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Participation of Urban Poor in Vancouver, Canada

Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly
University of Victoria
Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly
University of Victoria
Helga Hallgrimsdóttir
University of Victoria
Open Panel

Abstract

Vancouver, the city of the 2010 winter Olympic Games, is unique in many ways; it is identified in the urban literature as an open sustainable regime, and a site of intense and participatory policy discussions and debates, exemplified by, for instance, the referendum on the Olympic Games, among other things (Brunet-Jailly, 2007). However, since the 1980s, the Vancouver downtown has also been a developers’ paradise, which has led to tensions around issues of gentrification, in particular with respect to how urban development has impacted conditions in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Canada, the Downtown East Side of Vancouver (DTES),. Today, the DTES, which lies adjacent to the gleaming downtown business core, is still Canada’s poorest urban neighborhood; it is also the site of intense citizen engagement and multilevel governance policy-making. This has its origins as early as the late 1970s, when the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA) lobbied city hall for fire and building regulations to be enforced on the owners of DTES rooming houses. This relatively long history of citizen participation forms the background to the central question of this paper: to what extent do the urban poor and new immigrants of DTES participate in the policy governance of their neighborhood? More specifically, this paper investigates the extent to which the urban poor, new immigrants and urban aboriginals are included in participation and governance processes in the politics of Vancouver, and focuses on DTES to this end.