Gentrification, affordable housing and homelessness in Vancouver's DTES

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epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Pantages - Pidgin and Beyond! with Jean Swanson & Sid Chow Tan
Stopping Gentrification of the Downtown Eastside!
Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueum, and Squamish nations territory.
Carnegie Theatre, Vancouver BC, March 10, 2013

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Why there are pickets outside the Pidgin restaurant

A new high-end restaurant opened in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood at the beginning of February. Since it opened its doors, the sidewalk outside the restaurant has been filled with picketers. They say the Pidgin restaurant opened on a fault-line in the battle against gentrification in the downtown eastside and they want it to close.  Two of the picketers, Wendy Pedersen and Tami Starlight, discuss the protest with Redeye host Lorraine Chisholm.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture


Hardly a week goes by without some heart-breaking story in the Vancouver Sun on the near collapse of crucial programs and services in this city’s network of inner city schools - increasing food security issues mean hungry kids arrive at school every day; privately–funded breakfast programs are on the verge of collapse; severe shortages of school supplies, materials and resources compel teachers and principals to rely on the kindness of strangers.

The Coalition of Progressive Electors Education Committee (COPE-ED) recently presented a brief entitled, “ Where do we go from here?” to the Vancouver School Board. It detailed the drastic impact on the lives and learning of upwards of 8,000 students and their families in 16 inner city elementary and secondary schools.

Poverty in Vancouver is far wider and deeper than ever before, reaching out from the Downtown Eastside across the city into the southeast sector.


We traced the origins of the present downward slide in inner city schools to a VSB fact sheet dated January 20, 2004 which listed, among other items, the following drastic (36%), provincial cutbacks of $3 million (or, $24 million over the last 8 years) to programs and services:

  • reduction in school meal  programs in elementary, secondary and alternate programs;
  • reduction  of support for at-risk families in the learning process, crisis intervention, community transition, language translation, counselling and health;
  • reduction in school/community partnerships (including cuts  to VSB’s 10 sterling Community Schools) that support needy families and students;
  • reduction and staff layoffs in elementary Special Remedial, Social Development and Support Programs.

These cuts do not include the forced elimination of the VSB’s three innovative, pre-kindergarten, classes for 4-year-olds, (the only ones of their kind in the province for 16 years) in its highest needs elementary schools....

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epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

A Sign of the Times

On a recent eve, a small group of merry mischief making anarchists made off into the night with a prominent piece of gentrification propaganda: the Save-on Meats a-board. The act was meant to let the gentrifiers know that they have entered an area with a long history of class warfare. The ghetto revolt will not stop until every capitalist enterprise has ceased to destroy daily life. This small action is one facet amongst many. It is a symbol of the slow and deliberate dis-assembly of the capitalist machine....

Fucking with gentrifuckers


City Report Raises New Questions about DTES' Future

Study finds number of neighbourhood's social housing units actually on the rise.


The scabrous shout-out came just as Harty, 25, was being asked whether a new city hall report on homelessness doesn't prove that she and the other demonstrators are wrong about gentrification displacing low-income people in the inner-city neighbourhood.

The study found that the number of low-income housing units in Vancouver's downtown core not only stabilized during the gentrification boom that came before and after the 2010 Olympics -- it's on the rise.

There are 12,126 low-income units today compared to 11,371 in 1993.

It's true that the number of privately owned single-room-occupancy (SRO) units has declined. But that drop has been more than offset by an increase in rent-controlled social-housing projects which, barring a change in government policy, are beyond the reach of speculators. There are also a number of private units owned and rented out by charitable or non-profit groups who have no intention of going up-market.

In 1993, there were 3,604 non-market units, also known as social housing. Today there are 7,642. More than 300 additional social-housing units are expected next year.

This has helped create a critical mass in downtown Vancouver of low-income people living in government-funded buildings and SRO hotels -- exactly what was intended when the city set policy more than a decade ago, spelling out loud and clear that the area should be preserved as a mainly low-income neighbourhood.

These residents won't be eating at Pidgin or drinking IPAs across the street at Bitter or at whatever new boite turns up nearby. But they aren't leaving the historic area either, according to the report, despite the upward trajectory of their neighbourhood's price point.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Yeah, no.

