In Montreal, Carla White re-writes the David-and-Goliath script

Carla White outside her apartment building

“And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had a helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass. And he had greaves of brass upon his legs, and a target of brass between his shoulders. And the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.”  King James Bible

 According to contemporary scholars, it was not David who killed the “champion” Goliath but rather Elhanan, son of Jair. Later, the story was revised by “supporters of the Davidic dynasty.” But what really matters, to these scholars, is the detailed representation of Goliath’s armor. In Montreal right now, a single tenant, Carla White, is resisting attempts by a major developer, Mondev, and she, like David or Elhanan, is undeterred by flashy armor and massive size. By accurately assessing the housing situation and her own position, Carla White has held up a luxury condo development for three years. Here’s her story.

After a series of eviction, Carla White finally found a place she could afford. That was ten years ago. The apartment is one room, has no working stove, and mostly filled with a bed and a small desk, and loads of plants. But, and importantly, Carla White pays $400, Canadian, a month. By law, the rent can’t be raised, and so Carla White has a secure and stable place, however diminutive, in which to live. Or she had one, until Mondev showed up, a few years ago. Mondev wants to demolish the building and build 176 luxury condos. They made offers to other tenants, who accepted. Others simply moved. But Carla White looked at the new skyscrapers in her neighborhood, looked at the apartment listings as well, and asked, “I look out there and say, where am I going now?” Rather than succumb to the inevitability of nowhere-to-go, Carla White stood her ground and entered into negotiations.

According to Mondev, they have made offers, which they describe as more than generous, for the past three years. The last offer was $20,000, Canadian. Mondev is portraying this as a more than reasonable offer, one that would ensure housing for Carla White for some time to come. Carla White responded, “How far will $20,000 go (at) $1,600 a month? I will be evicted within a year. I will be out on the roads.” Carla White’s attorney, Manuel Johnson, added: “She’s not trying to save the building. She knows it needs to be renovated. She just wants somewhere safe and affordable to live …. Whatever reasonable settlement Ms White needs for housing stability in no way will endanger the financial viability of their project. They don’t have any cash-flow problems, they’re going to be making millions of dollars on this development.” In other words, their armor is coated with mail.

Canada is in the throes of an affordable housing crisis, as it is in the midst of an eviction boom. British Columbia leads the race to the bottom, while Quebec, led by Montreal, has seen an explosion of `renovictions’. In the United States, starting in the late 1940s, blight and `urban renewal’ became the excuse to displace entire working-class communities of color. Contemporary Canada’s equivalent to `blight’ is `renovation’. Across Canada, tenants are forming tenant unions and engaging in rent strikes. As corporate landlords consume increasing portions of urban residential space and push for higher and higher rent increases, the number of rent strikes are expected to rise. From organized collective action to organized individual actions, everyone is asking the question Carla White is asking, “I look out there and say, where am I going now?”

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: CTV Montreal News / La Presse Canadienne / Christinne Muschi)

Hope in a time of choler: In Argentina, emergency contraception is available without a prescription

On Tuesday, May 30, 2023, Argentina’s Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, issued Resolution 1062/2023, concerning access to emergency contraception. As of Wednesday, the so-called morning after pill became available over the counter, without a prescription. This major step forward resulted from decades of intense organizing by women’s groups, feminists, and allies. While much of the United States threatens the rights, autonomy, well-being, and safety of women and girls, Argentina leads the world in a better, safer, and more just direction.

After some preliminary considerations, the Resolution states, “That the right to access contraception in all its forms is part of sexual and reproductive rights, recognized as basic human rights enshrined in human rights treaties that have constitutional status. Likewise, the State has committed itself to the reduction of unintended pregnancies, in successive platforms since the signing of the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (CIPD, 1994) in which it was recognized that empowerment, full equality and empowerment of women were essential for social and economic progress. To this end, it has committed to promoting the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, which explicitly recognizes the key role of sexual and reproductive health and gender equality and establishes goals linked to the capacity of women, adolescents and all people with the ability to gestate to make informed decisions about sexual relations, timely access to the use of contraceptives and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.”

