HOME DEFENDERS STAND WITH LAND DEFENDERS
By Sadie Morris and Destiny Morris
Beyond Land Acknowledgement presentation given at the January 2019 townhall. Urban Indigenous home defenders stand with Wet’suwet’en defence of their territory against the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
My name is Sadie Morris, my Indigenous name is Ma Maa Tea, I am Nuu Chah Nulth and Irish. My daughter is Destiny Morris, she is Nuu Chah Nulth, Gitsan, and Irish. We are both from the wolf clan. We are also Metrotown residents in the demoviction zone.
Sadie: One of the things that we are very familiar with in the Metrotown neighbourhood is the commodification of land… The Wet’suwet’en have been fighting for 10 years against LNG, against a number of pipelines. And one of the differences between the commodification of land and the Indigenous relationship to the land is one of our original protocols and laws is that we’re stewards. And when I had my daughter, I became a steward of my daughter. It is my role and my responsibility because the Creator had sent my daughter to me that I have become her steward. Another way of being a steward is protection of land. This is not with just the land but the water it is basically every ecosystem. My daughter and I were at the All Nations Unite With Wet’suwet’en support and we’ve been with the fight recently, within the past two weeks. We went to support the Wet’suwet’en and show solidarity. As an indigenous person, I want people to know that we still are here and that we still exercise our inherent rights. To me, this fight has been going on since contact, the commodification of our land.
Destiny: So talking about the pipelines going into the Wet’suwet’en. Any fossil fuel or pipeline without consent is a continued commodification of Indigenous lands, resources and water. We have always been connected to the land because what happens to the land happens to our physical bodies. If the land is being poisoned by oil spills or anything else that is toxic, it directly affects how we live. How it damages the land, the water and the environment affects us all.
We have respect and we rely on the land. Because what happens to the land happens to us. Commodification, like what is happening in the Metrotown neighbourhood has happened with imperialization, commodification of all Indigenous territories. Canadian land has been commodified and when this happens, protecting land is more important than protecting people. Putting a price on land only exists in the colonial lens. Having a deed states the safety of your private property is more important, or more valuable than a person’s safety from homelessness. It’s not only the deed that states this, it’s also the RCMP. They may not verbally state it, this is what they say when they’re protecting “private property” from people who need the safety of homes. Indigenous Metrotown residents migrated from traditional territories. In Burnaby there are 4000 Indigenous people. Musqueam, Squamish, Ojibway, Mohawk, Nuu-chah-nulth, Carrier Sekani, Blackfoot, that is just to name the indigenous people my mother and I have met. We are sure there are other indigenous nations in the Metrotown neighbourhood but we just haven’t met them. All these territories are where people come from.
Our homes today need to be protected. Indigenous bodies have always been the target for police, bigots and systematic racism. By keeping Indigenous people off the streets and in a home, reduces these acts of violence that can lead to exploitation and death. The word reconciliation is empty, hollow and has never had any meaning. The reason being is that there is no follow-up through actions. It is just someone loosely saying “I’m sorry for screwing up”.
Sadie: Destiny had came up with “Home Defenders Stand with Land Defenders”. Because the work that we’re doing here is we’re defending homes and supporting land defenders, this work is especially crucial to both my daughter and I because of our connection to the land, the neighborhood, and to the land defenders is intrinsically stronger because we are Indigenous.
STOP DEMOVICTIONS BURNABY VISION FOR 2019
At the January Town-hall, Metrotown tenants met to discuss ideas about ways to continue our struggle against evictions in 2019. Here are some highlights from these conversations.
1) SDB Priorities
- Push the City to force developers into offering tenants facing demoviction new places at the same rents at a similar location and size
- Build neighbourhood solidarity by connecting with our neighbours
- Expand decolonization beyond Land Acknowledgements
- Continue to fight for housing for all, regardless of income
2) Proposed Actions
- Rent strikes
- Direct actions (ex. Sit-ins, National Day of Action with other tenants facing displacement across colonial borders)
- Metrotown event celebrating the many diverse cultures of the neighbourhood cultural event introducing SDB
3) How to Engage with the City?
