Archive for October, 2009

Lodging for Games gets creative

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Travel executive is looking at viability of bringing Shuswap houseboats to Vancouver

Bruce Constantineau

St. Regis Hotel general manager Jeremy Roncoroni stands in only room he has left for the Games — a suite that goes for $1,100 a night. Photograph by: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

When more than 250,000 visitors come for a 17-day party, sleeping arrangements become creative.

Olympic travellers heading to Vancouver and Whistler will stay in hotels, motels, hostels, private homes, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, tents and on cruise ships.

They may even soon have an option to sleep in drylanded houseboats near False Creek.

Exposure Travel co-founder Nick Gudewill wants to bring houseboats from the Shuswap region and create a “houseboat city” on property near Main and Terminal in Vancouver. He’s negotiating with the land-owner and the City of Vancouver and will assess market reaction to the concept by Dec. 15, when he will either proceed with the project or cancel it. “People are looking at paying 500 bucks a night for a motel,” Gudewill said. “This will provide a lower-cost, affordable housing option for a younger crowd.”

Prices would range from $150 a night for a single bed in a shared bunk room to $1,500 a night for an entire vessel that can sleep up to 15 people.

Gudewill said the houseboat city should attract visitors who leave things until the last minute as he expects many people will show up in Vancouver without confirmed accommodation. “We thought about doing this in Whistler or Squamish but if we want walk-ins, we have to be close to the action in Vancouver,” he said.

Not everyone has embraced the concept of providing relatively affordable rooms during a period of high demand. A change of branding at the former Quality Inn Vancouver Airport has left many Olympic visitors scrambling for new rooms, as the hotel says rooms booked months ago for as little as $79 a night will now cost $350 a night or more.

The Happy Day Inn in Burnaby — where rooms are available for as little as $60 a night this winter — has listed rooms on Expedia for $625 a night during the Olympics. The hotel’s website says suites available for $111 a night during the peak summer season will cost $775 a night during the Games.

Tourism Vancouver vice-president Walt Judas said price gouging is still an anomaly as most hoteliers understand the need to build long-term relationships with visitors. “It’s not just about two weeks during the Games,” he said. “It’s about future business and getting people to come back again and again.”

(The Paralympic Games in March will not have the same impact on hotel prices as the Olympics. A Best Western hotel on Kingsway, for example, has rooms available for $109 a night for much of the Paralympics, compared with $250 or more during the Olympics.)

Judas said most downtown Vancouver hotels have few, if any, rooms available during the Games but noted 28 hotels and motels listed on currently have more than 1,900 rooms. The hotels are spread over a wide geographic area from Vancouver Island to Chilliwack.

He noted tour operators secured a lot of Vancouver hotel rooms for clients awhile ago and previous Olympic experience shows some of those rooms will become available as the Games draw closer. But he expects it will still be hard to find rooms in downtown Vancouver.

St. Regis Hotel general manager Jeremy Roncoroni said the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee secured 58 of the 65 rooms at his newly renovated Dunsmuir Street property and he has sold six of the seven rooms he was allowed to market during the Games.

Two of the rooms were sold to large companies for the entire month of February and Roncoroni expects the final room — a 600-square-foot suite — will soon sell for $1,100 a night during the 17-day Games period. It is usually available for $595 a night at that time of year.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries about it and should sell it soon,” he said. “Somebody called me the other day looking for 40 rooms and I said you’re smoking out of the wrong pipe at the wrong time.”

Admiral Hotel owner Amir Sadath is renovating the north Burnaby hotel’s 25 rooms for a cost of $15,000 to $20,000 each and recently listed them on Expedia for $690 a night during the Games. The regular off-season room rate will be around $150 a night, he said.

“We discussed this with Expedia and determined that’s the price we should ask,” he said. “The few rooms left around Vancouver are going for that.”

Games chief executive officer Martin Schoenberg, whose company lists private homes for rent during the Olympics, said he knows of a few smaller hotels that have left clients stranded in the same manner as the former Quality Inn.

“People have contacted us looking for help because some hotel has left them stranded or a homeowner has decided to sell so they can no longer rent them a suite,” he said.

Rent for the Games properties start at about $500 a night for a one-bedroom condo. The organization currently has about 500 properties available during the Games, down from 1,500 two years ago.

“We thought demand would have levelled off by now but we’re dealing with major corporations that still don’t have their accommodation plans finalized — names like Yahoo, Samsung, Rona and the NHL,” Schoenberg said. “We thought this would be really late in the game for them.”

