By Mike Archer. There are people living in the battered, tattered and torn tents of Jubilee Park, huddled against the arctic wind, who would rather stay together in safety than take Mayor Banman up on his snide and cynical offer to come in out of the cold at one of Abbotsford’s emergency shelters.
They’ve been down that road before. They know it leads nowhere.
The politicians, the cops and the people who call themselves the ‘care community’ of this city have a lot of explaining to do now that the kleig lights of provincial, national and international media are on.
Why, reasonable outsiders are asking, would a group of poor, destitute and homeless men and women refuse to come in out of the cold when the wind chill drops to -40 degrees and the wind is howling, ripping the air out of their lungs as they fight to keep their meager belongings from disappearing into the night?
They aren’t welcome. That’s why.
The people at Sevenoaks Church and the Sally Ann don’t actually let people die rather than let them in out of the cold on nights when to do so would mean certain death. But they are quick to call the cops or evict those with mental illness, drug addictions or alcohol problems at the first sign of any non-conformist, erratic or unseemly behaviour.
And Abbotsford’s finest are never far away. Ready at a moment’s notice to help get rid of trouble makers or anyone with the smell of booze on their breath or the smell of marijuana on their clothes. If you’ve used anything more serious like heroin or crack … forget about it.
You aren’t the kind of people we save in Abbotsford. You must be looking for Chilliwack, or Langley or anywhere else in Canada where your kind are legal.
Through the entire time that the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) has been peacefully protesting in Jubilee Park they have kept their portion of the park cleaner than the City keeps its portion. The City has admitted it has had “surprisingly few” complaints about the inhabitants of the protest village and yet, without making any attempt to find out what they want they have acted to enforce a bylaw which prohibits overnight camping on City property.
Ya Bruce. That’s what they’re doing. They’re camping. Abbotsford is such a nice town this time of year they decided to take advantage of our lovely parks and get some camping in.
Wake up Bruce. And wake up Abbotsford.
Ever since the protest started on October 20 have you noticed the number of people who claim to represent the homeless, the poor and the destitute in Abbotsford claiming publicly that Barry Shantz, the head of the DWS in Abbotsford, is impossible to work with?
Have you noticed the attempts by the established ‘care community’ to distance themselves from Shantz and separate him from the people in the park he is trying to save?
Good luck. If you spent five real minutes with any of the citizens in Jubilee Park you would know they trust Barry Shantz with their lives.
Because that’s what this has come down to.
Their lives aren’t worth anything in Abbotsford. They are citizens of this City but the Churches have turned their back on them; the politicians have singled them out for removal, the police have harassed them, abused them, dispersed them, displaced them, stolen from them and done everything in their power to cleanse the city of their presence.
The City of Abbotsford actually (I have to say actually because I still have a hard time believing it) used chicken feces to rid themselves of its poor.
Enough is enough. If Barry Shantz seems like he’s angry … you ain’t seen nothing yet. If you think you are going to deal with the protesters in Jubilee Park with some sort of smarmy political posturing or the BS coming out the mayor’s mouth you really haven’t a clue what’s at stake.
Something is rotten in this city. Something has gone terribly wrong. And those responsible can no longer rely on the cocktail circuit or a pliant news media to make it all go away. If our mayor keeps embarrassing us on TV, it won’t be long before 60 Minutes join’s us … just in time for Christmas.
For all of those who have found it necessary to distance themselves from Barry Shantz and the Drug War Survivors in Jubilee Park, abandoning them to their fate, know this – when a judge finds out what has happened to these people … and a judge will find out as long as Bruce Banman has anything to do with this issue … and somebody asks ‘which side were you on?’ it’ll be time to stand up and be counted.
When your friends in other parts of the province, the country, the world .. ask you what you did for those people in the park, what will you say?
Instead of demonizing Barry Shantz and his friends, this City and all of those in the organizations which rely on our politicians to get funding for their ‘good works’ should be thankful someone as crazy as Barry is prepared to die for the people he represents.
If you think I’m kidding, you haven’t met him.
When the dust settles somebody is going to have to answer for the fact that it took someone as crazy as Barry Shantz and his decent, disabled, disturbed and disrespected friends to teach this city what it means to care for your fellow human being.
City of Character my ass.
Barry Shantz is teaching the pious, self righteous and eminently unqualified community leaders who have brought us to this embarrassing moment in our history what doing the right thing really means.
It’s just sad that it may take international media shame and a judge to force our community leaders to see the right thing … and do it.
With any luck, people who have the ability to understand what is going on will have some influence with those who are driving us towards a concrete wall.
Cover photo by Bas Stevens.