3 February 2008

Speak Out: DTES Protests and Photo-Ops

Some more musings from our membership. As always, these are personal not reflections and not necessarily indicative of the "officially" views of the branch or union as a whole.

Homelessness, the Olympics, and the Downtown Eastside

On January 23, Michaƫlle Jean, the appointed Governor General of Canada, visited Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Most people in the Greater Vancouver area are aware of the poverty and homelessness that afflict many residents there. It would not be an exaggeration to say that most people sincerely wish to put an end to this poverty and see to it that the long-term suffering of the area is ended for good.

It seems that the people who least wish to see this barbarism swept away are the capitalist press, who went out of their way to demonize protesters who accompanied the Governor General during her visit. They expressed concern at their heckling and loud presence at the event without attempting to explain their reasons for doing so. However, the protesters are right in understanding that photo-ops can never solve social issues, and our sluggish government needs to be prodded into action if we wish to see some long-term solutions to homelessness. In short, it will be voices from below that bring about the programs desperately needed in the neighbourhood, not public-relations extravaganzas from above.

This government has continued to spend exorbitant amounts of money on projects that will be beneficial only to the city's capitalists and CEOs. The most glaring example of this is the 2010 Winter Olympics. While an estimated 15,500 people in the province are homeless, the BC Liberal government has spent its budget on an enormous and expensive spectacle. Needless to say, the Olympics ensure that many large corporations will be kept busy with various contracts and projects all coordinated by the government itself. However, if we must have (for the time being) a government running under the current methods it should at least have taking care of those suffering the most as its number one priority, not the interests of capitalism. In order to create this the protests must continue. The photo-ops, on the other hand, need not.


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