Oppenheimer tent city to host feast as protest passes one month and 150 tents

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      The occupation of Oppenheimer Park is marking a few milestones this week.

      One month has passed since the City of Vancouver served campers calling for affordable housing with an eviction notice on July 19. Not only are demonstrators still there, but by the Straight ’s count on August 19, their tents have grown from a few dozen to more than 150.

      By coincidence, a feast is planned for Friday (August 22). According to camp organizer Brody Williams, a First Nations commercial fisherman named Joshua Duncan is providing 500 sockeye salmon for the event.

      “It’s a real generous donation,” Williams said. “That’s the kind of community we are here.”

      Williams added that everyone is welcome to attend, including police and fire department officials who have helped keep the tent city safe. Invitations have also been extended to city councillors.

      Despite the camp’s growth, protesters told the Straight they are not receiving much attention from municipal politicians.

      Interviewed over breakfast around a campfire, several people recalled visits from Jenny Kwan, NDP MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, and Libby Davies, NDP MP for Vancouver East.

      Stories about civic politicians’ visits were harder to come by.

      Stella August, a First Nations elder who helps run the camp, said city staff members make regular visits. But she couldn’t recall any elected officials with Vision Vancouver or the Non-Partisan Association having visited Oppenheimer in recent weeks.

      “We haven’t had any [civic] politicians step on the ground here,” August said.

      As of mid-August, 2014, a demonstration calling for affordable housing in Oppenheimer Park had grown from a few dozen tents to more than 150.
      Travis Lupick

      Vision councillor Kerry Jang told the Straight that he’s actually visited the camp on numerous occasions.

      “I don’t always go right in, but I’m in Chinatown all the time so I try and swing by fairly regularly,” he explained in a phone interview. “But the best meeting we had was when they came to City Hall, about a month ago [on July 22]. Our senior staff were there, and so we have an extensive list of their concerns and issues. And we’re working on them.”

      The NPA did not make a representative available for an interview. A spokesperson wrote in an email that mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe was last in Oppenheimer on July 22.

      Jang said there are currently no plans to use physical action to remove protesters from the park. Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Randy Fincham likewise reported the VPD has “not been asked to intervene in this matter at this time”.

      According to the region’s last homeless count, the number of people sleeping unsheltered on the streets of Vancouver has more than tripled over the past three years, from 154 in 2011 to 536 in 2014.

      A kitchen run by volunteers serves hundreds of people meals in a so-called tent city in Oppenheimer Park.
      Travis Lupick

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      Aug 21, 2014 at 6:31am

      'Vision councillor Kerry Jang told the Straight that he’s actually visited the camp on numerous occasions.' Yeah, right. VISION made these same claims at Occupy in Gregor's name. The truth was, Gregor never set foot on the ground at Occupy. So I'm calling bullshit on Jang. Take a selfie, call a press conference... Prove it Kerry!


      Aug 21, 2014 at 7:29am

      Not only is this story not getting attention from municipal politicians, but there is almost nothing in the news about it. Why? Probably because we've grown weary of 'occupiers' in tents making demands. It was a weekly occurrence in the year leading up to the Olympics, where activists set out to ruin everything, for everybody. Then we had the entire Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, which essentially did nothing but cost a ton of money. Whether it's just a lack of compassion or boredom, most people have a hard time supporting people who just sit around all day doing nothing, especially when some of them do have homes (as nasty as they may be).

      Add to that the recent images of the real suffering of people in Gaza and on a mountain top in Iraq and suddenly the campers in Oppenheimer seem pretty well off.

      Maybe when people are back from vacation, and the weather turns wet and ugly, the occupiers in the park might get more pity. But at this point in time I don't see much happening.

      Tommy Khang

      Aug 21, 2014 at 9:53am

      I for one am glad civic politicians aren't wasting their time on this issue; housing is not something that can legitimately or logistically should be handled on a municipal level. Vision isn't going to touch this camp with a ten foot pole after promising to get rid of street homelessness by 2015 and failing miserably at that, the last thing they want to do is remind the voting public of this failed goal so close to a municipal election. I don't see NPA wanting to play ball on this issue either; surprised no mention of COPE in this article though considering COPE has a housing platform.

