Social mix is a euphemism for destroying low-income communities. This is a community that fought for – and won – the only safe injection site in North America. This is a community that had to occupy a Police Board meeting in order to get the Police Board to put out the same reward for the missing women that it put out for garage robberies on the Westside. This is a community that had to fight for seven years to get a community centre like other people have. This is a community that had to camp out on a beach for a whole summer in order to get a waterfront park like other communities have. This community has a history of fighting for human rights, and the City destroys that by condo-fying the whole [neighbourhood] and displacing low income people – that will be destroying one of the most valuable assets it has.
–Jean Swanson, Carnegie Community Action Project
Vancouver’s Chinatown is undergoing increasingly rapid gentrification. The Carnegie Community Action Project’s Jean Swanson (author, Poorbashing: The Politics of Exclusion) discusses why a significant influx of condominiums and high-end retail are threatening to displace the neighbourhood’s low-income residents – and why the city is approving these major developments before the completion of the Downtown Eastside local area plan. You can check out a past podcast, From Poor to Yuppie: Artists, Boutiques, and Neighbourhood Change, if you are interested in hearing more about gentrification and social dislocation in the Downtown Eastside.
On the second half of the program, we hear why the independently-owned Festival Cinemas has been sold to Cineplex. We talk with co-owner Leonard Schein about why he is calling it quits, the challenge to operate cinemas independently, and what he believes the City and province should do to help arts and culture thrive/survive in Vancouver.
As a result of this process of being a junior partner in the economy and having an official role in labour relations, unions were transformed from these fighting organizations into bureaucracies. There were very sharp limits placed on what they could do [by the government] and it also had an impact internally on how union officials viewed their roles, and the roles different union leaders thought they should play and rather than be a source of militancy. Rather than inspiring a fighting spirit among rank-and-file workers, union leaders came more and more to [be] policemen and policing the workplace to control elements of working class dissent that may bubble up or bubble over from time to time. And that’s sort of the situation we find ourselves in today.
–Ben Isitt, PhD (Historian, legal scholar, and Victoria City Councillor)
On the program, The City speaks with historian, legal scholar, and Victoria City Councillor Ben Isitt about the rise of BC’s labour movement from an urban perspective.
We discuss the (radical) history of labour activism in Vancouver and Victoria, the issues facing unions and working people today, the challenge of bringing a progressive, working-class agenda to city hall, and affordable housing and the police budget in Victoria.
Ben is the author of Militant Minority: British Columbia Workers and the Rise of the New Left, 1948-72, among other books and journal articles. You can find more information about his books, research, and political activities as a Victoria City Councillor and Regional Director at www.isitt.ca.