In the News

It Takes a Community to Create an Idea

Jeff Masuda


Welcome speech at the opening of the Nikkei National Museum’s “Revitalizing Japantown? A Right to Remain Exhibit,” October 24, 2015.


It takes a community to create an idea like the Right to Remain, and over the past three years, our team – a community based research project has brought together numerous academic researchers, graduate students at all stages of training, colleagues that include artists, activists, and leaders from respected organizations from the DTES and Japanese Canadian and other human rights and cultural communities – has worked hard to bring about this idea.


But the Right to Remain did not come from nowhere, rather, it is an idea that has always been. The role of our project has been simply to create the time and creative space to allow the community to stitch its own ideas of the Right to Remain and all that it entails together into a “unified” concept. To create this space, we’ve conducted nearly 100 interviews, had students scour dozens of archival materials from newspaper, policy documents, and other sources, and we’ve engaged with countless residents of the DTES in arts-facilitated workshops and discussions, held public lectures, panels and walking tours within the community and beyond. But the conversation of the Right to Remain really got a foothold once we turned the process over to our colleagues at the Gallery Gachet, who were instrumental in helping us to recruit and support the talented artists and community leaders – Herb Varley, Andy Mori, Karen Ward, and Quin Martins, coordinator Ali Lohan, and latecomer Audrey Siegl, who ran a year-long Community Fair – their dedication, their ability to give bring a unified perspective to the experiences and histories gathered by so many in the previous years, have ultimately led to what you will see here in this exhibit today, and to so much more…Full Story



Working Towards an Open, Tolerant Society: Closing Thoughts on Phase 1 of the Right to Remain Project


Herb Varley


Published in The Volcano, October 13, 2015


Canada likes to present itself to the world in a certain way. The image of Canada is often that of an open, tolerant, society; one that anyone can come to and thrive in, just as long as they work hard. One thing that we have learned over the course of the “Right to Remain” project is that this image of Canada is largely a work of fiction. This is not just based on my personal experiences, but what we’ve gathered after hearing and sharing the stories of the hard realities of the people in the Downtown Eastside. The question now is, “How do we make the image of a tolerant Canada a reality?”…Full Story



The Downtown Eastside’s Heart Transplant


DTES heart presented by Carnegie Community Action Project in May, 2013


Trevor Wideman and Aaron Franks


Describing Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) as the city’s heart has consequences for the city planning and community organizing that will shape the area’s future for decades to come. The neighbourhood is often described by both its defenders and detractors as being central to the city, geographically and otherwise. It’s been called “a resilient community with heart” and “the heart of the city”, and simultaneously “an epicentre of human dysfunction,”[1] calling to mind Vancouver’s bowel or liver – the urban equivalent of the grease trap for wastes and toxins.
Language like this is also increasingly being used to refer to the area known as the Downtown Eastside/Oppenheimer District, or DEOD, which has become a sort of “ground zero” in the fight between developer interests and social justice advocates. With rapid change happening in such a concentrated space, it is important to reflect on the potential impacts of red circling city spaces as ‘hearts’. While the heart image is urgent, emotional and implies that the area is critical for sustaining the city, the use of such imagery without looking at the intent behind it can create the impression that the community is little more than a space of crisis, on life support and in need of a transplant. Consequently, this can cause segregation, either by signalling spaces of emergency that require immediate change, or by building walls that alienate the community and its struggles from the rest of the city.


The Right to REMAIN in Vancouver’s Nihonmachi/Downtown Eastside


Jeff Masuda with Aaron Franks


Originally published in The Bulletin: A journal of Japanese Canadian Community, History and Culture


What’s in a name? This is a question being posed by a team of Vancouver-based community leaders and university researchers that has been actively engaged in conversations with Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents, both past and present, about their experiences of human rights in the neighbourhood.


Many readers of The Bulletin will have heard that low-income residents in this area are being evicted and displaced from the neighbourhood at an increasing pace as rising land values have prompted developers to upgrade the many affordable, if often derelict, buildings into condominiums. Most readers will also know that this neighbourhood includes the area that Japanese Canadians have called Powell Street, Powell Grounds, Nihonmachi, or Poueru gai – names going all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century. Our purpose is to try to understand and to harness the power of names and naming as a way to support the right of DTES inhabitants to remain in their neighbourhood. The point here is that no matter what name this neighbourhood is referred to by, there are powerful emotions and histories that are brought to mind…Full Story

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