City skews numbers to hide loss of low income housing – 430 units lost in the last year

Against the visible facts on the ground, Kerry Jang is arguing that gentrification is not causing the loss of low income housing in Vancouver’s Eastside, stating, “Gentrification is a problem if people are being displaced. But no one is being displaced.” As evidence, Jang points to a statistic from a recent city hall report — a statistic also used in an article published today in theTyee by Doug Ward: “The study found that the number of low-income housing units in Vancouver’s downtown core not only stabilized during the gentrification boom that came before and after the 2010 Olympics — it’s on the rise.”

The city report, which is in fact only a slideshow presentation for a public relations campaign, suggests that the number of low-income singles housing in the downtown core has increased from 11,371 units in 1993, to 12,126 units in 2012. However, Ward’s Tyee article fails to take into account that the same slideshow also states that out of the 4,482 low-income SRO units in 2012, only 24% of the units rent at welfare rate (according to the 2011 low income survey). Taking this into account, the total number of low-income singles units in 2012 is closer to 8700 units, not 12,000. The problem is that the city’s SRA By-law literally does not count these units as losses in the affordable housing stock, regardless of what price they climb to.

To make matters worse, the same city report also admits that many of the new social housing units are themselves not affordable: “Less than half of new non-market downtown single units [are] renting at welfare rate due to lack of sufficient subsidy.” For example, 70 units of housing in Wall Corporation’s massive redevelopment at 955 East Hastings, as well as nine units of the same in the Sequel 138 condo project next to the Carnegie centre, are termed “non-market” and “affordable rental” despite their actual price. Incredibly, the city is calling these units “non-market” even though they will all rent at market rates expected to exceed $900/month.

And so on.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Social-housing waiting lists grow for seniors in Metro Vancouver 

Fixed and low incomes, rising housing costs among challenges

The number of seniors and people with disabilities waiting to get into social housing in Metro Vancouver has jumped by nearly 50 per cent in three years.

There are now 4,549 households on the social housing waiting lists in Metro Vancouver, an increase of 1,408 — or 44.8 per cent — since 2009. That data is included in a new research report that presents a snapshot of socio-demographic and economic indicators for the region’s seniors.

Compiled by the United Way and the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia, the report is intended to provide the basis for planning and program development for those aged 65 years and older.

Seniors in Vancouver accounted for nearly half of the waiting list, according to the data provided by the B.C. Housing Registry. Both Surrey and Burnaby had nearly 500 on the waiting list, while New Westminster and North Vancouver had more than 200 on the list.

Senior’s incomes are being reduced by investments that have taken a hit because of lower interest rates, said United Way Lower Mainland president and CEO Michael McKnight.

Women in particular can also see their incomes drop when their spouse dies because survivor pension benefits are less than the full pension, noted McKnight.

“You combine that with an increase in costs of housing, you are going to get that kind of effect,” he said, referring to the increasing waiting lists for social housing.....

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

This Pig Don't Fly

Start off with Brand's personal debt "to the tune of about $1-million" and his simultaneous juggling of nine businesses [1]. Then go back to earlier news about how the four floors of Save-on-Meats were destined to become "the headquarters for his budding empire" [2]. The "million-dollar facelift" of what "sounded like a pipe dream" resulted in a ground-floor of "airy space" with lots of elbow room — complete with commissioned artwork, custom steel for the counter, handworked brick restoration, etc. "The attention to detail was costly" [2]. Toss in a biofuel diesel engine and three rooftop hothouses heated by repurposed energy, items designed to cast a greenish hue over the megaproject [3].

According to the older news, Brand controlled the 22,000 square feet [3] of the entire building on a 20-year lease [4]. Now he hangs onto the ground floor only (out of the four floors), still pays one-third of the rent, and is tied to "a five-year locked-in agreement." The conditions are that "he'll reduce his kitchen operation to the ground floor only, where he'll reduce the butcher shop and increase the diner and kitchen" [1]. Notice that the word reduce pops up twice in the same sentence. According to the press release of the acquisitor: "Anthem has plans to renovate the building, and will consolidate the Save on Meats businesses onto the ground floor retail level" [5]. The future for the one Save-on-Meats floor that remains to Brand sounds far less airy and spacious than it used to.