The Resolution concludes, “Every person of childbearing age must have timely access and without regulatory restrictions to emergency hormonal contraception (AHE), knowing that this is the last chance for contraception after sexual intercourse and thereby reducing maternal mortality and morbidity caused by unsafe abortions.”

Every person of childbearing age. Not only those who can afford to travel somewhere else. Not only those who are connected to various networks, of class or ethne/race or other affiliation. Every person of childbearing age. This is part of sexual and reproductive rights, recognized as basic human rights.

In Argentina, women’s and feminist movements have been organizing around just this point since at least the 1970s. In 1973, for example, a flyer created and distributed by la Unión Feminista Argentina, UFA, proclaimed: ““El embarazo no deseado es un modo de esclavitud / Basta de abortos clandestinos / Por la legalidad del aborto / Feminismo en marcha”. “”Unwanted pregnancy is a form of slavery / Enough of clandestine abortions / For the legality of abortion / Feminism on the march”. Fifty years later, almost to the day, that march is still ongoing, intensifying, expanding, succeeding.

In 2018, the lower legislative house, la Cámara de los Diputados, after long and intensive debate, voted to decriminalize abortion. The Senate rejected the bill. Undeterred, women’s groups, feminist movements and allies persisted. In the waning days of 2020, both houses of the legislature legalized abortion, which was signed into law January 14, 2021. Two years later, the organizing continues. The struggle for sexual and reproductive rights, understood and enforced as integral to human and civil rights, continues.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Nursing Clio)

Uganda’s pogrom: Arise and go now to the Nation of Slaughter. Do you not hear?

Terror floating near the rafters, terror
Against the walls in darkness hiding,
Terror through the silence sliding.
Did you not hear beneath the heap of wheels
A stirring of crushed limbs?

            Hayyim Nachman Bialik, “In the City of Slaughter

On March 21, Uganda’s Parliament passed, by an overwhelmingly majority, an anti-LGBTQ+ which “make homosexual acts punishable by death”. President Museveni sent it back to the legislature, asking for reconsideration. This bill was already a `reconsideration’ of an earlier bill, which had been struck down by the Constitutional Court on procedural grounds. That was 2014. The 2014 bill was a reconsideration of a bill first proposed in 2009. It’s now 2023, and for the past nine years, legislators have been pushing various versions of this bill. Today, May 29, it was announced that the President had signed the bill into law. To be clear, “making homosexual acts punishable by death” is to make love punishable by death. Equally, it is to declare not only a war on those deemed vulnerable but a reign of terror on the LGBTQ+ communities and on the population at large. The death penalty is reserved for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality,” a term loosely defined … intentionally. This is what a pogrom looks like because this is a pogrom.

Activists – including Sylvia Tamale, Frank Mugisha, Jacqueline Nabagasera Kasha and others – have petitioned the Constitutional Court to halt the law’s implementation. The United States revoked the visa of the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among. Otherwise there’s been what’s referred to as an `outcry’ and `outrage’ against the legislation, but not much substantive action. Again, this law has been coming, in plain sight, since 2009. The only question has been the exact form it might take. No one and no country can claim surprise. So, where is the international community?

Chișinău is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Moldova. Moldova was once Bessarabia, a part of the Russian Empire. At that time, Chișinău was called Kishinev. While Bessarabia was part of the Russian Empire, its culture and economies were more open than much of the empire, and so it became a place to which Jews migrated. By 1897, 46% of those living in Kishinev were Jewish. Meanwhile, the Russian Empire was organizing pogroms across its expanse. In April 1903, the infamous Kishinev Pogrom occurred. In 1905, another pogrom.

