Local anti-harassment campaign Good Night Out Vancouver has launched a pilot program that will see a nightlife street team roaming the Granville Entertainment District to help foster a safer environment for club- and bar-goers during the area’s busiest hours.
Billed as the first initiative of its kind in Canada, the Nightlife Street Team project employs a group of four volunteers who are trained in non-violent crisis intervention and First Aid. Sporting bright coral T-shirts branded with the words “GNO Squad”—or pink coats in the rain—these folks will be stationed on Granville Street, between Robson and Davie streets, from midnight to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays beginning this Friday (September 8).
During these times, they will serve as proactive bystanders, helping to prevent and defuse incidences of harassment, which, according to GNO coordinator Ashtyn Bevan, may encompass anything from inappropriate language and catcalling to aggressive or unwanted behaviour.
“We want to be on the street as engaged bystanders, so if we do witness any harassment, we can step in,” Bevan tells the Straight by phone. “But we also just want to increase the sense of safety for everyone while out.”
GNO’s nightlife street team will work closely with Granville Street establishments to ensure that vulnerable patrons—women and those who identify as LGBT—remain safe throughout the evenings. The group will also assist people with accessing public transit and flagging down taxis.
In addition, the anti-harassment squad will have external phone chargers on hand for those who need to charge their mobile devices for safety reasons, and water and snacks for anyone who needs help sobering up.
The Vancouver Police Department will be contacted in serious cases of violence or harassment, though Bevan stresses that the goal of the team is ultimately conflict resolution and education. “We want to use this as an opportunity to start a conversation about why that behaviour is inappropriate,” she adds, “and why those actions may have a negative effect.”
She encourages patrons to use the six Ds—detecting, distracting, directly addressing, delaying, delegating, or discussing—when challenging harassment. “Harassment is a form of power-based violence,” explains Bevan, “so taking that power off of the harasser and being like, ‘Hey, do you know who’s playing tonight? Have you been here before? Do you live in Vancouver? What’s your favourite venue?’ helps disrupt that power.”
Funded by the Downtown Vancouver BIA and BarWatch, the Nightlife Street Team initiative will run every Friday and Saturday in the Granville Entertainment District until the end of October. If the program proves successful, it may be extended permanently.
“We’re excited to see, over the two months, if there’s going to be a positive impact on our nighttime economy,” says Bevan.
Founded in 2015 as the local chapter of the London-based campaign of the same name, Good Night Out seeks to enhance patron safety, especially that of women and LGBT folks, in the city’s nightlife scene. It conducts regular audits of various clubs, bars, and late-night venues to ensure that the care of staff and customers are prioritized.
Earlier this year, the group successfully crowdfunded enough money to have date-rape-drug-detecting coasters placed in select nightlife venues in Vancouver. However, GNO coordinators were unable to get in touch with the coasters’ U.S. manufacturers. The USD$900 raised from that campaign has gone toward GNO’s harm-reduction efforts and the Nightlife Street Team project.