British Columbia

Housing advocates divided over Metrotown 'demoviction' protests

Diplomacy or protest? Housing advocates are divided over which approach to take after Burnaby city council approved the Metrotown Downtown Plan this week.

'We've found that the diplomatic way doesn't work; we've found it leads to inaction'

Ivan Drury (far right) and a group of protesters refused to leave Burnaby Council Chambers on Monday night. (Stephen Samuel)

Diplomacy or protest?

Housing advocates are divided over which approach to take after Burnaby city council approved the Metrotown Downtown Plan this week.

A group of protesters disrupted Monday's council meeting in an attempt to delay council's vote over the plan, which involves a mass rezoning of Metrotown to make it the new downtown core.

"I was very disappointed that the meeting was disrupted," Diane Gillis, president of the Kingsway Imperial Neighbourhood Association said on CBC's The Early Edition

"It was unfortunate, because we, as a neighbourhood association, believe that success is achieved through talking, listening, learning and working with partners," she said.

Fighting with tact

The plan includes developing high-density mixed buildings, which some housing advocates argue could lead to so-called "demovictions" or booting tenants to demolish buildings.

The protesters prompted councillors to leave chambers and the Burnaby RCMP to intervene. Once council resumed, the plan was approved.

Gillis said the association is equally concerned about demovictions but protesting to city council leaves the provincial and federal governments off the hook.

Many of the buildings being replaced are aging walk-ups that need updating, Gillis noted.

"We've had examples of someone walking out of their apartment and falling through the deck," she said.

"We've got asbestos in the building. They don't have fire walls. They don't have sprinkler systems."

Diplomacy leads to inaction

Zoe Luba, an organizer with Stop Demovictions Burnaby, said there are misconceptions around how the group is fighting demovictions.

"We haven't just been focusing on the city. We've also been pushing the province and the federal government," Luba said.

"We've found that the diplomatic way doesn't work. We've found it leads to inaction."

With the proposal moving ahead, the group plans to refuse evictions they anticipate coming over the next few years.

"We were prepared for this," Luba said. "We knew our disruption would be more of a symbolic fight."

With files from Farrah Merali and The Early Edition

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