In 1904, Hayyim Nachman Bialik wrote a poem, translated as “In the City of Slaughter,” in which he imagines the events and meaning of the 1904 Kishinev Pogrom. The poem begins, “Arise and go now to the city of slaughter”. The poem is instructive, in many ways, one of which is how to respond to pogrom taking place today in Uganda. Bialik understood the horrors and atrocities of the pogrom and understand as well that the reader must understand their own responsibility. Arise and go now to the city of slaughter. Did you not hear beneath the heap of wheels a stirring of crushed limbs? Outrage and outcry will not do, especially when this pogrom, like all pogroms, did not come out of the blue but rather took shape in public over years. Arise and go now to the nation of slaughter. Did you not hear … ? Do you not hear … terror floating near the rafters, terror against the walls in darkness hiding, terror through the silence sliding?

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Guillermo Kuitca, “Untitled” / Jewish Museum)

Kobiety Są Zagrożeniem Dla Społeczeństwa? Women Are A Threat to Society?

“Police violence against protestors” sounds like yet another headline we would see featured in the daily New York Timesor Washington Post. Instead, it references a place about a six hour flight east of the United States eastern seaboard; Poland. On October 22nd, 2020, the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland approved a “near-total ban on legal abortion”. Fast forward to May 2023 we see the detrimental effects that come with the criminalization of abortion, the criminalization of women’s rights in Poland. Since the tribunal decision, the female incarceration population increased from 4.4% (of the prison population) in 2020 to 10.9% (of the prison population) in 2023.

Criminalizing women and restricting their rights to protect their bodies did not result in the elimination of abortions nor did it result in a decrease in support for abortion. Instead, it resulted in more women being incarcerated, more women seeking unsafe abortions, more women dying, all while the state looked towards the prison industrial complex as an opportunity for profit. An increase in incarceration rates gives the state the fuel they need to create more prisons to hold more beds and more individuals, essentially creating a surplus. As happened in the United States, the carceral explosion in Poland responded to four main surpluses: state capacity, labor, land, finance capacity. Building prisons was a political, economic solution to these crises.

Women in Poland being criminalized for their rights, for protesting their rights, or for acting upon their needs for abortion and health purposes, have become the surplus in the prison population and are seen as dollar signs to make profit from. By banning abortions, women are either forced to have the baby or they are forced to seek outside help. Both options come at a cost: the cost of sacrificing one’s needs, health, income, and even freedom all by criminalizing the female anatomy and implementing thousands of roadblocks, as if Polish women didn’t already have to go through enough. Prisons have been and will continue to be opportunistic for any country to take advantage of as the argument is always to contain the body of those deemed a danger to society in any capacity. There is no surplus of crime, there is no surplus in criminals or dangerous people, but there IS a surplus in power hungry governments that see women taking control of their bodies and deeming them as a threat. Women’s bodies are always wanting to be controlled, whether it’s abortion rights or rights to autonomy or basic human rights, there is always a type of control over women’s bodies by forcing them to conform to man made decisions.

These concepts are globalized, for every stride forward women take towards achieving equality, there is one stride backwards. When Roe v. Wade was a major stride in women taking control of their bodily autonomy. When Roe v. Wadewas overturned, some thought women would give up all resistance to governmental control. The opposite occurred, women across the United States joined together to rally, peacefully protesting, and ‘rebelling’ against the control of the government. In Poland women have done the same since the October 22nd, 2020 decision banning abortion as the supposed Tribunal deemed that women should not be able to control their bodies because then the government would not be able to commodify them. Are women who take control of their bodies and their rights, while fighting against the government, considered dangers to society or dangers to the government’s money?

If the government wants control, if they want money, if they want to uphold the patriarchy by taking away women’s bodily autonomy, if they want to keep the prison industrial complex alive and maintain the surplus, they will need to try harder because nie poddajemy się i nigdy się nie poddamy! We have not given up and will never give up!

(By Nicole Nowak)

(Photo Credit: Washington Post / Reuters / Kacper Pempel)

From Egypt to the United States to South Africa and beyond, State neglect is a crime against humanity

What is neglect? More specifically, what is State neglect? In the past week, people have been reported to die of neglect at the hands of the State in Egypt, the United States and South Africa. What does that mean? Too often, the story of neglect is recounted as one of oversight, an omission, an act of forgetfulness, but State neglect is public policy, and its consequences can be catastrophic, as this week has shown.

