Jan 11, 2010 VANCOUVER, Coast Salish Territories – With one month until the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games, a network of Downtown Eastside (DTES) groups and supporters are calling on the Government of Canada to prorogue the Olympics.

“Harper and other politicians are always quick to point out the undemocratic nature of other countries. To us, Canada is a failed state given the consistent and systematic failure of all levels of government to address the pressing issues of homelessness, gentrification, missing and murdered women, poverty, and criminalization in the DTES. We are demanding that the government prorogue the Olympics!” states Harsha Walia, Project Coordinator at the Downtown Eastside Womens’ Centre.

The DTES Justice for All Network consisting of Carnegie Community Action Project, DTES Women Centre Power of Women Group, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, DTES Elders Council, Streams of Justice, Vancouver Action, Impact on Communities Coalition, PACE, DTES Neighbourhood House and others will be organizing and participating in a month-long series of events. The launch will be taking place with a press conference on Tues Jan 12 at 3 pm at 133 Powell Street.

The Downtown Eastside of Vancouver is the poorest postal code in Canada, while British Columbia has the highest poverty rate in the country.  Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project states: “Money spent on the Olympics could have ended homelessness and poverty in my neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside.  Instead, the Olympics has been an informal target date for “revitalizing” the DTES which has made it easier for developers to sell condos in our area.  Low-income residents have been pushed out by higher land prices which cause rent increases and evictions. The area is becoming more uncomfortable to those who have lived here for decades.”

According to Stella August, member of the DTES Power to Women Group, “The police have launched a series of crackdowns against the poor in time for the international media and the tourists. We are angered at the hypocrisy of a government that closes down emergency shelters and refuses to build proper housing, while allowing police to harass and displace homeless people. People should matter more than corporate profits.”

According to Dave Diewert of Streams of Justice, “Forcing people into shelters is not a solution to homelessness; it simply renders it invisible to the mediated gaze of international tourists and investors. We need new secure, adequate, and accessible low-income housing that truly addresses the homelessness crisis of our city. We will raise a ruckus during and beyond the Olympics until that happens.”

“We want all the people coming to Canada to know about the unimaginable violence that has taken the lives of so many women in the DTES,” states Beatrice Starr of the DTES Power to Women Group. “Every year the list of murdered and missing women continues to grow, but our society just sees them as another stereotype or another statistic. It is shameful that there is the political will to host the Olympic Games, but little support for our call for justice for our sisters and daughters and friends.” Last year, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women wrote: “Hundreds of cases involving aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past two decades have neither been fully investigated nor attracted priority attention.”

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