Powell Street Festival looks at expanding beyond Oppenheimer Park due to tent city

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Powell Street Festival organizers say they are considering staging some events in a different location in the neighbourhood.

      The festival, which is in its 38th year, was scheduled to take place in Oppenheimer Park from August 1 to 3. While the event will proceed nearby, general manager and programming director Kristen Lambertson said the festival does not want to disrupt the demonstrators that are camped out in the park.

      “Right now we’re talking to the City of Vancouver,” Lambertson told the Straight.

      “We are hoping to find some affordable alternatives in the neighbourhood…and have requested the use of Powell Street.”

      In a statement issued this morning, organizers indicated they "wish to assure all that the festival this year will continue on August 1 – 3, 2014 and be a great celebration.

      "However, we acknowledge and respect the concerns of the homeless and community residents in the Oppenheimer Park area, located on unceded Coast Salish territory. For this reason, the Powell Street Festival Society will not use the area of Oppenheimer Park where the protest is taking place and do not support the removal order or the threat of removal of residents in the park in any way," the statement added.

      Lambertson said it will be disappointing not to use the park, given its history as the centre of the pre-World War II Japanese Canadian community in the neighbourhood.

      “There’s a reason that we’re in that neighbourhood and there’s a reason that we’re called the Powell Street Festival,” she said. “The neighbourhood used to be called the Powell Street neighbourhood within the Japanese Canadian community.”

      Lambertson added that the annual event is the longest community-run art and cultural festival in the city.

      “We’re going to make it happen, and it’s going to be great, and we want to just encourage people to still come out,” she said.

      “There’s going to be lots of things happening, lots of great artists and food and taiko [drumming]. I think that we are just very interested in assuring that there’s respect, but also celebration.”

      Demonstrators have been camped out in Oppenheimer Park to draw attention to homelessness and housing conditions in the Downtown Eastside. As of today, more than 40 tents were set up in the park.


      We're now using Facebook for comments.


      Alan Layton

      Jul 24, 2014 at 12:17pm

      So they recognize that Oppenheimer Park is on unceded territory, but isn't this going to be the case no matter where they go? I guess this will be the norm now. If I go to the corner store I'll let my partner know that I'm going to walk to the store, on unceded territory, to get some milk - from cows kept on unceded territory.


      Jul 24, 2014 at 1:13pm

      This 'unceded territory' nonsense has got to stop. Is anyone actually saying that FN groups never gave up sovereignty or control of the land?

      By no criteria can we really say that the Crown and FN are equals. I abide by Canada criminal law, am prevented from using my BBQ by municipal bylaw, the Canadian government has an unquestioned monopoly on the use of force, it signs foreign agreements on my - and our territories - behalf. There isn't a single FN authority I recognize as having authority over me.

      They may think the territory is unceded, but the reality - and rules defining the term - say otherwise.


      Jul 24, 2014 at 1:54pm

      Or maybe it's time for the Powell Street Festival to relocate.

      The Japanese Canadians were displaced from Japantown in 1941 by wartime paranoia and allowed to come back to Vancouver in 1949.

      Japantown carried on in a somewhat vitiated state until the 1980s, when the area was pretty much destroyed, from the commercial point of view, by the influx of services for the addicted and hard-to-house.

      The Buddhist Church and the Japanese School remained but Mihamiya, Shimizu Shoten and the other stores could not keep going.

      There's a reason that the Nikkei Centre went to Burnaby. Japanese Canadian elders do not dig on the St James Society scene, it freaks them out.

      So yeah, I think that this is a sign of the times. The City has consented to the wishes of the VANDUstan crowd and turned Oppenheimer into a social housing zone.

      Displacement is very normal, you see.

      Sid Tan

      Jul 24, 2014 at 4:27pm

      Very understanding, courageous and inspiring move by Powell Street Festival Society. Thank you...

      Alan Layton

      Jul 24, 2014 at 5:27pm

      Sid Tan - with only a day left until the event and some very aggressive people refusing to budge, what else were they supposed to do?

      Martin Dunphy

      Jul 24, 2014 at 5:48pm


      Wrong again. There are still eight days to go, and they <em>did</em> have options. Also, the fest organizers have worked with park occupiers previously, even hired some as security.
      And what the heck do you mean by "very aggressive"?
      The campers have conducted themselves admirably, and in the face of provocation, as well. They have also met with city staff.


      Jul 25, 2014 at 7:30am

      Unceded land = Stolen land
      What part of stolen land don't Canadians understand?

      Jon Q. Publik

      Jul 25, 2014 at 10:26am

      It's a shame that a city of 600,000 people's park is being held hostage by an extreme minority. Why is no one questioning the fact that the three principle nations around Vancouver: the Squamish, the Musqueam and the Tsleil-Waututh are in fact some of the more well off First Nations. Why are these peoples own governments not doing anything to help alleviate their housing concerns?


      Jul 25, 2014 at 11:13am

      The organizers are showing respect & compassion to those camped out.
      Obviously the solution for the Festival is to relocate some venue's and to have Powell St. closed and use that space
      Hopefully Powell St. will always be closed for the Festival in years to come-after all it is the Powell Street Festival.