A Vancouver activist has launched a weeklong hunger strike to demand that the federal government take action on homelessness and create a national housing program.
Am Johal, a board member of the Impact on Community Coalition, told the Straight he hopes that his move will trigger a relay of hunger strikers that will go on until the 2010 Olympic Games open in Vancouver.
Johal doesn’t yet know who will pick up after him. He said the idea came to him on Christmas Eve, when he was at First United Church in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
According to Johal, more than 200 homeless people were crammed inside the church that night, and a number of them needed medical attention.
The activist noted that Canada’s record on housing and homelessness could become the subject of international scrutiny in April, when Miloon Kothari, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on adequate housing, submits his final report on his visit to the country.
“What is striking to me is the fact that you have such incredible wealth and prosperity that’s just a few blocks away from so much poverty and social problems,” Kothari told the Straight after a walk in the Downtown Eastside in October 2007. “I think it’s really something that I’m trying to understand.”
On December 19, a 47-year-old homeless woman known as Tracey burned to death after lighting candles to keep herself warm under a tarp draped over a shopping cart.