Posted by: Erin Brown John on January 10, 2011 at 12:13 pm

A belated happy new year and welcome back to our weekly batch of things we’re following!

Van East. East Van is experiencing a renaissance as the cultural heart of Vancouver. It’s affordability is drawing a lot of independent and owner-operated restaurants,  businesses and arts spaces and for the past several years the neighbourhood has been shedding the stigma it once had

The eagles have landed. But there’s nothing to eat. Brackendale’s famous eagle count registered another disappointing turnout this year, blamed in part on a poor chum run.

Home sweet home. After much political wrangling, tenants are starting to move into the Olympic Village.

Roundhouse Plaza. The Park Board is revisiting plans to vitalize the Roundhouse Plaza, which since it’s inception has not been used by the public to the degree that planners had hoped.

Homelessness. 2010 saw a lot of progress made toward housing Vancouver’s homeless, with the creation of new emergency shelters and permanent housing. Yet in spite of all the efforts made in the past year to house the homeless, the number of homeless people grew this year, from 1500 to nearly 1800.

Remembering Gastown. The Globe and Mail looks at some of the early investors in Gastown who saw potential in the neighbourhood.

Our new exhibit SweaterLodge Unlatched opens this week!

Image credit: kennymatic, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on December 20, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Food security. The city awarded grants to SOLEfood Farm and the DTES Kitchen Tables Network this week for their projects to create employment and food security in the Downtown Eastside. SOLEfood provides employment for DTES residents on an urban farm, while DTES Kitchen Tables is planning to open an incubator program at Save-On Meats that would help people learn how to start food businesses.

Supporting local food. The Tyee’s coverage of local food this week focused on sharing equipment and other solutions for supporting local food economies.

Social housing. Housing activists are planning a sit in at the Olympic Village to protest the reduction in the number of units dedicated to social housing, a result of budget shortfalls and sluggish sales.

On a more positive note, the Station Street housing complex opened this week, the first of 14 new purpose-built social housing developments around Vancouver meant to get people off the streets.

Bliss? Posts from local blogs will no longer be included in the civic news round-up that is sent out to staff at City Hall.

Washrooms will remain open. The City has revised the budget for the Parks Board, making money available to reverse cuts to washroom maintenance and a decision to charge users of sports fields made last week.

Expanded Playland and PNE. But in spite of opposition from nearby residents for expanding the amount of space dedicated to Playland and the PNE, the Hastings Park revitalization plan was approved this week.

Image source: Gerry Kahrmann/Canwest News Service, NP

Posted by: Erin Brown John on December 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm

SOLEfood. A scrapyard on Hastings Street may be the location of the second SOLEfood Farm in the Downtown Eastside. The farm is run by United We Can and provides seasonal employment for residents in the Downtown East Side.

Big debut. The Vancouver Police Department inaugurated their new twitter accountwith a marathon session of tweeting every call they received in a 24 hour period. It just so happened that this allowed them to tweet about the lockdown at Gladstone Secondary but they say that they will likely only be using it for traffic and safety announcements in the future.

Hastings Park. The plan for the renovation of Hastings Park unveiled last week has come under fire from the local community for increasing the size of the PNE and the number of tradeshows hosted in the park.

Internet billing. City Council is voting tomorrow on a motion to oppose the CRTC’s approval of usage-based billing for internet service. The CRTC decision will likely result in increased costs for users, making access to information more difficult for those who can’t afford it. Council has no ability to change the decision but they want to raise the profile of the issue.

Powering the city. Scout Magazine takes a walking tour of electrical substations around Vancouver.

Red army. In the early 1930s the unemployed took to the streets of Vancouver and had their concerns largely ignored. Past Tense has a bit of interesting history about the political unrest at the time and the rise of the Communist Party in Vancouver.

Image source: Dan Toulgoet, The Courier

Posted by: Erin Brown John on December 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm

East Hastings. The renovation of the Waldorf has been wildly successful and has developers and city planners looking at future development in the neighbourhood.

Changing behaviours. The Vancouver School Board is trying to save energy in a pilot project that has students controlling the thermostats. The project is aimed at changing the behaviour of building users and promoting good energy saving habits.

