The rampant poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse of Vancouver's downtown eastside is part of a larger story that says a lot about Stephen Harper's Conservative government in Canada. This past week United Nations special rapporteur Miloon Kothari was in Vancouver to adress the city's worsening social crisis, in reponse to calls from dozens of local activists and politicians. Mr.Kothari also took various testemonies from homeless people around the city. At a townhall meeting Tuesday, October 16th, Mr.Kothari claimed that "contrary to official statistics, which show poverty is decreasing as is homelessness, the evidence on the street is quite the contrary." Interesting to speculate as to why these official statistics do not paint an accurate picture of what is actually taking place on the city's streets.
Members of the advocacy group Carnegie Community Action Project trying to find solutions to Vancouver's street crisis face such an overwhelming task with no help or cooperation coming from the Canadian government. The group requested that the UN representative pressure all levels of government to spend more on subsidized housing. So desperate is the situation that when meeting with Mr.Kothari, the CCAP "asked him if there's another country that could donate housing for homeless people" in Vancouver. With the Conservatives recently announcing a nearly $18 billion budget surplus, it will be interesting to see how much of that, if any, the govenrment will allocate to spending on subsidized housing.
Recently I was told by a Venezuelan friend and fellow activit about an analogy given by Hugo chavez. Imagine the father of a household who has millions and millions of dollars in his bank account, he lives in a mansion, has beautiful cars, and enjoys the finest foods, yet his wife and children live in a seperate part of the house without adequate heating, no clean running water, and an essential lack of clothing and food. This sort of deplorable greed and inequality would not make sense to anybody, neither is it acceptable for the Government of Canada to castigate its working class and homeless population to misery. This is a clear indication of what the priorities of this government really are, the rollback of social security at home on the bottom layers of society, and the doling out of economic pivilege to the ruling class with the imperialist war drive in Afghanistan. The policies and actions of the Conservative government so far are a perfect example of the fatal glory of the contradictory development of capitalism. Canada is a very rich country, and it is absolutely ridiculous, and outrageous, that our people are forced to even consider looking elsewhere for financial help to solve our internal deficiencies. The Conservatives desperately want to extend Canada's military mandate in Afghanistan until 2011, they have enough money to appoint a five-member panel of "emminent" persons to investigate the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan and to pay them each between $850-$1400 a day to do so, they have enough money to double military spending, they have enough money to spend on extravagant expeditions to extend Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic in order to provide real estate for Canadian corporations, yet they cannot even face the fundamental responsibility of taking care of their own people.