March 19, 2020
The Honourable Patricia Hajdu, MP Minister of Health
The Honourable Adrian Dix, MLA Minister of Health
DTES COVID-19 Task Force
Open Letter re: URGENT - COVID-19 Response and Resources needed for the DTES
Dear Minister Hajdu, Minister Dix, and the City of Vancouver DTES COVID-19 Task Force,
Let me begin by acknowledging all of your efforts during this unprecedented period. As we all work to ensure vulnerable communities are provided the necessary support during this health emergency, I am writing with urgency with regard to the immediate need for a coordinated response and resources for the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the opioid crisis which has not abated. The situation in the Downtown Eastside is dire and we must act now to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in this extremely vulnerable community.
The Downtown Eastside is home to some of the most vulnerable people in Canada, including people who are homeless, inadequately housed, struggling with mental health challenges and managing addictions. The living conditions of the population mean that many actions that could help prevent the spread of the virus, such as self-isolation and aggressive hygiene practices, are not available to the community members. As such, once the virus touches down on the community, we know that the effect will be severe and devasting. It is therefore absolutely vital that we take steps now to prevent an outbreak in the community as well as to be prepared for what is to come.
A Top Housing Priority: a funded housing strategy led by Indigenous peoples, for urban, rural, and northern Indigenous peoples
When I rose to ask the Prime Minister about the failures of his national housing strategy, including the glaring absence of a housing strategy that is led by Indigenous peoples, for rural, urban and northern Indigenous peoples, I received the usual meaningless talking points. This happened despite the fact that the Liberals pledged in 2017 with the introduction of the national housing strategy to address the housing crisis for Inuit, Métis and First Nations people.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development even committed on the public record that the Liberals are committed to a separate national urban indigenous housing strategy by and for urban Indigenous people. However, years later there is still no action.
Aboriginal people in Canada are 10 times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to become homeless. When I pointed out that in Vancouver 40% of the homeless population are Indigenous peoples, the Prime Minister was so busy patting himself on the back with self-congratulatory rhetoric that I do not even think he realizes how severe the housing crisis is and how grossly disproportionate it is in affecting urban, rural and northern Indigenous communities.
On February 5, 2020, I stood in Question Period to ask the following question:Read more
On January 27, 2020, I stood in Question Period to ask my first question of the 43rd Parliament:Read more
On December 9, 2019, I gave my reply to the Speech from the Throne. Vancouver East is one of Canada's most diverse and progressive communities in the country. I am so very proud of our record here in Van East. We fight hard for what we believe in, and we have so much to celebrate. Yet, unfortunately, like me, the people of Vancouver East were left wanting after this throne speech. From affordable housing, to lasting justice for Indigenous people; from pharmacare and dental care to the urgent need for safe supply; from electoral reform to averting climate crisis - there is so much more that needs to be done and done now for the people of Vancouver East and indeed the entire country. I put forward these suggestions in the spirit of co-operation and saying to the government it is a minority government and New Democrats are here to work with it. Let us work for the people and act now make the changes.
As of September 11, 2019, Canada Elections act, Parliament was dissolved and a Writ of Election was issued for a general federal election.
Election Day has been set as Monday, October 21, 2019.
If you have questions about the general election, or if you need to register to vote, please visit the Elections Canada website at: https://www.elections.ca/ or telephone Elections Canada at 1-800-463-6868.
During the election period, the riding office will remain staffed, on reduced hours:
Monday 11 am – 3 pm
Tuesday 11 am – 3 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 3 pm
Friday 11 am – 3 pm
Constituents of Vancouver East who face very urgent cases or requests for emergency assistance with a federal service or program will still receive priority reply by staff. Please ensure your email message includes your full name, phone number, street address, and postal code.
You may also call the Vancouver East riding office at 604-775-5800 with urgent inquiries, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org as this email account will be monitored throughout the election writ period.
August 27, 2019
The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Open Letter: An Urgent Response to Housing and Homelessness Crisis and Overdose Crisis Is Needed
The situation for the over 2200 people who do not have a home in Vancouver is severe. Many people have no access to daytime shelter, and hundreds of people have no overnight shelter option and are forced to sleep on the street. The situation becomes even more alarming when you consider that many of these individuals face serious health conditions, a mental illness or must manage a chronic disease; and are trying to survive with no income, or on a fixed income that does not meet basic daily needs like food and medicine. Some people who are trying to maintain family unity find that as a couple it can be even more difficult to access shelter that does not force them to separate. Those with children are not exempted from the impact of homelessness. I have met with people whose children are in the care because they are cannot secure safe, secure affordable housing. Even seniors can find themselves without a home. This is the kind of reality that hundreds of people in Vancouver East face every single day.
For some of the people, the dire situations of homelessness and insecure housing have led them to seek relative safety by residing in an encampment in Oppenheimer Park. For months, community members and volunteers have worked hard to provide some level of support to those at the encampment. With their best effort, people residing in the Park can access basic sanitation services, some food security, peer support, and a VCH-sanctioned, peer-run Overdose Prevention Site.
The people at the encampment now face an order of eviction from Oppenheimer Park. At the time of the Order, encampment residents and spokespeople estimated that there were approximately 300 people residing in the encampment.
With respect to the situation in Oppenheimer Park, it is so severe that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Leilani Farha, has taken notice, and is concerned that governments are not meeting their obligations under international human rights law in violating the right to housing.
While BC Housing has attempted to set aside units through a “unit freeze” on other buildings in order to house the people at Oppenheimer Park, what that means is that other people who are homeless and in need of housing are displaced. The community feels very strongly that making people in dire need feel that they are being pitted against each other is no solution.
There is an urgent, urgent need for additional affordable housing units. In 1993, the federal government’s cancellation of the National Affordable Housing Program resulted in the loss of more than 500,000 units of affordable housing that would have otherwise been built by the non-profit and co-operative sectors. Having those units at that time, and building from that point moving forward would have put Canada in a dramatically different position today than we currently are. Equally important is the fact that there is a desperate need for government subsidies to ensure individuals and families are not paying over 30% of their total income for rent. In order to ensure that people are successful in their housing, support also needs to be made available to those individuals. Until all these are in place, further displacing people living on the streets from where they have found relative safety and support only increases their vulnerability and does nothing to address the homelessness problem in Vancouver.
Minister, I hope you will agree that each and every one of these individuals requires a safe place to call home. Yet, as I have raised with you and with those in your Cabinet, time and time again, much of the monies that are supposed to aid those without a home will not flow immediately. In fact, over 90% of the money first promised in 2017 for housing will not begin to flow until after this next federal election, and much of that not until after 2024. That is too long to wait. And worse, as noted by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, targeted assistance for those in the deep core of need and spending on Indigenous housing is actually reduced from that of the Harper Conservative years. I find this incredible and incompatible with the evidence of clear need in communities across the country, and mostly certainly in Vancouver East.Read more
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.
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 18, 2019, I used Adjournment Debate time to follow up on an issue that I raised in Question Period on November 1st, 2018, after learning of two cases in which Syrian refugee families were pursued by the Canada Revenue Agency for Canada child benefit clawbacks:Read more