Sleeping Rough and Shooting Up. Taking British Columbia's Urban Justice Issues to Court

AuthorMargot Young
chapter 14
MarGot younG
Canada sits in a d if‌ferent spot than thirty years ago when the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms1 was proclaimed a mid grand hopes for a so-
ciety marked by the key libera l values enshrined in t hat document. Today,
Canadians are no longer a people with appropriate conf‌idence in a “kind-
er, gentler” national soul. Poverty is more than ever a critical issue,2 high-
lighting desperation and deprivation surrounded by privilege and excess.3
* Thank s are due to Kenda Shupe, Ted Murray, Brad Por, Kate Mul herin, and Alexa nder
Makof‌f for resea rch assistance. M artha Jackma n and Bruce Porter proved patient ed i-
tors. Funding a ssistance was prov ided by SSHRC and by the UBC Peter Wall S olutions
Professor, Facu lty of Law, University of British C olumbia and Research Pa rtner in
the SSHRC-CUR A Project, “Reconceiv ing Human Right s Practice,” online:
1 Part I of the Const itution Act, 1982, being Sche dule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982 ,
c 11 [Charter].
2 In 2010, three million p eople, about 9 percent of Canadi ans, were below the afte r-tax
Low Income Cut-Of‌f — Can ada’s unocial low income measu rement. Included in
this f‌igu re are 546,000 childr en. Statistics Ca nada, “Incomes of Can adians, 2010” at 1,
online: The Da ily www.statca
3 For example, food secur ity is a real issue ac ross Canada, and p articularly for I ndige-
nous peoples. The Un ited Nations Special R apporteur on the Right to Fo od made the
following sta tement in May 2012: “A growing number of pe ople across Canada rem ain
unable to meet thei r basic food needs. In 200 7/2008, approximately 7.7 per cent of
414 margot young
Homelessness has emerged as a seemingly intrac table urban blight.4 O ur
nation ranks a s one of the more unequal among Western countries.5 Thi s
inequality grows and the chasm between the “ haves” and the “have-nots”
yawns, increasingly evident in indicators of social dysf unction, injustice,
and anomie.6 The triumph of neo-liberal ism, and its attendant vision of
the sturdy, calculating i ndividual, ground ma ny of these developments.
Theorists cha rt both the “hollow ing out” and, then, the “f‌illi ng in” of the
State as part of neo-libera l policies.7 The role of government is both reduced
and expanded to serve the “rationa l, entrepreneurial, economic individua l.”8
The idea of “social” citi zenship is eviscerated: soci al issues are viewed as
essentially economic problems, and the economic order reaches to include
all human act ivities within its log ic. The State is no longer of‌fered by our
political elite as a resource for socia l justice and a facilitator of substantive
equality and f reedoms. The citizen sta nds alone, free to succeed or fail on
his own.
households in Ca nada reported exper iencing moderate or severe food in security.
Approximately 1.92 m illion people in Cana da, aged 12 or older, lived in food in secure
households in 2007/2008 a nd a staggering 1 in 10 f amilies, 10.8 per cent , with at least
one child under the a ge of six were food insecure du ring the same per iod.” Olivier
De Schutter, Specia l Rapporteur on the R ight to Food, “Visit to Ca nada from 6 to 16
May 2012 — End-of-Mission St atement,” online: Oce of the High Com missioner for
Human Rights w
4 A 2007 report issued by t he then United Nations Specia l Rapporteur on Adequ ate
Housing, Milo on Kothari, state d,The Special R apporteur remain s concerned about
the signif‌ic ant number of homeless in al l parts of the countr y . . . . It has been stated
that the wides pread and rapid growth of homele ssness in Canada s ince the mid-
1990s is unprecedente d since World War II.” Human Rights Cou ncil, Promotion and
Protection of all Human Rights, Civ il, Political, Economic, Social an d Cultural Rights,
Including the Right to Developme nt: Report of the Special Rapport eur on Adequate
Housing a s a Component of the Right to an Adequate St andard of Living, and on the Right
to Non-discriminat ion in This Context, Miloon Kothar i, UNGAOR, 10th sess, UN Doc A /
HRC/10/7/Add.3, (2009) at paras 53– 54.
5 Armine Yalniz yan, The Rise of Canada’s Riches t 1% (Ottawa: Canad ian Centre for
Policy Altern atives, 2010), online: Cana dian Centre for Policy A lternatives
www.policya; “C anadian Income Ine quality: Is Can ada Becoming More
Unequal?,” online: Con ference Board of Canada w .
6 See, for example, R ichard G Wilkin son & Kate Pickett, The Sp irit Level: Why More
Equal Societies Alm ost Always Do Better (London: Al len Lane, 2009).
7 Luke Des forges, Rhys Jones, & Mike Woods , “New Geographies of Citiz enship” (2005)
9:5 Citizenship St udies 439 at 440.
8 Leslie Kern , Sex and the Revitalized City: Gen der, Condominium Development, and Urban
Citizenship (Vancouver: UBC Pr ess, 2010) at 6.

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