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The intersection of Main Street and East Hastings Street in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Researchers studied "red zones" that ranged from a single block to the entire Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

When Lisa was released on bail, following an arrest for possession for the purpose of trafficking, British Columbia's Provincial Court ordered the Downtown Eastside resident to stay away from the busy hub of Hastings Street.

But she says that condition, that she stay away from the street where she was arrested, made little sense.

"My bank was there, my home was there, my probation was there, my doctor was there, like come on guys! All of Hastings Street? Hello! My whole life is there! They're going to arrest you every time you want to go home?"

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Lisa – which is a pseudonym – was one of several people whose plight was highlighted on Tuesday in a report examining the use of court-imposed "red zones" in Vancouver.

The report said court-imposed conditions that prohibit people from entering certain areas have harmed vulnerable Downtown Eastside residents.

"Our study reveals that conditions of release are too frequently used in Vancouver in ways that are counterproductive, punitive, and often unlawful, threatening fundamental constitutional rights," said Marie-Eve Sylvestre, the report's lead researcher and a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

Prof. Sylvestre in an interview said the red zones can directly impact a person's access to food, shelter and – in the case of drug users – essential health services.

The no-go zones observed by researchers ranged from a single block to the entire Downtown Eastside neighbourhood.

The report said red zones set up marginalized people to fail and put additional pressure on the criminal justice system, given the likelihood offenders will breach unnecessary conditions and be rearrested by police.

The report said red zones and other conditions of release are rarely challenged, as individual offenders face a power imbalance.

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DJ Larkin, a lawyer with Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society, which assisted with the report, said the findings are in line with what Pivot has observed.

"What we have seen is people regularly reporting that they have half a dozen court conditions, or overlapping court orders, so it creates a lack of clarity around which conditions apply and what they're supposed to do," she said in an interview.

Ms. Larkin said Lisa's story was extremely familiar.

"We've been to towns around the province and heard people talk about being red-zoned from places that are the downtown core, which also tends to be where services are," she said.

While those who have had conditions imposed can apply for variations, Ms. Larkin said not everyone is aware of that option.

She said it also requires the support of a probation officer and is not viable for those living with addiction.

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"Would you feel comfortable in a criminalized context going to your probation officer and saying, 'I need an exemption to go to the overdose prevention site because I'm still using drugs,' I'm going to guess the answer is no," she said.

Prof. Sylvestre said individuals released on bail are supposed to be released without conditions.

"They're presumed innocent, you're not supposed to impose conditions on them that they are likely to breach," she said.

For those who have been convicted and are on probation, Prof. Sylvestre said conditions involving access to harm-reduction programs, therapy and treatment should be prioritized over banning people from specific areas.

"The orders should be much better tailored to the individual," she said.

B.C.'s Provincial Court said it could not comment on the report Tuesday.

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The B.C. government said media requests should be directed to police.

The Vancouver Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The report included researchers from Simon Fraser University and University of Montreal.

The researchers plan to release similar reports regarding red zones in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

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