Late last month a Facebook group known as “Vancouver West Enders” renamed itself as The West End Residents Association (WERA), styling itself as “a forum for conversation and community building, and also to lay the foundation for future community engagement and consultation.”

WERA was originally formed in the 1990s in response to the City’s plan to create a downtown transportation plan. It eventually mushroomed into an advocacy group for affordable housing, community gardens, pedestrian bulges on Thurlow Street, and saving St. Paul’s Hospital at its present site. By 2014 the group was winding down and became inactive, amidst expressions of concern that it had become a platform for the launching of political careers and had slipped away from its original identity as a non-partisan organization.

In announcing the reboot of WERA administrator Rory Aurora Richards said: “You will remember WERA’s deep roots in the West End. The organization took a break for a few years, but has made the decision to reboot in light of the pressing issues in our neighbourhood.” She invited group members to share their thoughts on the revival of the WERA identity, and she heard from them loud and clear.

As a result of considerable feedback opposing the name change, mostly from folks who wanted the Vancouver West Enders page to remain a friendly, chatty, apolitical site for neighbourly exchanges of information, posting of photos, and chit-chat, Rory and the WERA team quickly decided that two separate groups would be the way to go. It has turned out that this will be a bit more complicated than initially thought, and it may take a couple of weeks for the two identities to be fully separate. Meanwhile the “West End Residents Association” Facebook link will take you to a page where the cover image reads “Vancouver West Enders” and you can request to join.

WERA and Vancouver West Enders now join West End Neighours (WEN), who are on Facebook and have a blog; the West End Families In Action (WEFA), whose website has not been updated recently but who are active on Facebook, and the West End Citizen’s Action Network (WECAN) who do not seem to have a current website but are also active on Facebook.

The West End Journal will be meeting with administrators of each of these groups in the coming weeks and we will report back next month on the status, goals, and plans for inter-group collaboration on West End issues. Stay tuned!

The Spirit of Nora O’Grady sails again from the Aquatic Centre to Granville Island.

Closure Reversed Thanks To You!

In late June a notice appeared, without advance warning, that the Granville Island Ferries’ dock at the Aquatic Centre was closed indefinitely for much needed repairs. There was no indication as to how long these repairs would take.

In a widely circulated letter from a Granville Island Ferries (GIF) employee, it was pointed out that the dock had been in poor repair for some years, that the owners of GIF had on more than one occasion offered to repair or replace the dock at their own expense and were rebuffed by City bureaucrats who insisted that the City was going to take care of it asap … and asap never came. Until, at the opening of the busiest time of the year for both locals and tourists taking the quick scenic cruise to Granville Island and its market, theatres, and restaurants, the sign went up, shutting down a major part of a small, locally owned business, inconveniencing thousands of people.

According to the employee’s letter, they had recently discovered that a new dock had been fabricated three years ago at a local marine construction company and to this day sits in their works yard awaiting installation. Asked why the delay, one City spokesperson said that they were “waiting for permits”. Those, of course, would be permits that the City would issue. But that would be a different department, and so the red tape rolled on.

Community push-back to this news was apparently sufficient to change the minds of the blockheads who were overseeing this SNAFU, and a week later the dock was reopened. The City says it will complete necessary minor repairs in the next few days, but reserve the big overhaul for the autumn when the busy season is over. Your voices were heard.


There have been a number of disturbing incidents in the West End this past month, with several reported break-ins and at least two criminal entries enabled by open ground-floor patio doors. One of those incidents included an assault against a woman resident and resulted in the arrest of an individual.

There have also been a number of reports of what can best be described as “lurking”. The individual shown here has been reported following people in the vicinity of Gilford and Barclay, and he was taken into custody by police at least once for attempting to illegally access a building. Police have advised that this individual is “mentally unstable” and that there may be a risk of his being dangerous. If you see him, do not approach. It has not been confirmed that this is the same individual who was later arrested in connection with an indecent exposure incident on the Skytrain, though photos are very similar.

Some of these incidents may or may not be connected to the rising incidence of homelessness and panhandling on West End streets. Many West Enders are starting to express their concern about this, and the public drinking, urination, and drug use that are becoming more open and frequent throughout the neighbourhood. Several West End individuals and groups are pushing the idea of a community conversation on this issue. The West End Journal will keep you posted.

25 Downed That Day

Residents in the area of Nelson and Gilford in the leafy West of Denman neighbourhood were in for a surprise June 19 when one of the area’s stately Catalpa trees fell over in that day’s high winds, blocking the intersection, ripping its roots out of the ground, and tearing up a large chunk of sidewalk.

"We had unexpected wind yesterday, which really picked up to 65 to 70 [km/h], particularly in the downtown core, which then spread to the south side of the city," Howard Normann, director of parks with the Vancouver Park Board advised the following day.

Normann also said that the city inspects trees annually to prevent their sudden fall, and inspectors found this tree to be healthy. "At this point it looks like a healthy tree that got caught with that wind," he stated.

However, anyone familiar with the streets of the West End knows that there are many, many trees whose roots are pushing up above ground and severely buckling sidewalks, endangering pedestrians and looking less than securely rooted. This incident, and others like it, may be a wake-up call that it’s time to deal with a serious issue which, because of our love for our tree-lined streets, we may have been ignoring for too long.

That day’s winds brought down at least 25 large trees across the city and crews were alerted to 105 incidents of broken branches.

The  tree fell near where another toppled three years ago — almost to the day, June 23, 2016 — smashing windows on several floors as it struck two buildings. 

Neighbourhood resident Jacqui Birchall provided these photos.

David C. Jones

They’re Off And Running

Breen Ouellette.

As of press time Sunday, June 30 the Vancouver Centre NDP had vetted and approved two candidates to vie for the party’s nomination to run against MLA Hedy Fry in the upcoming October federal election. Breen Ouellette, a Métis lawyer and one of the lawyers hired by the Privy Council Office of Canada to be a Commission Counsel - one of the lawyers serving the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and its Commissioners; and popular Vancouver entertainer and LGBTQ+ community activist David C. Jones, have been approved to stand for the nomination at the riding's nomination meeting, set for July 28. There are at least three other possible contenders for the slot who have not yet had their vetting completed. Follow The West End Journal on Facebook for updates as they happen.

The successful nominee will face off against incumbent Fry, Green Party candidate Jesse Brown, and Conservative candidate David Cavey.

The 2019 federal election is scheduled to take place on or before October 21, 2019. The date is determined by the fixed-date procedures in the Canada Elections Act, but the Act does not preclude the Governor General from issuing the writs of election at an earlier time. 

In the 2015 federal election, of 58,048 votes cast in this riding Hedy won with 32,554, the NDP’s Constance Barnes came second with 11,618, the Conservative’s Elaine Allan received 9,818, and the Green’s Lisa Barrett had 3,370 votes. The Libertarian candidate John Clarke received 614 votes, while Marxist-Leninist candidate Michael Hill had 74.