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Displacement in North Vancouver

Gentrification doesn’t only happen in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, BC

The other day, I was driving around my neighborhood admiring the trees, the mountains and the creeks along the way.  I thought to myself how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place and to raise my family in such a wonderful community.  I live in an area that has a very powerful “sense of community”.  It is a community where I can truly say that I know all my neighbors and developed great friendships with some.  It is a place where we all feel a sense of belonging, a feeling that we matter to one another and to the larger group.

During the summer, our children go outside and play together until the sun goes down. Often times, the parents sit outside talking and watching all the kids laugh and play in the courtyard, with no care in the world.  We don’t worry about anything bad happening to the children as we are all watching out for them.  There is a huge sense of belonging and connectedness amongst all of us. It is a community that has been in existence for over 40 years, with families coming and going from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds.  It is a community that embraces diversity and inclusion. It is the very essence of what a neighborhood should be.

Unfortunately, our little community will soon disappear.  It is scheduled for demolition next year.  It is part of the cities plan to “revitalize” the neighborhood, to make it fit into the surrounding area.  Our community is now part of Vancouver’s gentrification project, just like the ones happening in the Downtown East Side, Commercial Drive, Mount Pleasant and the list goes on.

What is gentrification you ask?   As per Wikipedia the term gentrification is understood to be the process in which more affluent populations move into areas of lower socio-economic status, revitalizing homes and businesses which leads to an increase in real estate prices as well as changes the pre-existing community. Not only does the area become less affordable and even one could argue NOT affordable for previous residents but often family homes are destroyed to make way for large blocks of condominiums and in return, displacing families. 

But what that means for my family and I as well as the 50 other families in our community alone, not counting the thousands of other families in the other districts is that we are being displaced, we are being forced out of our homes and our community.  We are being robbed of our sense of belong and connectedness.  We are being marginalized, and for what? For multi-million-dollar construction companies to come in with their bulldozers and destroy the priceless moments and memories that have been built over time in this neighborhood?  For the city of Vancouver to have a pretty face and continue to be recognized as the most expensive province to live in across Canada? For Vancouver to continue raking as the 5th city in North America with the highest quality of living according to the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living survey?

All I know is that I am not looking forward to the time when I have to look into my five-year-old daughter’s big brown eyes to tell her that we have to find a new home and remove her from this community. My heart hurts just thinking of this thought and it angers me to know that those who will move into the new buildings will have no clue that they have just displaced several families who truly felt a sense of community, belonging and essentially a neighborhood that embraced diversity!


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Janice Hamel

Janice Hamel is a devoted social worker working in the health care field and proactively engaged in the international field.  She graduated from the University of British Colombia with her Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in International Social Work.

Over the last 20 years, Janice has taken on the role of advocate, researcher, counselor, group animator, guest speaker and manager. She has worked with adults and children living with mental health issues, woman and children affected by violence, seniors and those in palliative/hospice care. As well as in combatting to end human trafficking.