Thursday November 11, 2010
Vancouver Street News
Rich Man, Poor Man
DTES activists demonstrate stark contrasts between living standards
Submitted by Carnegie Action
busload of Downtown Eastsiders and supporters descended on a $31 million mansion under the construction in Vancouver's wealthy Point Grey neighbourhood to make a point about inequality today.
Carrying a mock hotel room, to show where many of them live, several Downtown Eastsiders sat down for High Tea, complete with hats and white gloves, in front of one of Vancouver's most expensive homes, the $31 million, 45,000 square foot mansion being built at 4707 Belmont Ave. Two of the tea drinkers were dressed as a cockroach and bedbug to show that people who have to sleep in shelters or hotel rooms often have to put up with these creatures.
"45,000 square feet is enough room for 112 nice self contained social housing units," said Dave Murray who is homeless and attended the demonstration.
"For $31 million, the owner could buy a nice house for his family and have enough left over to build 150 social housing units for people who are homeless," said Stacey Bonenfant, a mother of 2 children who lives in the Downtown Eastside and who also came to the demonstration.
The event was organized by Raise the Rates, an anti-poverty coalition.
Organizer Wendy Pedersen said that new epidemiological evidence is showing that unequal societies have more social problems. "Life expectancy, homicide rates, drug abuse, child well being, levels of trust, involvement in community life, mental illness, teenage birth rates, children's math and literacy scores, the proportion of the population in prison, racism, sexism, homophobia and voter turnout are all worse in rich countries that are unequal than they are in countries with more equality," she said.
Organizers posted a giant letter to the fence surrounding the property calling on the owner, who still remains a mystery, to demand that the provincial and federal governments:
Raise welfare rates and end the barriers to receiving income assistance
Increase minimum wage
Build 2000 units of social housing per year in BC;
Replace the SRO housing stock in the Downtown Eastside with new units of social housing
Increase taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.
"Inequality is killing us," said organizer Dave Diewert, of Streams of Justice, noting research from Statistics Canada that says poor people in Canada have 10 fewer years of healthy living than richer people.
"We want justice, not charity," added Diewert. "These policies would significantly reduce inequality, poverty and social problems."
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