Vancouver police frequently send news releases to the media trumpeting their efforts to keep the public safe. But a January 17 message about an arrest in the Downtown Eastside has drawn the ire of women's groups in the neighbourhood.
The VPD news release praised "several people" who acted quickly, enabling officers "to respond immediately and arrest a violent suspect before anyone was physically hurt".
It came after a man had entered the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre with a meat cleaver and began threatening to kill people.
The suspect had dropped the weapon and left the premises before he was apprehended by the VPD
“It was our staff’s quick actions, experience, and training, not police action, that kept women safe from any potential harm, and we reject the VPD attempting to turn this into a media opportunity to look like heroes” Downtown Eastside Women's Centre executive director Alice Kendall said in a news release. “In their own press release, the VPD acknowledge that the man had already dropped the knife and walked away."
WISH Drop-In Society, Atira Women's Resource Society, and Battered Women's Support Service endorsed Kendall's statement. All the groups described the VPD's news release as "particularly egregious given that every day we witness how current policing practices, such as coordinated street sweeps, do not contribute to women's safety and just waste municipal resources".
The four groups renewed a demand made in December 2020 for a coordinated action plan from all levels of government to address ongoing sexualized and gender-based violence in the neighbourhood.
"Despite a provincial inquiry and a national inquiry into the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, trans and two-spirit people, there is no recognizable change in policing practices nor adequate supports for communities and families who are searching for their loved ones,” Kendall added.
This year, the 31st annual February 14 Women's Memorial March runs from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., beginning with a family and community gathering outside the Carnegie Centre.
The actual march starts at noon.