Earthquake. Insurance companies are warning that much of Vancouver’s infrastructure and buildings would not withstand a major earthquake. They state that the lack of government investment in infrastructure maintenance puts people at risk and would result in the disruption of business activity. There is a 30% chance that there will be a major earthquake in BC within the next 50 years.

Alternative energy. Finally some good news from the Olympic Village! The heat-from-sewage facility in the Olympic Village has turned out to be far more efficient and cost-effective than originally planned, so the City is able to offer residents power at a rate below BC Hydro while still making a profit.

Robson Square. There’s more talk at city council about the possibility of permanently closing off the street at 800 Robson to create a public square.

Image source: Kris Krug, via flickr.

Posted by: Erin Brown John on November 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Road safety. The Vancouver Sun reports on the most dangerous intersections for cyclist and vehicle collisions. But it’s not just motor vehicles that are in focus. The first pedestrian death resulting from a cyclist collision has been confirmed.

Local bounty. The Tyee continues it’s excellent coverage of local food. An article looks at the Southlands farm in Delta, a local site of conflict between the pressure to develop and the need to preserve farmland. Another article looks at the quota system for egg production and why the supply of organic and free-range eggs is not keeping pace with the demand.

Noise. The City is trying to mitigate the impact of increased noise from a new public plaza and the open roof of BC place in Northeast False Creek, considering more stringent soundproofing guidelines for developers and amending the noise bylaw to allow loud noise until 11pm.

Mapping transit. A very cool Google Maps app allows you to see how far you can get on transit from any location in Metro Vancouver within a given period of time. It’s fun to play around with, though the distances displayed in the suburbs seem a little optimistic.

Science park. A proposal went before the development permit board and advisory panel today that would see the installation of outdoor exhibits about sustainability in the park near Science World.

Millennium Development. The development company that built the Olympic Village is facing more financial difficulties this week after defaulting on a loan for another of it’s properties in West Vancouver.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Though not a Canadian creation, it was the illustrations of a Burnaby man that propelled Rudolph into international stardom.

Image credit: Burnaby NewsLeader

Posted by: Erin Brown John on November 22, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Sne’waylh (teachings). There are only 10 remaining fluent speakers of the Squamish language. Orene Askew is trying to change that with her current affairs radio show on Co-op Radio. She begins each segment with a language lesson and invites important people from the First Nations community to speak.

Why rent when you can own? That’s what many small retailers are asking themselves. Rental rates for retail space in Vancouver are rising, forcing many businesses, even profitable ones to close or move to other areas. In response to this gentrification, a growing number of small businesses are purchasing their retail space.

Rest in peace. This week marked the passing of Vancouver historian Chuck Davis. Tributes are pouring in for a man who spent the better part of his life researching, writing and educating about Vancouver’s history.

Olympic Village. The developer of the Olympic Village has gone into receivership and the City of Vancouver has taken over the management and sale of the properties and some other assets.

Hungry. Food bank usage is rising across Canada and people are now visiting at the highest rate since 1997.

Mount Pleasant. The new Mount Pleasant community plan was released, outlining priorities that include affordable housing, encouraging, pedestrians, cyclists and transit, and improving public space for events and activities.

Photo credit: Cindy Goodman, for Vancouver Courier

Posted by: Erin Brown John on November 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Wednesday’s post about the DTES Kitchen Tables Series dialogues covered the poverty mentality and food donations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but the majority of food distributed in the DTES is purchased by non-profits from businesses, and some of the discussion focused on the issues they face in sourcing good food for their clients.

Ruth Inglis of the DTES Women’s Centre shared a bit about how she goes about purchasing food for the meal programs in her organization.

When she first took on planning meals for the Centre, food orders were made through a large distributor, and due to the low volume of their orders and the supplier’s minimum purchasing rules, the supplier would only deliver once per month. She was concerned that she was unable to know where the food had come from and how it was grown and wanted to support local and organic growing if it was possible.

She began to look for alternative sources and ultimately settled on another large distributor. In the end, price won out as her main consideration.

