Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Fourteen people who entered an East Vancouver elementary school Saturday evening in a protest action aimed at securing emergency housing for homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic were arrested.

“This was a dynamic call and prolonged overnight situation for police,” said Vancouver Police Department Sergeant Aaron Roed in a statement Sunday.

Police were called to Strathcona Elementary School around 6 p.m. on Saturday, according to the statement, and found several protesters outside the school, as well as 14 people inside. The group inside had forced entry, as well as barricaded doors and entrances.

Story continues below advertisement

Officers devised an arrest plan that accounted for the building’s size, and multiple entrances, among other factors.

“Police were met with hostile, combative suspects inside the school who, at one point, threw wooden pallets and other large pieces of wood at officers,” said Sgt. Roed.

The police arrested 12 people shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. Two suspects fled on foot, including one who allegedly resisted arrest. They were arrested about 8:30 a.m.

No one was injured “despite the aggression and violent behaviour of the suspects inside the school,” Sgt. Roed said.

Police plan to pursue charges against the arrested individuals.

The group moved into the school as part of a planned action to prompt the province to create more emergency housing for unhoused and underhoused communities during the coronavirus outbreak.

It wants the province to use its power to use property in B.C., such as hotels, to house those currently homeless, in shelters or living in private single-residence occupancy hotel rooms, it said in a statement released ahead of the action Saturday.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s not possible for these communities to follow public health directives, such as to wash hands frequently, in order to keep themselves safe, said Fiona York, co-ordinator for the Carnegie Community Action Project and one of the contacts for the planned action.

“So, in order to try to take their health into their own hands, a number of homeless people and supporters went into the school … to occupy it and to have a place, a safe place, to sleep and self-isolate,” she said.

Ms. York was outside the school when the police arrived and the arrests occurred.

She could not comment on any allegations of violent behaviour inside the school as she did not witness that, however she said “the protesters were very peaceful” and inside the building for a number of hours before police went in.

Ms. York called the police response – that she said included about 50 officers, some wearing full riot gear – “totally disproportionate to what was happening.”

The police response “contravened the entire purpose of the operation,” she said, and vulnerable people who wanted a safe place to sleep at night were arrested and put back into an unsafe condition.

Story continues below advertisement

Some of the individuals arrested are homeless, she said, while others live in inadequate housing facilities. Some of the arrested have since been released, she said.

She didn’t expect the police response that happened.

“We believe that it’s a charter right for people to have access to shelter … and so people were availing themselves of that charter right,” she said.

As a result of the action, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has asked B.C. Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson “to outline his plan for the hundreds of hotel spaces and other shelter beds BC Housing has already secured,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office. Mr. Simpson is the lead of a cross-ministry team responsible for the Downtown Eastside public health response.

“Vulnerable residents, especially our neighbours in the Downtown Eastside, are rightfully feeling anxious for their safety. Since the beginning of our COVID-19 response, my number one priority has been to make sure our most vulnerable neighbours, especially those that are underhoused, are safe,” the mayor said.

On Friday, the City of Victoria called on the provincial government to take over empty hotels and motels to house the homeless during the pandemic. The city council passed an emergency resolution to that effect.

Story continues below advertisement

B.C. Housing has found places in hotels, motels and community centres for more than 900 homeless people who needed to self-isolate across the province.

The provincial Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth was asked about the protesters earlier Sunday during a news conference.

He said he had been made aware of the situation.

“Breaking into schools … and occupying a school isn’t exactly, in my view, a legitimate form of protest,” he said, adding the Vancouver police are dealing with the situation.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies