In the early hours of January 5, 2021 – just five days into the new year – the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) executed a man in cold blood on East Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).
Defunding the police seems to be the topic for the last few months. Everyone is wondering: should it be done, or should it not be done. In my view it’s the right thing to do. There are just too many cops using the badge as a way of trampling on our rights and even taking lives.
Though we should treat the overdose crisis with the severity it deserves, desperately bleak portrayals in the mainstream press can overshadow the actual experiences, autonomy, community, and acts of solidarity among people who use drugs.
In the wake of political events erupting across North America over the past month, we are now at a moment in history when Vancouver City Council can end police street checks for good – if it has the will.
In addition to rent increases caused by the upscaling and renovation of dozens of low-income buildings around the city, Vancouver is losing affordable housing through the outright demolition of buildings. Last month, City Council approved the demolition of the Cecil Hotel. Two months ago, Vancouver City Council approved the loss of almost all low-income housing at the American Hotel, whose tenants were illegally evicted in 2006. Last year saw a drastic loss of housing, with City Council allowing for the closure of low-income hotels surrounding Woodward’s while granting the demolition permit for the 224 housing units at Little Mountain.
Today, however, the provincial and municipal governments jointly proclaim a “partnership of excellence” in the fight against homelessness. Some journalists have written of the “tight bond” between the Province and City under Mayor Gregor Robertson, and it has recently been reported that many Vision councilors were favorable towards Rich Coleman’s leadership bid for the BC Liberal Party because of “all the progress he has been able to make with the City of Vancouver on social housing during this Vision Vancouver term.”[i]
More than anything else, the proclaimed successes of the “partnership” revolve around the construction of fourteen sites of social housing in Vancouver, known as the ‘Vancouver sites.’ The myth of these fourteen sites can be traced to the destruction of housing at Little Mountain.