Hunger strike relay has Vancouver lining up for housing strategy

The hunger-strike relay spearheaded by Vancouver poverty activist Am Johal to raise awareness for housing isn’t having any trouble finding volunteers.

The protest began December 29, 2008, and Johal plans to have participants each fast for up to a week until June 2010.

Yesterday (March 9), he told the Straight that he’s already filled slots up to July of this year.

On March 20, Johal will fly to Ottawa to meet with members of the federal NDP and Liberals. So far, he hasn’t heard back from the Conservatives of Bloc Québécois.

Johal, who works in the office of NDP MLA Jenny Kwan, still hopes they’ll call.

“This is meant to be a long-term sustained action,” Johal said in a phone interview. “Even if it takes a month or two to hear back from them, we’re here for the long run.”

The protest aims to raise awareness for the need for a national housing strategy—missing in Canada since 1993.

It advocates for the One Percent Solution, which calls for one percent of federal budgets to go toward housing, to be matched by the provinces and territories, for a total of about $4 billion a year. The idea is based on University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski’s research.

Johal hopes the hunger strike results in changes to the 2010-2011 federal budget.

So far, the hunger strikers are:

January: Am Johal, Michael Byers, Sarah Evans, Brent Granby, Dr. Marria Townsend
February: Jason Gratl, Sister Elizabeth Kelleher, Mira Malestinic, David Eby
March: Sarah Blyth, Constance Barnes, Bryn Rawlyk, Adrienne Smith, Deanna Allan, Tristen Markle, Megaphone magazine (Garvin Schneider, Jay Black)

Plus, from the concurrent Streams of Justice Lenten fast:

February 25 to March 3: Bob and Judy Doll
February 25 to March 4: Jody Ross
Early March: Nathan Loewen
March 6 to 12: Erin and Kurtis Peters
March 8 to 14: Don Cowie
March 9 to 11: Elaine Chau
March 5, 19 to 22: Laurel Dykstra
March 25 to 27: Sheri Poelman
March 26: Gordon Squire