On 13 March 2013 Anthem Properties Group Ltd. announced its acquisition of Save-on-Meats at 43 West Hastings Street in Vancouver. The press release [5] says that the acquisition was completed on 28 February 2013. The new owner anticipates using the bulk of the building to "create new, loft style, office space" which it anticipates providing for occupancy "as early as August 2013."


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Brilliant report, epaulo! Thank you! Hope to hear your drumming at some point!

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Learning our lesson at city hall

A smaller-than-usual group of Downtown Eastside residents trekked up to city hall in February to speak out against two major condo rezoning proposals. One week it was a 17-storey tower at the corner of Keefer and Main, where the 90%-off everything store is. The next week it was a 16-storey tower right next door to where the insurance place and the Vietnamese sandwich shop are. We went up there to speak out because the two buildings will not bring anything but gentrification and displacement to the low-income community in Chinatown. There were not many of us because this is becoming an old story and a predictable one at that.


But staff didn’t say any of that. Instead they said the LAPP Committee wants higher levels of government to fund social housing, which is true but does not have anything to do with combating the effects of the 17-storey tower that was under application.

Council unanimously passed the application for the 17-storey tower.


No one from staff or council brought up the main issue raised by low-income people on the LAPP Committee, that giving money to heritage revitalization without rent protections would be directly funding renovictions.

Finally the 16-storey tower was also approved by council, unanimously, and with the public benefits going entirely to heritage building revitalization. There was no motion to protect the hundreds of low-income housing units in those buildings – which could be directly displaced by renoviction – nor the hundreds of units in other buildings which will be indirectly affected by gentrification.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture i took my drum and stool down to the pidgin restaurant for my 1st time. i was the second person there, the first being a media person who was filming in hopes of getting his stuff on tv as well as gathering info for his documentary on gentrification. the next person to come along was a young chinese woman there also doing research for her home city and country. finally about 10 people came round with their signs.

..since it was close to noon i was surprised to see that the steel gates leading to the restaurant entrance were locked up. i asked why and was told that when the place first opened it was the plan to be opened for lunch but because of the demos people were scared off so it never happened. today the only people going through those gates were what i assumed, employees as they had codes that got them through. i must come back in the evening i noted.

..i unpacked my drum and began to play. i noticed a car pull into the back alley that was next to the restaurant. a man got out and opened his hatch and inside i could see 2 d'jembe drums in their bags. he pulled one out and came over asking if i minded if he drummed with me. of course not was my answer. he then asked why i was drumming there and so i told him about the gentrification. “i can get behind that” he said. and so we drummed. of the organizers came over to us and invited us to an event this coming friday. there will be serious hunger strikes beginning and this will be the announcement of those strikes. 1st at the pantages a historical theater being replaced with condos and then later at the restaurant. they were very excited about this event so i said i would be there.

and so:

12 noon, Friday, Mar 22

Pantages 156 East Hastings St


6pm, Friday, Mar 22

Pidgin Restaurant (across from pidgin park on carroll)


In listening to the radio program linked to above it seems that pidgin is being attacked for being visible, first they had CLEAN windows that looked across the street to Pigeon Park and that was offensive and then they FROSTED the windows and that was offensive too! 

I think picketing pidgin is pointless but perhaps the point is to place the focus on pidgin rather than the park, perhaps the popular activities of the park aren't for prime time viewing.

Polarization is the game, poverty and privelege is the play. 

We might not like each other but we have more in common than those who suck the marrow from our bones for profit and until we figure that out these petty squirmishes will continue.



epaulo13 epaulo13's picture


..polarization is exactly what the community accused the city of doing as part of it's plan to gentrify. both inside and outside the dtes. they demanded the city stop this activity at a city council meeting.

..i was told today that next week the picketing is moving to pantages in their attempt to prevent the building of condos there. i in no way speak for the dtes but imo as to the pointlessness of picketing the pidgin i think not. there is much at stake, the assault is great and with limited resources (to the shame of left vancouver) targets are chosen with the posibility of success in mind.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture
  • Organized and taking place on unceded Coast Salish Territory.
    Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueum, and Squamish nations respectively.

