By SANDY CAMERON
Do you really
want my bio? I suspect the Newsletter can probably cook up something
better than what I can provide. Probably there should be something about the
fact that I like to use “big words” but I promise to supply the
Anyhow, how does this sound:
I have worked in community development in both urban and rural communities. For the past few years I have been self-employed in community work but was the Executive Director of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. My first community work was for the Chief and Council of the Musqueam Reserve. In 1970 I began my East Vancouver community work experience, first with the Grandview Woodlands Area Council and later as Executive Director of the Britannia Centre.
I am excited about coming to Carnegie. Everyone congratulates me and says “It will be challenging!” I believe it. But Carnegie has developed such an excellent reputation in serving the Downtown Eastside I feel fortunate to be part of it and feel welcome already, very much looking forward to working with the Board and staff and all the volunteers. I know I'll be on a steep learning curve and there will be no shortage of people with advice. Your help will be appreciated.
Thanks to Dan, the Board and everyone who has put in the extra hours and work while the search for the Carnegie Director was underway.
Oh yes, I usually get around town by bike – so you can expect 2-wheel arrivals and exits.
(Margaret's explanation) Who is Michael Clague? He is this tall, hair is this loooong and he can be found on the third floor over there in that corner. If you have a question for him drop in and say hello - please don't forget your dictionary.*S*smiles
on the alert
The Rice Wine situation is getting outta hand.. almost every corner store in our neighborhood is selling. The date set for it no longer being legal to sell this stuff anywhere outside a liquor store is December 1. Store owners are not taking the effect of this lethal product into consideration, more now than ever. IT'S still KILLING OUR PEOPLE, and I got a message from Mission they are having the same problems. The most reported store is on Hashing St., called U2 groceries. While I was in there I noticed young kids running the store, while the father or brother was in the back 'resting'.. - actually selling the rice wine. I need help! Any suggestions?
Back to Square One
About a week ago the government announced the restoration of earnings exemptions for people on social assistance. In plain words, if you're on welfare you can earn and keep up to $100 a month and if you're a family or disabled you can earn and keep up to $200. If you earn more it gets deducted from your next cheque.
There were a number of government people on hand at United We Can, the Downtown Eastside's (and Vancouver's) shining example of what recycling is. The bustle of activity in the place is evident every day all day, as binners & binnerettes bring in containers culled from various 'traplines' in the urban core.
When the NDP government started acting on bad advice from social engineering consultants – when BC Benefits replaced GAIN – it seemed that the rantings of the Fraser Institute corporate tank had overwhelmed common sense. The punitive nature of these new regulations and criteria put it on a par with the worst of the new welfare rules in states and provinces across the continent. It's a long story of heightening the hysteria of making scapegoats – as the wealthy and classist go into the stratosphere in terms of personal perks and fortunes, those left behind are enticed into blaming the poor, people of colour, aboriginals and immigrants and women heading single parent families…
Now the NDP is responding to voices not head-lined or quoted in the obligatory anti-NDP rhetoric of the daily media, and a real systemic change that people applaud comes through. What needs to be understood is that it takes a few years for such changes to be made, but it's a return – a restoration. Government, and specifically the BC NDP, needs to re-examine the poverty-promoting legislation that has gutted much of their support base. It's really easy to be fooled by the bullshit in the Province, Vancouver Sun, and radio & TV, all owned by self-interested jerks like Conrad Black, and repeat the non-thinking that says “anything or anyone else is better.” At the same time, people recall the NDP fundraiser, held at Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens, when activists, the very poor, mentally and physically disabled, single parents, addicts and users all deafened the gathering with rage at cuts and punitive measures.
In the last provincial election campaign, Gordon Campbell and the Liberals, parroting the Fraser Institute, called for a huge reduction in basic rates and the institution of workfare. “$450 a month and you work for it!” You want to be semi-slave labourer?? When greed gets control, ordinary people can't even get to square one.