Searching for alternatives

There are several organizations that are working in the DTES to provide better access to food. One that was mentioned was Quest Food Exchange, an organization that works with restaurants and grocery stores to divert food that would normally be considered waste toward people who are in need. Some of the food is donated to local charities while much of it is offered for sale to low-income people and non-profits at below cost.

Inglis mentioned that while she was interested in purchasing food from Quest, uncertainty about what goods would be available was a disadvantage. Their stock and prices fluctuate, making it difficult to budget and plan meals, and food may be at the end of it’s shelf life, making storage an issue.

For her organization right now, going with a large commercial distributor is easier and makes more sense.

Large distributors are not necessarily bad. Darren Stott, former director of purchasing for SPUDcontributed some thoughts about distributors and sourcing ethical food. SPUD lists the location that the food it sells comes from so that consumers can make informed choices. Other distributors don’t do this. This is because many other larger distributors are so big and have so many sources that they may not know where their food came from and it is not yet part of their corporate culture to make note of it.

However, this is not to say that it is not possible. SPUD’s decision to list food where food came from was a direct result of consumer pressure. Large distributors have greater capacity and are more efficient at sourcing and purchasing. They would source more ethical products if they felt there was consumer demand.

Kitchen Tables Project

Rock’s vision for the Kitchen Tables Project is a resource that enables easier access to food for organizations in the DTES.

These organizations are small and often acting in isolation from each other. There is a need in the DTES for an organization that helps coordinate communication between different organizations about their needs. This organization could help facilitate collective purchasing directly from farms or from suppliers to drive down the price and support local producers at the same time.

Come join us for the next Kitchen Tables talk this Sunday, November 21, where the next topic will beMaking Food, Making Jobs: Downtown Eastside Residents working in their local food economy.

To learn more about the DTES Kitchen Tables Project, visit

Posted by: Erin Brown John on November 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm

The DTES Kitchen Tables Series is a series of dialogues at MOV that put a lens on the issue of providing nutritious and affordable food to people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The first dialogue centred around the ‘poverty mentality’, the assumption that because people are poor, they are less deserving of a minimum standard of living. This mentality provides a huge barrier to access for many people in need of nutritious food. Many Downtown Eastside residents have health and mental issues that are exacerbated by their lack of access to adequate nutrition, and while they may not have the money to pay for it, the need is still there.

On October 24 we were joined by Joyce Rock, Executive Director of the DTES Neighbourhood House, Ruth Inglis of the DTES Women’s Centre and Darren Stott, former director of purchasing for SPUD to talk about practical solutions to the food problem in the DTES. The dialogue, “Harvest… What harvest?” centred around the issue of distributing quality food in the DTES and the discussion uncovered several issues that face non-profits as they try to help those in need. 

The trouble with donations

Downtown Eastside non-profits are often the recipients of food donations from well-wishing donors and businesses that often unintentionally put the recipient organizations in a difficult position.

While they are desperately in need of donations and resources, they are often the recipients of donations that they are not able to use. Often donations are of food that is of low nutritional value - high in sugar and fat - food that is not well suited to meeting the nutritional needs of their clients who may suffer from diabetes, HIV, malnutrition or other conditions.

At other times food donations may be difficult to process. A donation of vegetables or fruit may be at the end of it’s shelf life and an organization may not have the resources - the staff time, volunteers and storage space to make use of it. The organization must then take on the burden of dealing with it’s disposal.

So why accept these donations in the first place?

Once again, the poverty mentality rears it’s ugly head. What right do these organizations in need have to refuse this help that is offered to them? The panelists revealed that it is often difficult to refuse food donations regardless of the fact that they may not meet their organizations’ needs. Non-profits and charities do not want to burn their bridges or be seen to be ungrateful for the assistance that is offered to them.

These organizations recognize that donors mean well, but that better communication is needed so that organizations in the DTES are the recipients of donations that they can actually use. And, in addition to this, there is a need for organizations to be comfortable with refusing donations, to script a depersonalized and non-alienating ‘no’ so that non-profits have more say in what they ultimately distribute to their clients.

Come join us for the next Kitchen Tables talk this Sunday, November 21, where the next topic will be Making Food, Making Jobs: Downtown Eastside Residents working in their local food economy.