Canada‘s two major airlines said they have noticed a spike in interest for flights in and out of Vancouver during the Olympics.

WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said the airline has received several requests for special charter flights to Vancouver during the Games and it plans to fly as many as it can, depending on the availability of aircraft.

Air Canada said it is closely monitoring demand and will add capacity to Vancouver when required. It will also introduce non-stop service from Vancouver to Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva and Zurich during the Games and will bring several hundred more employees to Vancouver during the Olympics to ensure it can handle the increased traffic.

Global Travel managing partner Scott Clute expects a lot of regular winter-season visitors to the Vancouver/Whistler region will travel instead to resorts like Sun Peaks or Big White during the Olympics.

He also said several Vancouver residents will leave town to avoid the Olympic hoopla and many will fly out of Seattle or Bellingham to escape the perceived congestion and security issues at Vancouver International Airport.

Jubilee Travel owner Claire Newell expects a lot of people will want to get out of Vancouver during the Games. She noted reading week — the annual one-week break for university students — happens during the Olympics. “I don’t think people are being ‘bah humbug’ about the Olympics,” she said. “I just think a lot of people on the west side and in downtown Vancouver are worried about the traffic situation.”

Newell said tour operators know there will be a strong demand for warm-weather getaways in February and have priced their products accordingly, noting a seven-day all-inclusive trip to Puerto Vallarta, departing Feb. 14, will cost $1,649.

“I don’t expect they will go on sale too much because a lot of people will book well in advance,” she said.

Newell expects many Vancouver residents will follow her own personal Olympic strategy — stay in the city for a week to take in some Olympic events and then get the heck out of town.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

ARTEMISIA – southeast corner of Helmcken and Hornby

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Artists collaborate in latest offering from James Schouw

Christina Symons

An artist’s rendering of the Artemisia building, to be located at the southeast corner of Helmcken and Hornby.

Artemisia’s namesake is not a genus of plants, those 200 to 400 species of herbs and shrubs famous for their oils, but an Italian painter, Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653). by period she was, accordingly, a Baroque artist. The Baroque period spanned the decades between the late 16th century and the early 18th century in Europe and made itself known, in architecture, by elaborate and extensive ornamentation. In painting, music and architecture Baroque was popular with religious and secular authorities as a medium for projection their power, economic and social.



Project location: downtown Vancouver

Project size: 21 residences, 6-storey building

Residence size: 1,000 sq. ft. – 3,000 sq. ft.

Prices: $935,000 – $3.65 million

Developer: James Schouw & Associates Inc.

Architect: GBL (Gomberoff Bell Lyon) Architects

Interior design: Schouw & Associates

Telephone: 604-695-1000


Occupancy: Spring 2011

– – –

At Artemisia, the latest new-home project from developer James Schouw, residents will enjoy an art-gallery address in a coveted downtown Vancouver location.

A $40 million construction project, Artemisia is only a few blocks away from Schouw‘ s last new-home project, Grace. Grace was last year’s highrise of the year in an annual industry competition known as the Georgies.

As an expression of design and artistic intention, Artemisia is not blocks away, but world’s away from Grace.

To imagine, for example, another urban threshold as chic and soul satisfying as Grace’s inner courtyard, a lush, emerald garden and brick-forested waterscapes, is nearly inconceivable

And yet conceive of an entry even more beguiling is exactly what James Schouw is attempting to do, as he shields raindrops from my notepad while explaining the concept for the next installment in his next habitable-art project.

“Smaller projects have character and that’s really what I am trying to create and sell,” he notes. “We’re offering a level of texture and character that is not to be duplicated, anywhere.”

To be located at the corner of Hornby and Helmcken, Artemisia will also expand on the bold neo-classical expression and eclectic detailing demonstrated architecturally by Grace on Richards Street and, earlier, Iliad on Homer Street.

This latest edition is a capsule collection of 21 couture residences (including nine townhouses), presented in context and collaboration with local and international artists as a one-of-a-kind residential gallery in downtown Vancouver. “I’m very fond of small, what is commonly referred to as boutique,” notes Schouw. “It’s the opposite of the very institutional type of living environment you get in a typical tower with two to three hundred suites or more.”

When you can substitute one suite for any other, there is very little spirit and individuality – a huge missed opportunity in a city as dynamic as Vancouver – according to Schouw. A study in creative contrasts himself, he’s an artist schooled in math and sciences, a hammer-wielding construction manager turned designer/developer, a well established gentleman who prefers bicycling over car and driver, or when pressed for time, skateboarding across town.

