On the Forgotten Code of the Downtown Eastside and Climate Change Being Good for Canada

Tea & Two Slices is a long-running local news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives and works in Gastown, deeply aware of his privilege.

We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas: ‘It’s getting worse and worse’: DTES residents say neighbourhood is ‘falling apart’. Oh weird. It’s almost as though ignoring the root causes of structural poverty and trauma for decades is having an unwanted effect. It’s funny what a poisoned drug supply, the constant criminalization of poverty and being treated as disposable will do to a community over time.

Gone are the shouts of “kid on the block” and a sense that even a hapless lost tourist would feel safe. It’s now a free for all:

“You don’t rip off your friends. You don’t mess up the place where you live. You don’t hurt or take advantage of people who are weaker … there was a code. You look out for each other — it’s falling apart.”

Yeah, it’s bad. But people like Sarah Kirby-Yung and Michael Geller calling for social mix and more policing is just reactionary hyperbole. We need a New Zealand-style well being budget coupled with Portugal-style decriminalization. Housing first. Raise the rates.

If it were not for the heroes in the peer support community it would be worse: Drug overdose deaths in B.C. down month-over-month, year-over-year.

Exhibit B: Canada Might Have Found a Back Door to End the War on Drugs.

So what does the city do? Campers at Oppenheimer Park receive eviction notice. Cram them into SRO slums and the cycle continues. Trauma, self-medication, rinse, repeat. Indeed, First United Church executive director Carmen Lansdowne sums it up here:

The provincial government has opened 720 new social housing units in Vancouver in the past two years. But Lansdowne said that hasn’t kept pace with rising economic precariousness and the often complex social and medical needs of SRO tenants. “It can’t just be a housing-only approach. We have to look at poverty reduction — you can’t live on $720 of social assistance in Vancouver at this point,” she said.

This is such a gut-punching story. It’s Reena Virk all over again: B.C. family devastated after teen’s death from apparent overdose unfolds on social media. A heartbreaking mix of social isolation and untreated mental health exacerbated by poverty in the face of rabid determinism of upwardly mobile Gen X parents as documented in real time by youths desperate for attention and left bored and unfulfilled by a system that rewards viciousness over human compassion.

Speaking of compassion: Joe Oliver: Here’s a truth few dare to utter: Canada will benefit from climate change. Translation: Fuck the Global South. I got mine.



I can’t believe this is real: Environment groups warned saying climate change is real could be seen as partisan. So if Bernier came out and said that gravity was a lie could we drop him out of a window or would that be partisan?

Like, the Beaverton didn’t even really have to do anything on this one: Elections Canada concerned facts may interfere with federal election.

Protest in Vancouver mirrors Hong Kong as opposing sides face off. Every time I read an article on these protests, I can’t help but think that Red Scare sinophobia is playing a huge part. I’m not defending the Chinese regime, but in Vancouver the pearl clutching around money laundering and speculation has reached a fever pitch and where do you think most of that comes from? The free-market on steroids special economic zone of Hong Kong. I’m not one for conspiracy, but you know the CIA are just itching to co-opt any popular social movement in order to stabilize China.

There are 7 comments

  1. Perfect.
    I too have combination chuckled/gagged when realizing the masses are shocked when poverty/mental health etc continue to cycle ’round and ’round yet NOTHING NEW HAS REALLY HAPPENED. Super grateful for InSite ( including the detox/transition housing upstairs) and buildings getting built for housing, but these arent enough. Meanwhile the numbers continue climbing, people get more sick and yet another generation is affected.

    I’m now plainly disgusted when people actually voice this thought aloud ” but I just DON’T understand why things aren’t getting better!”

    Sigh. Each city needs to stop dividing areas, dividing populations and acting like the ‘whole’ can be healthy while parts are annexed and forgotten. All citizens belong in the city they choose to reside in. No one wants to live unhealthily, mostly they need assistance getting there. Only when all people feel they belong will a city thrive. Treating some like outcasts isnt helpful with that ‘ belonging ‘ part.

  2. The problem Larissa, is that while we all realize that there are good & bad people in all walks; different races, age groups, occupations, etc. those in poverty are often branded ALL as deserving angels. Until the poverty industry & advocates grip reality and separate those in need from those in greed, the best society can do is continue with a slow drip IV of support, knowing full well that a lot of it is draining away wasted. Literally, and totally wasted.

    Get grip:

  3. As always, love the column Sean, but curious about your supposition that the current money laundering and speculation are coming from Hong Kong? The conventional wisdom is that large Cantonese immigration tailed off years ago and the current numbers are overwhelmingly from Mandarin zones like Shanghai and Beijing: aka the people wanting to stamp out any protest in HK. Thoughts?

  4. I wasn’t talking necessarily about immigration, moreso HK as a vehicle to allow the flight of capital under strict controls. “Money laundering has long been a problem for Hong Kong, in part due to its role as a major global financial centre. In 2017, financial institutions in the city reported 92,115 suspect transactions to the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit – a body run by the city’s police and customs, up from 76,590 cases in 2016, and 42,555 in 2015”. https://www.scmp.com/business/banking-finance/article/2132290/hong-kong-banks-efforts-against-money-laundering-face

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