Meena Wong, COPE’s mayoral candidate in the last Vancouver election, is making noise again on social media. I assume this is in advance of her trying to get the nomination for COPE’s 2018 campaign. Unfortunately for her — and perhaps the party — she has dropped into the wrong side of the Marpole homeless shelter debate.
The Vision-dominated Council has decided to erect modular housing for the homeless in Marpole, and this has provoked a vicious push-back by local residents who don’t want to see that happen in their neighbourhood. They complain that there has been little or no consultation on the project and they want their negative voices heard.
Now, anyone who has read this blog for any period of time — especially during the prolonged Grandview-Woodland Community Plan process — will know that I have spent years arguing that the ruling regime at City Hall, Vision Vancouver, is regularly guilty of a mix of faux and no consultation when it comes to developments on behalf of their development funders. Based on history, I would generally be found manning the barricades at the side of the Marpole residents (although with snow just around the corner and the homeless situation at crisis levels, I would accept the shelter a done deal).
However, the Marpole residents are actually making a far darker neo-fascist argument based on class warfare. The proposed site is close to three schools. As reported in the Vancouver Sun:
“Why would you subject a kindergarten, Grade 1, 2 and on up children to possible dangers with people walking around the community?” resident Mike Burdick, asked. “There doesn’t appear to be any kind of standards for security or safety.” … When asked why he believed housing homeless people near schools was a problem, Burdick said it was due to the prevalence of mental illness among that population.”
In the Courier, another resident, Long Tran, is quoted as saying: “How can it be considered a safe place for the kids?”
There is, of course, no evidence that our homeless population is any more criminal or dangerous than any other group. In fact, the Mental Health Commission of Canada says it is a myth that people with mental illnesses are typically violent. “In truth, they are much more likely to be victims of crime, hate, and discrimination than to be perpetrators of them,” according to the Commission. And in this case, they are clearly the objects of hate and discrimination by certain residents of Marpole. They are not wanted in Marpole simply because they are homeless and poor.
Back to Meena Wong. She has thrown herself on the side of the Marpole residents and has refused on a number of occasions to distance herself from their despicable statements against the poor and mentally ill. Asked specifically to do this, she has avoided the question by complaining about the consultation process and mentioning — a propos of nothing — NIMBYs in Point Grey. It is perfectly fine to be active against Vision but not to throw the most needy under the bus while doing it.
Is this what COPE wants to be known for? Attacking the poor, the homeless, the mentally challenged? Hard to believe that the late Harry Rankin would have been, or Tim Louis or their current workers and organizers in DTES can be in support of this.