And so, creativity will add a layer of engagement to his residences at Artemisia. The end result will be anything but cookie-cutter luxury condos, yet buyers will have their choice of ride: peddling one of the fleet of available cruiser bikes, or relaxing in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Phantom.

Based on an open call (closing November 10; see for info) and independent selection process, plus a generous $500 000 budget, “Art for the City” at Artemisia has been conceived as the architectural equivalent of a residential sculpture garden, to house 12-14 permanent public art installations suspended in two- and three-storey dimensional spaces around the perimeter of the building. The expected focus is on contemporary sculpture, including works of metal, new media or glass.

Director of Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery, Christina Ritchie, commends the initiative in a pre-opening media release.

“The attitude of James Schouw is truly laudable,” she says. “Living with art can take some getting used to, but this project will encourage it, helping people to look at their everyday surroundings in a slightly different way.”

The building, as frame for the sculptural works, will offer a timeless conservatory styled envelope and window system with soaring internal volumes, dramatic detailing and floor-to-ceiling glass, some rising to heights of 30 feet. The development also includes geothermal heating and cooling, high efficiency and low toxicity materials and plumbing fixtures.

The suites are vast, from 1000 to 3000 square feet with long sweeping curved walls and meticulous attention to sight lines, light and circulation patterns. Defining the interior spaces, along with massive porcelain floor tiles, custom millwork and luxury detailing, are kitchens conceived of as “functional sculpture” rather than utilitarian spaces, albeit kitted out nicely with top-of-the-line Gaggenau appliances.

“I find that kitchens are an example of design that evolved to a point and then stopped,” notes Schouw. “Here, we’re not designing kitchens but creating a sculptural art piece first and then fine tuning it to have real functionality.”

Every other detail has also been considered with distinction in mind, from the state-of-the-art biometric security with fingerprint ID system to the residential warranty dossier designed by Louis Vuitton. Resort-style bathrooms feature free-standing cast iron tubs, televisions inset into vanity mirrors and innovative depressed-slab showers.

“I want our buyers to feel like they’re purchasing a very special custom home,” says Schouw, who notes that his first project’s purchasers were mostly all friends and since then, he’s based the bulk of sales on referrals and reputation.

And still, each seller takes an unconventional leap of faith. For unlike most downtown developers, Schouw doesn’t believe in fancy presentation centres or building out a pre-sale suite to show prospects what to expect when they buy.

The economy of scale does not allow for the expense on a development of this size, and besides, Schouw would rather spend the money on the design, art and construction than on marketing, he says.

As such, there’s nothing to see prior to buying Artemisia other than the projects that have come before and a brochure full of conceptual references, sketches and specs — and then there’s the address.

Perfectly poised on Hornby, one of Schouw’s two favourite streets (the other is Homer), at Helmcken, the developer is riding on the fact that a certain buyer will share his adoration for the site and the city, while desiring a unique way to experience living it. So far he’s correct, to the tune of over 60 per cent of Artemisia’s units sold to date.

“I think that downtown Vancouver is such a magical place and our planners and people from the past are owed a lot for decisions that were made, not least of which was not allowing freeways to go through the core of our city,” says Schouw, who is especially excited about the new urban greenway enhancements which will complement his site.

Attention to access and sense of place is further reflected in the design of Artemisia, perhaps most concisely conveyed via the envisioned entranceway, a soothing portal of sorts.

Through massive custom wood and glass doors, the surprising concept sketch is all curvy, undulating and alluring, a curiously chic, Gaudi-like structure with semi-circular vaulted ceilings, plastered surfaces and a freeform mosaic floor.

Once you’ve fully imagined it, you simply can’t wait to go in.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

I’ll Poken you, you Poken me

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Gillian Shaw






I was at a conference recently when Internet entrepreneur John Chow suggested we Poken our contact info. A hit at the recent bloggers‘ conference in Las Vegas, the tiny Poken hangs on a keychain, doubles as a storage drive and shares your contact details with other Poken owners. To exchange info, you hold up the tiny hand, its palm glows green, and the exchange is done. Plug the USB drive into your computer and you’ll have the contact info on the profile that you’ve set up at Poken. They come in a range of designs — I got a kitty one — and you can customize them with your own brand. Any time you update your information on Poken, your contacts will automatically see it on their Poken site. Targeted for companies and great for trade shows and conferences — but everyone has to have one to make it work.