    On Friday, March 22nd - in conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, International Day to Celebrate Water, beginning of Spring - at 12 noon, a formally homeless DTES resident will begin a hunger strike.

    The hunger strike will be launched at the old Pantages Theatre site and location of the proposed Sequel 138 condo project, 138 E. Hastings (between Main & Columbia) It will move to the Pidgin Restaurant, 350 Carrall St at 6pm.

    News conference at 12 noon, March 22, at 138 E. Hastings at Old Pantages site & to find out:
    • Who will be going on the hunger strike?
    • What conditions do governments have to meet before the hunger strike will be ended?

    When: March 22, 2013
    Time: 12noon
    Where: 138 East Hastings Street (Vancouver)

    Housing Now!
    Stop Gentrification!!
    Stop the Pipelines into Burrard Inlet!!!
    Stop the sensationalist for profit filming of undocumented workers and stop the deportations!!!!

    Organized by Pidgin Picketers & Gentrification Stoppers!
    Endorsement list and requests will be sent out soon


From the comments section:

"Why don't they take action or at least publicly shame the landlords that own and manage the SRO's and hotels.
In reality the poorest people in Vancouver pay the highest sq. footage, get zero amenities and are virtually powerless to fight for basic tenant rights. Those respectable owners happily sat back for decades raking in rents and allowing their buildings and a whole neighbourhood turn to squalor.
Instead these 'radicals' take radical action against a diner on Hastings and an Italian restaurant on Commercial Drive - wow, really sticking it to the man."

I feel that way myself, bad strategy unless you are looking to be smacked down and who would benefit from that? lol  Apparently you have the legal right to assemble in front of pidgin but what would happen if you attempted to publicly shame the owners of these properties elsewhere in Vancouver?



epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..there seems to be an assumption that the people who broke the windows on commercial, the people who stole the sign and those picketing pidgin are the same persons. at least they are being lumped together. i can tell you they are not. the people i met at pidgin were for the most part gentle and broken. they welcomed me and shared their stories. they invited me to go to st james to meet and talk with people from the neighbourhood, to share in pizza and something to drink.

..i can only suggest that if you have something you want to offer please, please go down and meet these people. get involved. it no good having a debate about what they should or should not be doing on this board from what you read in the news or from what you think is going on.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Lagatta wrote:

As in Barcelona. An interview with David Harvey on gentrification and port projects in Baltimore and Barcelona, also old ports.

I confess I also agree with his idea that "something had to be done" in the face of urban decay. Hope it is evident that however decayed the DTES district is and how unemployable many of its inhabitants have become, they have a right to live there and decent housing is a key factor in helping people (however screwed up by capitalism, racism and all) improve their lives and live in dignity. My only problem with some progressive accounts is that they seem far too glowing about life in the DTES - I certainly understand, given the need to defend its inhabitants.

I thought this post was very good and the article interesting so I've copied it into the proper geographic thread.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..if i may respond to the focus of the gentrification on the residents and organizers of the dtes. battling gentrification has fallen on their shoulders and their shoulders alone. is my contention that the olympics created the financial crisis that made it easy for the city to accept gentrification as a way to increase desperately needed revenue. yet vision takes zero responsibility for it's support of those olympics. it was an ndp provincial gov that decided to have apply for the olympics in the first place. so where is the ndp now? it certainly not taking any responsibility for that smooth move. they are certainly not coming forward to mitigate the damage done let alone acknowledging any harm at all just like vision.

..the labour movement supported vision. are they stepping forward to take any kind of responsibility for their support without having any meaningful expectations from vision other than they are better than npa? and then there’s the construction unions. why aren’t they involved? why aren’t they promoting the refusal to work on gentrification projects? whether they are unionized projects or not. then there’s the city unions. where are they? they provide the necessary support that is needed to construct a gentrified building at every level.

..and then there’s all those people who voted ndp and vision. do they not have a responsibility for their actions? i once heard that the blame spiral travels downward and unfortunately it stops at those folk on the dtes. the list goes on. this is not right and if the world is going to survive the current environmental and economic attacks this needs to change.


