“Memory is the mother of the community” – Sandy Cameron

Canada’s Downtown Eastside is possibly Canada’s most important sites for the struggle over human rights. Since the original settlement of Vancouver, its inhabitants have continuously stood against a steady stream of human rights violations as the neighbourhood has been subjected to colonization, racialization, stigmatization, and now gentrification. A unified legacy of human rights achievement – an assertion of the Right to Remain in the face of a continuous effort to uproot is unfortunately not well known. Acknowledging the Right to Remain could be an important reminder to those who seek to revitalize the neighbourhood through improvements to buildings, streets, and parks. The Downtown Eastside has always been defined by its people, and its the people who will determine the future of the neighbourhood.

Our project seeks to carefully chronicle a unified history of the Downtown Eastside, in an effort to teach Canadians about our human rights legacy, including the important role that the community plays in present challenges to our rights to housing, health, food, and to the city itself. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, “Revitalizing Japantown?” is being undertaken by community organizations, artists, and researchers between 2012 and 2016 who are working to reclaim and re-enliven the human rights history of the DTES to ensure that the rights of present-day inhabitants are prioritized amidst rapid social and environmental change.

The research team respectfully acknowledges that the Downtown Eastside is situated on the traditional territories of the Musqueum, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations