December 2020 [Virtual] General Meeting

50 VTU members attended our online general meeting on December 5, 2020. Here is what happened...

Item 1: Territorial Acknowledgement & Community Agreements

As usual, we ask all attendees at VTU functions to follow these community agreements:

  1. One-mic- means to respect each other’s speaking time.
  2. Speak Up/Listen Up- means that people who are comfortable should step up on their listening skills and people who tend not to speak should step up speaking more.
  3. Break It Down- explaining words or phrases that are unclear/ inaccessible.
  4. Respect Each Other- oppressive behaviour will not be tolerated
  5. Challenge Ideas, Not People- disagreements should be expressed with what people have said and not the people themselves.
  6. Be Present
  7. Take Care Of Yourself- do what is best for your physical and emotional well being

In addition to these agreements, we are asking everyone to observe the following meeting norms to help our virtual meeting run smoothly:

  • When entering the meeting, please type your full name. We will use this to cross reference our database so that this can remain a members-only meeting.
  • If you are calling in, we will be cross referencing your phone number.
  • Keep your mic on mute unless you are the speaker. Facilitators will have the ability to mute your mic if need be.
  • Questions & Comments
    • Please submit your questions and comments in writing in the Zoom Chat window, or ahead of the meeting if possible.
    • The above community agreements apply to the Zoom Chat window. Members submitting disrespectful comments in the chat window may be ejected from the meeting by facilitators
    • Call-in participants will be given a time at the end of each Q&A session to ask their questions out loud or they can use email
    • Please keep your questions and comments succinct so that as many people as possible can have time to ask their question
    • If your question wasn’t answered in the meeting, you are always welcome to follow up after the meeting: [email protected]
  • If you are having technical difficulties hearing or participating in the meeting, please understand that facilitators will have a limited ability to help you. If you are asking a question and it does not come through clearly, we may have to move on, but we’ll try to come back to you.
    • If you missed something, you can refer to these meeting minutes. Minutes were recorded in real-time.


Item 2: Special Resolution for support/solidarity of Defund VPD Coalition

  • Summary of Presentation from City Hall Working Group:
    • The VPD budget has increased by over $100 million over the last 10 years, to ~$340 million by 2020, and with a proposed increase in the budget of $3 million as of 2021. The Van City Council formerly dominated by the Vision Vancouver party, such as former Mayor Gregor Robertson and other councillors formerly with Vision, committed to a year-over-year increase to the VPD budget of 2.5%.

    • The rationale for increasing the police budget is that homelessness is bad for property values: downtown condo dwellers don’t want the unhoused downtown; generally don’t like and/or are afraid of them; and they, and the police at their indirect behest, want the unhoused to just “go somewhere else”, and, failing that, the police would ‘need’ increased funding for increased policing to respond to increase homelessness rates, so as to drive the unhoused out of richer/wealthier neighbourhoods downtown and around Vancouver.

    • A motion was brought before City Hall to take the proposed increase in police budget and put the money towards public housing and other public and community services. The CHWG has been working with COPE and other allies to support this motion by Clr. Swanson. 400 signed up to speak in support of the motion and it passed unanimously, but this motion impacting the city budget doesn’t itself address the proposed $3 million increase for the 2021 VPD budget. Neither did this motion entail setting aside a budget for ensuring the motion is realized in practice, such as funds to cover CoV staff salaries for their work-time in consulting with community stakeholders and setting up administration infrastructure for the new public/community services and funding mandated by the motion.

    • In Vancouver, across Turtle Island/North America, and across the whole world, there is a trend of the criminalization of poverty and increasing crises of housing affordability. This intersects with crises of homelessness, poverty, and racial discrimination against Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC): especially in these unceded territories known in settler-colonist society as ‘Vancouver,’ as a matter of colonization; and historical and ongoing institutional/systemic racism against the Black community in Vancouver, such as the expropriation and privation/privatization of the historical Black neighbourhood of Hogan’s Alley in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

    •  One of the VTU’s principles is that Housing is a Human Right and it should be regarded and upheld as such among the public, in government, in civil society and society at large.

      • Whereas the VTU works towards these values: housing is a human right, decommodify land, opposing displacement, decolonization, livable city, living wages, solidarity in motion and solidarity across movements
      • Whereas the VTU knows that our work is not in isolation of the systems of oppression that make it necessary for all social movements. We work and move in solidarity with other movements fighting for a more just society. We understand the demands of racialized communities such as Black Lives Matter, who suffer systematic oppression that is shown in the form of police brutality and criminalization.
      • Whereas the VTU stands in solidarity with those people who have been or are at risk to be evicted and demovicted and those who are suffering homelessness in a city deeply affected by the policies and laws that have made housing a commodity to speculate and impoverish working class people.
      • Whereas the VTU statement the lack of public investment to achieve housing justice and we do not understand why 20% of Vancouver City budget goes to fund VPD when the residents of the city are in need of social housing and many other public social services. Furthermore to consider that VPD is an organization with a serious lack of accountability.

