Encore Show: A Legacy of Local Activism: Don Larson and Elder Veronica on Their 35 Years of Advocacy for Human and Nonhuman Animal Lives in Vancouver’s CRAB Park

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This week’s show features an interview with community activists Don Larson and Veronica on the 35-year history of CRAB (Create a Real Available Beach) Water for Life Society and their commitment to advocating for the park and the well-being of its human and nonhuman animal guests. We also discuss a recent incident with a bear in Coquitlam and the closure of the Vancouver Aquarium See our most recent show discussing their $9.5 million bailout). In addition, Saturday is World Turkey Vulture Day, so we share an informative clip on these wonderful but widely misunderstood individuals.

Decades of Activism in the DTES: Fighting for CRAB Park for 35 Years and Counting

Veronica at Namegans 48 Court Support Rally on September 8th, 2020

Veronica is an Anishinaabe Elder and Sacred Firekeeper at Camp KT Tent City in Strathcona Park. She was one of the founding members of CRAB Water for Life Society and has been committed to serving Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) community for decades.

Don Larson at Namegans 48 Court Support Rally on September 8th, 2020

Don Larson is the founder of CRAB Water for Life Society and has dedicated the past 35 years of his life to advocating for the creation and continued well-being of CRAB Park at Portside. This includes making sure the Vancouver Park Board and City of Vancouver fulfill their promises to complete construction, landscaping and habitat restoration in CRAB Park.

As we learn in the interview, completing CRAB Park would mean turning parking lot 5 into park space and fulfilling the demands put forth by residents of Namegans 2.0, the tent city which resided in the CRAB parking lot from May 8th to June 16th, 2020.

Together, Veronica and Don look back at the past 35 years of CRAB (Create a Real Available Beach) Water for Life Society, including the moment when the idea was shared, tenting on the waterfront in 1984, lobbying government officials and the Vancouver Park Board, postering and outreach, as well as the most recent tent city and their standing demands following the violent eviction of its residents from the parking lot 5 on June 16th, 2020.

Demands from Namegans Nation 2.0

  1. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority return the land surrounding Crab Park to the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations who are the stewards of the lands that the Port is occupying.
  2. No evictions to CRAB Park tent city residents until the federal, provincial and municipal governments house all houseless and underhoused residents in the DTES in places we want to live in and begin construction of 10,000 units of permanent, adequate housing, renting at welfare pension rates and operated under the control of residents council, with cooking facilities, no guest restrictions, no ID requirements, and where people can safely use drugs.
  3. The City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Park Board and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority must honour their commitment to, or establish a commitment to work with Indigenous organizations to establish a healing lodge at Crab Park. 

Nonhuman Animals in CRAB Park

Gaggle of Geese at CRAB Park Portside.

In addition to speaking about Namegans 2.0 tent city and their standing demands, Don & Veronica shared their passion for advocating for the non-human animal residents at CRAB Park. Pictured here is the bird marsh which has been neglected by the park board and contains invasive plants which are toxic to the birds. These plants also soak up water in their small area so that the birds can barely stretch their legs as they swim. Don shares that in addition to the marsh’s poor quality, the barbed wire which has been erected around the parking lot since the eviction makes it so that the area is dangerous for the birds.

During our conversation, Veronica recalls the community of geese that had been temporarily living in CRAB Park. As animals who migrate, their stay in this community is limited, however it is important that they too are able to raise their goslings in a safe and enriching environment.

Complete CRAB Park

As mentioned in the interview, there is a call out for ongoing court support for the second round of court appearances for the 48 individuals arrested for contempt of a court-ordered injunction. The Namegans 48 were protecting the unhoused residents in the parking lot as they were being evicted from their homes during a global pandemic and standing strong around the sacred fire as it went through proper protocol of going out. If you’d like to support the accused and hear from speakers on the homelessness crisis in our local community, at the BC Supreme Court on on September 8th, 10th, 11th, 15th, 16th and 21st the corner of Nelson and Hornby. Social distancing protocols will be in place. Please wear a mask to the event.  PPE will be provided for those who need it. 

To stay connected with CRAB Park and Camp KT, follow Friends of CCAP on Facebook and @ccapdtes on Instagram as well as @nogentle and @namegans48