Opinion: She was mistaken for a Burnaby dumper. Then things turned racist

Chris Campbell

This blog has seen a lot of words written about people illegally dumping all over the City of Burnaby.

And rightly so because it’s a real problem in our city.

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But I’m going to take a minute to share a story of how people’s anger towards dumpers can take a dark turn.

It all started last week when a friend of mine needed to get rid of a bunch of broken-down furniture pieces, including a bookshelf that was in pieces. My friend took great pains to call around to find the best avenue for disposing of this garbage.

She could’ve just piled the items in her vehicle and found some bushes on a desolate Burnaby street, but she is a responsible citizen.

She called the city and was told they could come within seven business days and the items should be left on the “curb.” So, she then asked the caretaker at her Burnaby apartment building where the pick-up area was for residents. She was told the location at the edge of the property, except that this spot also had a “no dumping” sign posted. She asked about the sign and was told that this was only for people who had no intention of calling the city for pickup.

I was a little wary about this when my friend explained the situation. I should, at this point, mentioned that English is her second language and she is a visible minority. Trust me, this becomes relevant soon (unfortunately).

My friend runs things like this by me because she doesn’t always feel comfortable with her English skills.

After getting the caretaker’s instructions, she pulled up to the spot and started unloading the items. That’s when things turned ugly. A few (white) people started passing by and instead of asking her if this was the correct spot and getting an explanation, they just started screaming at her.

None of these three people knew other, but they formed an angry mob and started hurling obscenities at my friend, who was frantically trying to explain. Two of the three pulled out their phones and started filming her.

The sad sadness of Burnaby dumping photos_3
Old furniture next to a "No Dumping" sign on University Crescent near SFU. CHRIS CAMPBELL PHOTO

It was at this point that I arrived on the scene. I was supposed to help her unload, but she jumped the gun before I showed up.

One guy was shouting at my friend about how he had every right to film her. I gave him a look that would probably scare anyone and he backed off. But while he was walking away, he decided to drop this beauty: “Go back to where you came from.”

Yeah, right on cue Mr. White Outrage.

Two days later, the city picked up the items my friend had left for them. She still shakes when she discusses it. So do I.

Look, I get that people are angry about dumpers. I get angry too. But be careful when you confront someone. Perhaps they aren’t dumping illegally. Perhaps they are following the rules. It’s certainly no excuse for racism – nothing is.

Oh, and the building’s strata has agreed to remove the “no dumping” sign next to the place people are supposed to leave items. That sign was just ridiculous.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44

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