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Hundreds say 'homes not hate groups' as they defend DisconTent City in Nanaimo

Image: Murray Bush/Flux Photo

There was a dramatic scene of the streets of Nanaimo this past Sunday, August 19 when residents mounted a spirited defence of DisconTent City against the stated intention of the Soldiers of Odin (SOO) "to facilitate the removal" of the homeless encampment.

Global News explains, "The DisconTent City camp has been in place since May 17, and organizers say between 200 and 250 people live in it at any given time. Supporters say there are more than 300 homeless people in Nanaimo, and many more who are 'precariously housed'."

That news report notes, "While the SOO didn't turn up, a number of community members who oppose the homeless camp did." And CTV adds, "More than a thousand people swarmed the area amid a heavy police presence, with Mounties stepping in on several occasions to separate both sides."

The City of Nanaimo itself has also been seeking to clear out the camp, reportedly to enforce fire bylaws. The SOO announced their intention to clear the camp just days after the B.C. Supreme Court rejected the City's application for an enforcement order.

The Nanaimo-based Alliance Against Displacement says, "[It's] not surprising that the City's failure to obtain the court's approval to use police brutality against DisconTent City has left a void that local fascists are taking upon themselves to fill."

StarMetro Vancouver reports, "Alan Dutton, director of the Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society, said becoming involved in contentious local issues is a trademark move designed to make extremist groups appear more palatable in the eyes of average citizens."

Dutton says, "This is exactly the kind of strategy that the far right has been adopting for many years. Why would you adopt the name of a fascist organization if your intention is simply to help get social housing for the poor and clean up the streets?"

The housing allowance for those on social assistance in British Columbia is now $375 per month, even though the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Nanaimo is about $1,300.

More than 100 members of the public health community recently stated in an open letter, "Homelessness is not a consequence of bad choices but a consequence of bad policies including withdrawal of funding from social housing, privatization of the housing market, erosion of the social safety net, and colonization that has stripped Indigenous people of opportunities, land and resources."

Their letter also highlights, "[Residents of] tent cities have repeatedly claimed that living in tent cities, in the absence of other acceptable options, improves psychological and physical health including community belonging, autonomy and self-determination."

To follow DisconTent City, visit Alliance Against Displacement on Facebook and Twitter, and DisconTent City on Facebook.  

Image: Murray Bush/Flux Photo

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