To learn more about the DTES Kitchen Tables Project, visit

Posted by: Erin Brown John on November 15, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Processed food. An article in the Tyee tackles the problem of local food processing infrastructure. While a few companies are producing consumer products from BC grown produce, over the past 30 years the food processing industry has consolidated, leaving BC with a lack of capacity to process local food products locally.

Cultural capital. Vancouver was named a 2011 cultural capital of Canada by the Department of Canadian Heritage and is to receive funding to support celebrations for it’s 125th anniversary.

Office space. The recession seems to be driving companies back into the downtown core. Vacancy rates for office space downtown are dropping, while vacancies in other municipalities are climbing. Telus is constructing the first new office tower downtown in nearly a decade and other companies are relocating due to the proximity to transit and other amenities.

Jericho wharf. There is a debate raging as to what to do with Jericho wharf. It was originally built as part of a seaplane base for the RCAF but is now unused and is in bad disrepair. While there is a case to be made for it’s heritage value, it provides a poor environment for juvenile salmon and other marine life.

The price of development. A new report by the David Suzuki Foundation puts a price on farmland and undeveloped green spaces in Metro Vancouver. The report is intended to promote the densification of land that has already been developed by calculating the benefit to society that undeveloped land has.

Image source: Elizabeth Bruton via flickr

Posted by: Joan Seidl on November 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

Last weeek, repatriation of a Maori cloak, or korowai, from the MOV collection was celebrated with great ceremony in Wairoa on the North Island of New Zealand.

The woven flax cloak once belonged to Sir James Carroll, Maori leader and politician who championed the cause of Maori land rights. Carroll traveled to Vancouver around 1916, and here he presented the cloak to the family of George Ham, who worked in public relations for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Ham’s descendant, Joan Myers, treasured the cloak and in 1986 presented it to MOV for safekeeping.

In 1990, Ms. Toi Te Rito Maihi, a highly skilled Maori textile artist, visited MOV to study the collection. There she saw the cloak and recognized immediately that it from the Wairoa area. The hanging threads on the cloak are dyed a distinctive dark brown achieved by Wairoa’s iron-rich mud. Ms. Maihi was even more excited to learn of the connection to Carroll, who despite his importance, left few tangible objects to mark his life in Wairoa.

In April 2010, MOV received a letter from the curator of the Wairoa Museum requesting repatriation of the cloak and enclosing letters from Ms. Maihi and Ms. Erina Kuai. Ms. Maihi explained, “Although twenty years have now elapsed since I saw the korowai, the knowledge of its presence so far from the original owner’s home remained with me. With increasing age I have felt a need to ask that the korowai be returned to its place of origin where it will be treasured for the memories of a great man.”

Ms Kuai wrote, “Our Tipuna (ancestor) Sir James Carroll was and continues to be held in high esteem in our town…The whole family, indeed the whole community of his home town would be proud to bring home his taonga (treasure), acknowledge and pay tribute to him in the tradition of his native Maori people.”

On November 6, the people of Wairoa did just that. A procession of Carroll’s descendants carried the cloak to the traditional meeting house. There it was welcomed by orators whose formal speeches reflected on the life of Carroll and the journey of the cloak. Each speech was followed by a song or haka.

Carwyn Jones, a Ph.D student at UVic law school and descendant of Carroll, helped MOV by carrying the cloak home to his people. Carwyn took these photographs and sent his reflections on the day: “There was a real sense that this was a wonderful occasion for the whole community. Just about everyone who spoke throughout the day talked about the return of this cloak as marking a coming-together and re-energising of the community and felt that it was symbolically important for the spirit of our people.”

MOV salutes Joan Myers for caring for the cloak carefully for so many years and for placing it in a museum where its existence could become public knowledge. We thank Carwyn Jones and his young family for welcoming us in Victoria and for ferrying the cloak safely back to Wairoa. We are grateful to Ms. Maihi and Ms Kuai for initiating this important work and helping us through their wonderful letters understand the importance of the cloak to their community.

At its best, repatriation works this way. It forges new relationships, fills in missing knowledge, and strengthens community identity. The artifact goes where it can do the most good.


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