Former U.N. Rapporteur, Miloon Kothari, who visited Vancouver a decade ago as part of a cross-country study tour for the UN, spent the afternoon, June 5 meeting with DTES residents, touring the neighbourhood and the Balmoral Hotel with the Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP.) At the Balmoral Hotel Block Party organized by the DTES SRO Collaborative on June 18, Kothari spoke out on the homelessness crisis in Vancouver.
“I want to say that I’ve been coming here regularly but I came here on an official UN mission in 2007 to study the housing situation in Canada. I was in Vancouver just before the Olympics. I was here in the DTES and I am truly, truly shocked that the conditions of housing and living conditions have become worse. There’s’ more homelessness in the city and we have a situation, a completely unacceptable situation like the Balmoral Hotel, and I would also recall that in 1993, that’s almost 25 years ago, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and Canada was a member at that time, unanimously adopted a resolution called Forced Evictions and they said forced evictions are a gross violation of human rights. This is a gross violation of human rights. And I’m very happy to be part of this incredible gathering. We are all here to support the very fundamental and very valued struggle of the tenants of the Balmoral but I also want to say let’s use this struggle to raise a voice, a collective voice and not stop before the housing crisis across the city of Vancouver is solved. The Balmoral should become a symbol of the struggle for housing all over the city. I am here in a private capacity but I want to assure all of you that what is happening here will reach the highest level of the United Nations and the highest level of the government. It’s very important. You know, Canada keeps talking about going out and helping poor people in Ethiopia, in Somalia, all over the world, but they’re not doing anything to help the poor people in their own country. In a similar situation in a country in the south or in Syria or somewhere, you would say we need international assistance. Well, let’s call for international assistance to assist the Balmoral people. If the different levels of government in Canada are not doing anything, let’s get support, let’s get solidarity. And I know that there are housing rights groups around the world who support your struggle. I’m part of those groups, and whatever we can do we will assist you, but your struggle is valiant; it’s correct; it’s the right thing to do. And I wish you all the very best in your struggle for the basic fundamental human right to housing and housing human rights. Thank you very much.”