For the better half of my life, I’ve been living in Canada. My longest tenure as a Canadian has been my last 8 years living and working in Burnaby, BC.
Before settling down in Burnaby, I spent many years up North in remote areas. Given the landscape, scarcity of goods, and population, getting around often required long drives in harsh weather conditions (especially winters). Burnaby has proven to be much easier in this regard. When first arriving here, I was immediately drawn to the amenities that could be found within walking distance. The grocery stores, health clinics, banks, recreation facilities, schools, transit systems and yes, of course…the mall.
My particular circumstances upon arriving here were difficult to say the least. I couldn’t afford a car and I was simply trying to work as hard as I could to stay afloat. My saving grace in many aspects were the amenities that could be found within close proximity to where I lived. More specifically, sharing a small apartment in Metrotown provided the positive circumstances to help me find stability.
Fast forward to my present situation and I understand all too well the importance of having those tangibles available at my fingertips. Currently, I work full time in Burnaby while attending BCIT at night. Depending on where I’m required to be, I rely on the transit system to get me to and from work, and then off to my studies in Burnaby or Downtown.
The residents who live in Metrotown’s lower income three story type apartments are the working class of our community. They are the young families, the elderly, individuals with low or fixed incomes, and immigrants or refugees. They are (as I am) dependent on the accessibility and livability that made this community what it is today. Metrotown is a place where families are growing and a sense of community is being formed. Parents with small children will bring their kids to Maywood Park to play while the adults can take a breather or relax after a long day at work. It gives the working class a place to unwind and find solace in other people with similar and relatable circumstances. And although rent is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, it is at the current situation manageable.
In most recent days, the unrelenting and unfortunate reality of Vancouver’s gentrification hit our community like a brick. I started seeing affordable rental apartments being demolished quickly, only to be replaced by towers. Naturally, my most basic instincts assumed it was time to move to another area, again. I figured my apartment would clearly be the next up for demolition. But then I thought, “Hold on a second, what’s the game plan in regards to replacing these rental apartments, and who is making these decisions? Where is our whole community going to go? How are they going to get to work, buy groceries, see their doctor, get their children to school and afford higher rent?” I knew I had to somehow get involved.
I’m by no means against improving our community, but how is it acceptable to displace young working class families so that we can achieve what some consider “improvement”? How can we allow a whole community to be unearthed and tossed over the fence? How do you tell an elderly person living on government subsidized old age pension that they need to pack up and move? How will they cope with such a disruptive change, and more importantly, why should they? What’s to say if some people become homeless?
We need to stop and think about this, because if this is acceptable in the eyes of most, then it is not the Canada I know and grew to love. We need to take a step back and find a solution before demolishing any more of the affordable apartments in our community.