I watched a guy parking the other day with a cellphone in his ear, and his attention was so clearly directed to the conversation that he hit the car behind him. Definitely a candidate for hands-free, possibly one who shouldn’t even try to drive and talk at the same time. With Ontario and British Columbia only the latest in a growing number of jurisdictions that don’t want you to juggle a phone and the steering wheel on the road, it’s time to start considering hands-free options. The Motorola T505 Bluetooth Visor Speaker allows for instant Bluetooth connectivity in any vehicle, great for those of us who haven’t recently sprung for a new model that has such features already built in.


An automatic document scanner to help small offices manage the paper clutter. This has a 30-page auto document feeder included, and an event manager configures jobs to let you start scanning at the touch of a button. You can create enlargements from film, at 6400 dpi for enlargements that are up to 43 cm to 56 cm (17 by 22 inches) and larger. It also scans slides, negatives and medium-format film, and has easy photo fix to touch up faded photos. USB connection.


The long-rumoured Dick Tracy watch for BlackBerry users has arrived in the form of the $149 inPulse. The brainchild of a 23-year-old Vancouver-born entrepreneur and University of Waterloo grad, the watch connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to your BlackBerry. It alerts you to incoming calls, text messages and e-mails. Released to coincide with the cellphone driving ban in Ontario, the fourth province to go that route and soon to be followed by British Columbia, it is billed as a BlackBerry “accessory.” It also vibrates when you get an incoming call. There is no input and it only gives you a snapshot of what’s happening with your BlackBerry, but it saves you rooting around in your purse or pocket to find it. And in jurisdictions where there are regulations on cellphones and driving, you’re not supposed to be even holding up your BlackBerry to look at it. It doesn’t take the place of a Bluetooth headset. Just don’t take your eyes off the road to look at it.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Evergreen – 621 Langside Avenue, Coquitlam

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Comfortable living in up and coming community

Christina Symons

Porches and rear patios eleevate Evergreen residency into an all-season, all-hours opportunity. So, too, the community garden in lushly landscaped grounds, fenced for safety.

Evergreen, by its Burquitlam location, in Coquitlam adjacent to Burnaby, lends itself to the notion that this townhouse project exemplifies a fresh examination by property owners and builders of the meaning of residency in a bedroom suburb.

Linear does not limit the townhouse possibilities, the Evergreen show home demonstrates. The “public” space, for dining and gathering, is expansive, and flooring of engineered maple under foot, formal. The stone-and-steel content of the show home kitchen includes granite on the counters and tile on the floors and stainless-steel-clad appliances. PHOTOS BY GLENN BAGLO/VANCOUVER


Project location: Coquitlam

Project size: 29 townhouses
Residence size: 871 sq. ft. – 1,340 sq.ft.
Prices: $369,900 to $469,900
Sales centre address: 621 Langside Avenue, Coquitlam BC
Hours: Noon to 5pm weekends, 3pm to 5pm weekdays; or by appointment
Telephone: 604-202-7308
E-mail: [email protected]
Developer: Springbank Development Corp.
Architect: Hywel Jones Architects
Interior design: Creekside Interiors
Occupancy: January 2010

– – –

Straddling Burnaby and Coquitlam, Evergreen delivers enviable old-fashioned values tailored for today’s sustainable lifestyle.

While some new developments are touted as the equivalents of a racy automobile or a sexy piece of lingerie, others speak of more down-to-earth possibilities, a walk in the park or flannel pyjamas.

Such is the homespun allure of Springbank’s Evergreen new-home project, 29 rowhomes; very practical living spaces; on a quiet greenway cul-de-sac and relatively affordable, from $369,900 to $469,900.

This hybrid district known as Burquitlam conveniently sits between Burnaby and Coquitlam, near Como Lake and Simon Fraser University (SFU).

“For this offering, our buyer is typically a young family either moving up from a condo or moving to Vancouver for the first time,” notes John Ritchie, one of Springbank’s two principals.

Once a sleepy set of suburban bungalows, today change is afoot in this enclave. It’s on the verge of becoming an important new transit, retail and residential hub, with several nearby mixed-use towers on the boards and promises of future rapid transit.

“Some of the advantages of living in a rowhouse (like Evergreen) as opposed to a condo (or the aforementioned upcoming towers), is that no one is above or below you and you end up with more space,” says Ritchie. “When you walk up to your front door and porch it feels more like a home with a sense of entry, rather than getting into a tower elevator.”

