Over the last decade, the BC government has shifted to a model of “supportive” housing for low-income communities in Vancouver and across the province. There is a dissonance however between the stated intentions of support staff and the conditions that supportive housing reinforce for a large number of residents (or “clients” as they are often called).
The various iterations of the “Escaping Vancouver” narrative share a core unexamined underpinning: the idea that I, a hard-working, usually white, middle class person, did everything right, became successful, and yet am still unable to afford to live in the city of my choice. We must challenge the embedded privilege that characterizes what might be termed “middle class self-help advocacy”—the tendency to rely on individualized solutions to collective social problems.
What follows is a personal essay written by a long-term resident of Belvedere Court, Sean MacPherson. The Belvedere is a rental apartment in Vancouver that has recently been in the news following a wave of efforts to evict, intimidate, and coerce the residents into leaving their homes. In response, tenants have organized – with the support of the Vancouver Tenants Union – to protect their right to housing and preserve Vancouver’s vital affordable rental stock.
As Canada 150 draws nearer, those committed to supporting Indigenous sovereignty and dislodging the power of colonialism are faced with the task of dispelling the myth of Canada as a benevolent nation. While the expanding grip of neoliberalism has given rise to a reactionary global right-wing populism, the violence of supposedly “progressive” liberal settler-colonial states has fallen through the cracks of popular analysis and comprehension.
Part of the history of the last five centuries on these territories is the story of Europeans displacing Indigenous peoples for economic gain. It is this history that Glen Coulthard, in his new book, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, calls the “violent transformation of noncapitalist forms of life into capitalist ones.” This form of primitive accumulation, through violent dispossession, has since given way to quieter, less visible, structures of constant displacement. In the pointed words of Patrick Wolfe, cited by Coulthard, “settler colonizers come to stay: invasion is a structure not an event.”
On May 31st, 2014, another Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) was sold to an undisclosed private investor for $989,000.00. The St. Ehlmo hotel is located in the East Hastings Corridor at 425 Campbell St. It is a 3-story building with 18 single occupancy rooms which cost approximately $400 per month. For that money, the residents have the “luxury” of sharing two toilets and one shower per floor. The listing for St. Ehlmo hotel on the Colliers International website claims the appeal of the St. Ehlmo hotel is that it “represents a fantastic opportunity to add value and capitalize on the power of revitalization.”
The decrease in permanent immigration and simultaneous explosion of the number of migrant workers is not, as some might contend, a reflection of a ‘broken’ immigration system. The temporary foreign worker program is a system of managed migration perfected to ensure the steady supply of cheap labour within neoliberalism while further entrenching racialized citizenship. What happens to migrant workers should matter to all of us because dispossession, labour flexibility, and hierarchical social relations are central to how capitalism and colonialism marginalize various communities.