Sunday, October 19, 2008

Today's Province Column

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2008 Federal and provincial governments must step up to help our homeless

David Berner The Province

Sunday, October 19, 2008

While the rest of us went through the somewhat hollow exercise of re-electing the same minority government that had just dissolved, a truly significant change occurred on Tuesday.
A B.C. Supreme Court decision made camping in Victoria's public parks a legal activity.

Lawyer Catherine Boies Parker, who acted on behalf of the homeless campers in their court challenge of the city's anti-camping bylaw, confirmed the 108-page judgment upheld their argument that a City of Victoria bylaw that prohibits using "temporary abodes" like tents and large tarpaulins for shelter in parks and public spaces violates the rights of the homeless.

Now, Victoria Mayor Allan Lowe is not one of my all- time favourite politicians. He is, after all the man who wants not only four safe injection sites in his city, but one of them to be "mobile." (Are you familiar with the mobile cancer clinic or arthritis centre in your neighbourhood? Of course not. They don't exist.) But Lowe did get it right when he predicted this decision will reverberate across the country.

"This judgment demonstrates what years of cuts to social programming and housing programs have done. Municipal governments were never in the business of providing housing and social support services to individuals in need," Lowe said, calling on higher levels of government to respond to the court decision.

Peter Ladner and Gregor Roberston, both campaigning to be the next Mayor of Vancouver, have homelessness at the top of their platforms. Yet both know that housing and shelter are provincial and federal responsibilities.

For many years, Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation invested wisely and creatively in low cost "public" housing under a broad range of guises and the results were simple -- people had places to hang their hats.

But these initiatives were abandoned at least 20 years ago and the federal government has had almost no impact on housing matters since then.

The Campbell government has shown little taste for aiding the poor in any arena, whether treatment for addicts or housing for anyone other than Olympic athletes.

Are we elitist if we decry the sight of homeless encampments on English Bay beach when we take a Sunday stroll?

Enabling tent cities in public parks may be manna for civil libertarians, but it's very bad public policy.

Parker, the lawyer who acted on behalf of the homeless in this case, and others who wish to help, might better serve the homeless by suing a few governments for not providing care to our most vulnerable.

Or maybe I am being naïve. Maybe this is just a clever ploy to bring this problem a larger spotlight and force the comfy sleepyheads in Victoria and Ottawa to do something real - like build buildings with kitchens and bathrooms and bedrooms in them.

You know . . . homes.

© The Vancouver Province 2008


keith said...

what is contributing to the shortage of affordable housing and homelessness is immigration.
This past year saw a record 439,000 immigrants to this country, and during the federal election the Liberals were boasting they would increase immigration to 900,000!
Where are they all going to live, and at whose expense?

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, blame the immigrants - how original!!

I wonder if those hoards of immigrants will do the same thing that my father did when he immigrated with his parents in the early 1960's.

They will get work (even if it is not 'glamourous work') and work their tails off and rent a home and live frugally. When they saved some money - they might purchase a small home or continue to be responsible renters My father's parents did this, most immigrants that I know have done this and are doing this!! (and this includes immigrants from Asia, Europe and Africa)

Canada has approximately 33 million people (give or take a few million). We are the second largest country in the world!!! I think there's room!!

Safe, affordable housing for singles, families and independent seniors creates stable communities. Safe, dignified options for the hard to house and appropriate health care/treatment would help with some of the obvious and rampant homelessness. Policies and action to create this housing is necessary - not passing around tired, xenophobic, red herrings of blaming 'immigration' for the problem.


David Berner said...

I knew that all I had to do was publish the man's dreadful comments on immigrants being the cause of homelessness and someone would set his straight.

Thank you, Linda.