During the first week of August I rode a bus to Vancouver to attend a conference on peoples health care as well as to meet various people. On my ride to Vancouver my and those on my bis were stopped and searched various times in several of the provinces. These stop and searches were quite invasive and ironically ineffective if the purpose of these searches were to stop people from smuggling contraband or if the purposes of the searches were to provide a safe environment. The practical thing that these searches did was inconvenience people and create a climate of fear and paranoia. On my way back in Sudbury we were greeted by the police who was waiting for my fictitious friend to meet me so they could arrest us.
This police presence based on stuff I said to someone quite loudly helped me to identify the pig that was driving with us who was actually a professor in Saskatoon who volunteered to ride from BC and give info to the police. He confessed and was unmasked and this demonstrated the fact that cops have nothing better to do with there time then send random people to ride buses for three days.
Regardless arriving in Vancouver I was quite shocked at the similarity’s and diffrences between Vancouver and Kitchener. Vancouver, like Kitchener is a gentrified city where the gap between the rich and the poor are quite high. Like Kitchener The Methadone clinics are used like liquid handcuffs to keep addicts in the area where they are suppose to be and by having daily piss tests etc. have the addicts under their thumbs not allowing them the mobility that they deserve. These tactics of social segregation are further enforced by ambassadors people who patrol the streets and keep people where they are suppose to be. If one walks through Hastings up and down the streets one knows the area that the poor people are suppose to be at and where they are not suppose to go. Like queen street in Kitchener acts like a dividing line between the areas that are gentrified and those that are not, Vancouver is also divided by such a street and on one side you see poverty addiction and unemployment while on the other side you see oyster bars little muffins store and other such things that the bougies like.
The main difference between Vancouver and Kitchener I would say in terms of class is density. The Hastings area is quite huge and as a result of numbers of how many poor people are there poor people are able to establish some sort of cultural hegemony. For example the selling of random things that people find in dumpsters and shit like shirts video games etc. is something that poor people do both in Kitchener and Vancouver yet in Vancouver due to the mass number of poor people they can set up on the street from block to block and just hawk there goods.
The other main difference is the quality of drugs particularly Heroine, In Kitchener we are also victims of the Fentanyl poisoning in Heroine with a huge segment of the population overdosing and dieing from the fact that heroine is laced with such poison, yet in Vancouver this problem is quite more severe. After interviewing and chatting with a number of people it became quite clear that on average a hit of heroine is only 10 percent heroine and the rest fentanyl. If you are lucky you can score a hit with 30 percent heroine and the rest Fentanyl. This is important because Fentanyl is 100 times stronger then morphine and if you think you are smashing a hit of heroine but instead you are smashing Fentanyl then you most likely will overdose since you are smashing alot more then you are hoping to smash and may die. This decision to replace heroine with Fentanyl is a decision that was made at the highest levels of dealer scum, those working in the pharmaceutical industry, police and customs to replace heroine with something cheaper to produce and easier to smuggle. The deaths of those whose bodies litter the floor to pay for this change is seen to these merchants of death as a small price to pay for them to fill up their pockets,
People are further encouraged to use drugs by the shitty methadone substitute that they are given called methadose which does not fulfill the needs of the addict making them revert to drug use to avoid the nasty withdrawal of Methadone which this substance is suppose to replace sending more addicts to the dealers who don’t give a shit about what they sell as long as they make money.
Furthermore in terms of affordable housing and such there is no such thing in the traditional sense that someone in Ontario is use to hearing about. In Vancouver affordable housing is considered what is cheapest on the lower specturm of market housing so 1000 dollars for a one bedroom by this definition is in Vancouver considered affordable housing.
Prices for staples like bread salami and pepsi is twice the cost of what one would get in Kitchener yet wages and welfare are quite the same.
In this environment several movements have emerged and in my time in Vancouver I had a chance to speak to quite a few of them and observe them in their environment organizing around the issues that effect them and their community.
The first group I had a chance to observe is VANDU or Vancouver Area Network of drug users. This group organizes one of the most dispossessed groups in Vancouver, poor addicts in the downtown east side. VANDU has alot of potential as a agent to spread proletariat hegemony as the numbers of the group that they are organizing is numerically huge and any sort of revolutionary change in this group will have a ripple effect across society as the potential of this group to stop business as usual is quite huge and any unrest created by this group can be felt by all stratas of society.This group currently organizes on a harm reduction basis to meet the needs of the addicts and allow them to receive the necessary programs to survive. They position themselves in direct conflict with those forces of the state that seek to destroy this group through gentrification, over policing, policies of criminalization that directly leads to the death of addicts. Their most recent action, a tent city in the Downtown Eastside, lead to the creation of affordable housing and many of their battles for simply the right to exist places them in conflict with those who seek to turn the downtown eastside in a playground for the rich. I had a chance to visit this tent city and talk to people. There seems to be little to no trust among the inhabitants of the downtown eastside for authority and this is quite true at the tent city, as people talk about the problems that the city has been causing them from cutting off their electricity to refusing them a porta potty, the stories one hears at this tent city make it quite clear that the establishment does not care about them until you make them care. Presenting to a meeting of VANDU folx it is quite clear that they have no liberal illusions about the political system and that they understand that the only way forward is by struggle, one they plan to intensify.
Another group whose members I met and I was quite impressed with is Grassroots Woman, a revolutionary organization that seeks to moblize woman on the basis of their exploitation to unify and resist. Their current campaign over policed and under protected hits the nail on the head. From CAS to social workers to welfare workers to cops womans bodies in Vancouver particularly low income woman are over policed in every aspect of their life, yet at the same time thousands of Indigenous woman are disappeared, woman are sold into the sex trade, murder and such and these deaths are a direct result of the fact that they are woman and the state does not give a fuck if they die hence the underprotected part. By raising this specific issue and making it a rallying cry this group unifies hyperexploited woman under a banner that puts them in direct conflict with the state that seeks to control all aspects of a womans body particularly the reproductive aspects yet does nothing to ensure their safety.
The Chinatown Working Group is an organization that fights to stop the gentrification of Chinatown which is not just an attack on the residents of Chinatown but also an attack on history since Chinatown was a flashpoint of racist attacks on Chinese works whose labour created this country as well as Chinese resistance to these attacks. By destroying this historical area they aim not only to destroy the building but rather the history and memory’s of the racist attacks by the state on Chinese workers thereby being able to replace this history with some bullshit that says that the creation of this state was like all flowers and roses and shit.In discussions with this group I got the sense that not only were they fighting against the gentrification but also that they were involved in quite a few different efforts aimed at resisting the white hegemony imposed on them.
Finally I met with Red Sparks Union, an international solidarity organization that engages in political support for groups fighting imperialism and colonialism as well as fights for the rights of people here to take political stands in defense of those engaged in resistance to imperialism. Their latest campaign to scrap the t list is prime example. This campaign examines the political origins of the terror list, how it is totally bias against mass movements with popular support fighting against occupation while ignoring the right wing paramilitaries that target civilians. Their campaign has quite a bit of traction and acts as a lightning rod to mobalize all those engaged in third world solidarity.
In conclusion Vancouver is rife with the possibility of political change and the material conditions gave birth to these mass movements. I hope to see Vancouver again soon to be able to give a much better assessment.