“It is important to remember that the federal government [pressured by US corporations, “free” trade bullshit and the Business Council on National Issues] created its own fiscal crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, predominantly through irresponsible cutting of taxes & poor fiscal management.”
a) skill in
speaking and writing
b) insincere language
c) talking until it all sounds the same
NAPO, the National Anti-Poverty Organisation, made an intelligent and well-researched
submiss-ion to the Standing Committee on Finance. The occasion? The federal
government has a surplus of over $12 billion dollars, soon to balloon to over
$20 billion. This government has cut Employment Insurance so that only 40% of
workers are now eligible, even though everyone has to pay into it on every paycheque;
they've cut transfers to provinces for health, education and welfare, leaving
provincial governments to take the political fallout and rage as the most vulnerable
are punished with cuts. Hospitals close, services are cut back or eliminated,
tuition skyrockets and people are forced to work for ¼ the minimum wage. The
surplus is presented as a just reward for getting Canada's financial house in
order, when it's money made on the backs of the non-wealthy.
Okay, what you've read so far could be taken as sour grapes rhetoric.. if you've profited from all the cuts. Those who stand to make a fortune from privatizing healthcare or education or getting welfare recipients to work for below minimum wage see these measures as good.
The hole in the balloon of joy over increased wealth for the few gets widened by things like child poverty. Mel Hurtig publishes a book called “Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids” and the disgust over the increase in children living below the poverty line is national news for days. The few whose interests run counter to things like a nation-al child care program or a national housing program are shown as a balance to the story, calling all the research and reports and numbers “wrong” “misguided” crap. The politicians who get paid and supported by these same few are quick to mouth the rhetoric of “doing the best we can and proud of it” but it's evasive in the face of independent facts.
Libby Davies, Member of Parliament, questions the Prime Minister about the reality of half a million more poor children and the lack of social housing and is told that “provinces rejected this”(!!) It's exactly this kind of response that was mirrored in Europe. Canada was condemned by the United Nations for its levels of poverty, especially child poverty, and for its treatment of Aboriginal People. While the government was making its presentation an anti-poverty activist silently mouthed the words “She's lying,” to one of the Council members. The Council member mouthed back “I know.”
In Newfoundland, individuals are expected to survive on $2500 a year if they receive social assistance. In Ontario, homelessness is rampant and the number of poor children has doubled in 10 years. In BC, elements in the NDP react to this global trend in competitive impoverishment and bring in a vastly inferior welfare system that punishes on purpose. If you are an activist and speak out, you run the real risk of petty retaliation, either personally or in terms of organizational retribution.
This kind of language is akin to being between a rock and a hard place. The New Democrats, when not being the government, have always had the backing of labour and working people and the poor; there's always been a strong commitment to fundamental social justice and human rights and the myriad of social issues that get split between “left” and “right”. Individual stories of inexplicable treatment by certain ministries and a bureaucracy with a penchant for increasing hardship and need seem to get stifled by this fear of retaliation – if the people you thought of as friends or at least sympathizers turn on you or just turn away to seemingly join in with the oppression that's always been there, what do you do? Where do you go? The only answer is to fight back, to again get to square one.
HOMELESSNESS: JUST THE FACTS
• In 1992 the federal government abandoned housing programs for low income Canadians; since then 75,000 units have not been built. (Source CMHC 1993 annual report, housing projections to 1997).
* Poverty and lack of access to affordable housing are major contributors to homelessness.
* In BC, 47% of renters pay more than 30% of their income on shelter. 25% pay more than 50% of their income on shelter. (BCHMC Homelessness Fact sheet)
* Most people on welfare spend 75% of their income on shelter.
* The Vancouver area has 330 emergency shelter beds. Over 500 people a month are turned away from shelters due to lack of space. (BCHMC Homelessness Factsheet)
* There are 10,500 households on the waitlist for BC Housing. (BCHMC Homelessness Fact sheet)
* The withdrawal of federal funding and the cancellation of numerous housing programs in the 1990s resulted in 11,000 fewer affordable housing units built in BC. (BCHMC Homelessness Fact sheet)
* Studies have shown that a supportive housing unit, with medium support, ranges in cost from $30 to $40 a day, compared to $124 a day for a prison or $360 a day for a psychiatric hospital.
* One third of those without decent housing are suffering from a mental illness. (Golden Report on Homelessness)
* In 1998, over 880,000 Canadians used the food banks. (National Food Bank Assoc.)
* In the year 2000, the United States will spend 28 billion dollars on housing programs. Canada will spend under 2 billion. (U.S. Housing and Urban Development, CMHC)
* In 1999, Canadians got a tax break of approximately one dollar a day. The 1% solution to end homelessness will cost taxpayers 50 Cents a day.
