Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is a "problem of Canada": Gabor Maté (VIDEO)

Sep 29 2022, 11:31 pm

With a Vancouver civic election just around the corner, many eyes are going to be on the Downtown Eastside and how the candidates will “solve” the problems that plague it, but should it be a concern for all of Canada?

That’s the opinion of one expert, Dr. Gabor Maté: the Downtown Eastside isn’t just Vancouver’s problem; it’s Canada’s.

Maté is a Hungarian Canadian physician and author who penned the book The Myth of Normal. He’s one of the world’s leading voices advocating for alternative addiction treatment.

He recently sat down with Daily Hive Video Producer Arash Randjbar to discuss the Downtown Eastside.

What is the Downtown Eastside?

The Downtown Eastside is the name for a corridor of Vancouver running along Hastings Street, near Chinatown, which is within walking distance from the downtown core. It’s common to see people using drugs out in the open, sitting by fires they’ve made, or congregating on sidewalks. Unfortunately, it’s also common to see residents of this community suffering from mental illnesses.

Governments have poured funds and resources into this neighbourhood, offering safe supply and shelter spaces. However, the problem seems to be growing.

Maté offered some valuable insight into the situation.

How would you explain the Downtown Eastside to a child?

Randjbar asked Maté how he would explain the Downtown Eastside to a child.

Maté says that “there’s no problem of the Downtown Eastside” but that it’s a problem of Canada. He explained how a disproportionate number of people in the Downtown Eastside come from Indigenous backgrounds.

“They didn’t rise from the ground sprouted from the Downtown Eastside; they came from all the suffering communities throughout Canada that have been blighted by colonialism and sexual abuse and physical abuse at the hands of church authorities.”

The basis of that comment is that Vancouver offers some of the best support for people suffering from addiction.

“So how do you explain the Downtown Eastside? You say that people who are suffering come to a place where they can do some drugs to soothe their pain, and they can meet with others of their kind.”

“But it’s not that the problem began in the Downtown Eastside; it began from all these other places where they had to escape from.”

Housing crisis or inequality crisis?

Vancouver has the most expensive housing in all of Canada, and the housing crisis is often part of the conversation when looking at poverty in the Downtown Eastside. However, Maté has another name for it.

“It’s much more accurate to say there’s an inequality crisis. Inequality in this country has been rising. During COVID, the billionaire class gained billions of new wealth. Not for doing anything, because that’s just how the system works.”

He added, “We get unequally rewarded for our work in a society.”

Maté also reflected that COVID-19 got a much larger government response, even though more people died from toxic drug deaths.

“Where’s all the social concern about these deaths?”

Vancouver leaders have long called for a multi-pronged approach to dealing with city poverty, including a national response. However, many living in the Downtown Eastside community are still waiting for answers and have been for far too long.

Watch the full interview below.

Amir AliAmir Ali
Arash RandjbarArash Randjbar

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