BC United demands accountability following inquest into deadly Winters Hotel fire

VANCOUVER (February 7, 2024) – BC United Shadow Minister for Housing, Karin Kirkpatrick, is demanding accountability from NDP Premier David Eby for his continued failures on housing, including the mismanagement and lack of oversight at BC Housing that led to the deaths of two vulnerable people at the Winters Hotel in April of 2022.

“The recommendations from the inquest into the Winters Hotel fire demonstrate that Atira and BC Housing were not providing the resources or oversight needed to keep residents safe,” said Kirkpatrick. “This tragedy occurred during Eby’s time as Housing Minister and it serves as yet another example of his gross mismanagement of BC Housing and his pattern of warehousing vulnerable people without essential supports. Ill-informed decisions and poor management compromised the safety of residents, leading to the death of the two individuals. British Columbians deserve answers, not excuses.”

Media reports and FOI documents underscore a troubling prelude to the Winters Hotel tragedy, where fire extinguishers were empty and had not been replaced by Atira staff. The inquest heard that BC Housing delayed the independent review of Winters Hotel operations and that a request for an adaptive fire alarm for a deaf resident — who passed away in the fire — had gone unanswered. Additional testimony from tenants revealed that fire exits had even been chained shut.

Recommendations from the inquest verdict included “a higher standard for fire safety” and that BC Housing should require operators to “have a resource team available 24/7 to be called out during critical incidents to provide additional staffing and support to front line staff and managers,” among other recommendations.

“The verdict of the inquest into the Winters Hotel fire is a stark reminder of Eby’s abysmal failure to provide effective leadership on housing” added Kirkpatrick. “The personal accounts from tenants are shocking and it’s clear this tragedy was completely avoidable. The NDP’s approach of warehousing people in unsafe conditions without the proper supports, and without true accountability or transparency, is unacceptable and their continued mismanagement is putting lives at risk. This is the state of social housing in B.C. on David Eby’s watch.”