By Mike Archer. It isn’t a matter of cost or inconvenience that the poor are not housed. It is a matter of intense belief, philosophy and intentional policy. It wasn’t a lack of money which convinced Bruce Banman to vote against the ACS/BC Housing proposal. It was the belief, expressed by Councillor John Smith, that the money and the “irrational fears” of the downtown merchants were more important than the lives of the people who would be saved.
Cover photo by Bas Stevens.
It wasn’t a lack of money or convenience which convinced John Smith and Bruce Beck we needed a gigantic hockey rink instead of housing for destitute people. It wasn’t inconvenience which got Bob Bos, John Smith and Bruce Beck to attack Pastor Christoph Reiners and insist he stop feeding the poor lest they grow used to it.
Nor was it a lack of funding which caused John Smith to announce he had instructed Bob Rich and the Abbotsford Police Department to deal with the homeless crisis in downtown Abbotsford. It wasn’t a lack of money or inconvenience which forced the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and the Abbotsford Christian Leaders Network (ACLN) to do nothing for a decade while Bob Rich’s cops enforced a policy of ‘displace and disperse’ which exceeded both his, and councillor Smith’s legal authority.
It is simply a deeply held belief among many of the wealthy and the powerful in Abbotsford that by stealing land from the native people who had been here for thousands of years; draining Lake Sumas, claiming the lake bed for their own and turning the land into giant factory farms, they and their descendants have a natural right to protect the investments which they stole, from encroachment through the expenditure of public money on people who weren’t as lucky, as sneaky or as underhanded or who simply took advantage of a people who couldn’t fight back.
If we allow the financially challenged, the mentally ill, the alcohol dependent and the drug addicts to have housing at public expense, where will the incentive be for them to get real jobs working for those who stole the land they claim a right to live on?
If BC Hydro doesn’t have the right to hire the Abbotsford Police Department and spend City taxes, and funding dollars destined for the caregivers, who will need to be out in force when they target the homeless on Gladys Avenue for eviction on July 31, then what sort of system do we live in?
BC Hydro is a crown corporation surviving off of our money which, having gone into so much debt (on our behalf and with our money) we will never be able to pay it back; and having broken the law and screwed California ratepayers during a phony electricity crisis which cost us billions; has demonstrated such a stellar record of public indecency it should come as no surprise it honestly believes the land these people are occupying belongs to it.
Hydro has still not said why it so desperately needs its land back in the middle of the summer or why these destitute people must be forced to move – who knows where.
In a city where Anti-Homeless Bylaws make it so that anybody without a mortgage who is not moving around is illegal, BC Hydro has decided it must have the 15 ft stretch of grass and bushes which has become the last refuge of Abbotsford’s most destitute and desperate citizens.
And our Mayor and council are sitting on their hands, content to allow the coming conflict to happen. Bob Rich’s cops appear to be salivating at the prospect of cracking some heads [reports from the street indicate and increased level of police activity, including taunting the homeless in the camps in the last week) and once again, an incredible injustice is going to be done in our name, with full warning and the obedient acquiescence of the people of Abbotsford who will either cheer on the cops or impotently bemoan the awful things that were, once again, done in our name.
We will all sit back and wait for the media to tell us what happened. The News will describe it as a legitimate and perfectly legal action carried out by honourable men and women who were merely doing their jobs to protect the people of Abbotsford – from what, it will not be entirely clear.
Today will describe it as another in a long history of human rights violations and indignities visited on people whose only crime was to suffer from poverty, mental illness, alcohol dependence, drug addiction or worse … the lack of a mortgage or rental agreement.
And those who unleashed this international embarrassment upon us will be proudly seeking re-election in four months.
The imminent, intentional cleansing of Gladys Avenue will seal Mayor Banman’s reputation as the Homeless Fighting Mayor (he has not lifted a finger to protect his citizens from BC Hydro) and forever establish in the world’s eyes that Abbotsford defines itself by the relentless pursuit and abuse of those who can least defend themselves. It will not escape the world community that those being targeted by BC Hydro are occupying the the land made famous by Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident of just over a year ago.
Short Summary of Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis:
First came John Smith’s announcement to the national media that he had instructed the APD to handle homelessness in downtown Abbotsford; then the Abbotsford Shuffle – otherwise known as Chief Bob Rich’s “disperse and displace” strategy for solving homelessness; then Mayor Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident (first revealed on Abbotsford Today); then there was the Standoff in Jubilee; followed by the ‘MCC Dignity Village‘ protest camp on Gladys Avenue and the gathering of more and more of Abbotsford’s homeless to the security of living with others and out in the open in the growing size and number of camps across from the Salvation Army and along Gladys Avenue.
Along the way a few embarrassing revelations were uncovered and published by Abbotsford Today including
the fact that the Salvation Army knew about and was in agreement with the use of chicken feces to encourage the homeless to move from their camp across the street from the Sally Ann; and the rude and demeaning emails shared by police chief Bob Rich and his senior staff after the Chicken Manure Incident went worldwide.