What do pipelines and condos have in common?
Ivan Drury, a well-known social activist in the Downtown Eastside, says it’s all about displacement.
“Environmental destruction is one of the forces that brings indigenous people to the Downtown Eastside,” said Drury, standing outside the Carnegie Centre where a protest march was about to begin. “They make a place for themselves here, then they get pushed out by gentrification.”
It’s a new angle on the Northern Gateway pipeline, one that in a year and a half of following that controversy I hadn’t heard before. It could be, however, that as the #idlenomore movement is starting to coax multiple threads of discontent into one greater protest against neocolonialism, Northern Gateway and gentrification really don’t need to be considered as separate issues anymore.
“Pipelines and gentrification are two points in a system,” says Drury.
I spoke briefly with an aboriginal woman named Levi. When asked for her last name, she replied mater-of-factly, “I don’t have a last name. I’m homeless.” She went on to point out the irony of being homeless on her own land.
This sentiment of injustice and exclusion is the unifying factor that has allowed #idlenomore to gather previously independent causes under one umbrella. As the march began at the corner of Hastings and Main, about two dozen people joined in. Probably fewer than half of the marchers were aboriginal, but the chants were nevertheless heavy on the land rights language.
Approaching the corner of Carrall St. and East Hastings St., the protesters were chanting “No pipelines on stolen native land,” as passers-by slowly swelled the ranks to around 40. A policeman got out of his car to walk casually behind the marchers. Sounding slightly defensive, he admitted that he hadn’t known the march would take place, but that he was just there to keep people safe.
The modest march finally arrived at its destination, a much larger protest gathering steam at Victory Square. Here, more messaging indicated an even broader pool of support for the demonstration. People hoisted signs warning of natural gas fracking, chanted slogans about Stephen Harper, and held banners deriding the tar sands. Everyone knew that this was a Northern Gateway demonstration, but it’s clear that the grievances run much deeper than one project. As #idlenomore has shown, the tent is big and there’s always room for more.