27 September 2019

Oppenheimer Park: We can have safety with compassion

The following are remarks I made last night at a Special Meeting of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation called to discuss Oppenheimer Park. You can view them here: http://bit.ly/32kDA0J

No one has a monopoly on compassion. No one has a monopoly on caring about safety and security. I believe that every elected representative in Vancouver wants the best for the residents of the city. I have said that the decisions made by this Board have been done out of compassion, but I have also said the Board believes that safety is of paramount concern. 

These two ideas are not mutually exclusive. We can have safety with compassion. The focus tonight, and for the past months, has been on Oppenheimer park. But it is not the only park that have tents in it. Commissioners have to see that all parks are susceptible to camping and many do have campers in them. 

Our by-laws do not reflect this, but the Supreme Court of British Columbia has said that in the absence of alternatives, camping in parks is acceptable. In a landmark case in 2015, Justice Hinkson said that that homeless people are allowed to erect temporary shelters in parkland because of a lack of accessible shelter space in the city. Hinkson’s ruling struck down a bylaw banning temporary shelters in local parks. While he did restrict this to the hours between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. he said tents were allowed.

More than anything I want to find safe and secure housing for the people in Oppenheimer park and return the park to the community as a public space. This is what this Board has been asking for. 

In a recent interview, Theo Lamb of the Strathcona BIA, said that an injunction would lead to a quick displacement, and without a thoughtful plan ‘just move people out, moves them around’. She reiterated that this is not just an Oppenheimer issue, Strathcona issue, it is a city issue.

Tonight, we have heard the consequences of not having adequate housing or a plan in place to find this. The Park Board cannot supply housing and so we ask, we implore, the City and the province of British Columbia to find safe and secure housing for not only the campers in Oppenheimer, but to all of the people who are homeless.

Many of the people camping in Oppenheimer and throughout the city are indigenous. This discussion, like all we have at the Park Board, must be done through the lens of reconciliation. I would like to read something into the record here:

We have endured a lot. Where the connection to cultural identity has been lost, many Aboriginal people live with a constant sense of contradiction and compromise. The challenge is trying to live in two worlds, while currently being ill-equipped to live in either one. But when we are culturally strong in our world, Aboriginal people are strong living in any world. The key is being able to control one’s life. It’s about being able to make decisions over how that life unfolds.

These are the words of the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould from 2007 when she was the BC Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. 

No decision should be made without hearing from the people in the park. I encourage senior levels of the police and fire and the City to reach out and have deep and meaningful discussions with those in the park.

Yesterday I met with the Mayor and had a robust and frank conversation. We talked about ways the city could help and how Park Board could be supportive. I am optimistic that solutions can be found.

City Council will debate 2 motions next week to address this. I thank them for their commitment to the residents of the City, those with and without housing. I commend them for taking the leadership in this. I pray that a solution will be found that is fair and just to all members of the community and will lead to a safer neighbourhood for everyone.

19 September 2019

Nourish your mind with food, arts and culture at Vancouver’s Sustenance Festival

/ Vancouver Is Awesome
September 19, 2019 

If you’ve been thinking about fermenting foods, learning how to reduce your kitchen waste or exploring a new cuisine, then you might want to check out the long list of events at the Sustenance Festival.

There’s plenty to learn, eat and see at the 10th annual Vancouver Park Board event, which brings together community groups, artists and advocates who use food and art to cultivate discussions, celebrate traditions and push for social change.

“What is so different about this festival is the way we engage with a range of diverse, underrepresented communities,” he said.

“Food is core to many cultural identities and ideas like reducing waste or conserving water are embedded in many cultural practices outside of a Western environmental paradigm.”

The festival runs throughout September until Oct. 19 offering a vast array of free or low-cost family-friendly events and workshops led by community centres and non-profit community groups.

You could learn how to grow micro-greens (to stay super healthy this winter), make delicious mason jar salads, take a Korean cooking class or find out everything you need to know about canning food.
There are also workshops on exploring dried goods and their cultural role in the Chinese Canadian community and a panel discussion exploring cultural perspectives on food waste.

The festival was created by the park board’s arts, culture and engagement Team in 2009 to highlight diverse cultures, art, and histories, as well as celebrate and foster community practices and stories connected to food.

Check out the full event calendar and program details at sustenancefestival.ca.

07 September 2019

Social Justice

As an elected Green, I believe in the values of the global green movement. The Global Greens Charter identifies six guiding principles:
  • Ecological wisdom
  • Social justice
  • Participatory democracy
  • Nonviolence
  • Sustainability
  • Respect for diversity

Under the heading of Social Justice:

We assert that the key to social justice is the equitable distribution of social and natural resources, both locally and globally, to meet basic human needs unconditionally, and to ensure that all citizens have full opportunities for personal and social development.

We declare that there is no social justice without environmental justice, and no environmental justice without social justice.

This requires:
  • a just organization of the world and a stable world economy which will close the widening gap between rich and poor, both within and between countries; balance the flow of resources from South to North; and lift the burden of debt on poor countries which prevents their development.
  • the eradication of poverty, as an ethical, social, economic, and ecological imperative
  • the elimination of illiteracy
  • a new vision of citizenship built on equal rights for all individuals regardless of gender, race, age, religion, class, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, disability, wealth or health

For more on Green Values visit the Global Greens Charter.

06 September 2019

Park Board Statement on Oppenheimer Park

The Park Board met last night to discuss the current situation in Oppenheimer Park. Commissioners have received regular updates and have met on three occasions throughout the summer.

I am here to share the most recent decision of the commissioners. The Board did not approve the staff recommendation to proceed with an application for an injunction to remove structures and tents at Oppenheimer Park.

Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. We need to work together to build a community that ensures appropriate housing for all. Our approach must be comprehensive, compassionate, and holistic. We need both a short-term and a long-term action plan that will render unsanctioned encampments such as Oppenheimer unnecessary.

We are requesting that the City establish a multi-jurisdictional task force to adequately address homelessness and inequity within our city.

This is not just a problem for Oppenheimer Park; homelessness is all of our problem. Housing is not within the mandate of the Board of Parks and Recreation, and so we ask the City, the Province, and the Federal Government to acknowledge this as a crisis and to act immediately. This needs an unprecedented commitment of resources, now.

We need to be open to potential solutions that have previously been off-limits. We need to engage meaningfully with people experiencing homelessness in a respectful and dignified dialogue to understand their experiences and their perspectives.

We need to be brave; we need to be creative; we need to be bold; and we need to recognize that all options are on the table.

In the long term we need affordable, safe, permanent housing for all. In the short term we must consider the creation of intentional encampments, the purchase of properties appropriate for transitional housing, and the acceleration of the housing initiatives already in progress, including temporary modular housing.

We do not believe that seeking an injunction through the courts with the goal of clearing people from Oppenheimer Park will bring us any closer to a true solution. Simply removing people from Oppenheimer Park, which may force them onto the streets, back lanes, and into other parks, is not the solution.