UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Environmental justice in the therapeutic inner city Masuda, J.R.; Crabtree, Alexis


Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) has long been characterized as Canada’s skid row within public narratives that raise concerns about communicable diseases, open drug use, survival sex work, and homelessness. This stigmatizing gaze has bolstered a deficit-oriented philosophy that emphasizes measures to mitigate these threats, ostensibly by erasing the moral and environmental depravity from the landscape. However, such measures threaten to further marginalize DTES residents by perpetuating public sentiments of fear and disgust toward the inner city. In this paper, we challenge this orientation by reporting the results of a research process in which DTES residents chronicled their impressions of the neighbourhood. Our findings reveal a paradoxical therapeutic response to environmental injustice in the inner city, one that enables society’s most marginalized people to find support, solidarity, and acceptance in their everyday struggles to survive, even thrive, amidst the structural and physical violence of the urban margins.

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