According to the Egyptian Network for Human Rights, ENHR, since the beginning of 2023, twelve people have died of `medical neglect’ while held in prisons and detentions centers. Last week, Madyan Hussein and Sameh Mansour died of neglect. They were not forgotten in a corner somewhere, they, as so many others who have died while incarcerated were effectively executed.

Last year, in Atlanta, Georgia, Lashawn Thompson died in the Fulton County Jail. Lashawn Thompson was 35 years old, Black, living with schizophrenia, homeless. When he died in a bedbug infested bed, his family demanded an independent investigation. This week, the autopsy was concluded: “The death of Mr. Lashawn Thompson resulted from severe neglect evidenced by untreated schizophrenia, poor living conditions, poor grooming, extensive and severe body insect infestation, dehydration, and rapid weight loss”. “Mr. Thompson was neglected to death”. Neglected to death.

Hammanskraal is a rural community under the supervision of the Tshwane Metropolitan Authority, in northern Gauteng, in South Africa. This week, as of last count, 17 people in Hammanskraal died of cholera, and 100 have been taken ill. Hammanskraal is in the news this week for the `neglect’ that led to this disaster.

Yesterday, in the Mail & Guardian, Ozayr Patel wrote, “South Africa was long known for its clean water, but not for at least the past two decades. Now that a cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal has, at the time of writing, claimed the lives of 17 people and left about 100 ill, the water crisis is making headlines …. The M&G has covered numerous stories from around the country about water treatment plants being neglected, not working, and sewage flowing down streets, into people’s yards and into rivers and streams. Now that 17 people have died, will something be done? Or are we more likely to see results if more people die?” Patel’s account partly relies on Anja du Plessis’ research. Earlier in the week, in a piece entitled “Cholera in South Africa: a symptom of two decades of continued sewage pollution and neglect”, du Plessis wrote, “The unacceptable level for operations indicates that the operation of treatment systems and risk to infrastructure is of concern and not efficient. The data emphasises the non-functioning and overall neglect of wastewater treatment works.” In the Daily Maverick, Thamsanqa D Malinga agrees, “Hammanskraal is the straw that will break the camel’s back, the one scandal that has just helped shine the light on the neglect of the poor. Its advantage is that it falls under the control of one of the biggest metros in the country — and our capital city.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in South Africa, “Apart from the recent spike in cholera deaths caused by dirty water, residents of Mokopane in Limpopo fear also contracting water-borne diseases such as malaria and typhoid. And they accused their municipality, Mogalakwena, of neglecting them.” The neglect was elsewhere described as `reluctance’.

What is neglect? Under Abuse and neglect of children, the Code of the Commonwealth of Virginia declares, “Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 18 who by willful act or willful omission or refusal to provide any necessary care for the child’s health causes or permits serious injury to the life or health of such child is guilty of a Class 4 felony.” Elsewhere, in its discussion of Abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults, the same Code defines neglect: “`Neglect’ means the knowing and willful failure by a responsible person to provide treatment, care, goods, or services which results in injury to the health or endangers the safety of a vulnerable adult.”

What happened, and is happening, in Egyptian prisons and detention centers, in the Fulton County Jail, in Hammanskraal is knowing and willful failure by those responsible to provide treatment, care, goods or services, resulting in injury, endangerment, harm, and, finally, death. Yes, Hammanskraal was years in the making, and the residents of Hammanskraal protested the violence being done to them … to no avail. Don’t call it neglect, call it murder, committed by the State, call it a crime against humanity.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

