Three more shelters are supposed to close this week. The closures seem inevitable, but they are not.

Today, people living at the three remaining shelters are organized and are planning to fight back. We can remember clearly the same situation last year: when Central Shelter residents responded to the closure of their shelter by announcing a tent city, the government was forced to change plans. Central is still open to this day, even though it was a so-called “seasonal” shelter. More recently, the scheduled closure of New Fountain shelter this month was put on hold after protests at City Hall and throughout Vancouver.

People want to stay at the remaining shelters, but they will need enough support because when they walk out of the shelters looking for a place to set up tents and structures on sidewalks and alleys, they will now be automatically responsible for a $1000 fine: last week Mayor Gregor Roberston and Vision passed a law that bans tent cities in Vancouver. This is why today, when seniors, shelter residents, supporters and media gathered for a press conference about the tent city outside the Cardero Shelter, dozens of police arrived to intimidate, monitor and film from across the boulevard. When the police cameras are pointing, and when cops arrive to instill fear and make shelter residents disperse under the pressure of surveillance and authority, supporters need to be there arm in arm. When the police say to the media, “trust us, they are criminals,” we have to say in return: “trust us, they are criminals.”

Despite unanimous opposition, the Vision-led City Council voted last night in favour of limiting public expression in Vancouver. Today the BCCLA has stated that it will participate in a constitutional challenge of the bylaw, either as an intervenor or by representing a plaintiff. “We’re putting on running shoes because now there is a big race to the courts on this ludicrous measure,” said BCCLA Policy Director Micheal Vonn in an interview with The Mainlander.

An original bylaw had been proposed by City Staff two weeks ago. The version set out to implement a rigid permit system for those using any “structure, object, substance or thing” to express themselves in public. Among other restrictions, those engaged in “public expression” would be required to apply for a permit through the City and pay a fee of $200, in addition to an upfront deposit of $1000. Despite the fact that only a two-day notice was given to the public, there was so much opposition that the Mayor had to send the law back to City Staff for a review. Among concerns raised was the fact that that Staff had entered into a “confidential agreement” with the Chinese government about the proposed bylaw, as well the fact that the staff report literally lied about having garnered “general support” for the bylaw from the BCCLA.

An amended bylaw was released by the City five days ago, on Thursday April 14th. The presentation made by Staff describing the changes is available here. In lieu of the protest fee and deposit, there is now a minimum fine of $1000 for those who break the new rules. The law now allows protests outside of consulates in residential areas, which had been a major concern of the Falun Gong, who took the original bylaw to the Supreme Court and won. However, in addition to the minimum $1000 fine for failure to comply, the structures allowed are even more constrained than originally proposed, there are time restrictions placed on protest, and there is an inability to renew permits, among other things. On April 18 the BCCLA released a strong statement in opposition to the measures: “[These] bizarre, unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on political expression violate free speech; full stop.”

The Olympic Village represents a “fiasco,” but more and more it’s turning into a fiasco of journalism. Prominent columnists have spent the last week trying to convince readers of a financial disaster at the Olympic Village, but the real disaster is that they’re not telling it like it is. Due to the removal of hundreds of units of social housing, the city stands to break even on the project, and perhaps even gain money.

The discussion revolves around the cost of the land on which the Olympic Village sits, bought by the city for $30m. That $30m was paid in full by the developer in 2006. By all standards the city has no liability on the land. There is no loss and no profit because costs have been recovered, net zero. End of the story one might think.

But today in the Globe and Mail, Gary Mason argues that while there is no actual loss, the loss nontheless is “actual” because it “feels like a loss.” According to Frances Bula, also with the Globe, there is therefore “$180-million unpaid amount owing on the land.” But did nobody tell Gary Mason and Frances Bula that the land was given back to the city months ago? How can money be owed on something if that something was returned? – and returned with a $30m fee paid by the borrower.

B.C. Housing has declared that by the end of the month at least five shelters will be closed throughout Vancouver.* According to the province, the closures are justified because the Station Street housing project has opened this spring. Station Street contains 80 already-full units of housing, but is apparently enough to compensate for the couple hundred people who will be made homeless when the shelters close.

It is significant that Station Street is being used as a basis for closing shelters, because as a perpetually-delayed project Station Street is at the heart of the Vancouver housing crisis. The construction of the Station Street housing was promised in the 1990s but killed by the BC Liberal government when elected in 2001. After one full decade of a freeze on the construction of social housing, combined with frozen welfare rates and a frozen minimum wage, Station Street will not be capable of housing the vast number of people made homeless in these past years.