March 17, 2009 

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
K1A 0A2

Via Email 

Dear Prime Minister Harper, 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  This evening marks the end of day three of my hunger strike.  I didn’t get a chance to write yesterday but my musings tonight should bring you up to date. 

I’ve been reading a bit over these past few days and have come across a lot of rather shocking information, much of which was new to me.  A few brief tidbits so that you can share my shock and hopefully look into doing something about it.   

Metro Vancouver does an annual homeless count in March of each year.  In 2008, the latest information for which data is available, there were an estimated 2,660 homeless people in Metro, an increase of 22% over 2005 data and a whopping 137% over the 2002 data.  The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that in the 12 years between 1994 and 2006 the homeless population in Vancouver increased by 235%.  They also report that over the same period the homeless population in Calgary increased by a scary 740%.  Just today Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said that a single homeless person can cost the government an estimated $150,000 per year.  I can’t imagine that homelessness this makes any kind of monetary sense, and I know that it makes no moral or ethical sense in such a rich nation. 

On a national level the information varies but the combined sources that I have found estimate that the number of homeless people in Canada ranges from as low as 200,000 to as high as 500,000.  Even at the low end of that estimate I am at a loss for words.  

However, the most incomprehensible stat. that I came across was another one from The Mental Health Commission of Canada who have estimated that one in seven homeless in Canada are children and one third are between 16 and 24 years old.  Those two figures took a few minutes to sink in and when looked at in concert with the rapidly increasing incidence of homeless it scares and shames me that Canada is allowing this to happen.  Some would argue that we are not just letting it happen, but that market forces and policy encourage it. 

A brief update on my state of mind and body since my letter to you.  Sunday night I was quite hungry and paced the floor for a while before getting to sleep, but by yesterday morning my hunger had subsided somewhat and I had a good day at work.  In the afternoon I learned that Jack Layton was in Vancouver and I was quite surprised to be invited to meet with him last evening.  As you are I’m sure aware he is supportive of a Federal housing program and has written quite a bit about the subject. We chatted for 15 minutes or so and I appreciated that he took the time to meet me and find out what the Hunger Strike Relay was about. 

Today my hunger has grown somewhat.  I understand from previous Hunger Strike Relay participants that days 5 and 6 can get quite rough although the jury is split on whether I should plan to cocoon in bed or busy myself to keep my mind off things.  For now I’ll stick with keeping busy.  The good news is that in the past 60 hours I have lost 10 lbs.  I wouldn’t recommend it as a weight-loss program.   

Well, I’m typing this as I watch the Canucks beat the Stars.  Vancouver is up 3 to 1 so the evening is looking up, however, Dallas has a 2 man advantage.  I’ll sign off on that good note. 

Yours truly,

Robert O’Dea

Vancouver BC 

cc.  Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Official Opposition                  

       Jack Layton, Leader of the NDP                  

       Libby Davies, MP                  

       Premier Gordon Campbell

     Jenny Kwan, MLA                  

      James Moore, MP

     Stockwell Day, MP

     Mayor Gregor Robertson