LETTERS: Gill’s dehumanizing talk of ‘tough love’ shows where Surrey’s priorities lie

Tom Gill taking heat after he said the city was going to start treating people on the Strip with ‘tough love.’

The Editor,

Re: “‘Tough love’ coming to Surrey’s Strip,” the Now-Leader, Sept. 1.

Acting Surrey Mayor Tom Gill’s conversation with the Now-Leader’s Amy Reid offers some troubling insights into the city’s outlook regarding homeless people in Surrey and whose interests the city is most committed to serving.

Hint: It’s not homeless people.

Gill’s comments make clear that the city is most concerned about the needs of businesses in Whalley. He mentions concerns of business twice in the relatively short piece. This corroborates details in city documents from the public safety committee that I have accessed and read as part of my research on homelessness in Surrey.

Notably, while the Surrey Outreach Team holds business engagement meetings with the Downtown Surrey BIA, and engagement activities with the BIA three times a week, homeless people are not present and “engaged.” The Response Plan Status Report is explicit that its approach is “to develop solutions to the issues raised by business.”Not homeless residents but business. That says plenty.

What Gill is peddling may indeed be tough, but it can in no way be called love.

Dr. Jeff Shantz, Department of Criminology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University


The Editor,

Re: “‘Tough love’ coming to Surrey’s Strip,” the Now-Leader, Sept. 1.

It seems that 1984’s dystopian world of ‘doublespeak’ has seeped into Surrey’s municipal politics.

The RCMP’s repressive tactics of containment, coercion, and relentless surveillance – and bylaw’s constant harassment and theft inflicted on homeless people – is called “a humanitarian approach” by acting mayor Tom Gill.

The solution to the housing crisis so profoundly evident on the Strip is not actual housing but a shelter, which is simply homelessness under a roof.

And homeless people on the Strip who are forced to comply with arbitrary and dehumanizing rules, like taking down tent poles daily, packing up their belongings and moving them weekly for routine power-washing, and submitting to a myriad of daily orders and interrogations, will now be forced into unsuitable and inadequate housing known as “permanent shelters,” all under a strategy called “tough love.”

But there is some truth that shines through this performance of “doublespeak” – the city’s confinement and control policies on 135A (the province’s only outdoor shelter runs by cops) is clearly meant to serve the interests of businesses and property owners in the area, as it moves down the path of rapid gentrification.

As a society, we are in deep trouble when policies of utter dehumanization are called “a humanitarian approach” and obvious disdain and hatred of certain people is called “love.”

Even more disturbing, Gill’s remarks reinforce a common historical pattern of dehumanization before forced removal, cloaked in a rhetoric of public safety and humanitarian benevolence.

Dave Diewert, Surrey

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