Of course, the major bonus of this address is riding on the on-again, off-again status of TransLink’s Evergreen line, linking Coquitlam and beyond to the existing Millennium Line. Currently “on.” the Evergreen line will feature a SkyTrain station literally a stone’s throw away.

But even without the Evergreen line, the address is very well situated, next to a small park and green space, near a vintage retail plaza set for a makeover which already includes a handy Safeway.

Evergreen is also within close proximity to Lougheed Station, the new Northgate Village and Lougheed Town Centre (H&M, The Bay, London Drugs and Wal-Mart), each a three-minute bus ride or 12-minute walk away.

“This neighbourhood is really a growth area,” says Ritchie who likens it to Burnaby’s Edmonds neighbourhood, pre-LRT station. Ritchie himself is looking for more developable property within Evergreen’s reach.

Positive change is also promised by way of a healthier lifestyle via the boutique developer’s ongoing commitment to sustainable site selection, design and construction.

“All of the homes in this community will be certified to the gold standard set by Built Green BC,” notes Ritchie who has more than 22 years experience, first on large-scale developments and now focusing on smaller-scale greener opportunities.

Buyers can expect lower energy bills, cleaner air and peace of mind in knowing that their residence has a smaller eco-footprint than a standard built home, he contends.

Eco features that come standard at Evergreen include sustainably harvested lumber and recycled materials, low- to no- VOC finishes to prevent toxic off gassing, recycling of construction wastes, low flow / dual flow toilets and Energy Star appliances and windows.

There is also the obvious lifestyle advantage of living within walking distance of shopping and amenities while close to nature, recreation and transit.

“In keeping with our commitment to changing the way we impact our environment, we chose a site that makes it easy to avoid using the automobile as the primary form of transportation,” says Ritchie.

Construction is nearing completion as promotions ramp up, a deliberate move to allow buyers to see first hand the quality of design and premium finishes.

The exterior expression is Arts and Crafts in sensibility – albeit townhouse style – with cute porches and playful back patios. Each home comes with access to an onsite community garden plot to grow a few vegetables, flowers or herbs. The surrounding landscape is lushly planted and fenced for safety. Out front a few benches and a corner garden add a friendly vibe to encourage gathering.

Inside Evergreen, quality without over-the-top embellishments is evident. The floors are thick hand-hewn engineered maple and hand-set ceramic tile and the counters granite. Maple shaker cabinetry outfits the generous kitchen, designed with family-sized needs in mind.

Despite the narrow profile of typical townhouses, Evergreen is thoughtfully laid out to maximize flow and living space. Bedrooms don’t feel cramped for example, thanks in part to a custom built-in wardrobe in most masters rather than a more conventional closet.

With all the present and future amenities, walking trails, parks, schools, recreation, shopping and services at your doorstep, this property is a textbook example of suburban success minus marketing excess.

And so at Evergreen, the developer is selling it just like it is: cozy, convenient, affordable and green.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Facebook hopes award will act as a deterrent

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Internet marketer hit for $711.2m damages


Social networking website Facebook was awarded $711.2 million in damages relating to an anti-spam case against Internet marketer Sanford Wallace, court documents show.

Wallace did not oppose the motion or appear at the hearing on Sept. 18, 2009, according to a filing on Thursday in a San Jose, California federal court.

The site filed an anti-spamming case against Wallace in February for accessing people’s Facebook accounts without their permission and sending phony mail and posts to the individuals’ public message wall, the company said in a blog post.

“While we don’t expect to receive the vast majority of the award, we hope that this will act as a continued deterrent,” Facebook said in a blog post.

Wallace did not immediately respond to a Reuters e-mail seeking comment. His e-mail address was obtained from the court documents.

The case is In re Facebook Inc. vs. Sanford Wallace, et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. C 09-798 JF.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Facebook hopes award will act as a deterrent

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Internet marketer hit for $711.2m damages


Social networking website Facebook was awarded $711.2 million in damages relating to an anti-spam case against Internet marketer Sanford Wallace, court documents show.

Wallace did not oppose the motion or appear at the hearing on Sept. 18, 2009, according to a filing on Thursday in a San Jose, California federal court.

The site filed an anti-spamming case against Wallace in February for accessing people’s Facebook accounts without their permission and sending phony mail and posts to the individuals’ public message wall, the company said in a blog post.

“While we don’t expect to receive the vast majority of the award, we hope that this will act as a continued deterrent,” Facebook said in a blog post.

