By Jeff Shantz
The Metrotown area of Burnaby is an epicenter of battles over evictions and the destruction of working class housing and community in the Lower Mainland. As in Whalley in Surrey, city council and developers are making an ersatz downtown core modeled on petit bourgeois lines (boutique capital, hipster condos, etc.). And the working class residents are being discarded without care in the race to build up (high end high rise towers of capital).
In July 2017 Burnaby city council unanimously passed a “Downtown” Metrotown Plan allowing increased building heights in the residential areas at Metrotown. The aim and outcome are to demovict (evict through demolitions) thousands of affordable apartments and replace them with high rise luxury condo towers. That development is rapidly underway and by the time it is done more than 6000 people will have been displaced from their homes and the working class community there will have been destroyed. This neighborhood has been one with lovely two story apartments, though many have already been wiped out.
A grassroots campaign including residents of the buildings facing eviction and displacement is mobilizing to top the mass evictions. On Saturday, April 21, 2018, a rally and march of over 100 people took the message to the streets. The Stop Demovictions Burnaby campaign is a grassroots movement to stop the evictions and mass displacement of people in the Metrotown area of Burnaby.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has claimed that there are no homeless people in Burnaby. Along the march we were met by Jackie, who is homeless in Burnaby and lives near the library. She said that there are many people who are homeless in Burnaby. She personally knows 20 people who are homeless and living near the library.
The rally and speeches at stops along the march route made important connections between homelessness, neoliberal policy, and the ecological destruction associated with the Kinder Morgan pipeline through Burnaby (and across much of so-called British Columbia). All of these are interlinked and underpinned by—created by—systems that prioritize profit, exploitation, accumulation above human needs and care of the Earth and our communities. And these are systems of violence. The violence of evictions, homelessness, displacement. The violence of destruction of the land. Systems supported and sustained by state force—police, courts, confinement, surveillance. Upholding the violence of colonial dispossession and property claims.
Mass evictions in Burnaby are destroying decent working class homes. Destroying communities. In the midst of a housing crisis governments and their developer sponsors are actively making people homeless, deepening the crisis.
This rally and march showed a committed group of residents ready to fight to save their homes. A fight that is of great significance in this vicious profit-driven housing market.