The Dug Out is celebrating its 33rd
anniversary. It's a place that most of us take for granted nowadays, but it
has had an important role in the recent history of our community and our city.
It was one of the first places in the city where people who had long been marginalized
and excluded by the centres of power found a voice and an organization through
which they could speak and work on their own behalf.
When the Dug Out was founded in 1966, the Downtown Eastside wasn't considered a neigh-bourhood or a community. It was called skid road. The people who lived here were not treated as real people, but were stereotyped as 'derelicts' and 'transients'. The area was slated for urban renewal, a fancy term for demolition. The population was slated for relocation and rehabilitation, more fancy words for dispersal or deportation to other areas.
The Dug Out was one of the first places in the area to work on the premise that people here were residents of a neighbourhood. In fact, it was in the Dug Out that the very first actual residents' group was founded. The Residents of Gastown was started in 1967 with the help of fieldworkers from the Company of Young Canadians.
The CYC was just one of a number of groups that were doing community organizing in inner city neighbourhoods from Kitsilano, Fairview Slopes, and the West End (which were all poor and working class neighbourhoods, then), to Strathcona, Mount Pleasant, and Grandview. People all around the inner neighbourhoods of Vancouver were getting organized around issues that mattered to them.
In Strathcona and the Downtown Eastside, familiar issues like poverty, housing, and tenant rights were important. So were things like legal aid (there wasn't any) and medical services (there also weren't much of these). Above all, there was the freeway that the NPA city council planned to push through the area, demolishing much of the neighbourhood in the process.
The Dug Out was an important part of all this. Recognizing the people who lived here as residents of a community made it harder for civic authorities to dismiss the neighbourhood the way they had in the past. Providing space and resources for those residents to get organized helped build up the community so it could resist displacement and start planning its own future.
The drop-in was a key centre of activity when Senator Croll's Commission on Poverty came to Vancouver in 1970. It was also the base for the Residents of Gastown when, with the help of Ron Yuen at the Urban Design Centre, they managed to acquire the old Stanley and New Fountain Hotels and convert them into what is now the Gastown Residence.
Since that time, the Dug Out has been a mainstay of the community, offering many people a retreat from the streets, from too much booze, and from loneliness.
Unfortunately, over the past few years, it has also been the target of a mean-spirited campaign against it by a few people who claim to represent gastown and who also claim to be advocates for heritage.
On the gastown front, these people don't even have the support of those who they say they represent. When the gastown business group circulated a letter asking its members to complain to the City about the Dug Out, some of them instead wrote letters of support. While the gastown historical area planning commission (ghaphacks) constantly complains about it, many of the people who live in condos across or down the street give donations.
These attacks on the Dug Out show up the narrow-mindedness of the self-appointed heritage commissars of gastown. If they were concerned with real heritage instead of picayune points of design and taste that only matter to a small elite, they would treasure the place. It is a vibrant, living connection with a part of Vancouver's past that many of us have forgotten or never knew about.
Of course, that is one of the reasons why these people hate the Dug Out so much. History shows us that if you can erase a people's memory, it is quite easy to undermine their community. This is what Europeans tried to do to the aboriginal peoples in the settler colonies of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It is also what the 'urban pioneers' of gentrification try to do in poor and working class neighbourhoods when they arrive and claim those places for themselves. Once you undermine the community, you can then get rid of the people who make it.
he so-called heritage advocates like to believe that it was the campaign to save gastown that stopped plans for the freeway and urban renewal, but it was actually the grassroots organizing that took place in communities by and with the residents that was responsible for this victory. The gastown campaign was part of this, but it would not have been successful had not Downtown Eastside residents been out campaigning on other issues.
Ironically, it was the displacement effects caused by the heritage renovation of gastown in the late sixties and early seventies that helped to create the need for places like the Dug Out and the community organizing of which it was a part. As recent events show, that need is greater than ever.
By E.A. Boyd
RICE WINE OUT! U-BREW IN?
"It is estimated that 125 people a year are dying from rice wine," council candidate Anne Livingston declares. Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh said the ministry is taking action to prevent more deaths.
The government is pulling rice wine out of grocery store shelves and limiting its sales to liquor stores, but many chronic alcoholics who drink rice wine regularly will be left with Lysol as an affordable but riskier substitute. Can a U-Brew in Downtown Eastside Vancouver be a healthier, affordable alternative?
