Thursday, November 02, 2006

Not in our backyard

Quaker House, where I work, is situated in the beautiful, quiet, leafy suburb of Petit-Saconnex. Some of the houses we walk past are old fashioned and cute, others are modern and quite grand. They all have impressive gardens and well-kept hedges.

But all that is to change one day soon. The Geneva Government wants to compulsorily acquire an entire street in order to build social housing blocks. This will mean that the residents will be forced to sell to the Government in 2008. The residents are protesting, which means, according to Swiss law, that they are allowed to attach yellow ribbons to their gates. Like any important decision in Switzerland, the matter went to a vote, but, given that most of Geneva does not live on that street, they voted “oui, oui, oui” for the social housing.

This situation has brought up some interesting issues for me. Recently there was another vote. People voted "non, non, non" to a referendum asking them if they wanted to accept more refugees into their cantons. I do wonder, though, if these residents in Petit-Sacconex protested as strongly for the rights of the refugees to a safehaven as they did for their own rights to stay where they are. When I read the protest signs that say “construire mais autrement” I wonder if they mean “Go ahead and build, but not where it affects me”, or are they saying “Build, but find way to do it that suits us all”? I hope it is the latter.

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