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Get to Know: ACORN

Photo via ACORN Canada

Calls to ‘Defund the Police’ were amplified during the unprecedented protests that followed the death of George Floyd in 2020. Here in Vancouver, the call comes from community groups reacting to a ballooning police budget and an alarming trend toward the criminalization of poverty. On any front, the term ‘defunding the police’ is still wildly misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that there would be no police. What it does mean is a reallocation of funds to invest in alternatives to policing. It means indigenous, peer-led, mental health outreach teams, and the redistribution of a budget that eats up 21% of our tax dollars (FYI, that’s about $800 per minute). This column explores some of the community groups in Vancouver that could use some of those funds. Today I’d like to introduce you to ACORN.

WHO | The Association of Communities Organized for Reform Now (ACORN) is a multi-issue, membership-based community union of low and moderate-income people, with active chapters in 28 cities across Canada. Members initiate campaigns to take on landlords and corporations, and fight for new and improved laws to protect their rights. For example: in Surrey they are fighting for the city to implement standards of maintenance; provincially they are demanding the province immediately tie rent control to the unit (vacancy control), reform the Residential Tenancy Act, and build 10,000 units per year that rent for a max of $750 per month; federally, they are pushing for action to be taken against Real Estate Investment Trusts and big landlords whose business model is based on evicting tenants so they can double or triple the rent. ACORN is campaigning against predatory lending (Fair Banking), advocating for universal access to high-speed internet (Internet For All), and demanding that governments raise social assistance rates (Raise ODSP & OW Rates, Stop the Clawbacks).

WHY | In a city with the highest rents Canada-wide and historically low wages, within a province with the highest rates of eviction, in a country where affordability is at crisis levels amid rising financialization of real estate ($217 trillion in total), ACORN steps up to protect tenants and fight for low income people. While our government tinkers with incremental policies on housing, tenant organizing by ACORN (also, the Vancouver Tenants Union and Rent Strike Bargain) is vital in bringing communities together to help curb this housing crisis. Housing is a fundamental human right and all levels of government must prioritize the elimination of housing insecurity and homelessness.

Get to Know: Vision Zero Vancouver

Started in summer of 2022, the local advocacy group is calling on governments to design transportation systems that put safety first, and to bring the number of fatal car crashes involving pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, and other vulnerable road users from 100 per year (!) down to zero.

Get to Know: Overdose Prevention Society

The official mandate of the Overdose Prevention Society includes: "to be leaders in the harm reduction movement with a continual push for change and justice..."

Get to Know: Yarrow Society

Formally known as the Yarrow Intergenerational Society for Justice, this local non-profit society grew out of a desire to bridge the intergenerational divide by connecting youth with low-income immigrant seniors in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

Get to Know: Women Transforming Cities

Introducing Women Transforming Cities - a grassroots community of intersectional feminists founded by former Vancouver City Councillor, Ellen Woodsworth.