      Weary of judgmental people who have no clue

      Aug 21, 2014 at 12:00pm

      Weary said " Whether it's just a lack of compassion or boredom, most people have a hard time supporting people who just sit around all day doing nothing, especially when some of them do have homes (as nasty as they may be)."

      So first of all, you have no problem with people who are ill living in a bedbug ridden dump?

      People who don't work usually don't because they can't for some reason. They're chronically or mentally ill with or without addictions and they can't function, they are literally unable to show up at a job every day. None of these conditions are a result of moral failure. Trauma is a big factor. Be thankful you're not one of them. All it would take would be an accident or illness to hit you and you could be right there. So, if you have no experience with chronic illness, serious mental illness, or addiction, you don't know what you are talking about.


      Aug 21, 2014 at 3:09pm

      If it's not getting the right type of support it's because there is a bitter growing resentment to the fact the poor of the DES have essentially lost one of the few civic resources and that Oppenheimer Park was probably one of the most used and vital parks anywhere in the Lower Mainland.

      Essentially it's another reminder to the poor of their second class status; virtually any other park, even one's not used as extensively, would have been cleared out long ago. But since this is just the poor and the DES, their existing 'community' becomes expendable for political purposes.

      You have to appreciate the fact that the poor in the DES who HAVE housing usually are cooped up in small dingy SROs, isolated and alone, and the park was a place for many many of them to congregate and get some fresh air. In that immediate area there are several long term care facilities with many folks that have mobility issues and as such this park is close as opposed to the alternatives.

      Basically one group's with inadequate housing is forced to sacrifice what little resources they have in this city to another group who are essentially telling people with nothing that they don't even have the right to 'stolen land'
      The area's residents are stuck to swelter in their hot little rooms while a group of 'outsiders' kick a political football around in which their is no solution or goal just big signs telling all the usual parks users 'No Drugs or Alcohol', noisy drum circles...
      'Support US or Fuck Off' is the definite message being sent to the community and I for one will not support any notion of a community that can't seek to accommodate the needs of other victims and seems to gutless to actually confront power like past housing demos did.

      Dan Wallace

      Aug 21, 2014 at 5:05pm

      Man I wish low brow media would inform people of the real facts. I'm the guy that organized for the salmon donation and your information for your readership should know the truth. If your interested in the truth then get back to me. As for any of the negative comments do the same so I can set your straight as well.

      Those that have negative comments regarding the camp then I challenge you to organize a total open public debate and share your voice in public setting. I'm more then willing to sit across from you. Talk is cheap so are opinions. I feel no need to hide behind fake names and run my mouth without backing it up, are you all bold enough to walk your talk?


      Aug 21, 2014 at 6:13pm

      In the evil old USA they have a group named Habitat for Humanity. They build houses for homeless people and their families with private donations and hard work. I'm surprised a good old socialist country that supposedly takes care of their own doesn't have such an organization. But then, one of the main tenants of Habitat for Humanity is that the people who will live in the houses have to actually help build the house. No government freebies. Once you give somebody something for free, then they tend to think of it as an entitlement.


      Aug 21, 2014 at 9:11pm

      @Weary of judgmental people who have no clue - I said 'most people', not me and yes I am well aware that the people down there are unable to earn an income of any sort. But if you pay attention to what the average person say, they have a low tolerance for people who just sit around and do nothing but 'demand' things.

      The organizers seem perplexed that more politicians aren't getting involved in the protest, but there's no reason for them to do that since it's not important to the majority of voters in this city. End of story.


      Aug 22, 2014 at 11:33pm

      I think a home is a right and we are entitled to a home. However the foreign money that buys up much of the property and forces the price up are not entitled to this at all. Who should have a home corrupt thieves from other countries or local people whk actually create culture and physically create wealth. Playing real estate games does at great profit should be illegal. We believe in trickle down economics and send billions to the top yet a few bucks for homeless canadians is too much. Why even have a country or a city if its just a free for profiteers. We spend money on band aids like detox and counselling police ect when the basics food and shelter wod cover most of the problems. A day in jail or hospital can pay a month rent. Its basic math and in the long run will save money and create a safer city.