Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Housing is a Right, Not a Privilege

Vancouver is tangled up in a flurry of activity as it plays host to the 2010 winter Olympics. Over the past few days the city has been flooded with hundreds of thousands of people keen to watch the events and partake in the revelry that accompanies them. The games are a subject that strongly divides opinion but they have had a number of negative effects on the city.

  • Vancouver won the bid to hold the games in 2003. In 2004 the estimated cost to the taxpayer was $1.35 billion which seems minuscule compared to the current figure of $6 billion. $1 billion of which is being spent on security- five times the initial security budget estimate. Even those who originally supported the games have been shocked by the amount spent and the lack of public accountability. Funding the Olympics has also involved siphoning funds from libraries, schools, community services and medical services to fund VANOC. The cost to taxpayers is astronomical-current and future generations will foot the bill for the 2 week party.
  • Criminalization of the poor and homeless in an effort to make the city appear cleaner and more appealing to tourists - a 'sweep it under the rug' approach.
  • Low income residents have been displaced and many people who were living in SRO’s (Single Room Occupancy) were forced out of their homes in order for developers/owners to ‘renovate’.
  • Despite claims and statements about "sustainability" the 2010 Olympics will be amongst the most environmentally destructive held-native land has been used, over 100,000 trees have been felled and the destruction done through the expansion of Eagleridge Bluffs for the Route 99 “Sea-to-Sky” highway leading to Whistler.
  • The games are being held on unceded native land.
  • The infringement of civil rights and liberties; not to mention the police intimidation towards those who speak out against the games or those who report on the reality of the situation as opposed to IOC sanctioned pieces.

I can’t understand why the city/province is willing to spend approx $6 billion on a sporting event before it attempts to deal with issues of homelessness and poverty that continue to affect its citizens. I’ve written previously here about the homelessness problem in Vancouver. Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 - 300,000 and remains the only G8 nation with no national housing plan. In Vancouver there are currently about 2000 homeless people living on the streets. Visitors need to be made aware that this is a reality in the city and that gentrification, high cost of living, minimum wage and other factors all contribute to the problem.

The Red Tent Campaign is attempting to draw attention to this issue and the goal of the campaign is to get the Conservative government in Ottawa to create a National Housing Policy to assist the homeless. The PIVOT Legal Society has distributed hundreds of tents as part of The Red Tent Campaign. Many of these are erected on a vacant lot on East Hastings Street in the heart of the down town east side. Volunteers and supporters are being encouraged to join the campaign by sponsoring a tent or taking to the streets themselves for a night. If you can't make it, please feel free to spread the word on Twitter or Facebook

To support The Red Tent Campaign and find out more:

For independent news coverage on the 2010 Games:

Red Tent Campaign Images:
Luv and revolution

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