July 25, 2019
Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Open Letter: People Deserve Urgent Action On The Affordable Housing Crisis in Vancouver
I wish to draw your attention most urgently to the effects of the lack of affordable housing in Vancouver East, which most recently has brought a number of people together to seek shelter and relative safety residing in an encampment in Oppenheimer Park.
Affordable, quality housing is one of the most important issues facing Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and the issue is even more acute in Vancouver East. An average one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver rents for $2,100 a month. Vacancy rates are under 1%. Home ownership is but a dream, with the average detached home in greater Vancouver over $1.5 million.
Time and time and time again, I have spoken in the House in an attempt to bring the voices and utmost concerns of my constituents to the attention of the government, in hopes of spurring action on the lack of affordable housing. I raised attention to how the affordable crisis has consequences for people’s lives. It affects people’s health. It has impacts on the opioid crisis. Lack of affordable housing affects family stability. It forces people to make impossible choices between life necessities, like food and rent. It affects settlement and community integration for newcomers. And the lack of affordable housing has left thousands of people with no home at all. In desperation, but also in a search for mutual support and community, that has led people to join the encampment in Oppenheimer Park.
On January 31, 2019 the NDP put forward a Motion calling on the government to create 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing within ten years, and to commit in Budget 2019 to completing 250,000 of those units within five years. I was deeply disappointed that this Motion was voted against by both Liberal and Conservative MPs.
In early June of this year the City of Vancouver released its report on the 2019 Homeless Count. The 2019 City of Vancouver Homeless Count, which took place on March 12 & 13, 2019, is a 24 hour “Point-in-time” snapshot of people who are homeless. It is considered an undercount but provides a basic demographic profile and tracks trends over time.
The total number of people (2,223) counted by the volunteer team was the highest that it has been since the Count was first organized in 2005. Sixty-two percent of the unsheltered individuals counted at that time, in March, were in the Downtown East Side. 39% were Indigenous, and of those who identified as Indigenous, the majority are women. Many youth under 25 were counted as well; 34% of youth are women, 5% are non-binary, 23% identify as LBGTQ2+ (non-heterosexual); 45% are Indigenous; 48% report a mental health issue. When reporting reasons for homelessness, when looking at the structural issues, the report is unequivocal in pointing to the reason: “No housing for very low income [people]”.
On June 18 the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) released a report on the Liberal government’s spending on Housing Affordability. To say it was troubling is a profound understatement. Not only is the PBO uncertain that the Liberals' housing program will actually reduce the housing needs of Canadians, it found that targeted funding for those in core housing need actually went down by some twenty percent.
In Vancouver East, especially in the Downtown Eastside community, many of the residents are in core need. These are also among the most vulnerable populations. In our community we are dealing with a housing crisis right now. They have been for the entirety of this government. As you know, the vast majority of the funding from the housing plan will not flow until well past the next election. I along with my colleagues have called for the government to flow the funds now time and again. The people who are residing in Oppenheimer Park are facing a struggle for their very lives, and their right to live in dignity, and for their right for homes. They cannot wait. There is no question that the need is here and it is now.
I should also note that Indigenous women and girls who have experienced traumatic violence are also in desperate need of safe secure affordable housing. The impact of colonialism is so deep and so rooted in systemic racism and failures that the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has declared that is genocide. Section 4.6 of the National Inquiry’s Calls For Justice states: “We call upon all governments to immediately commence the construction of new housing and the provision of repairs for existing housing to meet the housing needs of Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. This construction and provision of repairs must ensure that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people have access to housing that is safe, appropriate to geographic and cultural needs, and available wherever they reside, whether in urban, rural, remote, or Indigenous communities.”
The day the Inquiry report was released, I called on the government to commit to implementing all of the Calls to Justice. That commitment has yet to materialize.
Minister, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that urgent action is required. Local governments and the City of Vancouver want to act. Mayor Kennedy Stewart has already put that on the record and has welcomed the federal government to come to the table. The British Columbia provincial government is there, working hard to build housing and to begin to make up for the many years in which successive federal governments have failed to act in proportion to the need for affordable housing that is safe, stable, and secure.
The community is showing their support and understanding for the people who are residing at Oppenheimer Park. The Powell Street Festival, Union Gospel Mission, and the Lotus Light Charity Society have all in recent weeks modified or adapted community event plans originally scheduled to take place in the park at the site where people are residing in order to ensure that their activities would not further displace people. These are long-time community events with deep roots in the neighbourhood.
Housing is not a privilege; having a home is a basic human right that all people are entitled to.
