A New Dad’s Reflection on the Joint Housing and Food Security Crisis

The neighbourhood has an immediate sense of community, and it doesn’t take long for you to appreciate what an ideal place it is to raise a family. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, the average family is no longer able to afford to live in the neighbourhood. – Josh Braby

On a typical weekday evening at Gaston Park, in the East Vancouver Collingwood neighbourhood, you’re likely to see some combination of young children playing as they wait for their parents to come pick them up from school, a group of teenagers shooting hoops while their friends hangout on the sidelines, a game of catch between a parent and their child, sunbathers, a couple friends kicking the soccer ball around, a game of cricket, dogs playing fetch, and so on. Gaston is just one of the many parks in the Collingwood neighbourhood and chances are they’ll all be filled with families and friends interacting as you walk by. The neighbourhood has an immediate sense of community, and it doesn’t take long for you to appreciate what an ideal place it is to raise a family. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, the average family is no longer able to afford to live in the neighbourhood.

At Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice, we promote equitable access, intercultural learning and community leadership around food, including sustainable growing practices, local food, food security, diverse food traditions, and healthy eating in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. So why am I writing about housing? Well recently in the Collingwood neighbourhood the issues of food justice and affordable housing merged (as they tend to do) when the City of Vancouver announced that it had received a rezoning application for a 32-storey, 293-unit, mixed-use building on Joyce Street which would almost certainly replace a row of important cultural food assets in the neighbourhood. Not only would these cultural food assets in the neighbourhood be squeezed out, but the new building will likely contribute to already unrealistic real estate prices in the neighbourhood squeezing out many of the current inhabitants. 

IMAGE: Josh Braby (right) and his dog Shilo (left)

According to Stats Canada, the average (pre-pandemic) income in Vancouver is $52,000 and the average Vancouver house price is now over $1,300,000, which is 25 times the average income. In the Collingwood neighbourhood specifically, the cost of a two bedroom condo is approximately $700,000 or 13 times the average Vancouver income. The brand new condo development near the Joyce Collingwood Skytrain station that will be finished later this year has listed unit prices ranging from $540,000 for a one-bedroom 400 sq ft condo, to $1,350,000 for a 1400 sq ft three-bedroom condo. No wonder a recent Canadian poll found that 36% of folks under the age of 40 have given up on the possibility of home ownership.

Rennie Marketing Group of Vancouver estimates that almost 90% of young people applying for mortgages in Vancouver are getting financial assistance from their parents. A recent report from Mortgage Professionals Canada says $2.8-billion was withdrawn in 2020 for the purpose of transferring money to a family member to buy a house. In other words, financial support from family is effectively a prerequisite for young people to be able to enter the local housing market.

If this trend continues the Collingwood neighbourhood will not only witness the cultural displacement of local food assets but also local community members, and ultimately community as a whole.

Josh Braby is a neighbour in the Renfrew Collingwood community. He has been supporting environmental and Indigenous food restoration work at the Norquay Food Forest since 2020 as well as volunteering as a key advisory member on the Renfrew Collingwood Food Advisory Board. Josh is a worker, renter, and student on Unceded Musqueam, Squamish & Tsliel-Waututh territories. Josh cares deeply about the cultural preservation of the Renfrew Collingwood neighbourhood and hopes it can remain family friendly for future generations.”

Sources:

Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0239-01  Income of individuals by age group, sex and income source, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas

https://www.zolo.ca/vancouver-real-estate/collingwood-ve/trends

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-great-generational-wealth-transfer-is-under-way/

A “Just Recovery for All” Must Include Migrant Workers

Each year thousands of migrant workers emigrate from the global South in search of employment. Tens of thousands of migrant workers across the province work in our grocery stores, as cleaners, health care workers, child care workers, truckers, construction workers and farm workers.

Canadian imperialism and corporate interests have, and continue to shape the socio-economic conditions which stimulate this transnational movement of labour. Through the imposition of neoliberal politics under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we know that locally produced goods in Mexico have and continue to be supplanted by cheaper foreign-imports. The resulting decline of local agriculture has created high levels of poverty and unemployment among subsistence farmers, forcing them to seek work outside the country, often times in the US or Canada.

