Posts Tagged "worth"


‘Our lives are worth living’: Remembering those with disabilities who were murdered

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A solemn group of two dozen gathered in Burnaby Sunday to remember those whose lives were cut short at the hands of loved ones.

The annual Disability Day of Mourning is a vigil dedicated to raising awareness that some people with disabilities are killed by caretakers and family members.

“Many of us organizing, and many attending, do have disabilities ourselves,” said Vivian Ly, one of the founders of Autistics United Canada. “A lot of us have had violence enacted on us by our caretakers. A lot of questions that come up are, ‘Am I next?’”

“[The vigil] is sending the message that our lives are worth living; that these murders are not justified,” she said.

In preparing for this year’s event, Ly researched one of Metro Vancouver’s latest victims, Florence Girard, a 54-year-old Port Coquitlam woman who had Down syndrome.

Girard was found starved and malnourished in October 2018; she weighed just 56 pounds. Her case was not brought to light until this year, when her caretaker was formally charged in her death.

“She did not deserve such a horrific death,” Ly said. “She deserved way better from those who were responsible for her care.”

She doesn’t want to focus on the circumstances of Girard’s death and pending court case, but rather remember the life that she led. She told the crowd the 54-year-old was funny, liked to take photos and swam competitively.

“We want to remember them as people,” Ly said. “People like us. And they had voices, too – even if they were silenced too soon.”

During the vigil, Sam McCulligh, another organizer, read a list of victims from across the country who have died since this type of death began being officially recorded.

“When I read the list, I just think about how many people have been senselessly murdered,” he said.

The list contains 61 names, but McCulligh believes there are many more cases that didn’t get reported.

For example, the list dates back to the early 1940s, but only two cases are mentioned before it jumps to a victim in 1977. Then there’s another large gap before Tracy Latimer’s name is mentioned.

The 12-year-old Saskatchewan girl was killed by her father in 1993. Robert Latimer served 10 years in prison and when he was released, he said he had no regrets about killing her.

The father always claimed he killed her out of compassion to end her daily pain and suffering.

“It’s extremely disturbing to me that he’s been receiving so much support after essentially murdering his own daughter,” McCulligh said. “A lot of times, we aren’t viewed as full people; our lives are viewed as tragedies, viewed as burdens.”

He said that is why it is so important to hold events like the vigil to raise awareness that a disability should not result in a death sentence. 


New Westminster offers $4M worth of free land for affordable housing | CBC News

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On full disability and in a wheelchair, New Westminster resident Aaron Pietras has only $375 a month in his budget for housing. 

In the Lower Mainland, housing advocates say finding an accessible place for that price on the market is “virtually” impossible. 

But with a stroke of luck, Pietras was able to get into one of the city’s newest affordable housing projects at 43 Hastings St. last year. 

The bedroom closet inside the home of Aaron Pietras has been specially designed to be more accessible. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The development wouldn’t have been possible without the free donation of a plot of million-dollar land from the municipality.

“That’s significant given the costs of land in the Lower Mainland and really made the project viable,” said Janice Barr, CEO of the non-profit Community Living Project, which built and operates the facility. 

The project was such a success, the City of New Westminster is looking to do it again. 

It’s requesting proposals for another affordable housing project on Fenton Street. The successful bidder will get the four plots of land worth around $4 million “at no charge.”

Four sites on Fenton Street in New Westminster are being offered free of charge to a non-profit willing to build affordable housing. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The city will also pay for additional expenses like a building permit and development approval.

“There are people here who previously didn’t have housing who now have housing to stabilize their lives and they’re part of the community. And, as a city, we really feel that that’s really important,” said John Stark, New Westminster’s supervisor of community planning. 

The price of a plot

Providing free land is a relatively new push for the City of New Westminster, but other levels of government are increasingly looking to their own land holdings as a housing solution.

The City of Vancouver called providing city-owned land to non-profits and government agencies a key approach in the quest for affordable housing. The province of B.C. was also on board with using publicly-owned land to create more affordable housing. 

Janice Barr, CEO of Community Living Housing Society, says the cost of land is a major factor when it comes to building affordable housing. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

With property prices sky high, incentives to build affordable housing are becoming increasingly crucial to woo developers, said Michael Mortensen, who advises developers under the Liveable City Planning banner.

Even private developers struggle with rising costs which makes choosing to build affordable housing a difficult option, he says.

“People have misconceptions about how much profit developers are looking for,” Mortensen said. 

The profit difference compared to a condo project is huge, according to Mortensen. He says most developers are looking for a 15 per cent return on costs, whereas rental properties usually average around six per cent.

He says it’s already tough to get those returns with increasing costs and accepting a lower profit margin can make it harder to secure financing.

Michael Mortensen with Liveable City Planning stands next to a private development on West Broadway in Vancouver slated to include 248 rental units. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Private versus public land

But while leveraging publicly-owned land to create more affordable housing is something all levels of government seem to agree on, giving it away for free to private developers isn’t something many of them are keen on.

For the current provincial government, it’s a hard no. 

“Public land belongs to the people of B.C. and should benefit them, not wealthy corporations,” said the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in a statement. 

Andy Yan, director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University, agrees.

He pointed to the Little Mountain housing development site in Vancouver as a cautionary tale.

There is not much to see at the Little Mountain social housing site in Vancouver since more than 200 units of housing was dismantled more than a decade ago. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The provincial government sold the land to private developer Holborn Holdings Ltd. in 2007 at a fraction of the assessed value.

Years later, the demolished social housing units the company promised to replace are years away from completion.

“When the BC Liberals chose to sell off public land, in many cases for less than the land could have been worth, they gave away control and the opportunity to use that land to provide affordable housing for people,” said the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in its statement. 

Mortensen says private developers are still a key part of the housing solution.  

“When you have the creativity of the development industry and partner with them … we can produce more housing. We can do it at virtually no cost to the taxpayer,” he said. 

‘King of the world’

Aaron Pietras said finding an affordable place to live has made a huge difference in his life and allowed him to have true privacy for the first time. 

“I feel like I’m the king of the world right now,” Pietras said. “It’s like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.”

But while Pietras felt lucky to have his new home, he said accessible and affordable housing for others with disabilities is still hard to find.

“It’s very challenging you know,” he said. 

Aaron Pietras, who only has $375 a month for rent, said getting an affordable place has completely changed his life. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

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