How red zones punish the poor, generate crime, and break the law

Thursday, February 20, 2020 |  515 West Hastings | 7:00 pm 

Moderator:  Naomi Krogman, Dean, Faculty of Environment, Simon Fraser University


  • Nicholas Blomley, Professor, Department of Geography, SFU
  • Ann Livingston, Community Activist and Co-Founder, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users


Canadian criminal courts rely heavily on spatial restrictions when releasing people on bail and probation.  Also known as ‘red zones’, these conditional orders have a significant impact on marginalized people, yet have not received the attention they deserve from scholars and policy-makers. Nick Blomley is hoping to change that.  Drawing from a collaborative cross-Canadian research project, he will demonstrate the manner in which red zones punish criminalized folk, such as people who use drugs, placing them in impossible and risky situations; generate crime, as marginalized people become compelled to breach their conditions and enter their red zones to access the resources they require; and contravene criminal law and constitutional rights. 

Nicholas Blomley is a Fellow with the Royal Society of Canada, the nation’s most distinguished council of scholars, and a Professor of Geography at Simon Fraser University. He has a long-standing interest in legal geography, particularly in relation to property. He is interested in the spatiality of legal practices and relationships, and the worldmaking consequences of such legal geographies. Much of his empirical work concerns the often oppressive effects of legal relations on marginalized and oppressed people. Recent and current research projects, often in collaboration with others, include: the study of court-imposed ‘red zones’ imposed on street-involved people and protestors in Montreal and Vancouver; the dispossession of Japanese-Canadians in the 1940s; a community-based project building from tenant-led research into precarious housing conditions in Vancouver’s most vulnerable population; and the governance of poor people’s possessions by private and public regulators in Canadian cities. 

Ann Livingston is a passionate community activist working to promote harm reduction and the rights of people who use drugs across British Columbia. She is currently working with the BC / Yukon association of Drug War Survivors who provide funding and support to seed drug users’ groups across BC.  She co-founded the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) in 1998 where she encouraged people who use drugs, who are criminalized and labeled mentally ill, to form citizen associations to help design and implement harm reduction programs.  This work also led to the creation of the British Columbia Society of People on Methadone and the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society. In 2017 the BC Civil Liberties Association awarded her and her team of volunteers the "Jennifer Prosser Wade Award for Courage: Where truth speaks to power" for the life-saving work they undertook in the midst of BC’s overdose crisis.  When governments and institutions failed to respond to the urgent need for more health services, Ann and other volunteers erected two unsanctioned safe injection tents where volunteers used naloxone kits to save hundreds of lives.  

SFU Faculty of Environment
SFU Alumni Association
David and Cecilia Ting Endowment Fund, SFU

About the 2020 Dean's Lecture Series

To wrap up the celebration of our 10th Anniversary, SFU’s Faculty of Environment is pleased to announce our 2020 Dean’s lecture series:  From Environmental Research to Public Solutions. The series features scholars and practitioners who explore some of the pressing social and ecological challenges we face.  Each talk will share current research and include perspectives from practitioners and community members on applying this knowledge to local collaborations and initiatives to motivate change at individual, organizational and political levels.

Additional talks in the series: