To the editor:
Re: “Columnist should apologize for maligning Vancouver neighbourhood,” online,” online letters April 30.
I write in response to Ms. Swanson's accusation that Allen Garr "got quite a few things wrong." Much as I respect the work Ms. Swanson has done on the issue of welfare rates, I believe in this situation, she is the one that has “a few things wrong.”
I am one of the "older women" referenced in Mr. Garr's April 27 column who spoke in favour of 138 Sequel. I spoke on behalf of the Crosstown Residents Association that supports a balanced and inclusive community. That concept generated hostile heckling and hurling of unrepeatable epithets by the crowd of DNC members who were bused into city hall for the hearing. I do not believe Ms. Swanson was in the hearing room when I spoke. I believe she was in the antechamber. Speakers in the main chamber had registered early to speak. Speakers lower down on the speakers list, were asked to stay in the ante chamber until the earlier speakers finished and exited. There was an audio/visual link from the main chamber into the ante chamber, but we in the main chamber did not know what was going outside the hearing room.
Ms. Swanson states that Ivan Drury was "sensing the injustice that the developers' friends had been allowed into the hearing room," I will categorically deny that. Wrong! I am quite certain that the hassling and heckling that I endured was not instigated by the developer or his architect. The main room accommodated city staff, the permit board, the project proponents and speakers in the order in which they had registered. When I spoke, I believe there were three speakers in support of the proposal and 30 against.
When I exited the main room to make space for the next speakers on the list, I was met by three Vancouver police officers. Given what they had heard in the ante chamber, they offered to escort me safely to my car. Given what I heard in the main chamber, I gratefully accepted their offer.
Contrary to Ms. Swanson's contention, there is widespread support for Sequel 138. Supporters, however, are loathe to make themselves known as they fear reprisals and being subjected to the bullying tactics I experienced while I attempted to speak. Stable housing is one of the most significant factors in a person's life. For someone on welfare, it is often the acquisition of stable housing that enables that person to find work and succeed in becoming independent. The 100 per cent welfare rate proposed by the Carnegie Action Project and the DNC means that if someone finds work, they would be evicted. Is that the social policy you want to support?
Sequel 138 met the 20 per cent social housing requirement, included opportunity for urban gardening, meeting space, and an opportunity for some form of home ownership for people earning moderate incomes without down payment. In addition, the developer committed to a community management process that promises to be inclusive and democratic. Is that what Drury and company fear?
Ms. Swanson demands an apology from Allen Garr. I demand an apology from the bullies and hecklers.
Fern Jeffries, Vancouver