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Analysis

Vancouver Media Warning of ‘Crime’ And ‘Declining’ Dehumanizes Vulnerable Residents, Advocates Say

'This type of journalism happens cyclically'

Advocates say media reports about “crime” and “drug use” problems in downtown Vancouver dehumanize its poorest residents and distract from genuine issues claiming lives.

Last week, Global News senior reporter Rumina Daya posted a video of her cleaning “human urine” from her shoes after interviewing a downtown Vancouver business owner. Daya interviewed the local restaurant owner who said he’s closing because he’s fed up with cleaning “crap every day.”

The TV broadcast framed the story as evidence of a “declining Vancouver.” 

Pivot Legal Society campaigner Meenakshi Mannoe told PressProgress Daya’s report fits a concerning pattern among some Vancouver journalists.

“It’s predictable and lazy journalism to shame people for not having access to bathrooms and hygiene facilities” Mannoe said. “This type of journalism happens cyclically where someone will post really degrading imagery to substitute for any type of investigation or analysis. It erases structural and systemic oppression.”

Some journalists and commentators have noted this is part of a pattern — of media outlets scaremongering about the vulnerable and excluding their needs and issues.

For example, in August, Global News broadcast what it described as a “disturbing” video and an online post “warning” residents about a man injecting on a “downtown sidewalk” and “waving” a “dirty needle.”

Similarly, back in April, Global claimed Vancouver was seeing a rise in “criminal activity” during the COVID-19 lockdown, including one case of a man hopping over a nearby “security gate with spikes.”

Global’s parent company, Corus Entertainment, did not respond to requests for comment from PressProgress.

Another outlet, CTV News, posted, back in June, a video of a “partially clothed man jumping on top of a car.”

“It justifies the worst stereotypes people have about people who don’t have homes. It serves all of these prejudiced folks to be like ‘see, they don’t deserve to have homes because they are pissing in the street,” Mannoe said.

Mannoe said this type of reporting has political consequences. “It also serves structural prejudices and specifically the attitudes of law and policymakers who are also attuned to this coverage, who might be in contact with business improvement associations, or other civil society groups that are advocating for the displacement of unsheltered groups.”

For example, community members note, a new anti-harm reduction group called Safer Vancouver has enjoyed regular coverage by B.C media including the Vancouver Sun, CTVNews Vancouver and others.

As The Tyee reported, SV spokesperson Dallas Brodie told podcaster James Faulkner people who use drugs “would have been better” placed on a boat in the Fraser River — rather than near other residents. 

“They would have been better to bring in a naval ship or set up a barracks somewhere and take them away from the city core and say they have to stay there,” Brodie said.

Karen Ward, a DTES resident and drug policy advocate told PressProgress groups like Safer Vancouver use their airtime to demonize marginalized people. 

“They’re really targeting and harassing poor people who are in trouble, people who are drug users who are at such a high risk of overdose,” Ward said.

 “If you don’t want the homeless around, get them some housing. If you don’t want pee, get bathrooms. If you don’t want corpses, let’s work on safe supply,” Ward said.

 

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