As children die in detention, the state `struggles’ with overcrowding

On Wednesday, May 17, Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez, an eight-year-old girl born in Panama to Honduran parents, died while in U.S. border custody. She had been detained for a week — more than twice the amount of time the government generally aims to hold migrants, particularly children. On Wednesday, May 10, Ángel Eduardo Maradiaga Espinoza, a 17-year-old Honduran boy died in U.S. border custody. Here’s how these tragedies were described: “In the past week the authorities have struggled with overcrowding at border facilities.” “In recent weeks the U.S. has struggled with large numbers of migrants coming to the border.” Authorities have struggled? The U.S. has struggled? What about Alvarez’s parents, who now call for justice, who now struggle to remind the world, “My daughter is a human being, they had to take care of her”. What about Espinoza’s mother, Norma Saraí Espinoza Maradiaga, who struggles to get answers, “I want to clear up my son’s real cause of death. No one tells me anything. The anguish is killing me. They say they are awaiting the autopsy results and don’t give me any other answer.” Stories matter. How stories are told matters. Nation-states with overcrowded prisons, jails, juvenile detention centers, immigrant detention centers do not `struggle’ with the overcrowding. If they did, they would do more than take timid steps to `address overcrowding’. They would end the everywhere-to-prison pipelines that crisscross the globe. Consider the last month of overcrowding, in no special order, as an example. And here, though obvious, it must be said these reports are only from places that actually allow any sorts of reporting.

In London, Ontario, the province settled a $33 million lawsuit concerning the conditions in London’s Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre, built for a maximum of 150 people, often holding as many as 500.

In the Indian state of Bihar, 59 jails, including eight central prisons, are built for a maximum of 47,750 people. Currently, they hold 61,891 people, described as “languishing” while the state “struggles with overcrowding”. Meanwhile, the Amphalla jail, in Jammu, “against a holding capacity of 426 prisoners has more than 700 inmates”.

Cyprus’s prisons, with a maximum capacity of 100, hold 146 people, making it the most overcrowded prison in Europe. After Cyprus, in descending order, come Romania, France, Greece, Italy, Sweden, Croatia, Denmark. French prisons are designed to house at most 60,899 people. As of April 1, they housed 73,080. At 120% of capacity, that’s “an all-time record”.

In late April, in Ireland, the Dóchas Centre, built to hold no more than 105 women, housed 170 women – 162% of its original capacity. Remember the 2021 Chaplains Report on the Dóchas Centre “being used as a dumping ground”? Two years later, the state is still `struggling’.

The UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture visited Madagascar prisons, for the first time, and found many were “close 1000% …. With half of its prison population in pre-trial detention, Madagascar should reconsider its criminal policies and enact urgent measures, including alternatives to imprisonment, to reduce this grave level of overcrowding that constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions of detention, contrary to international law standards.”

On Friday, May 19, Zimbabwe started releasing 4000 incarcerated people. Why? With a capacity of 17,000, Zimbabwe’s prisons house over 20,000 people. Uganda was `shocked’ to learn, this week, that its prisons, with a maximum capacity of 20,036 people, currently holds 74,444 people, or an occupancy rate of 371.6%: “With the rising numbers, prison authorities are struggling to feed their daily average of 81,729 prisoners”. Authorities are struggling, incarcerated people are starving.

Kenya’s prisons at more than 200% capacity. As elsewhere, as pretty much everywhere, there aren’t enough beds to go around. People are sleeping on the floor. The answer? A new campaign: “One prisoner, one bed, one mattress”. Interior Principal Secretary in the State Department for Correctional Services Mary Muthoni is looking to acquire 60,000 mattresses and beds to address the floor sleeping crisis. This is how the state `struggles’. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 incarcerated people are serving sentences of less than three years, and 41% of the prison population are bailable remand incarcerated people. They are people who have not been tried but cannot afford bail. In Nigeria, where 82 correctional centers are over capacity, 80% of those incarcerated are awaiting trial.

