On Thursday July 11th at 10:00 AM in Pigeon Park, over 15 residents associations, community economic development non-profits, family and cultural service organizations, aboriginal organizations and various other non-profits from the DTES will stand in solidarity to respond to the vandalism, intimidation, harassment and targeted pickets that have taken place lately. This is the statement that we have jointly released.
A Joint Call for respectful community discourse, free from vandalism, intimidation and slander.
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is in the midst of dynamic growth and change, facing all the attendant pressures and opportunities that arise in such situations. A renewed interest in the area over the past few years has seen dozens of local entrepreneurs open businesses in what has become some of the most affordable commercial space left in the city while new residents contribute to the neighbourhood’s already vibrant, eclectic mix.
These new developments have often brought conflict and misunderstanding in their wake, particularly as pressures around affordability have increased. Some residents and businesses have been ridiculed or have had their property vandalized and stolen. Some have been threatened or their patrons intimidated and harassed. A number have been portrayed by protesters as heartless villains. Increasingly, protests, personal attacks and bullying have replaced respectful, inclusive discussions.
Protesters raise important issues, saying they speak for this community. While we respect their right to protest and agree with many concerns that are being raised, we cannot support the strategy they have chosen. Picketing individual businesses like Pidgin or Cuchillo, or Cartems, Ranier Provisions, Save On Meats and a number of others before them, while intimidating customers and residents, is misplaced and divisive. We believe everyone is entitled to live in a safe community, particularly the large population of vulnerable women and youth, low-income residents of all ages, and those who need opportunities to break the cycles in which they find themselves.
We are here today to say unequivocally that using personal intimidation and bullying as tactics to raise issues and promote positions is unacceptable and has gained public attention for far too long.
This is a diverse neighbourhood which encompasses diverse opinions. It is also a community that strives for respect — respect for and between those of us who live and work here and others who frequent the area or live elsewhere in the city we share. There are occasions when public demonstrations are appropriate, but they should not be used as substitutes for community planning. Strategies adopted to raise awareness of important issues should not be disrespectful to the aspirations and opinions of others in the neighbourhood. Everyone has a right to have a voice as part of this community and should not have to fear being personally targeted or attacked.
Those of us standing here today live, work, or own businesses in the Downtown Eastside. We want housing for the homeless, better social and affordable housing for those in need, adequate and empowering support for those facing mental health issues, protection for sex trade workers, training and education opportunities for all residents, and a safe community where our children can grow and thrive and our parents and older neighbours can age in peace. We believe that community energy is best spent on creating solutions, not on resorting to intimidation, vandalism or personal attacks against businesses or individuals.
The Downtown Eastside is a mixed community, home to people with various backgrounds and income levels. Too often residents here are defined by our problems and challenges, a strategy which tends to ignore community resiliency and strengths. It is a community where all should thrive. We must create a safer, healthier neighbourhood for all of our residents.
We feel a Place Based approach, one that meets these challenges by utilizing local knowledge, resources and practices is needed here, in order to better connect these issues across sectors or silos and from different perspectives. Division, conflict, negative smear campaigns and intimidation do not support inclusion. They alienate and divide us.
We call on the City of Vancouver, its citizens, and the media to recognize that personal attacks on businesses and individuals are not acceptable no matter what the rationale and should be systematically ignored. Bullying is empowered when the tactic gains attention and we believe that organized bullying and personal intimidation should not be accepted and supported as valid parts of community planning. It is long past time for our planning process and public dialogue to be respectful and inclusive for all.
Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association (HxBIA), Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC) Inner-City Economic Strategy Cooperative (ICES), Fast Track to Employment (FTE), Aboriginal Life In Vancouver Enhancement Society (ALIVE), Crosstown Residents Association, The False Creek Residents Association, The Citygate Inter-tower Group (DTES Thornton Park), Vancouver Eastside Educational Enrichment Society (VEEES), Network of Inner City Social Services Society (NICCSS), Inner-City Safety Society, Eastside Movement for Business & Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS), Thru Haida Eyes, Eastside Artists Company, Ray Cam Community Center, Strathcona Residents Association,