Midway through there is a woman who says they are yelling at customers going into pidgin.  I am saying this is an ineffective strategy to deal with the changes in the DTES.  My reference to the above quote and there were seven pages of negative quotes actually, is to point out how this is being manipulated in the media and to offer a comment which actually suggests a strategy that might be more effective in shaming those who are truly profiting.  



Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I don't think that stealing a sandwich board is a particularly good strategy for effecting change with regards to homelessness and affordable housing in the DTES, but this has to be put in the context of the overall struggle. It's not as if there haven't been widespread movements and demonstrations in favour of affordable housing for literally decades. And the city and those in power haven't listened and continue to kowtow to developers and venture capitalists. In the other thread on the Olympics you can see how the city and the province have undermined and outright attacked the legal and political bodies which defended housing in the DTES, including DERA and the Vancouver Tenants Association. You can see how the City Council refuses residents the right to organize. You can see how the province continues to cut social security benefits in the most expensive city in North America. You can see a coordinated media campaign to discredit activists who have given their lives to this struggle. You can see that the only action that has ever had lasting effect was direct militant action in the form of the Woodsquat -- and even that has been diluted to the point of negligibility as the new Woodwards building now stands as a symbol of gentrification rather than resistance.

To criticize the stealing of a sandwich board ignores the fact that all other routes toward change have either been curtailed or removed. That all acts of socially acceptable resistance have been defanged, stigmatized or eliminated. That those who could fight in the public arena with so-called legitimacy have been undermined at every level of government and cultural institution. That increasingly there is some unspoken, undefined line between "good" protest and "bad" protest while development continues apace.

I don't know the motivations of these activists, but it strikes me as the kind of action borne of frustration and rage with nowhere to focus it. It speaks to voicelessness and disorganization that is not accidental, but the direct result of public policy, media campaigns and capital. So to turn around and criticize the "bad strategy" of one of the last lines of resistance to what should be glaringly obvious as destructive, unjust and oppressive seems to me to be terribly misguided.


I said bad strategy, I said ineffective strategy, I quoted what was, I thought, a more effective strategy, is there any comment on that? 


In a conversation I have been having elsewhere it was noted that the headline was changed to reflect the fact that it is an alleged theft, not alleged anarchists.

We can blame the media if it seems better. That whole story is just about sensationalizing a theft; I didn't see anything of note in there about the actual dispute.

On another note, there is a similar, though not nearly so high-profile dispute on our city's west side.

The local business improvement district is pushing for churches and social agencies to pay for their community window dressing projects, designed to draw customers for business.

This is the part of town where people have only just managed to establish a proper grocery store - through a lot of donations and hard work.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

@ennir -- we cross-posted. There is a problem with shaming those landlords, because they are not actually around. And in fact, there are campaigns to expose the worst offenders, and guess what they've achieved?

@Winston -- speaking of sensationalizing, we might ask in what world does the theft of a sandwich board deserve primetime coverage? We might answer: when it serves the narrative of power.


@ CF

Exactly. I presume they are not so stupid that they aren't aware of the dispute. I bought food there now and then when I lived there and I can understand why it is a human interest story. But turning it into a kidnapping, ignoring the background, and taking the "anarchist" appellation and its very different meaning from the owner rather from the group's own website doesn't really serve the issue too well.

Personally, I think the better way for whatshisname to have dealt with it would have been to just get another damned sign. That's what most of us do when this sort of stuff happens. This sort of reaction - on all sides -  just turns the whole thing into more of a circus.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

ennir wrote:

Midway through there is a woman who says they are yelling at customers going into pidgin.  I am saying this is an ineffective strategy to deal with the changes in the DTES.  My reference to the above quote and there were seven pages of negative quotes actually, is to point out how this is being manipulated in the media and to offer a comment which actually suggests a strategy that might be more effective in shaming those who are truly profiting.  

..i really don't know that it is ineffective because the lunch time opening didn't happen because of it. yelling is non violent and has been used, i would suggest, forever to express displeasure. i just don't see it the way you do.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

ennir re #125

..a short while back i particpated in just such an act with those from the dtes. again i don't speak for them but there are limitations to how far afield community residents can travel. there are financial and travel conciderations. i ask why aren't other progressives in van doing this?

