Economic Cleansing

The “apolitical” Olympics is never that.  From Briarpatch:

Before the 2010 Games were Vancouver’s, the bedbug-ridden hotels in the Downtown Eastside were fairly strictly policed; city inspectors routinely cited the owners for safety and hygiene violations. To avoid fines, the owners had to comply with what were really the most minimal of regulations. After the 2005 civic election, with the pro-Olympics Non-Partisan Association triumphant, the city’s attitude abruptly seemed to change. Now, rather than fine the owners, the city began closing the offending hotels.

Often, with only hours’ notice, residents were dumped onto the streets to join the thousands of others who wander the alleys by day and sleep on the sidewalk by night. Anti-poverty groups such as the Pivot Legal Society, the Anti-Poverty Committee and the Downtown Eastside Residents Association say a number of hotels have closed in this manner, adding many more people to the legions of the homeless. According to David Eby of the Pivot Legal Society, a total of 1,314 rooms that formerly housed low-income individuals have been closed or converted to other uses since the awarding of the Games to Vancouver in 2003.


Cameron Bishop lives on the street near the center of the Broadway corridor, a corridor that runs east to west across the city. Bishop is in his early 40s, slim, bearded, with a ball cap covering longish receding hair. He’s been on Vancouver’s harsh downtown streets for over a decade, pretty much from the time he came out of the Canadian Army where he served in the infantry.

 Bishop knows guns; he’s certainly seen his share of them in his life, many recently. Vancouver police officers have taken to placing their revolvers up against his head at night while he lies sleeping on the ground. During one such incident, the officer told him: “It’s the Olympics or you, and it ain’t you, so you’d better move on.”

Bishop has been threatened with beatings and worse if he stays in the area, threats that suddenly became reality when he was set upon by unknown assailants and severely mauled. He’s also been handed court summonses for loitering, for begging, for whatever the police want to charge him with. One officer told him that he was banned from the entire Broadway corridor, “red zoned.” He faces fines that he cannot possibly pay, or jail time, if he doesn’t move on. But move to where? Like the homeless across the city, Bishop has his own local community of fellow homeless. He is also afraid of the far more hostile streets of the Downtown Eastside.

 Read the rest


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