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About Jean

Jean Swanson has been an anti-poverty and social justice activist for over 40 years in Vancouver and across the country.

Swanson is a universally respected figure, and in 2016 she was awarded the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour, for “her long-standing devotion to social justice, notably for her work with the residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.”


Some of her community work includes:

Carnegie Community Action Project (2005-present). Working with residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to protect low-income housing and improve living conditions. Swanson has co-authored annual reports on the SRO hotel stock and rents.

Raise the Rates BC (2007-present). Advocacy to raise welfare, disability, and pension rates in BC.

DTES Local Area Planning Process (2011-14). Swanson helped to make sure that the voices of the low-income majority were included in the DTES Local Area Planning process.

She is author of the book Poor-Bashing: The Politics of Exclusion (2001).

National Anti-Poverty Organization (1995-96), chairperson, president. Swanson took leadership in challenging Canada’s neo-liberal turn in the 1990s, including Paul Martin’s 1995 budget that devastated social services.

COPE-NDP Unity Candidate for Mayor of Vancouver (1988), runner up to NPA’s Gordon Campbell.

End Legislated Poverty (1985), co-founder, coordinator. Advocated for policies that reduced poverty and inequality in BC.

BC Solidarity Coalition (1981-83), staff organizer. Opposed the BC government’s drastic cuts to public services and workers rights.

Hospital Employees Union (1980-83), research analyst.

Downtown Eastside Residents Association (1974-80), VP & Elected Secretary. Jean worked with Libby Davies and Bruce Eriksen at the DTES Residents Association (DERA), which made historic gains in protecting, empowering, and housing low-income tenants of the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown.


  • Latest from the blog

    Packed hall for Swanson as political revolution gathers steam

    Saturday Aug 26th -- Over 200 people packed into the Russian Hall in Strathcona for a rally with independent Vancouver City Council candidate Jean Swanson Saturday night. It was a huge celebration of Swanson’s more than four decades of social justice activism for which she was presented the Order of Canada in Ottawa on Friday from Governor General David Johnston. Given that remarks were not part of the ceremony in Ottawa, Swanson took the opportunity on Saturday to talk about the award and the issues at stake. Here is her speech:
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    Jean's Campaign Launch Speech

    A few weeks ago I saw a woman sleeping in a suitcase on the sidewalk. Earlier in the year we all read that the Lululemon guy has a house with 9 bathrooms worth $75 million. We’ve been through 40 years of governments cutting taxes for the rich and services for everyone else -- like social housing and welfare, then starting a “war on drugs” to throw poor and racialized people in jail. As a result the planet is burning up and the richest 5 men own more than the poorest 3.5 billion. And Vancouver is part of this as one of the most unequal cities in Canada. This has got to stop.
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