Introducing Movement Questions: This section of The Volcano looks at the analysis and strategies for action taken up by social movement organizations. We hope by making space for organizations to explain what they think and how they fight, we can strengthen dialogues, collaboration, and actions related to the path towards a different, better world for us all. – Editors.
The Social Housing Alliance formed in the lead-up to the provincial election of 2013 to face the imminent threat to social housing programs in British Columbia. Since the economic and political world order known as neoliberalism began in the mid-1980s, Canada’s social housing programs (funded during the postwar social democratic days through tax dollars levied by all three levels of government) have been gutted, wrecked and tossed on the pile of those social goods sacrificed to the market gods. As a result, since the BC Liberal government has brought its neoliberal program to the province in 2001, homelessness has gone up about 300%.
This crisis is not new, even though it has gotten worse since the 1980s. The homelessness crisis in BC began over 125 years ago when many Indigenous communities were forcibly displaced from their land and pushed onto small reserves. Today, driven from communities and lands by development, resource extraction, and the elimination of traditional economies, and in efforts to escape poverty and housing shortages, Indigenous people end up on city streets. Here they experience the violence of displacement again as a result of rent increases, gentrification, and renovictions.
The economies of real estate and resource extraction are two poles of structural violence that dehumanize and displace us, and unfortunately, neoliberal austerity politics are not on their immediate way out. Our struggle must include both strategies to survive the next few years, and to build and sustain relationships so we can continue to fight in the future.
What should we do? While we pledge to continue our collaborative and coalition work with allied organizations and people in struggle throughout British Columbia, in 2015 we will take on the following four strategies and actions to build the anti-displacement movement we need in order to survive and develop grassroots power.
Shift our basic point of unity from pro-social housing to anti-displacement. By “anti-displacement” we mean we will organize (with a focus on evictions and homelessness) against the involuntary movement of people and communities out of their homes and into the streets, out of their reserves or rural areas and into the cities, and out of the cities and into the suburbs and towns. We will continue to advocate for the construction of 10,000 units of social housing each year as crucial protection against the market-fuelled winds of displacement.
Develop community organizing drives to root down into communities, building our anti-displacement alliance. A multi-regional anti-displacement alliance must be built one area at a time. We plan to launch Community Organizing Drives with a strategic focus on one region, and the issues most important to people in that area, for 3-4 months. We hope these community-organizing drives will generate ongoing organizing hubs and partnerships with local groups that can ally with other communities facing similar struggles.
Agitate, Educate, Organize: A community based, membership-led anti-displacement organization cannot be built only by calling demonstrations and actions. We believe a reading and discussion series to examine ideas and powerful struggles in other times and places can help us strengthen and deepen our collective analysis and understanding in order to develop our vision of the world we want to build.
Fight oppressive power relations inside and out: We know that people and communities oppressed by colonialism, gender, ability and class are more vulnerable to homelessness. This is because oppressive power structures are intersectional; individual people occupy many social roles and positions all at once. So while we come together voluntarily into an organization, we also carry within us elements of the oppressive power structures that we work to destroy. Consequently, we have developed an accountability process to call out and hold accountable our members wielding oppressive gender, racializing, sexual, colonial power. These are not individual struggles. We believe every accountability process is an opportunity to deconstruct the group, social spaces and dynamics that foster, accommodate or normalize white-settler, heterosexual, male, cisgender dominant culture.