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

How many teenagers and young adults have various signs that they have "liberated" because they just felt like it.  Hard to say that this was even a strategy.  I guess anyone who hides their face when either bragging about or committing an illegal act is now an anarchist.  But in a city that is still obsessing and wasting millions on the Stanley Cup riots it is to be expected.


epaulo13 wrote:

ennir re #125

...... again i don't speak for them but there are limitations to how far afield community residents can travel. there are financial and travel conciderations. i ask why aren't other progressives in van doing this?

Two good points, thank you.


Left Turn Left Turn's picture

epaulo13 wrote:
ennir re #125

..a short while back i particpated in just such an act with those from the dtes. again i don't speak for them but there are limitations to how far afield community residents can travel. there are financial and travel conciderations. i ask why aren't other progressives in van doing this?

I can't speak for others, but I can speak for myself. I tend to view gentrifying property developers and slumlord SRO hotel owners as a symptom of the problem rather than the actual problem itself.

As for the actual problems, these exist on two different levels. On one level we have the lack of affordable self-contained social housing, lack of adequte levels of social assistance, inadequate rent controls, lack of adequate addiction services for the druge addicted population, lack of decent employment options and pro-development civic government.

On a higher level we have the systems of capitalist and colonialist domination that are the ultimate root causes of the problems facing the low-income populations in the dtes and elsewhere.

I do make a point of attending demonstrations in support of social housing, though it's not my number one priority in terms of my activism. My experience is that a lot of housing activism and anti-poverty activism more broadly -- though certainly not all of it -- gravitates towards appeals to the "moral decency" of those in power. The idea that if we can make those in power sufficiently aware of the inhumanity of the situation they will "do the right thing" and invest in social housing. I find the reasoning behind this approach to be faulty, as it falsely assumes that those in power have the best interests of all people at heart.

Yesterday I attended the demonstration outside the Georgia Hotel organized by the BC Social Housing Coalition -- the BC Liberals were holding a $250 a plate dinner inside with four seperate BC Liberal Cabinet Ministers. Appeals to the moral decency of those in power were not the only approach on display, though this approach was certainly present, and calls to defeat the BC Liberals in the election -- necessary if we are to have any hope of getting the needed social housing -- were virtually non-existant.

The other approach that was evident at the demo -- and that seems to be a motivating factor behind much of the anti-gentrification activism in the dtes -- is the "something must be done" approach. The idea that the most important thing is to do something, anything, now, rather than trying to plan out a strategy that could actually be effective.

Myself I tend to think that what is needed on the left is to win the working class and various segments thereof --I include here the permanently and semi-permantently unemployed in the dtes -- to that which is in our collective interest, and then for the working class and its various hyper-opressed segments to take power with a view to implementing the policies that are in our collective interest.

I also take the view that national and international struggles are vital for the left if we are to mount a successful fight against the capitalist-imperialist behemoth that imperils our planet. As such, I find myself reluctant to organize with those who only focus on local issues, because I feel that in so doing I'm unintentionally legitimizing their approach.

I'd also state here that I would be involved in COPE if I lived in Vancouver proper, but because I live in Burnaby I'm not elegible to become a member of COPE, so I don't invlove myself in this aspect of the local political struggle in Vancouver.

A comment on the Pidgin Restaurant protests specifically. I'm generally loathe to support actions that invite negative press without fitting into a clear strategy. I can understand why residents of the neighbourhood chose to target the Pidgin Restaurant -- it was a new target that became a symbol of the gentrification in the dtes. Fair enough. My other concern with the pickets of the Pidgin restaurant is that we risk alienating the workers who work there. As workers opressed by the capitalist system, I would seek to win them over to the fight against capital -- as I seek to win all workers to the fight against capital -- and pickets of their place of work that include shouting nasty things at those going into the place risks alienating them from any kind of social activism.

Finally, it seems that a lot of the anti-gentrification activism falls into the same trap that a lot of social activism falls into -- namely trying to stop things after they're more or less a done deal, and when it's clear that the balance of forcers are not in our favour. Obviously I don't expect the low-income residents of the dtes to give up and admit defeat in the face of gentrification, but as someone who doesn't live in the neighbourhood I mostly choose to focus my activism on other struggles.


