BC white-washing poverty in notorious Vcr neighbourhood, foreign media told

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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VANCOUVER - Vancouver's poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside is catching the eye of international media in town for the Winter Games.
A crush of media, including some foreign camera crews and reporters, showed up Monday in the neighbourhood known as Canada's poorest postal code to hear community groups denounce what they deem a propaganda "spin" centre.
Earlier, B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson opened the Downtown Eastside Connect Centre, which they say will give visitors information about the notoriously poor and drug-plagued area in the middle of the Olympic heartland of the city.
Coleman said the centre will show the public and media how government subsidies have made a positive difference in the community. The province subsidizes 7,000 social and supportive housing units a year.
"The Connect centre shows how these investments have made a positive difference," Coleman said in a news release.
Later in the day, several dozen protesters holding signs saying "No Olympic Social Cleansing," and "Homeless Needs Homes," gathered in front of the centre.
Wendy Pederson, with the social housing group Carnegie Community Action Project, said the government is trying to spin a positive message about poverty and homelessness with the world watching.
She said a collection of anti-poverty and housing activists groups will have their own community representatives outside the centre to give visitors the other side of the story.
"We don't want the Downtown Eastside to be white-washed and spin doctored through the Olympics," she told reporters.
"Our goal is to make sure the international audience is appalled by the situation that our governments have put us in in Canada."
Pederson said the government opened the centre because it has a public relations problem.
"They can control everything but the nature and us," she laughed, referring to the lack of snow at the skiing and snowboarding venue at Cypress Mountain.
A reporter from the German public broadcaster ARD questioned Downtown Eastside activist Harsha Walia on the housing conditions in the area and what the government has done to improve the situation.
Ironically, most of the news conference was held amid the din of construction beside the centre, where workers are finishing the Woodwards' condominium complex, which combines housing, commercial, retail and institutional space.
Several speakers at the protest said the development represents the gentrification of the Downtown Eastside, where many of the poorer residents live in what are called SROs, or single room occupancy, hotels.
The B.C. government has purchased 26 of the hotels in the last few years in Vancouver, Victoria and New Westminster in order to retain the supply of the low-income rooms.
Since 2001, the provincial government says it has created more than 18,000 new units of housing in the province.

Organizations: Downtown Eastside Connect Centre

Geographic location: VANCOUVER, Canada, Carnegie Community Cypress Mountain B.C. Victoria New Westminster

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