Have you ever been at some industry awards dinner (you know the ones, where the women break out the evening-gown-and-velvet-blazer and the good pearls, and the men frantically dig out Dad’s old Ferragamo tie) and had a moment, amid all the decorous gaiety, a moment of complete and utter cognitive dissonance? I had such a moment once, and I think when you read this you might, too.
It was an awards dinner for the real estate industry, and at this worthy event many of the field’s most positive-thinking members were to be honoured with various decorative plaques, statuettes and certificates, not to mention the esteem of their peers and the chance, for once, to bask in glory as a do-gooder. These people were, it must be stressed, being honoured by their fellow developers for having taken extraordinary humanitarian measures in certain renovations and upgrades of properties primarily on the Downtown Eastside, my own personal stomping ground. Life expectancy on the DTES, by the way, used to be 33 and is now in the low-to-mid 40′s, thanks in part to a significant number of retirement homes which have sprung up here in the last 20 years. Coincidence? Maybe. Heck, at least now we live longer than Somalians. But back to the awards night.
My brainsploision came about halfway into the presentations, when a man received a particularly prestigious award for his “commitment to consistently providing more services and better facilities than that particular market would bear’” which meant, it turned out, that he had taken over a flophouse and installed a door on the one washroom on each floor, and put lightbulbs in all the lightbulb sockets in the hallways, thereby lowering reported rapes in the building by 70%.
He was, I say again, singled out as someone who was going “above and beyond” for the people of the Downtown Eastside. Because, apparently, the people of the Downtown Eastside have no right to expect that their landlords will typically provide amenities such as doors on washrooms and lights in the hallway.
Diane, is this right? Is this legal? Is this, I ask you, Vancouver, the Pretty City, pride of the Pacific? Is this what the people of Canada deserve? If so, as the Minister responsible for housing, you’d better start informing them, because most of us seem to assume we live in a first-world country where human dignity and fundamental safety of person are considered givens.
Thank you in advance,
Here are some of the messages that we sent Diane today:
…It is time for change!
…Everybody in this country deserves a place to live…
…This crisis must end…