On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Jean Swanson and Phoenix talk about their work against the gentrification of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood in Vancouver.
Gentrification is the process in which neighbourhoods get remade, rebuilt, reshaped in ways that destroy existing community and push out low-income residents, replacing them with wealthier (and often whiter) residents and new housing, businesses, and services that cater to them. It is often framed as “improvement,” because the influx of investment capital makes things shiny and new. But beneath that — and obscured by the expensive restaurants, the dog grooming services, the high-rise condos, and the fancy coffee — is inevitably destroyed community and displaced people. Gentrification’s slogan might be, “Out with the poor, in with the upper-middle-class and wealthy.”
The downtown east side in Vancouver is one of Canada’s poorest urban neighbourhods, but the gentrifying pressures on it have, for years, been enormous. And for years, the community has been resisting. In a smaller and less politically vibrant city, there might be one group dealing with the issue and one dominant mode of resistance, but Vancouver being what it is, there are a range. Jean Swanson has been involved in taking action against poverty in British Columbia for decades, and Phoenix was herself homeless on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, and both are involved in one of the organizations that work against gentrification: the Carnegie Community Action Project, or C-CAP. They talk with me about their neighbourhood, about gentrification, about some (though by no means all) of the broader local context of resistance to it, and about the particular contribution that C-CAP has been making.
To learn more about the Carnegie Community Action Project, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada through in-depth interviews that concentrate not on current events or the crisis of the moment, but on giving people involved in a broad range of social change work a chance to take a longer view as they talk about what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. To learn more about the show in general, click here.
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Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.