Over three podcasts, we revisit the year’s critical urban discussions on topics and ideas ranging from transportation along Vancouver’s Broadway corridor, the degradation of work in postindustrial urban economies, gentrification in Vancouver’s Chinatown, feminist urban futures and social movements, the making of Stanley Park, arts and cultural spaces, and much more.
Part III (featuring Ellen Woodsworth)
For half a century now, the top one percent of the top one percent have denied the right to the city, by confusing people that individual rights were all that mattered. They turned us all from citizens into consumers, and told everyone that you have the freedom to choose what music to listen to, what television shows to watch, what low-wage job to accept or what good job to compete against a hundred other applicants, what tiny basement suite or SRO to rent if you can’t afford anything better. But you’re told that when it comes to the true right to the city, you only get a few small choices every few years. And these choices will always have to get prior approval from the 1 percent, and the financial markets, and the real estate markets, before we’re even allowed to make any choice at all.
Demand more. Demand the right to the city. It belongs to all of us.
–Elvin Wyly (in an excerpt from To Claim the Right to the City, Turn Left)
The urban Occupy movement began in September 2011, and it continues to evolve. On the program, urban geographer Elvin Wyly talks about the Occupy movement as collectively claiming a right to the city – a right to live in just cities that are socially and economically equitable.
We then speak with an organizer from Occupy the Midwest, which is a Detroit conference drawing people from midwest cities and beyond. We discuss the socio-economic contexts of Chicago and Detroit, and this regional Occupy conference as part of the evolution of the movement in a part of the country particularly devastated by neoliberal capitalism.
Dispossession and displacement as active projects are very much about land as property. Property is both the point of these struggles and the medium. Struggles over the meanings and moralities of property have been central. Law, in this sense, must be conceived not simply as an instrument of colonial domination but as a means through which colonialism has itself been produced. In order to understand the historic dynamics of colonialism and its contemporary echoes, it helps if we attend to the geographies of land. The meanings and practices associated with land as property have proved critical, yet are inseparable from its spatialities.–Nick Blomley (Professor of Geography, SFU)
In this edition of The City, we reflect upon the Musqueam’s ongoing struggle to protect their ancestral village site and burial grounds of c̓əsnaʔəm (pronounced cusnaum) from condo development. Friday, August 10th marked 100 days of the Musqueam keeping an around-the-clock vigil and occupation of at the site in the 1300-block of SW Marine Drive, which is under threat of development. Musqueam marked 100 days with a march from Granville and W 70th to c̓əsnaʔəm and a rally with other First Nations from around the province, as well as many non-Musqueam supporters and organizations.
The owners of the site are planning to have Century Group, the developer, build condominiums on the site despite over 4,000-year-old Musqueam ancestral remains have been discovered and c̓əsnaʔəm has been recognized as a National Historic Site since the 1930s. The BC government has continued to okay the site for development based on their archaeological assessment, with the city then issuing the necessary development permit. By keeping an ongoing vigil, the Musqueam have prevented further development and desecration. Musqueam have proposed a land swap to ensure the future protection and recognition of c̓əsnaʔəm. The provincial government has been unwilling to move this proposal forward. The BC Liberal government has suggested that they will expedite payment of cash that is already owed to the band, so the band can then buy back the land from the owners/developer. The irony of buying back your own land is not lost on many. You can follow the struggle for c̓əsnaʔəm on Twitter and Facebook.
ON THE PODCAST | We hear from Musqueam’s Cecilia Point and elder Delbert Guerin, provincial NDP MLAs Jenny Kwan and Scott Fraser (Aboriginal Relations Critic), former COPE City Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, BC Nurses’ Union President Debra MacPherson and Lisa Walker. Additionally, The City speaks with Tristan Markle, co-founder and editor of The Mainlander, about the city’s role and responsibility in the matter, specifically on why a development permit was issued. In the first part of the podcast, host Andy Longhurst reads excerpts from Nick Blomley’s (Professor of Geography, SFU) 2003 book Unsettling the City: Urban Land the Politics of Property.
The town also emerged as a vital economic and political node in a broader colonial network, directing flows of capital and command that opened up resource frontiers in the colonial interiors. All of this, of course, was pivotal to the process of colonial dispossession. But colonial towns also quickly emerged as speculative spaces. Layout was designed so as to facilitate the acquisition and transfer of urban land. Vancouver’s initial expansion, it has been argued, was largely a product of land speculation, rather than expansion in the production of goods and services. Boosterist publications marveled at the leapfrogging of prices, and the fact that areas of “wild land” could become “first-class property” in a matter of months. Vancouver “is a purely business town,” noted one observer, “a land of speculation…above all, in city lots.”
A good friend a colleague circulated a compelling letter about why we need to stand up against the Conservatives’ omnibus budget bill. This budget will have severe consequences on city finances and urban life, as well as having social and environmental impacts at a variety of scales. The budget is consistent with a neoliberal strategy of deregulation and the downloading of services and government functions to lower levels.
Friends and Colleagues,
I wrote to you all last November to ask that each and every one of you cast a ballot in the BC Municipal Election. At the time I noted that I hoped that whatever memories (however fleeting) we might have happened to share, would be enough to buy me the thirty seconds I needed for you to hear me out. I must admit that I didn’t expect to be writing again so soon, and I apologize for that, but the risks facing Canadian democracy, environmental protection, and worker’s rights are dire and I once again beg just one minute of your time.