Yet, every day I see the impacts of the inaction on affordable housing in our community. It doesn’t need to be this way, and it shouldn’t be this way. While it has taken far too long to act, we can still make a difference and put ourselves on a course to address the national housing crisis. To start, I ask that you offer a similar deal to the City of Vancouver that your government has provided to Toronto.
It is said that a nation is measured by how well we treat our most vulnerable. Let us start now with the very basics: affordable, safe, secure, stable housing.
MP for Vancouver East
NDP Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
NDP Critic for Multiculturalism
MP Jenny Kwan Statement on World Refugee Day 2019
Canadians will remember the image of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea during the Syrian refugee crisis. That initiated a call from Canadians to show compassion in the midst of a global forced displacement crisis. But since 2015, the Liberals have gone from #WelcomeToCanada to ramming through significant changes hidden in an omnibus budget bill to try and stop refugees from making a claim in Canada.
On this, World Refugee Day, we learn that the US has now detained thousands of children in concentration camps. Children are now being denied access to even so much as a toothbrush while in these facilities. At least 7 children have died. There have been reports of sexual violence. LGBTQ2+ asylum claimants are being held indefinitely in solitary confinement. Canada, and the international community, recognize that as an act of torture. The US is now re-opening the very sites that the US once used to detain Japanese-Americans during WWII on the basis of racist assumptions. Yet the Liberals and Conservatives continue to pretend that the US is somehow still a safe country for asylum seekers.Read more
On March 15, in response to reports of new information about the Safe Third Country Agreement and Canada, I made the following statement:
“In January 2018, internal memos and briefings provided to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, informed that, ‘with the recent influx of asylum seekers to Canada, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is no longer working as intended.’ Of course the STCA is not working ‘as intended’.
As I’ve been saying since January 2017, the United States under President Donald Trump is not a safe country for asylum seekers. The entire agreement is predicated upon the notion that Canada and the United States have at least comparable, if not equal, policies and procedures around refugee determination.
Migrant children continue to be taken from their parents and placed in detention. We saw videos of children as young as 3 years old being ordered into court, alone, for their own deportation hearings. There are children that are still lost in the system that might never see their parents again. This is inhumane treatment that flies in the face of Canadian and International Law on the rights of the child.
Gang/Cartel violence and Gender Based Violence are no longer considered grounds for making an asylum claim in the United States. This move intentionally targets Central and South American asylum seekers and again goes against Canadian and International law.
The only change that can be made to the STCA that respects the humanity of asylum seekers and allows Canada to live up to its domestic and international obligations is to suspend the agreement.
Suspending the STCA will allow asylum claimants to make safe, orderly entries into Canada at authorized ports of entry to make an asylum claim. This will improve safety, security, and efficiency throughout Canada’s border communities while providing the respect and dignity that human beings fleeing violence are entitled to under Canadian and International Law.”
My March Mobile Office is on 14th Thursday, 2-4 pm at Ray Cam Community Centre. Please swing by and say hi!
I’d love to chat about issues facing our community and answer your questions about federal government services and programs. No appointment necessary.
關慧貞流動辦公室面見市民，3月14日下午2-4時在Ray Cam社區中心， 920 E Hastings St。
My Winter 2018 newsletter is now available!
In this newsletter, I discuss new bills promoting Canada's diversity, Parent/Grandparent Reunification Efforts, the Nanjing Massacre Commemorative Day, and other issues. If you have anything that you would like to let me know about these or any other subjects, please don't hesitate to contact me.Read more
My Fall 2018 newsletter is now available!
In this newsletter, I discuss the Safe Third Country Agreement, the new zoning of Chinatown, Kinder Morgan, rail noise complaints, and other issues. If you have anything that you would like to let me know about these or any other subjects, please don't hesitate to contact me.Read more
On January 29th, one year ago, this country was shaken by a senseless act of violence. A young man radicalized by white nationalist ideology entered the Great Mosque of Quebec City and shot twenty-five people, killing six.Read more
My Winter 2017 newsletter is now available!
In this newsletter, I discuss the housing crisis, the future of Chinatown and the work I have been doing as Critic for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, among other issues. If you have anything that you would like to let me know about these or any other subjects, please don't hesitate to contact me.
On Tuesday, me and my team got out of the office with my Mobile Office at the Hastings Community Centre. I had the good fortune to meet a number of you to talk about the messages I can bring to Ottawa, and what we can do to make Ottawa work for East Van.
I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Hastings Community Centre for providing the space and promoting my visit, you made me feel at home. Your hard work and dedication to the community of Hastings-Sunrise are truly appreciated.
My next Mobile Office will be at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 at 2 pm. I would love to see you there.