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Housing activist passes the baton in hunger strike relay

After seven days of fasting with only juice and coffee to drink,Vancouver community activist Am Johal was jonesing for abrie-and-grape baguette from Finch’s Coffee and Tea House.

After seven days of fasting with only juice and coffee to drink, Vancouver community activist Am Johal was jonesing for a brie-and-grape baguette from Finch’s Coffee and Tea House.

At noon yesterday, Johal finished the first phase of a hunger-strike relay that he hopes to stretch through the 2010 Games to raise awareness about the need for a national housing program in Canada.

“What I went through the last seven days was absolutely nothing compared to what people go through on the streets,” said Johal, who shed 11 pounds and was physically exhausted by the fourth day.

He also took part in a polar bear swim during the fast and caught flu.

Johal, a board member of the Olympic watchdog group the Impact on Community Coalition, said homelessness and the Olympics are connected because the Games represent a significant taxpayer cost.

“To spend $1 billion on Olympic security while we can’t make the same type of federal government investment on social housing; we should be ashamed of ourselves,” said Johal.

“This is not about being opposed to the Olympics. It’s about setting public policy and deciding what is important. If we can afford security for a three-week party, we can certainly afford to invest in social housing.”

Johal passed the figurative baton to University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers to continue the hunger-strike relay for the coming week.

Johal hopes to get about 60 volunteers to keep the relay running through the 2010 Winter Games.

 
 
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