Denial of access

Vancouver police deny access to journalists during encampment eviction

Vancouver police denied access to journalists covering the eviction of people living in an encampment at Hastings St. and Main St.

When the eviction began, the Vancouver Police Department said on Twitter that public access to the area around the encampment would be limited “to ensure safety and privacy for people within the encampment.” The VPD directed media to “stage” at an intersection in the area. 

Police said that a Global News camera operator would be given access to the scene as a “pool” camera, to provide footage to multiple outlets. 

The VPD did not respond to two requests from the Canada Press Freedom Project for more information about restrictions on media workers during the encampment eviction.

During the eviction, live video from the traffic cameras at Hastings St. and Main St. appeared to be unavailable on the City of Vancouver website. In a Twitter reply to CBC journalist Justin McElroy, who had tweeted about the traffic camera, the City of Vancouver said the feed was down because of a staff error.

Jen St. Denis, a journalist with The Tyee, told the CPFP that when she arrived at the intersection police had designated for media, VPD officers told her that she needed a police escort to access the area where the eviction was happening, but no escort was available. Police couldn’t tell her when an escort would be available, and suggested she email the VPD media officer. 

“Events were unfolding on the street and I didn’t want to wait,” St. Denis told the CPFP. She walked to Hastings St. and Main St., identified herself as media to police blocking the street and asked if she could access the area. They refused. 

St. Denis was able to gain access through a laneway that was not guarded by police. About 20 minutes later, police gave other journalists access to the area. 

St. Denis returned later in the day and saw that police had again blocked the street as another tent was being removed. She was let through the police line after activists asked police to allow her in to observe, but when she got closer to the tent being removed, officers told her to go back outside the police line. She moved back but was able to stay inside the blocked-off area, she said. 

“About 15 minutes later (VPD media relations officer Steve Addison) approached me and berated me for previously posting on Twitter about not being able to access the decampment,” she told the CPFP.