British Columbia

Victoria rally gets heated as protesters try to force their way into housing meeting

A protest rally in Victoria got heated as dozens of protesters tried to force their way into a meeting with housing ministers from across the country.

Feds committed $2.3 billion for housing in the 2016 budget, including a $150 million investment in B.C.

Police officers and staff tried to keep protesters from forcing their way into the Grand Pacific Hotel in Victoria. (Richard Zussman/CBC)

A protest rally in Victoria got heated as dozens of protesters tried to force their way into a meeting with housing ministers from across the country. 

About 30 housing advocates shouting "Christy's cuts are class war!" tried to push past police officers and staff at the Grand Pacific Hotel. 

They're demanding the federal government spend more than $10 billion annually to build 77,000 housing units per year in Canada.

"The message we're getting from the government is that they're interested in posturing around housing but not willing to take people off the street," said Ivan Drury with the Alliance Against Displacement, who led the group's attempt to bust into the hotel. 

Before the rally, Drury and his fellow advocates got a surprise visit from Federal Housing Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, who stepped out of the hotel to met with the group.

"We are working across the housing spectrum, which goes from homelessness to market housing, and we have a huge interest in social housing," Duclos said to the group. 

In the 2016 budget, the federal government pledged $2.3 billion for affordable housing including a $150-million investment announced last Sunday, focused on B.C.

Inside the hotel, B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman was also calling on the federal government for help with the province's housing crisis. 

But he said provincial housing ministers "have turned a page" on a national housing strategy and saw more support from the federal government to build housing. 

Duclos said the government is trying to address a wide range of housing problems, from $1 million homes to social housing.

​He said he and his provincial and territorial counterparts are working toward the country's first national housing strategy in four decades.

"No one government can address those housing needs alone," he said. "Today is a demonstration that we are there to listen and address the housing needs that Canadians have frankly expressed over the last few months and last few years."

With files from The Canadian Press

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