Wallace did not immediately respond to a Reuters e-mail seeking comment. His e-mail address was obtained from the court documents.

The case is In re Facebook Inc. vs. Sanford Wallace, et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. C 09-798 JF.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Domain names can now use international characters

Saturday, October 31st, 2009


The World Wide Web will soon be speaking in different tongues.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers board gave approval Friday to allow Internet domain names to be made up of non-Latin letters.

“The coming introduction of non-Latin characters represents the biggest technical change to the Internet since it was created four decades ago,” said board chairman Peter Dengate Thrush in a news release.

“Right now, Internet address endings are limited to Latin characters — A to Z. But the Fast Track Process is the first step in bringing the 100,000 characters of the languages of the world online for domain names.”

Starting Nov. 16, countries will be able to apply for URLs made up of characters from their national language.

“This is only the first step, but it is an incredibly big one and a historic move toward the internationalization of the Internet ,” said Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s President and CEO.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Washington state puts Salish Sea on the map

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Larry Pynn

You’ve probably never heard of it, but you will likely find it on a map soon.

The Washington state Board on Geographic Names on Friday approved the name Salish Sea as a new official placename.

The move has the backing of B.C.’s member on the Washington board’s Canadian counterpart.

The Salish Sea name honours the region’s aboriginal people and recognizes the shared marine ecosystem, comprised of the protected waters of the Strait of Georgia, Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound.

Caleb Maki, executive secretary of the Washington board, said in an interview from Olympia he received a letter from Janet Mason, the B.C. member of the Geographical Names Board of Canada, with the recommendation the board “endorse the name Salish Sea in principle, with the view to adopting the name as a joint decision with the United States Board on Geographic Names, if upcoming deliberations by USBGN are conclusive.”

Mason’s letter states the name has “extensive positive support,” including from first nations, and does not replace any existing place names but is meant only to represent a “collective name for the entire inland waters.”

The U.S. board could hear the matter in November.

Bert Webber, a retired Western Washington University marine biologist, is the driving force behind the name.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Great subfloor, braced joists are the essentials of a good floor

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Screws, glue, too! What a builder might miss with a nail gun, they won

Act introduced to force homeless to shelters

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Next month, B.C. police could have power to remove people from the street in extreme weather

Jonathan Fowlie

The Liberal government says the Assistance to Shelter Act is intended to help save the lives of the province’s most vulnerable. Photograph by: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

Police across British Columbia could have the power as early as next month to forcibly move homeless people to shelters during extreme weather.

On Thursday, Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman introduced the Assistance to Shelter Act, which would afford police the power to bring homeless people off the streets when an extreme weather alert is in effect.

The proposed legislation gives police power to use “reasonable force” to get people to the door of a shelter, though Coleman said that once there people will still have the right to decide whether or not they want to go inside.

After introducing the legislation, Coleman said the bill is intended to help save lives of the province’s most vulnerable, though he acknowledged that crafting the bill was a difficult balance.

“This is one of the toughest pieces of legislation I’ve worked on probably in the last eight or nine years with regards to trying to get to a balance,” Coleman said after introducing the bill Thursday morning.

Coleman added he believes the bill might be challenged in the courts, but said he welcomes that as being “healthy.”

“To be honest with you, I think Canadians have to at some point decide whether our emergency service providers, and we as a society, should have some ability to help save a life when somebody is actually putting their life at risk,” he said.

“We just think we need the tool to get them [homeless people] there [to shelters].”

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, raised several objections to the legislation, including a belief some people who don’t want to go to shelters will be put at greater risk because of the law.

“These people will actually hide themselves away from police if they believe they are going to be taken against their will to a homeless shelter,” he said, adding these people could end up in medical distress without being noticed by passers by or outreach workers.

New Democratic Party critic for housing Shane Simpson said the bill ignores the real problem taking place on the streets. “The bill itself accomplishes nothing that needs to be addressed here. It doesn’t deal with housing issues, it doesn’t deal with shelter issues,” he said.

“Nobody wants people out on the street in extreme weather. But I don’t think you do that in a heavy-handed fashion,” he added.

Simpson also said he believes the law could put undue pressure on police.

In a statement, Vancouver police department spokeswoman Const. Jana McGuinness said: “We share the government’s concern for the safety and well-being of the homeless. We have always taken extraordinary steps during harsh weather to ensure that they have safe and secure shelter, and this winter will be no different.”

If passed, the new law will take effect immediately.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun