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The Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS) would like to express solidarity with the most vulnerable who were displaced from the Strathcona Park Tent City on May 3, 2021, including seniors, people living with disabilities, chronic illness, addictions and poor mental health. Since the time we began our residency at the Strathcona Fieldhouse in 2019, we have witnessed some of the saddest experiences of the human condition, which have made us understand the need for a transformative justice approach to address the underlying systemic injustices that created the conditions at the encampment.

 

A transformative justice approach calls for accountability of ALL parties involved to play a role in dismantling the colonial matrix of power that is built on a long history of genocide, associated with eviction, displacement, and normalizing the criminalization of disadvantaged peoples, thereby perpetuating the ongoing cycles of unresolved trauma underlying the flawed foster care system, racial capitalism, drug and alcohol addictions, sexual violence, and lack of justice the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, and 2SLGBTQ.

The camp was located in one of the most gentrified and poverty-stricken neighbourhoods in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It is time for courageous and bold action to abolish the white supremacist structures and processes that caused the disparities. Sadie Keuhn, an Elder in the Black community with a long history of anti-poverty and anti-racism leadership, states: “I believe that most people believe that every one of us has a basic right to safe housing. One which is accessible and affordable and which we have a say about. All these things seem so simple and straightforward and so very important attributes of a just society. We must make it so”.

 

As tensions and polarizations have increased within the  Strathcona Park known for its rich history of social justice activism, there is a dire need for reparations to the land and displaced communities. We call for defunding the police and allocating more adequate financial, technical and human support to develop trauma-informed land-based healing programming in the Downtown Eastside community, where  Indigenous, Black, People of Colour, and poor working-class white people are overrepresented.

 

The WGIFS calls on governments, police, homeowners, and organizations to work with communities to develop more just and adequate frameworks for socially responsible policies and nature-based planning in park spaces. Increasing access to the infrastructure and support needed for Indigenous-led, land-based healing programming in the park can serve to restore the land, territory and dignity and breathe some much-needed healing and regeneration into the DTES. We call on all involved to join us in a decolonizing approach to making reparations with the Coast Salish, whose unceded land and waters we occupy as uninvited guests – to chart the pathway to transform the darkness surrounding the trauma and harm that’s been caused. Heal the land, heal the people.

 

 

Media Contacts:

 

Dawn Morrison, Founder/Curator

Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty:                                      778.879.5106

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A surge of attacks in one of Canada’s most multicultural cities is surfacing long-simmering racial tensions. Vancouver is known as one of the most Asian cities outside Asia where 25% of the residents speak a Chinese language.  However, the past year has seen a 700% increase in anti-Asian racism incidents.  More anti-Asian hate crimes were reported to police in Vancouver than in the top 10 most populous US cities combined.

Last Monday was declared a Day of Action Against Anti-Asian Racism.  With almost 50% of residents of Asian descent in BC experiencing a hate incident in the past year, we are confronting an undercurrent of racism that runs long and deep. It is a history that includes the 1885 Chinese Head Tax, 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act and 1942 Japanese internment camps. For more information on the history of anti-Asian racism, download the book,  Challenging Racist “British Columbia”. The booklet, co-published by the CCPA-BC Office, ties the histories of racism and resistance to present day anti-racist movements.

Locally, a new coalition founded by a Burnaby woman committed to stopping anti-Asian racism, organized small group rallies across the Lower Mainland.  In  April, she founded the Stand With Asians Coalition (SWAC) after hearing that there was a 350% increase in incidents of anti-Asian racism in Burnaby related to the pandemic. SWAC is currently a community of over 1,700 people that raises awareness to combat anti-Asian racism and to foster inclusiveness. Learn more on their facebook page

We also need to look at anti-racism through a wider lens. We need to recognize that all forms of hate in public spaces create unsafe conditions for members of all racialized communities.  For example, we are hearing of companies, organizations and communities doing work around JEDI that is justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. These are more than just buzzwords, they represent concepts, themes, and actions and truly involve representing the interest of all people. This is a much more complex issue and conversations that we need to foster and be part of in our communities. We will be exploring JEDI and also critical race theory in future blogs.

What comments do our members have on anti-racism?  Do you feel that Vancouver has lost its image as a progressive multicultural city with our increasing anti-racism incidents?  Add your comments to the blog.


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It’s Mental Health Week and this year’s theme is understanding our emotions. 2021 is the 70th annual Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) campaign rallying to celebrate, protect and promote mental health.  Since the onset of the pandemic, 40% of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated.  As many people are experiencing a time of unprecedented stress and anxiety, it is even more important that we support good mental health for everyone. 


There are many resources available online to help us address mild to moderate mental health challenges due to work related issues, family worries, sleep difficulties or physical health problems. There are two programs our members may find helpful: the CMHA program called BounceBack® and the Federal Government’s Wellness Together portal. Both these sites aim to be a practical way of learning key life skills that can boost your mood and help you turn the corner. 


They say that good mental health isn’t about being happy all the time. In fact, a mentally healthy life includes emotions like sadness, fear and anger. It is important that we know how to recognize, label and accept our feelings. Naming our emotions, understanding how we are feeling, and taking corrective actions when our response isn’t helpful are all strategies for good mental health.  


We are all in this together and we need to look out for and support each other. The world has changed and we can let people know we are here for them and that they’re not alone. The pandemic has made it more difficult to be together with each other and this lack of social contact has adversely impacted our mental and physical well-being. With this in mind, if you do know someone who is living alone or in a stressful or unsupportive environment, reach out to them. A check-in call goes a long way to keep vulnerable members of our community connected.  


In closing, be sure to take care of yourself so that you can support your family, friends and neighbours. Follow the recommendation on the Wellness Together site and Take 5 to do the mindfulness and breathing exercises. 


This is Mental Health Week. Get Real with your emotions. Visit BounceBack® and the Wellness Together sites to learn more.  


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