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Don't prorogue -- federal political leaders need to take immediate action on affordable housing

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January 3, 2010

Open Letter to Prime Minister Harper, Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Layton, Mr. Duceppe:

As the leaders of the four parties represented in Parliament, I am writing to you to ask for immediate action to re-establish a national housing program in Canada in the spring session.  Bill C-304 is a great beginning and all of the parties in Parliament should support this bill.

There is a crisis of housing affordability in Canada that the federal government has an important role to play.  There are somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 homeless Canadians.  Unfortunately, the federal government does not even take appropriate statistics to track these figures.

In BC, a homeless person dies every 12 days.  There are somewhere between 10,500 and 15,000 homeless people in the province.  In Metro Vancouver, there are close to 3,000 homeless people and 32% are of aboriginal descent when they only make up 2% of the population.  Almost half the renters in Vancouver pay more than 30% of their total household income on shelter costs.  The lack of urgency from the federal government is totally unacceptable.

My friends who work in the health sector are frustrated that their attempts to provide healthcare for people is stymied by the fact that many people do not have access to safe, secure, affordable housing.

For the past seven days, I have gone without solid food as part of a hunger strike that is now over one year old.  Over 70 people participated last year – from homeless people to health professionals to lawyers to students to journalists to faith leaders.  Everyone believes the federal government needs to take action and once again become a world leader in developing safe, secure, affordable housing.

We are going to continue our hunger strike through the 2010 Olympics and eventually end it on the steps of Parliament Hill in June 2010.  75 years ago, unemployed residents of Vancouver boarded trains in the height of the Great Depression and tried to go to Ottawa to push for ‘work and wages’ before many of them were turned back in Regina.  In the same spirit as those trekkers from 1935, we are now trying to put the re-establishment of a funded National Housing Program back on the federal agenda.  

Our delegation is formally asking for a meeting with each of you any time between Friday, June 11th and Wednesday, June 16th, 2010.

I hope that you take the time to watch this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WySC0DqH1m8

Sincerely,

Am Johal
2010 Homelessness Hunger Strike Relay
www.2010homelessness.ca

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