Sun Run incidents prove need for reinvigorated Four Pillars program

Homeless in False Creek
Homeless in False Creek – Flickr photo by waferboard

There were a pair of incidents in downtown Vancouver on Sunday at the Sun Run that would appear to be related to mental illness. The most widely reported incident involved a runner being stabbed in the face in an apparent random attack. CKNW crack reporter Janet Brown was on the file late Tuesday, revealing that the victim’s injuries were quite serious.

In the attack on a Sun Run participant, a dull knife was jabbed in the victim’s face that penetrated his skull just below one eye. The victim’s brother flew up from the US, and met with media today to urge that the Run has better security. More on that in a moment.

Another bizarre incident happened around the same time when a 20-year old man stripped off his clothing and dove into the icy waters of False Creek. A search dive team sought after the man, who apparently drowned.

I’m going out on a limb here because the details of each case are still under investigation, but both have telltale signs of mental illness in the perpetrators of each incident. To date this is not an aspect of the story which has been discussed by the media, which is why I put it out to our readers. There are many ill people who wander our streets, yet the political imperative has shifted away from dealing with symptoms of homelessness, and turned toward managing the optics of it.

In other words, instead of combining supports to deal with the addictions and mental health issues plaguing Vancouver’s homeless population, we’re focusing instead on shelters that make the problem less visible.

We’ve said it before here on Since the election of Vision Vancouver, the City’s lauded Four Pillars program has gone on life support. I cannot recall ever hearing Mayor Robertson use the word "drugs" in any political context. Amazingly, there is no reference at all to drugs or drug use in the City’s HEAT shelter literature.

Some say that Robertson’s reticence to talk about drugs is all about the Mayor’s image. Drugs are complicated and dirty, whereas shelters are simple and noble.

There was a program that dealt with the issues of drugs and mental illness head on in Vancouver, that is until Vision Vancouver spent months smearing it, then killed it off. It enlisted the help of Senator Michael Kirby of the Canadian Mental Health Commission, and used a powerful lobbyist to convince Victoria to invest heavily in a layered approach including permanent housing. That lobbyist was Geoff Plant and that program was called Project Civil City.

Now, it’s possible that the people behind the incidents from last Sunday were not depressed nor drug-addicted and self-medicating. That doesn’t mean that Vancouver’s significant problems around mental health and addiction go away.

I’m sure that next year’s Sun Run will have considerably more security because of this incident, largely because of today’s media interviews with Biyong Chen, the brother of the stabbing victim. But it would be also nice to know that as much effort was put into dealing with mentally ill people with a history of violent behaviour before they get to a breaking point.

Vision Vancouver has a plan – it’s called getting re-elected. If there ain’t no votes in it, they’re going to steer clear of issues like drugs and mental illness in spite of big promises to support the Four Pillars program in their campaign platform.

Robertson political insiders claim 'mayorofvancouver' domain
Would Quatchi be the best next G-G after Michaëlle Jean?

Broken image or link? Click here to report it or visit

About The Author

  • landlord

    Para 9 : “addition” should be “addiction”. Although I would argue that many people do have a problem with addition, not to mention subtraction, multiplication and division.

  • You’re right, landlord. Gregor’s homeless math just doesn’t add up, does it? Andrea Reimer stated to an audience last week that “homelessness is down by 50%”. No caveat, no use of the word “street”. Just pure dissembling and spin.

  • Victor

    You are so right Mike. We need more detox and rehab beds in the province. In fact, we need more “Lorne Mayencourt’s” who have a vision about how to actually address some of the mental health and addiction problems. While sick people linger in our communities due to limited mental health beds, we should be ashamed of ourselves. But, folks like Ms Reimer, who has the bad habit of making self aggrandizing statements which bear little relationship to the actual facts, do no service in getting any action on these heartbreaking issues.

  • Max

    Just as an FYI Victor, there was a new lodge with 20 beds just opened at Riverview which brings the total to 3 lodges, 60 beds.
    And at last count, I don’t believe the treatment centre Lorne Mayencourt looks after was at capacity. I think they were sitting around 50%.
    One of the problems we face is ‘forcing’ people into treatment. (All those ‘advocates’ is the DTES would be up in arms if you started taking their meal tickets away).
    As for the Sun Run incident, it has now been reported that ‘Walker’ was out on probation for an assault he committed in 2009 when he attacked again. And yes, a psych report has been ordered and there is question as one may have been completed with the previous incident.
    That good old revolving door justice system some cling too.

  • It seems as though you were right about the random attacker. Great article.

  • John

    So let’s see, now, a crime involving a hammer to the head and now a crime involving a knife into the face. 2010 is shaping up to be a banner year for violent crime among Vancouver’s homeless/drug addicted/mentally unstable population, regardless of what any politician says or does.

  • victor

    So glad that there are new beds coming onstream at Riverview….but it is taking too long…….too many years for sure. Good Hope is growing. It was not meant to be to capacity right off the bat.
    I thought the folks at Insite were helping direct their “clients” to detox and rehab beds??? They should have filled up any available beds by now if they were doing a good job ….mind you if they just facilitate drug use (obtained illegally) and don’t encourage the next step, nothing useful will be accomplished by that program !!

  • Max

    If you go onto InSite’s website you will see the ratio of referrals is low by comparison to the number of people that attend the unit.
    And if you are jonesing to get high, you are going to think about anything else.
    To me InSite is like a science experiment gone wrong.
    There was a comment about Mark Townsend from InSite posted on James Oickle’s Facebook (the guy who claimed he was forced out of his SRO because he wanted his 21 year old daughter to stay with him so was living in a ‘Red Tent’ on a sidewalk in the DTES. If you read through his Facebook, it was nothing more than a publicity stunt.)that was pretty much on the ‘mark’.
    It had to do with Townsend and methadone and I will leave it at that.

  • mark

    Get them off the street. I work and live downtown and witness potentially dangerous and bizarre behaviour on a daily basis. This isn’t going to get any better.