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.