A passer-by looks at what's left after the evacuation of a 10-month tent camp in downtown Victoria.

A passer-by looks at what's left after the evacuation of a 10-month tent camp in downtown Victoria.

BC VIEWS: The roots of our ‘homeless’ crisis

It's an epidemic of 'mental health and addictions,' says housing minister Rich Coleman, not just bad behaviour in a welfare state

Victoria’s infamous “tent city” has been evacuated, as others have before it around B.C., with more than the usual ongoing public pain and expense.

The showers, toilets and privacy fencing have been hauled away after serving through spring and summer of the 10-month occupation of Crown land beside the downtown courthouse. Mayor Lisa Helps said she wasn’t around there much, but her main regret was that these services hadn’t been provided sooner, although feces and needles continued to litter the area after they were installed.

As the campers’ daily quarrels subsided, a couple of parting gifts were left for the neighbourhood. A pulse of rats spread out from large nests that had formed under the stolen or donated lumber that had covered most of the filthy lot.

What used to be a pretty little park is now a bare wasteland, dead or dying ornamental trees and shrubs removed, topsoil scraped away and the remaining large trees monitored behind steel fencing to see if they will survive.

The self-styled housing activists who bused in protesters to the site returned to Metro Vancouver, setting up a similarly media-handy squat in the Downtown Eastside and occupying a condemned apartment block in Burnaby. As they offered the usual Marxist remedies via banners and bullhorns, a long-running street-side drug camp in North Surrey also came to the attention of the Vancouver media.

It is assumed by many that the flood of campers is locally grown, although most of the specific evidence I see is to the contrary: drifters from less welcoming parts of B.C. as well as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec that I have been able to identify.

They are assumed to suffer from “mental health and addictions,” as B.C. housing czar Rich Coleman habitually describes the condition. The province plans to provide residence and treatment for about 200 people at the former Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, although half of that project will replace existing adult and youth facilities in Burnaby.

Victoria, by my count, now has around 800 existing or planned “transitional housing” or shelter units. So many buzzwords are used it’s difficult to establish categories, but most of the hundreds of new rooms appear to be modern equivalents of the “single-room occupancy” slums of the Downtown Eastside – containment rather than treatment for this alleged epidemic of “mental health.”

My summer reading included an unusually frank discussion of this world-wide cultural problem, written by British psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple. Life at the Bottom: The Worldview that Makes the Underclass was published in 2001 and chronicles his experience working in a hospital and prison that serve the rougher part of London. It stands up well today and seems to have anticipated the urban subculture we now see in Canada.

He quotes a still-popular Pink Floyd song to describe the culture that has replaced the discipline of family, religion and work among the lower classes. “We don’t need no education/We don’t need no thought control” is now read as a sort of gospel.

Street drugs are the preferred method of escaping the supposed thought control of orderly society. Getting a tattoo of one’s girlfriend’s name is a preliminary step to abandoning her and their shared child. The so-called sexual revolution led not only to a rise in neglected children, but also an escalation of abuse of poor women that he has to treat.

Dalrymple reserves a special scorn for the mass media obsession with injustice in the most just society ever created, and the notion that poverty causes crime.

I’ll discuss that in a future column.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Richard Green and Alex Campbell stand in solemn reflection of the survivors and victims of the residential school system on May 30. On June 21, Prince Rupert will honour National Indigenous Peoples Day and recognize the contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Métis of Canada.
Prince Rupert Reflecting on National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 is to celebrate the contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis to Canada’s culture

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Dr. Rob Olson stands in front of a linear accelerator at the BC Cancer Centre in Prince George. 
The machine is used to deliver SABR treatment to clinical trial patients. (Photo: supplied)
Pilot project brings access to care closer to home for Prince Rupert cancer patients

Northwest B.C. will be the first region to partner in the international clinical trial project

Joseph Albert Brooks, 94-years-young pf Prince Rupert offers traditional prayers and smudging to the sick. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of our City: Joseph Albert Brooks keeps smudging and praying for others

94-year-old Tsimshian elder just wants some help washing his floors

Land along Prince Rupert’s waterfront, PID 012-247-391, where residents say excessive industrial train noise is stemming from, has been found to be owned by the City of Prince Rupert and is not federal land like first presented, Prince Rupert Environmental Society stated on June 17. (Image: supplied by Land Title and Survey, Govt. of BC.)
Error found on land titles map may assist city with noise control enforcement of industry

Prince Rupert residents had been told there was no municipal jurisdiction to enforce noise bylaws

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Most Read