Questions and answers about the Pidgin Picket: By Jean Swanson
Question: Why are you protecting drug users/ misery?
Answer: Drug users are human beings with dignity. They deserve to have their health issues addressed in effective ways. A fancy restaurant won’t help drug users. Being pushed out of their hotel rooms because of high rents won’t help drug users. Being pushed into other communities won’t help drug users. We need better drug policies that are based on health and human rights principles and don’t simply fill the prisons.
Question: This small business has a right to make money.
Answer: The picket is not about one business. It is about city policies that allow gentrification to push up rents and destroy a community. It is about the province’s and the fed’s failure to build decent social housing. DTES community members have already:
- pleaded with the city to buy land for housing (no land bought for at least 3 years);
- begged the city to notice that hotels with high rents aren’t accessible to low-income people (the city still counts them as low-cost accommodation);
- asked for a study of the impact of Woodward’s on low-income people (the city is doing a social impact assessment but not about Woodward’s)
- asked the city to stop condos at 138 E. Hastings (the city approved them);
- asked the city to stop condos at 611 and 633 Main (the city approved 61l and is about to approve 633);
- asked the city to lobby the province for funds for housing (Councillor Jang says hundreds of units are coming and implies that more housing is not needed);
- asked the province and feds to provide money for housing.
No level of government has responded adequately to these pleas. If business owners were serious about helping the existing low-income community they would not only be proffering individual charity. We want business owners to join with others to advocate for tax increases on the rich and corporations, and for immediate government action to end the disgrace of homelessness.
Question: Isn’t it good that the restaurant is giving local residents sandwiches
Answer: Probably the only reason people are getting the sandwiches is that the pickets are putting pressure on the restaurant to be community minded. While charity might help out a few people once in a while, it will not improve the DTES community which needs justice: higher welfare and pension rates and better and more housing and slowing of gentrification.
Question: Are you guys against all development?
Answer: We are against the type of development that pushes up rents and is inaccessible to local low-income residents. These types of development push out low-income residents and could make them homeless. If governments built the housing that is needed, then the DTES could handle more condos and upscale businesses.