Entrances to Vancouver city hall have been blocked by protesters demanding action on housing and homelessness.
The action has prompted council, which was scheduled to hold a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday (May 1), to go on recess.
The first item on the agenda of council was a report on homelessness.
According to protest organizers, the blockade is aimed at shutting down office activity for the entire day.
“We, the poor and the homeless of the Downtown Eastside will not sit idly as our elected officials deprive us of the housing we need,” declared a statement released by the Our Homes Can’t Wait Coalition (OHCW).
“We are not a statistic; numbers to be counted and shuffled around in the attempt to remake the city for the rich,” the statement continued. “We will fight for our lives and our right to live with dignity. There will be no business as usual at City Hall on May 1 unless our demands are met.”
Protesters also recalled an unfulfilled promise by Mayor Gregor Robertson about the development of a city-owned property at the Downtown Eastside.
On August 2, 2016, Robertson signed his name to a statement that committed 58 West Hastings to a development that will have all its housing units occupied by people at welfare and pension rates.
A rezoning application for the site was subsequently filed, but did not deliver on Robertson’s pledge.
On January 30 this year, council approved the application.
“The City’s lies and inaction on 58 W. Hastings will claim the lives of hundreds unless Mayor Robertson’s promise is followed through,” the coalition statement contended.
Councillor Melissa De Genova had noted in a previous motion that in meetings held by council since Robertson made the 2016 promise, neither the mayor nor any member of council put forward a proposal for a social housing building in the Downtown Eastside that will be completely for people on welfare or pension benefits.
The City of Vancouver released a statement announcing that council “relocated to another City property”.
According to the city, access to city hall is limited.
(Update: A city advisory sent out at 2:17 p.m. states that council will convene at city hall this afternoon. According to the advisory, access to city hall has been restored following a reduction in the number of protesters.)