When an eight-year-old girl or a 17-year-old boy dies in an overcrowded detention center; when hundreds of thousands of people are starving in overcrowded prisons and jails; when hundreds of thousands of people are sleeping on the bare floor; when millions are locked down for days; the story is not that the state is struggling. The story is torture. End torture now. Stop sending people to prisons, jails, juvenile detention centers, immigrant detention centers.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: The Guardian / Tannen Maury / EPA)

Babae, ang lugar mo ay sa pakikibaka—Women, your place is in the struggle

Women, peasants, workers, artists, mothers, and other marginalized people and communities are at the forefront of the struggle in the Philippines. Their identities and struggles intersect and overlap as they fight for gender equity, land reform, labor rights, living wages, and divorce rights, among others. They are all suppressed at the hands of the fascist, authoritarian, machismo state which began long before the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, but significantly increased during his time as the country’s top leader, and continues under the new Ferdinand Marcos Jr. presidency.

Pres. Duterte’s term was notorious for his war on drugs that resulted in thousands of deaths and extrajudicial killings of the urban poor and marginalized; passing the Anti-Terror Law in order to red tag dissidents; shutting down and threatening media outlets for critiquing him and his administration; and consistent misogynistic comments made during official speeches and press conferences. Under Duterte’s administration, several community advocates and political activists were jailed on false charges or killed by the military. Most notable are the cases of Amanda Echanis, daughter of slain peace consultant and peasant organizer, Randall Echanis, and Reina Mae Nasino, whose newborn daughter died while separated from her imprisoned mother.

Organizations such as Rural Women Advocates and Gantala Press have been instrumental in the advocacy for their releases and for spreading information and awareness of other causes and struggles in the Philippines. Although they are part of larger organizations and coalitions, such as Gabriela and Amihan, who have more political power and international chapters, RUWA and Gantala Press advocate for their messages and causes through social media and the promotion of the arts and literature.

Rural Women Advocates or RUWA are volunteers of the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women. Amihan is a political party that campaigns for representation in Congress and at other important events and committees in the nation’s capital region. RUWA uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in order to organize and share events such as printmaking, community cooking, general body meetings, fundraisers, online campaigns, infographics, and other publication materials. RUWA volunteers who live in Metro Manila work in solidarity with women peasants in the rural and countryside regions to elevate their voices and bring more awareness to the issues they face. This is important because peasant and worker issues affect everyone, regardless of their location or positionality in class and society.

Meanwhile, Gantala Press identifies itself as a “Filipina Feminist Press” who also advocate for women in the margins of Philippine society, including queer and trans women, and victims of state violence, to name a few. The small alternative press publishes chapbooks, anthologies of poetry, prose, and essays, cookbooks, comics, zines, and other feminist and artistic resources that would have been overlooked or rejected by bigger, traditional printing presses. They allow for their writers and contributors to have a larger audience and an archive for their work to be accessible to others. The press also organizes creative workshops, book and art fairs, and fundraisers to support women and artists in their community.

The use of social media and alternative publishing has allowed for these two grassroot, feminist organization to reach more individuals in the struggle and create a larger network of feminists, activists, and allies. The accessibility of their content and writing, both operating in English and Filipino, has allowed them to connect to both Filipinos living in the country, both rural and urban, but also to Filipinos outside the country, and non-Filipinos who sympathize with them and their causes.

Both organizations show the intersectionality of the struggles of women, peasants, workers, mothers, queer folk, creatives, and activists in the Philippines. Their campaigns often intersect in subject matter and overlap in duration or approach. Both RUWA and Gantala press have proved that there can be rural-urban-local-global solidarities.

These struggles and resistances are reminiscent of Chandra Mohanty’s essay, “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses.” Filipino women can experience transnational and rural-urban solidarites and connections, but the solutions and means of resistance must come from the women and peasants working at the grassroots level, at the front line of the struggle. The struggle must also be a continuous process, one that can last over a lifetime through small and even “weak” resistances, working alongside the goal of drastic and bigger movements towards revolution.

Solidarity and utopian thinking are imperative to the sustainability to any struggle and long term fight. Even if we cannot be together physically, knowing that you have allies who take on your oppressions and struggles as their own and work alongside you to do social and cultural work is important in motivating us and giving us hope. As Sara Ahmed reminds us in Living a Feminist Life, feminism is in the everyday acts of resistance against the patriarchy, the state, and society. These seemingly small and ordinary acts and crucial to the work we put towards imagining a better and brighter future where all of us are liberated and happy.