      • Therefore be it resolved that the VTU officially endorse the movement to defund the VPD and decriminalize poverty, mental health issues and social problems and fund community-led initiatives

Motion passes unanimously with 39 in favour, 0 against, 4 abstain


Item 3: Update on BC Rent Crisis Campaign

  • Presentation Summary:
    • The campaign’s first action was focused and predicated on its demand of cancelling rent debt accrued by tenants during the pandemic. A public demand was made of the government and there was media coverage but there was no follow-up or response directly to this effort from the B.C. government since.

    • The BC Federation of Labour, representing many unions and thousands of their members across B.C., endorsed the VTU’s of the No Rent Debt campaign, and thus has the full weight of B.C.’s labour organizations/movement.

    • David Eby has been appointed the new Minister Responsible for Housing. He is regarded to be among the more progressive ministers within the NDP government and the party at large. On one hand, it doesn’t appear the landlord lobby is fond of Mr. Eby and as Minister Responsible for Housing he lives in Vancouver. On the other hand, it’s unclear if the Housing Ministry has been downgraded; is less able to act independently of the AG’s office; and Mr. Eby recently gave an interview where it became unclear as to whether he really understands the gravity of the rent crises, especially from the perspective of tenants.

    • A new campaign is focused on short-term goals like rent debt forgiveness but also medium-/longer-term goals like moving towards housing as a human right, by mobilizing the VTU membership to agitate and advocate for their demands, so as to eventually realize legislation brought before the provincial government to enact these goals.

    • Organizing and mobilization of this campaign is focused on the tactics of phone banking to the VTU membership, in large numbers, so as to check in with them; checking in with them about how they feel about the VTU’s ongoing campaigns; and to issue a potential call to action in the month of December.

    • Comms work as part of this campaign is intended to continue throughout the holiday season, including perhaps a letter addressed to the new Minister Responsible for Housing.

    • A Rent Debt Survey completed in August was filled out by 400 tenants, VTU members and others, including their personal stories and appendices, but there was little follow-up, so the new idea being considered is to forward some of those stories to visual artists in the community to illustrate them, as a form of agitprop, and as postcards sent to VTU members to send to Mr. Eby’s office and the government to raise awareness and agitate, with the intent to flood his office with hundreds of letters.


    • Be it resolved that VTU shall resource and plan to carry out a postcard action in the month of December. BIR VTU membership allocate up to $1500 for the postcard action

      Motion passes with 36 in favour, 1 against, 5 abstain


Item 4: Steering Committee Announcements

  • Motion to endorse the campaign:

    • The Provincial Government of British Columbia increased the social and disability assistance rates by $300 during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
    • A VTU member who also works with the DTES SRO Collaborative has relayed testimony from many tenants on disability who have been saved from eviction and houselessness/homelessness because of prior top-ups to disability payments during the pandemic.
    • the final distribution of the extra $300 assistance benefit is scheduled to be on Dec. 16th, 2020.
    • Endorsing the campaign might entail integrating efforts to support it into the VTU’s comms efforts and include publicly advocating for this campaign from the angle of the VTU’s perspective
    • MOTION: 

      • BE IT RESOLVED THAT the members of the Vancouver Tenants Union endorse the demands of the campaign. We will sign the open letter as an organization, encourage all of our members to follow their actions and share their links on our social media networks.Item 5: Open floor for members to speak on issues affecting them/their buildings

        Motion passes unanimously with 44 in favour, 0 against

  • Vacancies on Steering Committee:
    • Elections for new reps on the SC will take place in January 2021 and the present goal is to institute the Nominating Committee (NC) to handle nominations for the candidates to be up for election.
    • [NC is appointed by members present]

  • Membership Dues
    • At the last GM, an amendment was passed so that a member who joins officially becomes a ‘member in good standing’, meaning they can vote at GMs, run for SC or other official roles in the VTU, etc., in 45 days instead of 60 days.
    • Ambiguity in this regard was resolved by those members in good standing who were paid up on dues but SC decided via vote that, due to the unique and critical circumstances of the pandemic, members who couldn’t pay dues in 2020 but paid them in 2019 will have their dues for 2020 waived;
    • ditto for those who won’t be able to pay dues for 2021 but paid their dues in 2020, who will be good until 2022
    • Affected members will be notified via email

Item 5: Open floor (announcements/updates/advocacy questions)

[Not posted for members' privacy]