Pubdate: Wed, 01 Nov 2017
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2017 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Sunny Dhillon
Page: S1


When Lisa was released on bail, following an arrest for possession for
the purpose of trafficking, British Columbia's Provincial Court
ordered the Downtown Eastside resident to stay away from the busy hub
of Hastings Street.

But she says that condition, that she stay away from the street where
she was arrested, made little sense.

"My bank was there, my home was there, my probation was there, my
doctor was there, like come on guys! All of Hastings Street? Hello! My
whole life is there! They're going to arrest you every time you want
to go home?"

Lisa - which is a pseudonym - was one of several people whose plight
was highlighted on Tuesday in a report examining the use of
court-imposed "red zones" in Vancouver.

The report said court-imposed conditions that prohibit people from
entering certain areas have harmed vulnerable Downtown Eastside residents.

"Our study reveals that conditions of release are too frequently used
in Vancouver in ways that are counterproductive, punitive, and often
unlawful, threatening fundamental constitutional rights," said
Marie-Eve Sylvestre, the report's lead researcher and a law professor
at the University of Ottawa.

Prof. Sylvestre in an interview said the red zones can directly impact
a person's access to food, shelter and - in the case of drug users -
essential health services.

The no-go zones observed by researchers ranged from a single block to
the entire Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

The report said red zones set up marginalized people to fail and put
additional pressure on the criminal justice system, given the
likelihood offenders will breach unnecessary conditions and be
rearrested by police.

The report said red zones and other conditions of release are rarely
challenged, as individual offenders face a power imbalance.

DJ Larkin, a lawyer with Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society, which
assisted with the report, said the findings are in line with what
Pivot has observed.

"What we have seen is people regularly reporting that they have half a
dozen court conditions, or overlapping court orders, so it creates a
lack of clarity around which conditions apply and what they're
supposed to do," she said in an interview.

Ms. Larkin said Lisa's story was extremely familiar.

"We've been to towns around the province and heard people talk about
being red-zoned from places that are the downtown core, which also
tends to be where services are," she said.

While those who have had conditions imposed can apply for variations,
Ms. Larkin said not everyone is aware of that option.

She said it also requires the support of a probation officer and is
not viable for those living with addiction.

"Would you feel comfortable in a criminalized context going to your
probation officer and saying, 'I need an exemption to go to the
overdose prevention site because I'm still using drugs,' I'm going to
guess the answer is no," she said.

Prof. Sylvestre said individuals released on bail are supposed to be
released without conditions.

"They're presumed innocent, you're not supposed to impose conditions
on them that they are likely to breach," she said.

For those who have been convicted and are on probation, Prof.
Sylvestre said conditions involving access to harm-reduction programs,
therapy and treatment should be prioritized over banning people from
specific areas.

"The orders should be much better tailored to the individual," she

B.C.'s Provincial Court said it could not comment on the report

The B.C. government said media requests should be directed to

The Vancouver Police Department did not respond to a request for

The report included researchers from Simon Fraser University and
University of Montreal.

The researchers plan to release similar reports regarding red zones in
Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.
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