Monday, May 05, 2008



Squat. The very word has a harsh ugly sound. Almost like spit. Or that other S word. From Wikipedia the word squatting in a political sense means “the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use.” Okay, that’s straightforward enough


There was a rally at Little Mountain low rental complex today. Five hundred people are losing their homes there. Private developers are moving in, moving on up, sucking in public land, public assets, fattening further on the flesh and souls and futures of poor people. Earlier I was on one of the Stands for Housing that took place all over the city today demanding that housing be recognized as a human right. Why? Because it’s inhuman to leave whole categories of people homeless in a province awash in wealth.

People sicken and die from homelessness. Working families sicken and fall apart when there’s not enough money for food, clothes, transportation and school supplies after sky high rents are paid. Everybody sickens when they live in a city where a provincial government, crazed and stupid from an absolute privatization ideology, gives a housing allowance of 375 dollars a month per adult on public assistance. Where is anybody in this city going to find a place to stay for 375 a month except bunking in with a stranger in one of the flea bag hotels which in turn are rapidly being empted out for development? Where, I want to know is the mayor and council on this? Why aren’t they jumping up and down at such miserable treatment of citizens? Why aren’t they screaming in the streets?

Where are their guts?

Apparently they don’t have any. Or else they have shriveled by the dazzle of developer’s money, by the shock and awe of corporate might. In the face of this crisis let’s at least look at the possibility of drafting some sort of squatters rights. Don’t faint on me now. Stay with me. To prevent revolutions some countries, even western ones, have drafted squatter’s rights, squatter’s laws. In the Netherlands if a house is empty a year or more then squatters have a legal right to move in. There are similar rulings, laws and by laws in other countries.

Growing poverty is dogging us like a plague. Over priced housing and homelessness are festering sores. While, of course, and at the same time, development runs amuck. But the solution is relatively simple. Run the developers and their politicians out of City Hall, out of the legislature, out of parliament. It’s almost as though most of the rest of us are being held in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where we have been persuaded by the highjackers and kidnappers that their interests are also ours. In our finer moments we know this is not true. Let’s collectively find our own guts, our spleens, our good hearts, and strong minds. And we can do this.

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