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.
Dawn Morrison, Founder/Curator
Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty: 778.879.5106