Solidarity global and local at Dow Avenue Tenant Group’s first rally
For the past 4 months the Dow Avenue Tenants Group (DATG) has been fighting back against their developer-landlord, the Peterson Group, who have used disrepair and direct harassment as a way to force people out of their homes. On Saturday May 15th tenants in Metrotown took to the streets to speak out publicly against the failures of Burnaby’s Tenant Assistance Policy and to connect their fight with the struggle of others, both globally and locally.
A small but determined group marched down Beresford Street, made speeches outside the Metrotown Skytrain station, and then outside the library, each time to attentive groups of passersby. Members of DATG linked their personal experiences as tenants to the City’s housing policy.
Serena, a member of DATG and Dow Avenue resident testified, “The roof of my building caved in in several places and most of the tenants on the top floor have been forced to move out. Why did this happen? The answer is landlord neglect.” She said “We call on the City to put an end to landlord neglect and oppression by putting legislation in place to protect our buildings and keep us safe!”
Another DATG member Jessica said, “I am not covered by Burnaby’s Tenant Assistance Policy. The policy is supposed to help renters who are at risk of eviction due to demolition but it does not help me.” Like many Metrotown tenants, Jessica is not covered due to one of the many loopholes in the Mayor’s policy. According to her, “Because the rezoning took place in November 2018 and I didn’t get my lease until 3 months later, I am not eligible.”
Sean from Red Braid and the Eviction Defence Network then spoke against the way capitalist housing policies encourage the destruction of affordable housing and displacement of low-income tenants throughout the region: “Burnaby’s housing policy is based on a lie; that the capitalist housing market can provide housing for all. Instead what we see is the rich buying another investment opportunity, while low-income tenants continue to struggle to put a roof over their heads.”
Sean said Mayor Hurley created the Tenant Assistance Police with the promise it would end demovictions, but the TAP “does not stop the gentrification of Metrotown. It doesn’t take housing outside of the market. It doesn’t even protect existing tenants from displacement. What it does is take the same demoviction policies as before and make them socially acceptable.”
Ivan, a member of Red Braid, spoke about the significance of the march taking place on Nakba Day, amidst a historic uprising by Palestinians against their ongoing dispossession by the state of Israel. “While we rally here against demovictions in Metrotown, thousands of people are rallying in Vancouver and in cities all around the world against home demolitions and displacements in Palestine. The struggle to save Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem, is a fight against the ethnic cleansing and ongoing colonial displacement of Palestinians from their territories through home demolitions. As we fight city-organized home demolitions in Burnaby, we stand with Palestine.”
The march ended outside the Metrotown Hilton by joining the hotel workers of UNITE-HERE 40’s picket line. Since last summer a number of hotel chains have terminated thousands of long-term staff, the majority of them racialized women. Hotel owners have used the slow down in tourism due to the pandemic to justify these layoffs, but workers see it as a deliberate attempt to break the union and rehire workers at lower wages once the pandemic is over.
DATG members joined the picket outside the Hilton and spoke to the shared struggle between tenants facing eviction and workers facing layoffs. DATG member Allan told the crowd “I have a message for the owners of the Hilton. We all know what happens when you lose your job, you get evicted!” This was echoed by UNITE-HERE Local 40 organizer Kevin Malone who welcomed the Eviction Defence Network saying, “They’re fighting for us every day when they’re fighting the demovictions and the landlords who are trying to kick us out of this city!”
The Dow Avenue Tenants Group’s May 15th rally may have started small, but ended on a high note, with striking hotel workers and militant tenants walking the picket line together and sharing stories about their fights. Whether it is drawing the connection between home demolition as a weapon of colonization by both Canada and Israel or the shared fight against bosses and landlords; there is power in seeing our local fight as part of a global struggle for liberation against capitalism and colonialism.