Earlier this fall Vancouver’s Gallery Gachet was notified that 100 percent of their funding from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) will be cut by December. The cuts reflect a trend in health services towards an increasingly limited definition of health care. They also come in the context of the continuous loss of affordable housing, increased policing, and accelerating gentrification in the wake of the City’s two year old Local Area Plan for the Downtown Eastside.
On November 13th, the City of Vancouver announced that it would launch a crackdown on illegal street vendors in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). The City’s director of Social Policy, Mary Clare Zak, informed DTES community groups that “starting next week you will begin to see a larger City presence in the DTES, including VPD officers, as we continue our efforts in the area to ensure it is a safe place for everyone.” According to Zak the objective is to “support and facilitate the movement of street vendors from the [0-300] block of E. Hastings Street and surrounding area.”
Last week, on November 22nd, a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officer shot and killed a 51 year old man at the intersection of East 41st Avenue and Knight Street. The man was Phuong Na (Tony) Du. Within one minute of arriving at the scene, one of the officers drew his gun and shot Du to death. Before the shooting, Du was visibly distraught. According to eyewitnesses, Du was talking to himself while waving a piece of two-by-four wood on an empty sidewalk.
In recent years we have seen a massive bolstering of the capacity of the Canadian state to contain poor and oppressed communities. These shifts have worked to target, criminalize and incarcerate those who most actively resist neoliberal and colonial policies. This neoliberal “containment state” is grounded in new ways of criminalizing people and communities, an increase in police and police power, and an expanding prison industrial complex.
Like many of today’s major cities, Vancouver is a city of slum-landlords – owners of substandard housing where building maintenance codes are ignored, tenants are dispensable, and legislation around rental housing, like the BC Residential Tenancy Act, is rarely followed. This year, far more than any previous election, Vision Vancouver is being financed by those slumlords.
Today The Mainlander and the SFU Institute for Humanities are co-hosting a panel discussion with Chris Dixon, a longtime writer, educator and non-hierarchical/anarchist organizer. Dixon will be discussing his new book Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements, followed by responses from Harjap Grewal, Lisa Freeman and Gary Kinsman. The following interview was originally conducted In August 2014 for The Annares Project. See here for a link to tonight’s event.
When they are pressed to comment on social housing and homelessness, most civic politicians pass the buck. It’s a Federal and Provincial responsibility, they say. Cities have the smallest tax base of all governments,they complain. The fact is: there is a lot that cities can do to fight the housing crisis in British Columbia even within their current jurisdictions, legal powers and budgets. If they are willing to face up to the depth and severity of the housing crisis in BC and to take appropriately drastic actions, challenging these limits, they can do even more.