Vancouver up in arms as Trump family launches high-rise tower
Vancouver is bracing for protests as the Trump family prepares to launch its latest venture in Canada amid a growing backlash from local residents.
The US president’s sons’ Donald Jr and Eric will attend the launch on Tuesday of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, a C$360m development where one-bedroom apartments start at around C$1m and hotel rooms go for at least C$300 a night.
But the addition of the Trump name to the skyline of a city where nearly half the population is foreign born has prompted widespread anger. For many, the name conjures up the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, vows to temporarily ban Muslims from the country and reversal on transgender rights.
“We want to push back against this emboldening of hatred and misogyny and xenophobia and racism,” said Mathew Kagis, one of the organisers behind the Trump Welcome Party, a day-long protest being planned outside the gleaming, twisting tower on Tuesday. “Those aren’t values that we have and we want it to be made really clear.”
Trump’s election has already had ripple effects north of the border, said Kagis. Flyers endorsing white supremacy and railing against the LGBTQ community have peppered metro Vancouver while a growing number of number of asylum seekers in the US are putting their lives at risk to enter Canada by foot.
“This is really scary stuff so we we just felt that there needed to be a really vocal and public push back,” Kagis said. The protest is one of two anti-Trump rallies being planned.
The tower, designed by the late Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, was first conceived as part of the Ritz-Carlton brand but cancelled in the wake of the global financial crisis. In 2013 the property developer, Holborn Group, found a new partner for the project. “It’s a beautiful city,” Donald Trump told reporters as he announced the relaunch of the project. “And we’re going to make it more beautiful.”
As Trump worked the campaign trail last summer, Holborn said the building – which at 69 storeys now ranks as one of the city’s tallest – had reached record-setting prices for a new condo project in Canada.
Many, including Kagis, pointed to the city’s overheated housing market, which has helped make Vancouver one of the most expensive places in the world to live. “So in one way the Trump name does kind of fit as it is a symbol of rampant capitalism,” he said. “But in terms of a social perspective, the diversity of this city, the welcoming-ness of this city as an international port, it doesn’t fit at all.”
The jarring contrast between the city and the values espoused by the building’s namesake was laid bare in late 2015, after several city councillors launched a campaign to have Trump’s name removed from the building.
“It has become a beacon of racism and a temple to intolerance,” said Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang. When you think about Vancouver, it’s the most multicultural city in Canada … We have 48% of our population foreign born and we have a history here in Canada of giving everybody a chance.”
Tens of thousands added their names to an online petition while Vancouver’s mayor and the premier of British Columbia also backed the call. “Trump’s name and brand have no more place on Vancouver’s skyline than his ignorant ideas have in the modern world,” the Vancouver mayor, Gregor Robertson, wrote in a 2015 letter to Holborn.
Last week, developer Joo Kim Tiah – the son of one of Malaysia’s richest men – said he had been torn between addressing the city’s concerns and the legal implications of the agreement signed with the Trump Organization. “I was terrified,” Joo Kim told the Associated Press. “The people who ran the city were not happy with me. I was scared, but I think they understand. They understand that I’m trapped into—not trapped, locked into – an agreement.”
The terms of his licensing deal have not been publicly released.
Jang said he didn’t think anyone from city of Vancouver would be attending Tuesday’s opening. “I don’t think anyone’s been invited because we made it very clear no one would go,” he said.
The tower’s opening would do little to dampen the ongoing campaign to erase the Trump name from the city skyline, he added. “Vancouver is a very active city,” he said. “We’re Canadian, so we’re very polite but we’re persistent.”