When those who are displaced from work in their homelands arrive in Canada, it is not uncommon to experience psychological abuse, unsafe working conditions and multiple barriers to accessing justice. The maltreatment of migrant workers is compounded by precarious legal status, and limited ability to gain permanent residence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent to which our communities, and our provincial economy depend on migrant workers who lack permanent resident status and, as a result, lack access to basic rights and services they deserve. 

We urge the province of British Columbia to respond to the Migrant Workers Centre (“MWC”) priorities for a Just Recovery for All. These measures remain pertinent to the fight for the rights of migrant workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Priorities for Migrant Workers for a Just Recovery for All

1. Expand the BC Provincial Nominee Program to include workers in “entry-level and semi-skilled” (ELSS) jobs in health care, child care, agriculture, janitorial services, retail, and construction that is open to workers regardless of immigration status in Canada.

2. Ensure that all workers in BC can enroll in the Medical Services Plan and access health care regardless of immigration status.

3. Ensure adequate staffing and resources for the Employment Standards Branch to proactively enforce the provisions of the Temporary Foreign Worker Protection Act, including random, unannounced inspections of workplaces that employ migrant workers.

4. Ensure that essential workers including farm workers, sitters, residential care workers, night attendants, and live-in home support workers are protected with respect to rights such as the hourly minimum wage, statutory holiday pay and overtime pay by repealing regulatory exclusions for these occupations under the Employment Standards Act.

Introducing New Members of the Food Justice Team: Melissa and Stef!


IMAGE: Melissa West Morrison (left), Indigenous Foodlands and Urban Agriculture Contractor, and Stef Urloiu (right), Food Justice Intern.

Hey everyone, 

We are excited to introduce you to our new Indigenous Foodlands and Urban Agriculture Contractor and Food Justice Intern for this summer: Melissa and Stef! 

Indigenous Foodlands and Urban Agriculture Contractor: Melissa West Morrison (pronouns: she/her)

“With one foot in cedar and another in bamboo, Melissa is ‘Namgis and Chinese. She is joining the Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice Team as the Indigenous Foodlands & Urban Agriculture Contractor at Collingwood Neighborhoods House. Melissa supports CNH’s Rooftop Garden, Indigenous Food Forest, Cheyenne and Collingwood Community Gardens and land-based community-led workshops. With a passion for community-bridge building and land-based education, Melissa will be facilitating and supporting opportunities for relationship building, knowledge sharing, and learning between Indigenous Food Sovereignty leaders and community members. She facilitates educational and research needs related to Indigenous food security while increasing knowledge of and access to traditional plants and foods.

Her research focuses include Indigenous land-based learning, Indigenous feminism, law and decolonial methodologies. On a life-long journey of learning the language of plants, Melissa is driven by community-led approaches. She is a Community Artist and UBC Alumni. Melissa’s work is rooted in facilitating educational experiences that centers on supporting self-determining and sustainable communities in the revitalization through a reconnection with the land.”

Contact Details: Collingwoodurbanag@cnh.bc.ca 

Working Days: Mondays & Tuesdays 

Food Justice Intern: Stef Urloiu (pronouns: she/they) 

“Stef Urloiu is a white transfeminine settler of Romanian, Bulgarian, and Armenian ancestry, who has been living as an uninvited guest on the stolen homelands of the xwməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ/Selilwitulh peoples since 2019. She is currently working on her degree in conservation at the University of British Columbia and has four years of experience in community organizing as well as a background in ecological restoration, native plant horticulture, and youth programming. Stef just finished her work placement with the Environmental Youth Alliance and is extremely thrilled to join Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice and help ensure access to sustainable, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods for the Renfrew-Collingwood Neighbourhood.”

Contact Details: CommunityDevelopment@cnh.bc.ca

Working Days: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays  

Reflections on Earth Day

Happy Earth Day from Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice.

