Good Samaritans or vigilantes? Video showing Maple Ridge resident group helping with eviction raises concerns
VANCOUVER -- An online video showing a Maple Ridge-based resident group helping to evict an unwanted occupant from a local home is raising some concerns about the way the situation was handled.
But Clean Up Maple Ridge organizer Jamie Seip said they are not hurting anyone, and in fact are trying to help.
“We are doing our best with strong love to show people we care, and we want the best for you, let’s get you some help,” Seip said.
The video posted on Oct. 18 showed Seip and others at a home, where a young woman inside is asked to leave.
A woman who identified herself in the video as the home’s co-owner said her elderly stepfather used to live in the house.
“He’d taken in a young woman, given her a place to stay, and she won’t leave,” the woman said.
She is also heard saying how she went to the Residential Tenancy Branch, only to be told they couldn’t help because the young woman was never a tenant. She also mentioned calling the police numerous times. The RCMP are seen arriving at one point.
“We have done everything we could legally to remove this women. The law is set up to help her,” the woman is heard telling officers on the scene. “But it’s my house, she’s had two months to find a place to go. She’s trespassing on my property.”
Seip said the owner called his group for help, and added there were reports of drug use and criminal activity. He told CTV News he made contact with the young woman inside the evening before the eviction.
“I let...the house guest know what was happening the following day, and that if she didn’t want to be Facebook famous, she should probably leave before 8 o’clock,” he said.
When asked what the group would have done if the people inside refused to go, Seip said: “I can’t really disclose what we would do because they are our tactics, they are our tricks.”
The video shows containers with needles inside the home, and a number of different ID cards, which are handed over to police.
A young woman eventually emerged, and spoke with some of the group members.
When one of them accused her of bringing drug dealers and a “brothel” to the neighbourhood, she responded: “He knew exactly what I did when I moved in here. That’s how I met him...he knew I did dope.”
Later, the woman who identified as the home’s co-owner addressed her, and offered to pay to keep her possessions in storage while she takes part in treatment.
The young woman appeared to be crying at one point and silently nods when she’s told the Salvation Army is going to be called to help her.
Coast Mental Health told CTV News in an emailed statement their outreach services were called to the address.
“Our staff were available to assist the individual in locating a shelter where they could stay temporarily,” the email read. “This is an unfortunate situation for the homeowner and their family.”
The Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries declined to comment on the video.
CTV News requested an interview with the city, but did not receive a response.
In an email, the Maple Ridge RCMP said they attended on Oct. 4 to keep the peace, as it was not a criminal matter, and they do not condone vigilantism.
Seip said his group hasn’t been told to stop outright.
“I figure that if they’re not going to charge people for openly doing crime in our community right in front of the police, why are they going to target us?” he said.
Union Gospel Mission spokesperson Jeremy Hunka said the video is extremely concerning.
“We don’t know the whole story, so we hope it’s not just what it appears to be, but what it appears to be is no dignity, no humanity,” he said. “These types of actions actually often make things worse, because they drive marginalized people further underground.”
Hunka said they’re worried that people who are already vulnerable are now being confronted by others who don’t have the authority to do so and may not have skills such as mental health training.
“Squatting is not right. That would be wrong if that’s in fact what happened,” Hunka said. “That, however, does not justify taking the law into your own hands.”
The house is now boarded up.