- Form alliances with unions and workers
- Engage enough with Hurley to expose his lies or see if he follows through on his promises
- Remind him he got elected because of us
4) How to Expand our Presence
- Different outreach spots, such as around the Edmonds Skytrain station and beyond Patterson station
- Have a strong presence in the streets such as during the Anti-Imperial Squat)
- Engage with families and youth, possibly through Maywood and Marlborough elementary schools
- Reach out to our neighbours beyond Burnaby
BURNABY’S HOUSING TASK FARCE: A developer-heavy housing task force won’t end the crisis Metrotown renters face
By Emily Luba & Zoe Luba
In his neighbourhood of Metrotown, Alaidjah sees lots of homes being built, “but not affordable homes”. At a press conference outside Burnaby City hall on Monday January 28th, he described passing by a construction-prepped gaping hole and soon-to-be-tower where he used to live: “On one of their advertising slogans they say ‘building a community’ but I wonder, a community for who?”
Burnaby’s recently announced housing task force, half of which is comprised of corporate developers, their lobbyist cronies and pro-gentrification politicians, gives us a clue. The problem with this task force, Stop Demovictions Burnaby organizer Stephen explained, is that “the thought process that got us into this problem is not gonna get us out”.
In Metrotown under new Mayor Mike Hurley, it’s a new-face-same-agenda situation. Hurley’s housing task force has no tenants on it, but at its official launch, tenants spoke up anyways. Metrotown residents – the evicted and the soon-to-be evicted – alongside supporters from Stop Demovictions Burnaby, stood outside Burnaby City Hall where the neighbourhood’s low income community has been sentenced to death, time and time again. Against the developer-dominated Housing Task “Farce,” tenants demonstrated that evictions will be stopped by tenants’ self-determination, not by developers or landlords.
Hurley’s housing task force consists of an overtly pro-development camp alongside a reform-oriented group of unions and non-profit organizations, many of whom have been friendly to the NDP and Burnaby’s BCA-majority council. The pro-development camp includes three real estate developers, two councilors who obediently served demoviction-king Corrigan, and representatives from the Urban Development Institute and Burnaby Board of Trade. The reform-oriented camp includes representatives from BCGEU, ACORN, the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, New Chelsea Society, Burnaby Teachers’ Association and Generation Squeeze. According to Stop Demovictions member Emily Luba, placing developers and corporate interests on the housing taskforce is “like inviting foxes into the henhouse. Neither developers nor their lobby should be on this task force, they are here to profit while pretending to listen.”
Stop Demovictions Burnaby demands that Hurley remove the developers and their lobby from the task force, and calls on the other organizations with seats to offer their spots to renters facing displacement from Metrotown. This would mean those most impacted would be in the majority, and the city would be represented only by Hurley and Keithley, two newly elected politicians who have yet to vote through a demoviction.
The main complaint raised at the news conference was that there is nobody on Hurley’s Housing Task Force who is facing imminent eviction, and significantly, nobody who even rents in Metrotown. Responding to Mayor Hurley’s claim that no-one from Stop Demovictions had applied to be on the task force, Stephen, a member of Stop Demovictions, said that he had applied in December, but was told the task force was “already full.”
Kadar lived for many months in slum-like conditions on Telford Avenue in a building owned by Westland Development Corporation. He began the press conference by pointing to a placard portraying Corrigan on a wrecking ball and explained how he is “a victim of this gentrifying pig.” Kadar demanded respect and humanity from the city – he voted for Hurley and wants Hurley to listen to him. He is fighting for accountability from Hurley’s civic government, while re-asserting his humanity as a resident of Metrotown who deserves to be heard – a renter with power, unwilling and steadfast in his refusal to accept the status quo.
Emily Luba said, “Mike Hurley was elected as mayor by appropriating our demands of a moratorium on demovictions. He even went so far as to use photos from one of our protests on his campaign materials without our permission.” And Kadar proclaimed to Hurley: “You had my vote – It’s like you tricked me. All we are asking is that you stick to your word.”
In Hurley’s opening address at the council meeting, he sung a similar tune – describing working with the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, the City’s Task Force on Homelessness, and Progressive Housing Society, but with no mention of actual homeless people. Stop Demovictions has demanded people before profit for years – we refuse to see institutions of power continually given priority over our voices.
The rally and news conference on January 28th showed that as Hurley’s term as Mayor begins, Stop Demovictions Burnaby and the residents of Metrotown will be there to watch closely and fight to hold him accountable for the promises he made during his campaign. Emily Luba said, “We do not want developers making decisions about our housing, when they have everything to gain and we have everything to lose. We need a Task Force that is majority Metrotown residents who are facing down demovictions.”