Vancouver Behind the Facade


Don’t get me wrong – Vancouver is a beautiful city. My home for thirty five years, you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful natural setting or Canadian climate free from ice storms or mosquitoes. As with any city, take away the post card images, look in the dusty little corners – only then can we understand the whole story.

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Sharps

Look in the middle of the picture for the discarded syringe. Vancouver is home to Insite, Canada’s only funded premise for injection of street drugs. This isn’t a criticism of InSite, I believe in their approach to the drug problem – medical staff have saved countless people from death by over dose, provided clean needles – dramatically cutting down the spread of HIV and Hepatitis. InSite staff are there when people are ready to turn their lives around.

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Fire escape

The downtown east side is the poorest neighborhood in Canada. Recent development has seen the area shrink as condos go up where flea bag hotels once stood. Rooming houses are poorly managed and maintained; the B.C. welfare shelter allowance for a single man is $375 a month – average rate for a room in a SRO (single room occupancy) building is $417 a month. The annual “homeless count” figures from October of this year show virtually no change from last year – steady at 1,600. Of these 67% were drug addicted, 46% had a mental illness, 42% suffered from a medical condition and 34% were physically disabled. 45 of the homeless were women – the city is looking into opening a women only shelter.

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Shelter

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Bruins win the Stanley Cup

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Bruins win the Stanley Cup

Hockey is taken seriously – both times the Vancouver Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup final and lost – major riots erupted in the downtown core. Not a pane of glass unbroken for blocks on end, looting, fires, riot squads and teargas. Millions of dollars in damage.

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Transit

You can party like a rock star on Granville Street in the downtown entertainment district. Bars in the area open until 3 AM – just don’t plan on taking public transit home, rapid transit shuts down at 1:30 AM and bus service is limited to one north/south and one east/west route.

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Frances Chan

You too can live in Vancouver, but this house will cost you well over a million dollars. The average rent for a home in the city is $2050, a one bedroom apartment $1046. Vancouver boasts the highest house prices in North America.

Tomorrow I’ll ponder what keeps me here.

All photos by my husband – http://www.flickr.com/photos/15574096@N00/page1/

Canine Quandary


Now that possessing up to an ounce of marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington state; state law enforcement is scrambling to solve the problem of drug sniffing dogs. Washington in particular has a border to deal with – one that  has spent decades formulating plans to keep out the notorious “B.C. bud”. Pot isn’t legal in B.C. but you wouldn’t know that by visiting Vancouver, dubbed “Vansterdam” – numerous “pot cafes” allow patrons to bring their own marijuana and openly consume it.

So what to do with all the drug sniffing dogs? To begin with, how do you train a dog to differentiate between quantities of pot? On the Washington side of the border; a search undertaken as a result of an alert by a canine detective could possibly turn up unexpected contraband – perhaps illegal weapons were found but the amount of marijuana setting the play in motion was less than an ounce – strictly speaking, a judge could toss that evidence out of court as an “illegal search and seizure”.

Logically,  Washington state is training new dogs, ones not taught to recognize pot. Fair enough, but isn’t the whole marijuana question wearing thin? Up to an ounce is now legal in Washington and Colorado if you’re 21. In Vancouver where pot isn’t even legalized – pot cafes are allowed to operate without question as long as they don’t sell marijuana. Anyone can get a medical marijuana ticket, dispensaries as prevalent as drug stores.

Glaucoma, MS. Parkinsons, insomnia, chronic pain, seizures  – the list of ailments doctors can “prescribe” Cannabis for is longer than my arm. Governments allow sale and possession for medical reasons yet won’t allow you to grow a few plants at home. Criminal records tarnish lives for eternity, gangs shot each other over turf, prisons fill up with people caught with a “little too much” and organized crime reaps the benefits.

There are much bigger fish to fry – why not legalize marijuana, put people to work growing it, sell it as you would cigarettes, collect taxes and only go after those who think they can make a living outside these parameters. What’s the big deal? There are a lot of confused dogs without jobs who think it’s just as silly.

4/20 at the Vancouver Art Gallery (origin of 4/20 is a little clouded but at exactly 4:20 on April 20 of each year Cannabis enthusiasts light up) No – there isn’t a house on fire – simply a collective exhale.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/20/420-weed-day-marijuana-april-holiday_n_3122359.html