Rice wine is Chinese cooking wine with around 40% alcohol and 2% salt content. Many D E residents drink it because it's conveniently found in local corner stores for only a toonie, but after Dec. 1 stores caught selling it will be charged.
Dosanjh consulted with community agencies, police, retailers and distributors. City councillor, Daniel Lee, said "this action will benefit local business." Did they consult rice wine drinkers?
Word on the street says "it's going to be bad." Livingston is employed with Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and held two meetings gathering input from rice wine drinkers. She say it's a misconception that only 'ricers', those drinking publicly, buy it. The truth is, it's the drink for many poor people because they can't afford better. Many say they will buy mouthwash and cleaning supplies for a drink or buy rice wine illegally from corner stores' hidden leftover stock.
Dosanjh says the new law makes it an offence for retailers to knowingly sell non-beverage alcohol products as intoxicants, and the ministry will begin educating retailers on the dangers of household product abuse and how they can prevent it.
Alternatively there's 'harm reduction' where the focus is not on attempting to control consumption but on reducing the harm associated with it. Livingston says a U-Brew in the Downtown Eastside can provide a safe cheap drink and replace rice wine.
Deaths due to low-grade alcohol abuse can be prevented when a healthier, cheaper drink is available, says Paul Alexander - speaker of the Green Party. He wants to see a U-Brew in the Downtown Eastside. After an initial cost of $30, U-Brew makes about 23 liters of 15% alcohol for $11.
By Valerya Edelman
Welcome Marg Green!
Marg Green, a long-time resident and active community per-son, has been chosen for the principal organizing job in the Downtown East-side's largest coalition of groups and individuals.
Marg has been hired for a one-year term by Community Directions, the 54-member alliance that is attempting to cope with the “revitalization” drive being pushed by city and federal politicians on our neighborhood.
Many residents will already know Marg from her activities in the community. She is currently coordinator of the Downtown Eastside Seniors Centre, at 509 East Hastings, home to a seniors' drop-in and the highly-effective Neighbourhood Helpers Project, which makes calls on seniors in their hotel rooms.
Marg is also chair of the Woodward's Co-op Committee, which has been negotiating for social housing in the old Woodward's building, and is a member of the Resource Centre Advisory Committee, which is designing a centre for drug users.
She also has a long background in international development work, with experience in Africa and Latin America.
In her new position starting in early December, she will work with community groups to help clarify the issues that are important to the neighborhood to put us in a better position to deal with outside agencies, business interests and political bodies.
“Our community is reaching a critical point with all the pressures that are coming to bear on it,” said Marg.
“If we pull together we can make a difference. And preserve the best of what we have in this neighborhood.”
Community Directions holds regular meetings which are open to all. The next meeting is Thursday, Dec. 2, at 3 pm in Jennie Pentland Place, 540 East Hastings.Community Directions is also sponsoring a one-day workshop on community economic development so we can help ourselves sort out the potential for meaningful jobs and other kinds of beneficial economic activity in the community.
The workshop will be held Wednesday, Dec. 8, from 9:30 am-to-4:30 pm, also at Jennie Pentland Place. All are welcome
Although it was cold and rainy on a
Friday night a couple of weeks ago (November 12), it was sure warming up in
the theatre at the Carnegie Centre. The reason for the heat being turned up
was the once-a-month Karaoke show.
The Karaoke show is a chance for all those budding musicians and aspiring singers to come out and enjoy an evening of music, fun and dance. It's a chance to try new material or just to meet old friends.. and maybe even make new ones.
Even though we had some electronic difficulty, and started a half hour late, Eva and Anthony rose to the occasion as the co-hosts of the show. They brought us some beautiful music and all had a great time.
We had a variety of entertainers ranging from our regulars to a few new faces. We had a guest appearance by Robert Doucette. We welcomed back all the regulars and also the new singers.
Two prizes were donated anonymously. The first prize was a random door prize and was won by Ralph. The second prize was for a mystery song but no one chose the song so we made a second door prize draw which was won by Anita Stevens.
Thanks to all those that attended, and a special thanks to our individual co-hosts, Cody, Robert, Egor and those who helped at the end. We look forward to seeing all of you back and hopefully seeing a lot more new faces at our next show on
December 10, 1999.
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