To truly affirm a commitment to environmental stewardship this Earth Day, we must oppose the destructive and inhuman practices endemic to colonialism, white supremacy, and capitalist production.

Climate justice, and transformative food politics must be engaged in multiple, intersectional battles. These initiatives must support communities which have historically, and which continue to experience systemic oppression and centre the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in reimagining the future of our food systems.

JOB POSTING: Indigenous Foodlands and Urban Agriculture Contractor

 Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice (RCFJ) is seeking a critically thinking, passionate individual to join the Food Justice team this summer. This person will be responsible for supporting the organization, facilitation and promotion of urban agriculture activities and celebratory events with the RCFJ. Existing projects include our Rooftop Garden, Indigenous Food Forest, Cheyenne and Collingwood Community Gardens, Garden Skills workshops, outreach and event support. 

Food Justice is rooted in Indigenous Food Sovereignty, as such we strongly encourage Indigenous applicants to apply. If you identify as Indigenous and would like to let us know, please include this in your application. If you are not Indigenous, please demonstrate your working knowledge of Indigenous Food Sovereignty & experience working in relationship with Indigenous communities & individuals. 

For more information visit the Job Posting at: https://www.cnh.bc.ca/about/careers/

Protect Our Cultural Food Assets

Join us in responding to the displacement of vital cultural food assets in our community. This engagement session is family friendly, and open to all. On Tuesday, March 9th, and Wednesday March 10th, we are coming together to gather in person feedback in English and Tagalog on the re-development proposal for 5163-5187 Joyce St (Sari-Sari Filipino Convenience Store, Kumare Express, Pampanga’s Cuisine, Plato Filipino, Joyce Jiaozi, and Kay Market).

We will respect the social distancing rules that remain in place to eliminate the spread of COVID-19. All who stop by are asked to wear a mask. We will have hand sanitizer available and physical distancing markers in place. Though we are taking these precautions, there remains a risk to this form of activity, especially to folks who are immunocompromised.

Solidarity With Sipekne’katik First Nation in Mi’kma’ki

Renfrew-Collingwood Food Justice would like to affirm and extend our support and solidarity to the fishers and community of Sipekne’katik First Nation in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia).

For weeks, settler commercial fishers in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia) have targeted fishers of Sipekne’katik First Nation. Attacks on Mi’kmaq fishers have included violent confrontations at the wharf of the self-regulated fishery in Weymouth, lobster traps being removed in St. Mary’s Bay and lobster pounds being ransacked, as well as violent rock-throwing, threats and vehicle fires. Most recently, a lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico holding the catch of Mi’kmaq fishers was burnt down. These acts of violence are intentional and genocidal.

Intervention from the RCMP and local police has been minimal. This inaction protects crimes perpetrated by settler vigilantes. This is settler-colonial violence.

Mi’kma’ki is unceded territory, and the Mi’kmaq have ancestral and treaty rights to harvest on their waters — an activity that has been practiced since time immemorial. The right of Mi’kmaq peoples to hunt, fish and gather year-round for a moderate livelihood is a constitutionally protected treaty right as per the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty. RCFJ stands behind, and echos all calls for the Canadian state to uphold Mi’kmaq treaty rights. It is unacceptable for governments to be complicit as blatant acts of racism and violence are perpetrated against Mi’kmaq peoples. We extend our unequivocal solidarity and support to the fishers and the entire community of Sipekne’katik First Nation in Mi’kma’ki in protecting their sovereignty and self-determination.


[IMAGE: Created by Jordan Bennett, Mi’kmaq artist from Stephenville Crossing, Ktaqamkuk]

OCT. 6 Virtual Meet & Greet!

In light of increasing concern regarding a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, RCFJ will be CANCELLING both our in-person Meet & Greet and Food Advisory Committee meeting. We would like to extend our sincere apologies for any disappointment and inconvenience this cancellation has caused.

