Former United Nations official disturbed by impact of 2010 Olympics on housing
More than two years ago, Miloon Kothari visited Vancouver as the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing.
Back then, after taking a morning walk in the Downtown Eastside, Kothari told the Straight that what he saw and heard was “very disturbing”.
He went on to write a report that noted Canada is one of a few countries in the world that don’t have a national housing strategy.
Kothari is no longer the UN special rapporteur on housing, but when he returned to Vancouver a few days ago for a lecture at UBC, he decided to follow up on the situation that brought him here in October 2007.
On a mobile phone from the Downtown Eastside today (November 27), Kothari recalled that when he met Olympic organizers two years ago, they promised that the 2010 Winter Games will leave a positive legacy for housing.
“Clearly, that has not happened,” Kothari said. “There are a lot of broken promises.”
He is particularly distressed by a new law passed by the B.C. legislative assembly that authorizes police to sweep homeless people into shelters during extreme weather conditions.
“I consider it to be a draconian piece of legislation, which I hope will receive...a court challenge,” Kothari said of the Assistance to Shelter Act. “I don’t think it’s consistent with the charter [of rights and freedoms] of Canada. I find it very disturbing that this kind of legislation comes into place precisely at the time when there is this fear of a cleanup on the streets because of the Olympics.”
Kothari noted that he met with Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson yesterday morning (November 26).
“He of course seems to be very sincere and committed, but he seems to have his hands tied because of pressure from the province,” the former UN official said. “He did express his own displeasure with the Assistance to Shelter Act.”
Kothari foresees grim prospects for Vancouverites who desperately need a roof over their heads.
“I don’t know how it’s going to play out in the coming months, but it doesn’t look good,” he said.
Kothari leaves for Toronto on Sunday (November 29).