Nearly $1.5-billion in public spending since 2000 and little to show for it that's the story of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The Globe is pleased to introduce four experts who will lay out fresh solutions for the neighbourhood. Each will join us online to take your questions and participate in a live panel discussion March 24 at the University of British Columbia.
The forum will be hosted at 7 p.m. (10 p.m. ET) at UBC's Robson Square campus by The Globe, in partnership with CTV and the university. For tickets, call toll-free 1-866-545-0016.
Aprodicio Laquian is an emeritus professor of human settlement at the University of British Columbia and author of Beyond Metropolis, a book exploring ways to improve the lives of slum-dwellers in mega-cities such as Mumbai and Manila. In 1991 he moved to Vancouver from New York.
Read his thoughts on a "universal solution" for the Downtown Eastside.
Professor Laquian joined us online to answer your questions. Questions and answers appear below (remember to refresh your page).
Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.
Brodie Fenlon, globeandmail.com: Thanks for joining us Professor Laquian. We appreciate your time. I'll turn it over to the readers.
Joseph Fry from Richmond writes: I read Professor Laquian's comments with interest and agree with his assessment of the difficulties of finding solutions for the DTES. One other influence that has contributed to the situation in the area that should not be overlooked is the forced relocation of Japanese-Canadians from that neighbourhood in 1942. Those properties in and around Powell Street were confiscated by the federal government and eventually created a disproportionate amount of social housing in the area, while destroying what was once a thriving and diverse community. The unfortunate fallout from these events likely couldn't be foreseen, but perhaps an equally impactful solution would be for the federal government to provide investment for property in the area to house artists-in-residence housing, cooperatives, and business incubators for the arts community that has already established itself here. Doing so could be a catalyst for positive change that IS predictable and can reverse the impacts of previous naive decisions. [Your thoughts Professor Laquian?]
Aprodicio Laquian: You are right in pointing out the erosion of a true sense of community in the Downtown Eastside by the forced relocation of Japanese-Canadians in 1942. However, the problems in the DTES were also caused by other factors such as people moving into the DTES after being displaced from other parts of Vancouver because of mega-projects, the availability of low-cost accommodation (like SROs), the attraction of illegal drugs, and the chance to lead an "alternative" lifestyle. As for the federal government providing the programs you mentioned, this may be extremely difficult because Ottawa has "downloaded" the responsibility for housing, health, and other relevant programs to provincial, city and municipal governments. The solution to DTES problems requires the combined efforts of the province of B.C., Vancouver City, Metro Vancouver, the private sector, civil society groups and the residents of DTES themselves. Public-private investments could be excellent mechanisms for supporting the artists-in-residence housing, cooperatives and business incubator programs you suggested.
Sandra Goth from Cobble Hill writes: I appreciate Mr. Laquian's article and it reflects the wisdom that has been lived out in other jurisdictions of Canada. There is nothing new in what is stated. Tamarack, an Institution for community engagement, has supported, showcased, and furthered great wisdom throughout our country particularly in poverty reduction and multi-sectoral solutions. I urge the understanding of what has worked in Canada rather than, as is the general response by Canadian governments, importing 'solutions' from other cultures. There is no magic bullet in dealing with the issues of the DTES and governments will need to slow down to speed up - plan well and commit to short, medium and large term actions. Make sure the majority of stakeholders consulted are those who live and work in the DTES. Question: What is uniquely Canadian in the DTES? What strengths can we work with and how do we best continue a discourse internally in our country so our mega-cities learn from each other?