Amid the heated conversation debate around temporary modular housing in residential neighbourhoods, a group of B.C. lawyers is pushing to have “social condition” protected under the province’s human rights code.
Vancouver’s Pivot Legal Society says that’s discrimination, and wants it stopped.
Speaking on CKNW’s Steele & Drex show, Pivot laywer Darcie Bennett said the issue is an attempt to exclude people based on factors they can’t necessarily control.
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The conversation around contentious topics, like zoning for social housing, has shifted away from things cities should control, such as land use, traffic issues, building setbacks, Bennett said.
“We are treading into the question of who is going to use this space, versus how is this space going to be used?”
With B.C. re-establishing its Human Rights Commission, which has a mandate to act proactively and address issues without having to bring a unique case to a tribunal, Bennett said the time is right to make “social condition” a protected status.
Bennett said B.C. should look to Ontario, which has begun taking steps to bar zoning decisions made around matters such as mental health.
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But while such a move would bar discrimination based on a person’s social status, Bennett said it shouldn’t be about punishing anyone who disagrees.
Rather, she’s calling for an education campaign that would set the terms among municipal politicians, citizen participants and others about what are fair grounds for discussion.
She said that could mean setting limits on what’s addressed in the zoning process, so that conversation focuses on what is actually happening to a property — not who will use it.
“And then what’s more difficult to get at is how are the decisions actually being made, because in zoning processes, we don’t tend to have written decisions that explain exactly why a decision was made,” she said.
“But there’s also that question of how is the input from the public, which may actually be discriminatory, actually influencing the outcome?”
Construction continues at the site of Vancouver’s controversial Marpole modular housing site, which is expected to be online by February.
Last week, the City of Vancouver announced the newest location for the units, next to the south foot of the Cambie Street Bridge.