Strathcona Park tent city

Man Stabbed at Strathcona Tent City

By Jen St. Denis, The Tyee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Strathcona Park tent city supporters are asking for more police presence and faster response times after a resident was stabbed Sunday.

Man stabbed by visitor

Chrissy Brett, one of the  tent city organizers, said a man who had just moved into the encampment  was stabbed near the shoulder by a man who doesn’t live at the tent city  and had been asked to leave many times.

Brett said the resident had to get a number of staples and has damaged muscles and tendons but is back at the tent city.

Vancouver police confirmed a man was  stabbed Sunday “after a group of people in the park were chasing the  suspect for something unrelated to the stabbing. When the victim got  closer to the suspect, the suspect stabbed him.”

On Friday afternoon, the police said they have recommended charges to Crown counsel in relation to the stabbing after what they called a  “thorough investigation.”

Policing a controversial issue

Policing in Vancouver tent  cities has been controversial. At Oppenheimer Park — where a large tent  city was in place for two years before it was shut down in May —  activists often complained about a police presence they said was too  frequent and intrusive. In 2019, police said the Oppenheimer Park tent  city had become so dangerous they would only visit in groups of four.

With over 300 tents,  Strathcona Park is even larger than Oppenheimer Park. Brett said she  wants to see more involvement from police when there are ongoing safety  issues such as the events that she believes led up to the stabbing.

“We’ve asked them to leave [a patrol car]  here parked during the day and maybe one parked towards the other end,  and they’ve said that’s not possible,” said Brett, who has supported the  Strathcona Park tent city, as well as previous encampments near Crab  Park and Oppenheimer Park.

Increase of incidents

Strathcona residents have reported an increase of concerning incidents, including one where a man lifted up a five-year-old and shook him at another neighbourhood park. 

Unhoused people more often the victims

But Brett said unhoused people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. 

She said the man she believes was  responsible for the stabbing had been involved in earlier incidents at  Crab Park and Strathcona Park.

“It just seems as though there is this  top-down, systemic colonial issue with police that homeless people are  bad and violent and dangerous, and no one should go near them,” Brett  said.

Police participation welcomed

Brett said the camp has held regular  meetings that have included the BC Ambulance Service, the parks board,  the Strathcona Residents’ Association and local community policing  volunteers. 

But the Vancouver Police Department, the  City of Vancouver and Vancouver Fire Rescue Services have been absent  from those meetings, according to Brett.

“We’ve always encouraged VPD to come to the table and have a conversation,” Brett said.

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