I moved to Victoria about three years ago to finish working on a documentary film that I had started in Toronto. I really liked Victoria and thought it was the perfect place to relax and work.
When I first got here, i met a lot of people who were living and sleeping outside. I met one man in particular who told me that it was illegal for him to fall asleep. This was an eye-opener for me as I was accustomed to always having a safe place to fall asleep and had never thought about sleep as a basic human right.
I was asked by a friend to spend an afternoon with David Johnston, documenting some of his experiences living outside in Victoria. It was the day before David's sentencing for his 3rd breach of a court order to not sleep at St. Ann's Academy, (currently the Ministry of Advanced Education).
I was so moved by David's story that I decided to put my other project on hold and got involved with a documentary that would be all about our 'Right to Sleep'. We completed that film in September of 2005. Shortly after that, I began documenting the Tent City that was in Victoria from September to October, 2005.
The film we made on 'The Right to Sleep' consisted mostly of interviews with people who were living outside, (most of it is viewable on this website), talking about their personal experiences with bylaws that are unconstitutional and how the police and security guards move them along.
Tent City for me was another learning experience as I got to see first hand some of the stories I had been documenting. I slept under a tree in the park for my first time, at our Provincial Government's MInistry of Advanced Education and learnt first hand the insanity of a system that criminalizes those who have no place to sit, sleep, or cook food.
After Tent City, i continued documenting issues surrounding poverty and homelessness and almost always had a video camera with me, (sometimes two). The quantity of illegal and selective arrests and abuse of power by government that I have witnessed and are compiled on this site continues to boggle my mind, and still amazes even me.
It seems that we live in a society where our value to society is determined by our economic status and those without money appear to have almost no legal rights at all. Instead of assisting with these basic needs, I witnessed our criminal justice system make it illegal to perform life-sustaining activities, including sleeping, eating, and sitting in public spaces.
In addition to being unconstitutional and inhumane to deny someone their basic necessities, it does nothing to solve the issues of homelessness. In fact, many of those who are arrested for these life-sustaining activities, like loitering and sleeping, end up getting lengthly criminal records, which make it considerably more difficult to get a job or find a place to live.
The United Nations has stated that every person has the right to adequate food and shelter. It also states that if any country is unable to provide such necessities to it's citizens, it has an obligation under international law to at the very least not prevent someone from providing those necessities for themselves.
It was on that premise that this Interactive Documentary was developed. The instinct to take care of our basic needs is something that is inherent in each of us. A law that prevents someone from taking care of these necessities is not a just law.