Our primary concern is always the responsibility we feel towards our community, and this is a difficult decision we have made with the hopes of keeping our community safe. We are continuing to explore options to reschedule this in-person gathering and other similar events at a safer time.

Until then, both events planned for TONIGHT will now be hosted online through Zoom. We will be coming together from 5PM – 6PM for a virtual Meet & Greet, and from 6PM – 7:30PM for our October Food Advisory Committee.

If you have a computer or tablet with a microphone and camera, you can log into zoom by clicking the following link at around 5:00 TONIGHT: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88983952173…

If you will not have access to a computer you can call in on your telephone at 778-907-2071

You will then be prompted to enter your Meeting ID which is: 889 8395 2173. And your passcode which is: 421601

We truly hope to see you tonight for this virtual coming together!!

In warmth and gratitude,

RCFJ

September 30th is Orange Shirt Day

Every Child Matters.

In 2015, it was formally recognized by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that government-funded, church-run residential schools in Canada operated with an explicit purpose; to destroy Indigenous cultures, languages and ways of life.


Old Crow Chief Norma Kassi said at the Northern National Event in Inuvik, “The doors are closed at the residential schools but the foster homes are still existing and our children are still being taken away.”

State-sanctioned genocide of Indigenous peoples continues to be enacted through institutions such as the Canadian child welfare and carceral systems, through willful disregard for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women & Girls, and through state-sanctioned intimidation of Land Defenders.

As settlers working to counteract violence of the industrial food system, we must also understand how food and food production intersects with these histories of colonialism, with settler agriculture and with the disruption of Coast Salish food systems. We echo and stand behind demands made by Indigenous Land Defenders for #LandBack, and understand our work here is incomplete until these demands are met.


We also acknowledge the need for institutions, individuals, and organizations such as ourselves to move beyond rhetorical gestures of inclusion and commit to decolonial solidarity through sustained, action.

Today is Orange Shirt Day – a day honouring children that were violently torn away from their families and forced into Canada’s residential school system.

As a call to action and show of solidarity, Orange Shirt Society has invited folks to organize or attend an event being organized in your area. Link below for a full list of events organized in so-called British Columbia. We encourage visitation of this link, and broader reflection on ways in which we might support Indigenous resurgence, resistance and decolonial struggle.

https://www.orangeshirtday.org/british-columbia.html

[IMAGE: From Mi’kmaq Printing & Design. Check out and purchase their apparel here https://www.instagram.com/mikmaqprinting/?hl=en]

Join the RCFJ team for a Garden Meet and Greet!

Norquay Food Forest – 2732 Horley Street

Tuesday, October 6th, 5PM – 6PM

Join the Collingwood-Renfrew Food Justice team and our friends from the Still Moon Arts Society for a garden meet and greet/lantern making workshop! Snacks and supplies will be provided!

In light of public health recommendations will be practicing social distancing (6.5 feet) using visible markers. Hand sanitizer will also be available. We will have masks for those who do not have any, but supplies are limited so we encourage folks to bring their own.

我们邀请您参加花园聚会和灯笼制作!我们将提供食物和供应!

我们将遵守公共卫生规则。例如,社交距离。洗手液也将提供。我们会为那些没有口罩的人提供口罩,但供应有限,因此我们建议您带上自己的口罩!希望我们能在这次活动中见到您。

Tham gia với nhóm Collingwood-Renfrew Food Justice và những người bạn của chúng tôi từ Still Moon Arts Society để gặp gỡ, chào hỏi, và học cách làm lồng đèn trong vườn! Đồ ăn nhẹ và đồ dùng làm nghệ thuật sẽ được cung cấp!

Theo các khuyến nghị về sức khỏe của chính phủ, tất cả chúng ta sẽ giữ khoảng cách 6,5 feet bằng cách sử dụng các dấu hiệu nhìn thấy được. Dung dịch rửa tay khô cũng sẽ có sẵn. Chúng tôi sẽ có một số khẩu trang cho người không có, nhưng vì chúng tôi có rất ít, chúng tôi khuyến khích bạn mang theo khẩu trang của riêng mình.