Pastor joins call for independent inquiry of Pandora Street deaths

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The burned out home on Pandora Street where three people died – CBC photo

Yesterday Councillor Suzanne Anton called for an independent inquiry to get to the bottom of why three men died in a house fire on Pandora Street in east Vancouver. She said that the suggestion by a Vision councillor that the City had done everything it could was simply not good enough.

In a follow-up story by the Vancouver Sun, Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson made the following admission:

Looking back on the file, "there's not a lot we would do differently than what we did with this property."

Now a Vancouver pastor familiar with the Pandora Street occupants is joining Anton’s call for an independent inquiry. Pastor Barry Morris stated to CKNW News:

…tenants often called city hall and the landlord complaining about various problems in the house,"I know some of the actual roomers there, people who have lived there have used our phone numerous times to make such calls either directly to the landlords or in some cases to the city, like around the winter time, like not having the heat on at all or plumbing not working or wiring having basically exploded out of the wall."

Three men have died in an unsafe building that the City of Vancouver had inspected numerous times. A fully independent inquiry – not one managed by the City Manager herself as in previous instances – is in order. If these men had died as a result of the actions of the police, there would be an immediate provision for a coroner's inquest. So it should be with the public officials involved in this tragic story.

Coroner’s inquests provide public institutions with a set of recommendations on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. In this case we need to find what pressure, political or otherwise, that prevented the City taking action sooner.

Astonishingly, paperwork revealed by the City of Vancouver shows that this property had been a problem for over a decade! Yet this homeowner was able to continue to flout the law and endanger the lives of the tenants.

In a previous post on CityCaucus.com, we asked a series of questions which deserve an answer. Repeatedly we've heard from City reps that one of their biggest concerns was about putting people out on the street. Does the "street homeless" count therefore override life and safety concerns for the City of Vancouver?

Mayor Gregor Robertson claims he dumped his job as an NDP MLA so he could run for mayor of Vancouver because of a homeless person who lit themselves on fire. Then within 2 weeks of him putting on the chain of office another person living on the streets of Vancouver set themselves on fire.

Now three men trying to keep warm and dry on the back deck of an eastside flophouse died in a fire. Mayor Robertson announced via Twitter he was going on vacation the day after the fire took place. A cynic might suggest that the narrative changes when R&R is at stake.

We support the call of Councillor Anton and Pastor Morris for an independent third party inquiry. However, the City of Vancouver has ordered an immediate demolition of the Pandora Street home. This will effectively wipe out any evidence of this tragedy before an independent inquiry takes place. Therefore, the building should remain standing until an independent third party can inspect the building.

- post by Mike

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