Babae, ang lugar mo ay sa pakikibaka. Whether we are conscious of it or not, join a organization or not, realize our everyday acts of resistance or not: women, our place is in the struggle. Our place will continue to be in the struggle until each and everyone one of us has been freed.

(By Wella Lobaton)

With astronomical eviction numbers and nowhere to go, British Columbia “returns to normal”

The Balanced Supply of Housing Research Cluster at the University of British Columbia released a report last week, “Estimating no-fault evictions in Canada: Understanding BC’s disproportionate eviction rate in the 2021 Canadian housing survey”. Looking at data from the 2021 Canadian Housing Survey, researchers wanted to find out eviction rates, reasons for evictions, and what happened in the first period of the Covid pandemic. On all counts, British Columbia scored the highest, or failed the most profoundly, depending on one’s perspective. Between April 2016 and early 2021, 10.5% of B.C. renter households reported being forced to move, compared with the national rate of 5.9%. At some level, none of this was surprising or new, since British Columbia has consistently led the nation in evictions. What was new is this: “British Columbia’s high eviction rate is driven by higher rates of no-fault evictions …. 85% of evictions reported by renter households in British Columbia in the five years prior to data collection were no-fault evictions.” Paid your rent on time, the landlord never had any issues with you, you were an ideal tenant? Who cares? You’re out. And not only are you out, you have nowhere to go. They call that market-forces justice.

Here’s more market forces justice. Most provinces had some sort of eviction ban during the Covid pandemic, and yet the number of evictions remained relatively stable. How can that be? According to the report, there are at least two reasons. First, once the bans were lifted, eviction processes were “accelerated”. Second, “despite all the eviction bans that were implemented, at least 38,900 – 68,080 renter households were evicted during the first year of the pandemic in Canada.” Were landlords punished for these evictions? No. That too is market-forces justice.

In British Columbia, there is rent control for those who living in a unit. There are no controls or limits on how much a landlord can charge a new tenant. There are no real controls on no-fault evictions. A landlord simply has to claim they want to sell, inhabit, renovate, repair, or demolish the property. There’s no requirement of proof of any kind. Many of those who were evicted report that their former homes remain vacant for months, even years, afterwards. There’s no enforcement because there’s nothing to enforce.

Fiona Scott lives in Vancouver. In the past decade, she endured three no-fault evictions. The last one was over a year ago. The unit she used to call home remains vacant to this day. Meanwhile Fiona Scott lives in a much smaller apartment, for which she pays $500 more a month, and so has had to take on extra work. “You have an emotional connection to your house, it’s your safe space… and then all of a sudden it’s gone. It wasn’t an emotional journey I was prepared for.”

Linda de Gonzalez is a 70-year-old pensioner who has lived in her apartment for 20 years. This year the landlord raised the rent 43%, starting in June. But what about rent control? The landlord said that if de Gonzalez didn’t accept the exorbitant increase, he’d sell the unit. Again, there’s no requirement of proof. “It really was utterly and completely devastating. I literally felt my stomach fall out. I just sat on the floor and I cried and I cried and I cried. And I kept thinking what am I going to do? I have nowhere to go.” I have nowhere to go.

A second report, issued by Vancouver’s First United Church Eviction Mapping Project, found that 27% of evicted people had not found a place to live. 45% of Indigenous respondents had not found a place to live. 31% of people of color had not found a place to live. 34% of people living with disabilities had not found a place to live. For those in the lowest income bracket, 53% had not found a place to live. “People with an annual income of less than $50,000 were almost three times as likely to become homeless than those with an annual income of over $50,000.” Meanwhile, 12% of those earning more than $50,000 a year had not found a place to live. Of those who did find somewhere to live, for most it had to be in a new neighborhood, meaning no support systems. 80% of evicted residents reported neighborhood displacement. For evicted Indigenous residents, that was 91%.

