Professor Joe Hermer was recently featured in an article titled “Policing and evicting people living in encampments will not solve homelessness in Canada” in the National Post.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in homelessness and policing of encampments in Canada. Homeless people who live in these encampments face the risk of being ticketed or evicted by police officers. Professor Hermer studies the survival strategies and policing of vulnerable people. He finds that similar to the historical vagrancy laws, Canada’s current municipal bylaws “work together to criminalize being homeless”. He says that it is impossible for a homeless person to “exist in public space without breaking one of these laws”, such as the anti-loitering and anti-camping laws. As a result, these bylaws aggravate the already dire situation of homeless people.
Professor Joe Hermer is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. He is currently working on a project called “COVID-19 Policing and Homelessness Initiative.” His research focuses on homelessness, crime victimization, and the criminal justice system.
We’ve included an excerpt of the article below. You can read the full article here.
“A homeless person simply could not exist in public space without breaking one of these laws,” says Hermer. “Individual offences may seem harmless, but if you view how they are actively enforced, it actually ends up being like the old vagrancy laws.”
Historically, vagrancy laws made it a crime to be jobless or homeless. The laws were written in vague terms that allowed the state to regulate people based on their income level, sexual orientation and race. To this day, racialized communities are overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness in Canada due in part to compounding experiences of stigma and discrimination.
Preliminary findings from Hermer’s study show that 75 per cent of Canadians live in a jurisdiction with laws that he describes as “neo-vagrancy” laws. And these issues are not limited to large cities.”