Thank you Left Turn for your thoughtful post.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture was my first time at the pidgin restaurant when it was opened. i was the 1st one there so i sat across the street at the park. a police car rode by slowly checking things out, turned around and parked across the street. it was there about 10 min then left.

..others began to arrive which included homeless dave on his hunger strike and the person doing the documentary. soon after the others came with the signs and a big urn of hot chocolate. there were young people, men and woman who were there to support but also long time residents of the community. someone brought a chair for dave to sit in and a blanket to wrap himself in. there was a draft dodger who told me he had a problem with drinking and had lived in the dtes for a number of years. his take was that it was a done deal. everything that i could see was bought out and planned for. the question was how long it would take to get the people out of there. there were maybe a dozen of us total. the owner of the restaurant was standing across the street with his cell phone. no one harassed him.

..and then the police came. the number over the next couple hours fluctuated but it was never less than 8 and reached 12 maybe more. it included 2 squad cars and a van which filmed us. meanwhile i played my drum. when the police first came chanting began no home no peace. there was no yelling at customers going in but polite asking not to go in and trying to hand them written material. passers by in support far outnumbered those opposed. one point the police gathered together and i could see some turning to giving me a quick glance. then turning back for more discussion. i just knew they were talking about me. eventually 2 of them came over to me. one of them told me that me that some tenants complaining about the drumming. meanwhile my comrades had gathered round to listen to the exchange. who was complaining i ask. not those in the restaurant i was told the tenants above it. it so happened that because of the cold i had put on gloves so i told the police that i had already turned down the “noise”. not enough said the cop. sure it is i said. can’t you hear the difference? it was then a woman, resident of the neighbourhood for 20 years, spoke up. why don’t you go after those loud cars going through the hood. what about all the crime. what are you doing here. why are you picking on him. he has a right to be here. this is a public sidewalk. and then they began to chant “no police intimidation” over and over. and the police backed off. the group then instructed me as to police tactics. and that they had centred me out hoping that i would make a mistake and they could then haul me away. though out the police thing i had never stopped drumming.

..and there you have it i believe. the ugly reality of the situation. the crux of it. people have a right to object and massive police intimidation is there to set you straight. thoughout my time there over and over again people talked about their right to be there. and it is very typical of the dtes to fiercely defend that right even under these police pressures. while most of the time i spent there this evening the owner was outside conversing with the police. i might add that it was also a very good thing to have the documentary person filming everything.


I hear people saying they have a right to be there, that they have a right to live where they want. I suppose I must be a foolish person who doesn't appreciate my rights, I have always thought the west coast a beautiful place to live but I have always also thought I couldn't afford to live there.

And yes they have a right to protest, a right to be on the street in front of a restaurant, and the police have rights too, they have the right to identify the protesters and then investigate them.  Thank you for your description of the events in front of the restaurant epaulo13.  You prove my point actually.




epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

ennir wrote:

I hear people saying they have a right to be there, that they have a right to live where they want. I suppose I must be a foolish person who doesn't appreciate my rights, I have always thought the west coast a beautiful place to live but I have always also thought I couldn't afford to live there.

And yes they have a right to protest, a right to be on the street in front of a restaurant, and the police have rights too, they have the right to identify the protesters and then investigate them.  Thank you for your description of the events in front of the restaurant epaulo13.  You prove my point actually.

..your point i believe is that this is ineffective. a matter of tactic or strategy. that may be so but only to a certain extent.

..what i am trying to say, in thunder if i could, is that this is a form of fascism. similar to other forms of fascism that is spreading in the western world in response to the resistance to economic and environment catastrophe.

eta: have a gander over at the student strike thread and see what happened last night. this is the future if we don't struggle to prevent it.


If the CBC article I read is correct, the only grievance against this specific restaurant is that some think it represents a tipping point, and that immediate objective of this protest is to drive it out of business and out of the neighbourhood.

I have sympathy for the broader issue, but I don't support that at all.


Just read the March 1 Tyee article, and the curious piece in the Mainlander it makes reference to. I have to wonder if driving out this presumed monster is going to do anything about the problem.




Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Thankfully, Winston, the residents of the DTES and their allies don't need your support for their action. Of course, you have it wrong (or at least the CBC does, but no surprise there). It's not that this is the "tipping point," since there have been many tipping points. You could read the thread for an explanation, or you could just do as you have done, and make your lack of support and solidarity known without learning about the issues...


I have read the thread. Does that mean I am automatically compelled to show solidarity by supporting a tactic which I do not support?

I have sympathy for the situation,and I have some familiarity with the tensions in that neighbourhood and that town, but it's not just about heavy handed cops or one business.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Of course not. But you could at least get the motivation for the strike correct.


ennir wrote:


And yes they have a right to protest, a right to be on the street in front of a restaurant, and the police have rights too, they have the right to identify the protesters and then investigate them. 



My emphasis added above. The RCMP motto is "Maintain the Right" , which they do very well. They maintain the right wing status quo all the time.







Catchfire wrote:

Of course not. But you could at least get the motivation for the strike correct.

It's in the thread title, right? Most of us have already made reference to it. Is there some reason I need to repeat it again?  I'm talking about the grievance against this person, and the immediate objectives of this action - that is, to get him to shutter his operation and leave.



Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Yes. You're wrong about that. It's not just that he is a symbol -- although he is that -- Pidgin is right across the street from Pigeon Park, which is a gathering place for many DTES residents. The opening of this restaurant was seen as an aggressive move, a colonizing move, in fact, not only to take claim of the space (which is used by many indigenous people) but to rename it. The fact that "Pidgin" as a word and language has itself colonial resonances adds to the affront. Yes, Pidgin shares offences with other high-end restuarants -- that it exists in a building which used to house low-income families, that its fare drives prices in the neighbourhood up, that its presence transforms the topography of the neighbourhood to one which makes existing residents uncomfortable -- but it also flaunts these offences in a way which garnered attention ("I wanted to start a conversation," the aggrieved co-owner of Pidgin protests. Now they have it.


Again, I'm not sure what you think I'm wrong about. I appreciate the seriousness of the situation, I have seen it in Vancouver over the years, and from the article I posted, you can see we have a version of the same problem here right now. I understand how people might be driven to an action like this. 

But again, if I understand correctly they aren't asking him to change the name of the restaurant; they want him gone. Thing is, even if they succeed in driving this operation out it will not solve the problem at all.




Catchfire Catchfire's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:
If the CBC article I read is correct, the only grievance against this specific restaurant is that some think it represents a tipping point,

It's in the thread title, right?

Both of these are wrong. Does that help clarify?

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

But again, if I understand correctly they aren't asking him to change the name of the restaurant; they want him gone. Thing is, even if they succeed in driving this operation out it will not solve the problem at all.

..words like “i understand” and “i sympathize” are empty when you make statements like this. it says that you are critical which is fine but don’t be doing it while feigning care and understanding.  

..the dtes is fighting for it’s life and you shit on their method of struggle. as if they had the capability of solving the problem. as if unions negotiating settlements were solving the problem as if voting ndp or vision was solving the problem. as if you understand what a solution even looks like.


@ epaulo13

So I can't recognize that there is a serious problem unless I give my support to this tactic?

Seems to me the dishonest thing would be if I pretended to agree with something I think is wrong and will not work. You don't know what I feel about this, and you don't know what I understand about it either.

That said, good luck with the struggle against poverty and homelessness.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..i am questioning your credibility not your right to critizise


Well obviously I don't have quite the same understanding of someone who lives in that neighbourhood nowadays,  but my concern is the charge that I am not being honest, and that I must be feigning care and understanding.

Would you feel better if I lied and said I hope the lot of them get carted off to jail? I don't hope that. I just don't see a position like this - even one borne out of frustration - as something that is going to get results.

Perhaps they will prove me wrong, and if pushing this fellow out of their neighbourhood accomplishes that, then fine.


epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..of all the issues on this thread. serious issues. this is what you have chosen to focus on. your statement that actions by the dtes should lead to the solution is outragous and it really pisses me off.  not to mention it lends me to suspect you are not being genuine and that there is more behind this focus.