Declaration of Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS) against Sequel 138 condos
The Downtown Eastside has the highest number of off-reserve Aboriginal people of any city neighbourhood in Canada. This is our urban reservation where the government put Indians they didn’t want. Now, just like the government does when they discover oil under treaty land, City Hall and big business are trying to push Aboriginal people, and especially Aboriginal drug users, out of the Downtown Eastside.
WAHRS is fighting colonialism in Vancouver
The colonizers made residential schools to break up our communities, to break down the ways we organized our communities and families, to force us to speak and act like them. After that, many of us ran away from our home communities because it was shitty there.
We are already displaced people who have fled the violence of Canadian colonialism.
Chief Dan George had a vision that Aboriginal people will come together and fight back united as one. And we have reorganized ourselves in WAHRS, with street families, and other groups in the Downtown Eastside. This is the only place where we can come together as we are, as damaged as we have been by Canadian colonialism, and accept and love each other and support each other to heal.One WARHS member said,
Here, when I have been at my most vulnerable and passed out drunk on the sidewalk strangers have picked me up and helped me get home and made sure I was safe. In other neighbourhoods, with the kinds of neighbours that will move into condos if they build them here, they just see a drunk Indian passed out and look the other way. And that’s how people die.
We depend on our community for support when we’re most vulnerable. We depend on our community with all of our lives.
We also need WAHRS and our unity with others in the Downtown Eastside low-income community to fight against the new colonial attacks on us as urban Aboriginal people.
Our group represents our community as Aboriginal people who have been under attack by Canadian colonialism for all our lives, as people who struggle with addictions and mental health and post-traumatic stress and severe poverty. Our voice is more important than developers because ours are the experiences and needs of Aboriginal people. Developers are only in it for the money.
And now that we are organizing again, and supporting our own ways of being, of speaking, and accepting each other as we are… now the colonizers are coming again. We see all these yuppies coming into our neighbourhood like colonizers calling it their neighbourhood, acting like we were never here. Their condos will push us out of our homes and smash our community, and displace us again.
Stop the colonial invasion of our home
We know from experience that if we give ’em an inch they take 500 miles. If the city lets a developer build condos on the 100-block of East Hastings they will creep into the heart of our community and devour it. City Hall knows it too. They’re lying if they say they will “revitalize without displacement.” They have been giving us lies all these years. It’s time to sew their forked tongue together and speak truth.
The truth is that thousands of people in thousands of rooms are being threatened with homelessness by one man’s financial investment. And the city is supporting him?
The truth is that if the city pushes us out of our homes in the Downtown Eastside they will be pushing us right into Harper’s housing plan for Aboriginal people and especially Aboriginal drug users – prison. The omnibus crime bill and the new prisons treat our housing needs through law enforcement and mandatory minimums that will guarantee us roofs over our heads in prisons.
WAHRS will fight displacement
This is unceded native land. Aboriginal people have never given up on this territory and we never will.
We are organizing to rebuild our communities and our nations and to overcome colonialism we need places to live with dignity. But that does not mean we need colonial rule. We can build and run our own places if only we get the chance.
WAHRS knows that if condos come in and higher income settlers come in and take over the buildings, storefronts, and streets of our neighbourhood that we will be pushed out and we will have to rebuild our communities yet again. And we know from experience that this displacement will be violent, that the most vulnerable people will be hurt, and that many Aboriginal people, and particularly women, will die.
We are committed to fighting this battle inch by inch, step by step, because it is a fight for our lives.
Stop Sequel 138 condos; and
Build social housing and only social housing for people on welfare and pension on the 100-block and in the Oppenheimer District; and we promise,
We were here yesterday. We are here today. We will be here tomorrow.