Bus number 250, the Horseshoe Bay/Dundarave line, starts out from the corner of Dunsmuir and Homer Streets in downtown Vancouver.
This is just a couple of blocks west of the edge of the downtown eastside strip bisected by Hastings Street. Most of us have a mental image of this area notorious for its very visible extremes of poverty and addiction.
The bus leaves the canyons of downtown along Georgia. From Moishe Safdie’s faux Roman coliseum façade of the Vancouver Public Library, one of my regular stops on any Vancouver trip, then on past the city’s art gallery and the green-roofed Hotel Vancouver the crowded streets seem a world away from the desperation evident along Hastings.
The bus route rides through the centre of Stanley Park before crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge and then turning west for a long ride along Marine Drive.
My bus trip ended in the heart of West Vancouver, reputedly the wealthiest municipality in Canada, early last Friday evening. The intermittent drizzle mercifully stopped for the short walk to St. Anthony’s Church. The BC/Yukon section of the international aid and solidarity organization Development and Peace, had taken over its basement hall for their annual fall meeting. A potluck and sleeping bag affair, development and peace activists from across the region gathered to plan the coming year’s activities.
For me often the networking at events like this is as important as the meeting business itself. Invariably you learn how people are making the linkages between the global concerns. Development and peace deals with and local issues they and their communities face daily. At the door of the church hall for example a plastic bin waited to receive produce for the Edible Garden Project, www.ediblegardenproject.com .
This North Shore initiative “strives to create a community network around the environmental and nutritional importance of growing, harvesting, and sharing fresh local food.”
A Plant a Row program just like the one Whitehorse’s Downtown Urban Gardeners Society organizes every summer, provides fresh vegetables to area emergency food programs. Projects like these help the neediest survive during tough times.
One friend at the gathering, Barry Nelson of Nelson, BC, spends many of his retirement days helping to run the Nelson Carshare Co-op, www.nelsoncar.com/carshare-new/.
The Nelson Carshare Co-op maintains that it offers a real financial and environmental alternative for people who drive less than 10,000 kilometres a year.
Barry told me that they started out with just three cars but during their early phase guaranteed members taxei or commercial car rentals if one of the co-op vehicles was not available.
An expanding member base has allowed them to build their fleet up to its present 13 vehicles.
It now services Revelstoke and Kaslo as well. Members have access to other car-share co-ops in BC centres, like Vancouver and Victoria. This co-op also links into the Kootenay Rideshare, www.kootenayrideshare.com, which provides a free service that helps to connect riders and drivers.
The benefits of both these initiatives in times of an actual or pending economic downturn are obvious. They can help a community continue to thrive even in the face of reduced resources. Maybe as well, they can suggest the kind of organizations and initiatives that a forward thinking community would want to have in place anyway as we move, albeit slowly and haltingly, towards a more sustainable society.
The pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish, Fr. Ian Stuart, told me about a Vancouver effort that he is part of. Currently a regional community development group is forming as part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, www.industrialareasfoundation.org, network. Saul Alinsky, the famous community organizer and author of key works like Rules for Radicals began this group nearly 70 years ago.
Its goal is to “build organizations whose primary purpose is power — the ability to act — and whose chief product is social change.” They seek to engage the poorest among us in that change process.
The bus ride from one of the poorest areas to one of the richest areas in Canada takes only a half an hour or so. The reality is that in our world today we are never far removed from its problems and their very real impact on us. Whether in Whitehorse of West Vancouver, we have to be part of the change we want to see. Are we ready for recession? Are we ready for the future?
The Vanier Catholic Secondary School Social Justice Club will again be collecting for UNICEF this Halloween. Be generous in response to the needs of children around the world.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.
Sunday, October 26 — 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Matthew 22: 34-40.
Tuesday, October 28 — Diwali, Festival of Lights, celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs symbolizes the human urge to move toward the light and the victory of good over the evil within all.
Friday, October 31 — All Hallow’s Eve, rooted in ancient Celtic harvest festival known as Samhain, begins the Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day (November 1st) which honours all saints, known and unknown.
Friday, October 31 — World Savings Day emphasizes the importance of savings to the economy and the individual.