The report notes, “For many evicted tenants, homelessness was long-term as they struggled to find a way back into the rental housing market amidst massive increases in the amount of rent landlords are charging.” Homeless was, and is, long-term.

As Anne Waldman once wrote,

“it is error it is speculation it is real estate

      it is the villain and comic slippery words

            the work of despotic wills to make money”

Nowhere to go, nowhere to go, nowhere to go.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Infographic: The University of British Columbia)


The week in which “the surge of immigrants” did not occur and somehow that was news

The Sulphurous Hail
Shot after us in storm, oreblown hath laid
The fiery Surge, that from the Precipice
Of Heav’n receiv’d us falling, and the Thunder,
Wing’d with red Lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book One

The print edition of today’s Washington Post leads off with a five-column, almost banner, headline, in large bold letters: “At the border a reset but no surge”. In the United States this week, with the declared end of the Covid emergency came the end of Title 42, a Trump era cruelty which barred entry into the United States on the grounds of maintaining health protocols (where have we heard that before?). That meant that starting yesterday, the country could anticipate a `surge of migrants crossing the border’. This was not the language of rabid far right nationalists. This was the language of the mainstream press, and so, perhaps, worth noting. CNN, May 10: “Hundreds of US troops are set to begin a new mission along the southern border Wednesday as officials and a surge of migrants brace “for the unknown” after a Trump-era border restriction expires late Thursday.” PBS New Hour, May 11: “The city of San Jose is preparing to welcome a significant influx of immigrant families in the coming weeks as Title 42 expires, creating a surge in immigration along the United States’ southern border.” New York Times, May 11: “In San Diego, some had been waiting in the same spot for days. State officials are concerned that a major surge in migrants could overwhelm homeless shelters and hospitals not just in the city, but across California.” Yesterday, May 12, The New York Times tried to explain that “surge” is a term of art: “On some days this past week, more than 11,000 people were apprehended after crossing the southern border illegally, according to internal agency data obtained by The New York Times, putting holding facilities run by the Border Patrol over capacity. Over the past two years, about 7,000 people  were apprehended on a typical day; officials consider 8,000 apprehensions or more a surge.”

Words have meanings, and some words have ideological power. Often – as in the case of stampede or bruntor surge – the power of the word outweighs and obscures the word’s supposed meaning or content. What do you see, what do you feel, at the invocation of a surge? A surge is a force of nature: “A high rolling swell of water, esp. on the sea; a large, heavy, or violent wave; a billow.” Large. Heavy. And most significantly and ominously, violent.

People do not constitute a surge. People never constitute a surge. There never was going to be surge at the border, unless the Rio Grande suddenly exploded. There could have been and there still might be an increase in the number of people, fellow human beings, applying for asylum. That is not a surge. That the government, irrespective of which regime we are in, considers one number a trickle and one number a surge and, who knows, another number a tsunami is not so much irrelevant as dangerous and should be called out and rejected. The news media should be called out as well for passing the term off as somehow neutral. It is not.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: “Surge” by Rachel Leising So0)

We Without Titles

We Without Titles

Shall we be Bonnie and Clyde
Barbra Streisand and that Gibb chap Stevie Wonder and Paul Mac
or just plain Ebony and Ivory …

Worlds apart are we
Separated by apartheid decree
Joined by music and poetry
(He has too penned a book or three
A real Sugarman radio veteran is he)

Shiloh Noone the SongCatcher
In his Magic Bus has been around
Yet we are only a few months apart
As I have found

We’re both into chess
And help kids play
But we two
Have yet to enter the fray

My influences are reggae and LKJ
Though to that he might grunt a nay
As does he to that Doobie brother
Who some of us know he’d like
to smother

Here we go then, Shiloh Noone and I
Giving you verses to ponder
Making you wonder
What’s going on
Why do we bother

(This revolution will not be televised)

(By David Kapp)
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia)