack, Kelowna, Vancouver and Langley, and states that negative community input has resulted in delays and cancellations of developments.

Residents of Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood have protested against the City of Vancouver due to an alleged lack of public consultation prior to its approval of a temporary modular-housing development for homeless people. Some residents have taken further action, raising money for legal action against the municipality.

Residents have said that while they are not opposed to social housing, it is “inappropriate” for their neighbourhood.

Darcie Bennett, Director of Strategy at Pivot Legal Societysaid that this indicates an issue of discrimination based on “social condition.” Social condition “includes income source, mental illness, level of education and housing status (that is, whether people are housed, or homeless).”

Pivot is calling on the reinstated B.C. Human Rights Commission to consider adding social condition to the prohibited grounds of discrimination in B.C.’s Human Rights Code.

New Brunswick, Quebec, and the Northwest Territories all have legal protections against this kind of discrimination.

Bennett said that legal protection is important but constitutes only one part of the solution: “Another really important piece is education: How do we start having conversations with British Columbians around discrimination?”

The B.C. government recently stated that it is investing in affordable housing in areas including the Downtown Eastside. The government aims to “build 114,000 new units of affordable housing throughout B.C.” and invest “$291 million to support the construction of 2,000 modular housing units for people who are homeless.”

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.