Can you tell these elders to their face that Beedie’s profit is more important than their lives?
Oct. 30, 2017
My name is Jannie Leung and I’m also known as 梁泳詩. I’m an organizer with the Chinatown Action Group.
I grew up here on unceded Coast Salish territories, and Chinatown has always been an important part of my identity, culture, and community. I am indebted to the elders of Chinatown — many of whom you’ve met today — who teach me my language and history, and teach me to speak up for what is right.
I’m here today to ask you to do the right thing and reject Beedie’s application at 105 Keefer on the grounds that it will cause devastating social and economic harm to the neighbourhood.
Building condos at the Keefer triangle will not only disrespect a culturally and historically important site in Chinatown, it will further threaten the livelihoods of the neighbourhood’s most marginalized residents. In the neighbouring 189 Keefer building, we have seen 1 bedroom condos being sold for just under half a million dollars. In a neighbourhood where the median household income of the area is $27,000 and social housing waitlists are years long, and with over 2000 homeless people in Vancouver, it would be completely inappropriate to allow more condos to be built instead of affordable social housing.
Since 2014, Beedie’s previous 4 attempts to build on this site were unsuccessful because of overwhelming community opposition. We have voiced again and again that this community does not need more condos, but what we desperately need is affordable social housing. Yet, this developer has demonstrated that their sole interest is in making profit, and they do not care about or respect the Chinatown community. They especially do not care about the low-income people in this neighbourhood who struggle daily to meet even their basic needs. It is a selfish and greedy act that their current application has 111 units of market condos that will be completely unaffordable for these residents, and zero units of affordable social housing.
In this current version of their development application, 78% of community members giving feedback oppose this development. It is not appropriate to allow a building into a neighbourhood that will cause harm to the community and where the majority have rejected it.
And while I have your attention here, I also need to speak on the discrimination and exclusion I have seen within this Development Permit process. We know that a very high proportion of residents in Chinatown are unilingual Chinese speakers. And it is inexcusable that many of its residents can’t participate equally in these city processes about their neighbourhood because they speak a different language. Language accessibility is something that can be so easily addressed with appropriate interpretation services.
As we have seen today, the Chinese speakers only get half the time to speak as everyone else because they need English interpretation. There has been no interpretation of the proceedings into Cantonese and Mandarin for them, so they watch other people talk about their community and make decisions about it, but they cannot understand what is happening.
Chinatown has a long history of the city making decisions about them, for them, and enforcing regulations that threaten their livelihoods without their consultation. Even today, I commonly hear from Chinatown residents and businesses that they feel like their voices do not matter, and even when they participate in city processes, the city does not listen to their needs.
This is unacceptable.
As the City of Vancouver is making efforts towards reconciliation for historical discrimination against Chinese people, it is appalling to me that there continues to be systemic racism to this day. It is appalling that you discredit the community members telling you the very real and harmful impacts on their lives. It is appalling that you think you can ignore social impacts in assessing this development.
And despite the accessibility barriers, some of our courageous Chinatown elders have come here to speak their truth to you. Can you tell these elders to their face that Beedie’s profit is more important than their lives? Can you, in good conscience, approve a development that the Chinatown community has so definitively opposed?
I ask you to show us that these city processes are not a sham. I ask you to show us that we no longer live in a time when Chinese voices are silenced and our needs ignored. I ask you respect what the Chinatown community has so clearly asked for and do your duty to protect the community against a development that will cause irreparable harm to the community. I ask you to reject Beedie’s development application.
I also ask that you undertake a review of your procedures to end these discriminatory practices and ensure that community members have equal opportunities to participate and their accessibility needs are addressed. You can do better. You must do better.
Jannie Leung 梁泳詩 is an organizer with Chinatown Action Group.
Photo credit: Lenée Son