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Jan 17, 22

Canadian Tire Fire #26: News From a Housing and Shelter System in Crisis and the Fight To Defend Old Growth

photo: OCAP

This week, after an update on the Wet’suwet’en struggle, we cover a new group fighting for old growth protection on the west coast, and news from a housing and shelter system in crisis across so-called Canada.

Wet’suwet’en Struggle Continues

On January 16th, a Peace and Unity gathering was held by Wet’suwet’en leaders and their allies. The event, which was recorded, affirmed the unity between Indigenous nations on the west coast fighting to the defend their lands. Leaders renewed their calls for an end to the destruction of Wet’suwet’en territory and the criminalization of land defenders. The event also commemorated Chief Delgamuukw, a Gitxsan chief who passed away on January 3rd, and who was the named plaintiff at the center of the historic 1997 Supreme Court decision that affirmed Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan nations’ authority over their unceded lands.

Solidarity actions with Wet’suwet’en this week included banner drops, posters in Vancouver, a lockdown outside an RBC branch, and a die-in outside another RBC branch.

With RCMP vehicles seen amassing in Houston this past week, all eyes to the frontlines.

New Campaign in the Fight for Old Growth Forests

While the Fairy Creek blockades still hold, with leadership being passed to within the Pacheedaht Nation, the fight to save the old growth forests was expanded Monday, January 10th. A new group called “Save Old Growth” started three, temporary, small, road blockades in parts of BC. On January 10th, they blocked traffic at locations in Burnaby, Victoria and Nanaimo.

A press release from the group, on January 9th, stated that people plan on blocking parts of Highway 1 across the occupied province of British Columbia every week, and intend for the campaign to last 6 months. Save Old Growth also put out a press release after their actions had wrapped up on the 10th. 10 people were arrested for their participation in the actions in Victoria and Vancouver. 2 people in Nanaimo were removed from the action, though it was unclear whether any arrests were made.

Cold Temperatures and COVID-19 Underscore Shelter Systems in Crisis

This past week, as temperatures dipped and COVID-19 rates soared, cities across so-called Canada felt the full weight of the housing and shelter crisis.

In Toronto, there were at least 48 active COVID outbreaks within the shelter system this past week. Outbreaks have meant that shelters stop new admissions. The City reported that shelters are at or near capacity most nights, and many anecdotal accounts confirmed that it was impossible to find shelter or shelter hotel space.

As government support fell short, community groups like the Toronto Prisoners Rights Project jumped in to provide emergency supplies to those forced to spend nights outside during double-digit negative temperatures. Through a funding drive, nearly $100,000 was raised to bulk-purchase essential outdoor survival supplies.

In Montreal, a similar crisis unfolded as shelters hit capacity and COVID-19 rates took off, with nearly 500 COVID-19 cases recorded specifically among people experiencing homelessness. The City reported that of two hotels designated for COVID isolation, one had reached capacity and the other would not open until February. A local soccer stadium is now being converted to an isolation space with 300 cots, though many are left questioning whether more proactive solutions could have helped avoid this crowded and inhumane setting.

Source: Facebook

In Hamilton, the Hamilton Encampment Support shared testimony from workers that nearly every shelter in the city was dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. Outbreaks have led to a pause in admissions, and this week, the only men’s shelter not facing an outbreak was full. An emergency drive was organized to quickly get outdoor survival gear to unhoused community members.

It must be noted that over the past year, each of the above cities has poured resources into the eviction of residents from public spaces, as well as the criminalization of community members standing with their unhoused neighbors. The commitment to clearing public spaces in contrast to the efforts made to ensure safe housing for all underscores a cruel system where many are treated as disposable.

Win for CRAB Park

In slightly better news, this week residents of Vancouver’s CRAB park tent city won a hard-fought battle against the Vancouver Park Board. For months, residents of the tent city has faced the threat of eviction following two eviction orders issued in summer 2021. Following the orders, dozens of people left the park for fear of losing their belongings and facing police violence.

However, many others chose to stay, including two residents who petitioned the B.C. supreme court for a review of the orders. The petition was successful and this week the court overturned the eviction orders, as well as suspending an injunction request from the Park Board.

Looking Ahead

In the coming week we’ll be keeping our eyes on students in Manitoba planning a walkout on January 17th to demand COVID-safe learning. Shoutout to those students and we hope to see other cities follow this trend!

This week we’re also echoing the call to support the long-running radical infoshop Spartacus Books in so-called Vancouver as they move!

Finally, this week we noted a call from the RCMP’s Commissioner for Canadians to report those with “anti-government” and “anti-law-enforcement” views to the RCMP. Also singling out anarchist views and “grievance-driven ideologies,” the commissioner encouraged a “when in doubt, report it” approach. It’s difficult to tell if this will have any impact, or represents any significant change in approach. However, it feels worth noting. May our ideas and actions live up to their apparently perceived threat to the State, and may they spread and become unmanageable.

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A weekly roundup of anarchist and anti-authoritarian news from so-called Canada. Email us at: [email protected]

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