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

Haida Gwaii gets top spot in The World

It was already a nice Christmas present, but Keith Moore was really… Continue reading

McNeill fined again for illegal fishing

A local man with a long history of poaching has been convicted… Continue reading

Painting her way home

Janine Gibbons talks about all she learned illustrating Haida and Tlingit story books

Old Massett taps grassroots for community plan

Over coffee, kitchen tables, and community dinners, Old Massett is taking a… Continue reading

Subsea internet cable to link up Haida Gwaii

Cable to connect Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast with mainland network

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

A new development surrounding plane that went missing around Revelstoke in November

The family of Ashley Bourgeault believe they have found a new clue

$130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic

Hot summer ticket: $130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic off Newfoundland

UK’s Princess Eugenie, daughter of Prince Andrew, engaged

Princess Eugenie, the daughter of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, will marry Jack Brooksbank in Autumn 2018

German nurse charged with 97 more murders

Niels Hoegel, serving a life sentence for two murders, has been indicted in nearly 100 more killings.

Two men guilty in murders of Alberta family could face 75 years

The pair were found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Klaus’s parents and sister in a rural home near Castor, Alberta

With Senate talks falling short, U.S. shutdown enters workweek

President Donald Trump accused Democrats of prioritizing services and security for noncitizens over U.S. citizens

Toronto mayor wants city to co-host 2026 FIFA World Cup

The mayor of Canada’s most populous city says he wants Toronto to be among the North American cities to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup

With a lighter touch, SAG Awards follows a familiar script

Morgan Freeman accepts the Life Achievement Award at the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday

Most Read