I suspect that many of you are aware of Bill C-38, also called colloquially the Budget Implementation Act, the Omnibus Budget, or, courtesy of Elizabeth May, the Environmental Destruction Act. This “Budget” Bill will modify or repeal over 70 laws including: the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, Fisheries Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Nuclear Safety Control Act, and many more. The budget will also severely decrease Parks Canada employees, end the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy, privatize the world-class Freshwater Research Institute, and streamline the environmental review process by legislating a two year limit and limiting the citizens allowed to participate, all things that will apply retroactively to the Northern Gateway Review, and in the future to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline. All of this is happening while at the same time the government has found 8 million dollars to audit charities that are seen as “too political.”
Lest you think this bill is only targeting the environment keep in mind the changes to Old Age Security, and Employment Insurance(which may require you to take any job, for as much as 30% less pay or lose the EI “privilege”). The government also seeks to repeal the Fair Wages Act, eliminate the office responsible for oversight of CSIS, and fundamentally weaken Canadian Sovereignty by allowing US police forces to operate in Canada.
Fortunately, if there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that this bill has been able to transcend political parties. Whether you are an NDP, Liberal, Bloc, Green, or even Conservative supporter, no one can be happy with the way that our parliamentary democracy is being trampled over. Bills are being forced through committee, time limits have been placed on debates, and just yesterday Elizabeth May rose in the House of Commons to point out that this omnibus bill does not even qualify as a true omnibus. I think that a participant at a recent Leadnow rally said it best, “Steven Harper has a majority, he is not king.”
The good news is that many Canadians are reacting strongly against this legislation. Last week four former Fisheries Ministers (both Liberal and Conservative) wrote an open letter denouncing the changes to the Fisheries Act, while the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently adopted a motion to oppose changes to the Fisheries Act and Environmental Assessment Act. Just last Saturday thousands of Canadians rallied outside 70 Conservative MP’s offices to encourage them to stand against C-38, while yesterday over 400 organizations darkened their websites in protest of the bill.
After that rather long-winded introduction, I will stop and simply ask that each of you become involved in whatever way you feel comfortable, for whatever reasons speak most strongly to you. I feel very passionately that this is another make or break moment for Canadian democracy and the environment and would not feel comfortable if I did not at least try to speak out to all of those people whom I know.
1. There are any number of petitions to sign:
2. You can also write a letter to your local mp
3. Or join a local rally:
Leadnow is organizing an event on June 12th
Continue to tweet #blackoutspeakout
There are probably many more events
4. I also encourage you to share how you feel with five friends or family members, and encourage them to do the same.
From the May 29, 2012 rally at Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery. The Musqueam Band is making the point that we would not consider developing on the cemetery, yet the development permit for a condo development on sacred Musqueam burial grounds in Marpole has been issued and the threat of continued desecration is ongoing. You can hear more about the situation and the rally on the May 29th podcast.
The May 29th podcast is available here. In the first half of the show I speak with Musqueam spokesperson Cecilia Point at the Mountain View Cemetery rally as they are set to ‘develop’ on Vancouver’s only cemetery. You’ll also hear my conversations with Emiliano Sepulveda about the upcoming Vancouver Night School (May 31) and Myriam Steinberg about In the House Festival and music and art in a living room near you.
In the second half of the show, we hear from Montreal student activist Alejandra Zaga about the how the protests have been playing out on the streets, how the movement is shaping the urban experience, and how we are seeing the creation of new, highly fluid (radical) social spaces.
MUSIC // In Your House, Parlovr (Montreal) // Film III, Jorane (Montreal)
The May 22nd podcast focuses primarily on discussions of economic growth and the role of cities. In the first part of the program, you’ll hear an update on Musqueam’s struggle to protect their burial grounds and coverage on protests in Montreal and Chicago, as well as the Women Transforming Cities launch event (May 24th). In the second part of the show, The City contrasts the neoliberal, pro-growth urban economic paradigm espoused by Harvard’s Edward Glaeser (a belief held by the majority of neoclassical economists) versus Richard Heinberg‘s (Post Carbon Institute; author, The End of Growth) end-of-growth thesis, accounting for the incompatibility of constant economic expansion and our finite planet.
The May 8th podcast is available here. In the podcast, you’ll find coverage of pro-democracy protests in Moscow as Putin begins his third term as president, and dissent is silenced by security forces. Gazans move into new housing, yet much more is needed to address the housing shortage. Also in the program, you’ll hear how the Musqueam continue their struggle to protect sacred lands in Marpole from development and the desecration of their burial grounds. The City brings you recent developments on this ongoing struggle and the recent rally and march. And in the last part of the podcast, The City speaks with Michael McCarthy Flynn about Vancouver’s Living Wage Campaign and the recently released 2012 Living Wage report.
The Musqueam band marched and rallied on Thursday, May 3rd to protest the continued development on ancient burial grounds in Marpole (1338 SW Marine Drive), where Musqueam ancestors are buried. Recently, intact 4,000-year old infant remains were discovered on the site, which prompted the band to renew efforts to stop development on the site and further desecration. The developer has indicated that construction on the site will continue, despite the Musqueam’s call for work to cease.
Musqueam Chief Ernie Campbell has indicated that the band would like to see a land swap with the developer Century Group in order to protect the burial ground site known as c̓əsnaʔəm. Ultimately the province must push this discussion forward, even though the City of Vancouver has facilitated discussions between the band and developer. Century Group plans to redevelop the site into HQ Living condominiums.
At Thursday’s rally, Chief Campbell addressed the crowd, along with Chief Kim Baird of the Tsawwassen First Nation, and representatives from other bands. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Assembly of First Nations have expressed their support for the Musqueam’s struggle to protect their burial grounds.
Chief Ernie Campbell told the media that they will occupy the site as long as necessary to protect their ancestors and prevent development.
Full coverage and more updates on the Tuesday, May 8th edition of The City.