Thursday, August 30, 2007

Carnegie Learning Center Won't Open in Sept Due to Strike

Lucy Alderson, Co-ordinator and teacher at the Carnegie Learning Center, sent out a mass e-mail last Thursday, August 30th: "Hi, Everyone! Well, things are not looking good for re-opening the Learning Centre at the beginning of September.”

The Learning Center is run jointly by Capilano College and the Carnegie Center. Alderson actually works for Capilano College and is not a CUPE member, but most staff at Carnegie are members of CUPE Local 15. The Learning Center specializes in adult literacy, including computer literacy. Alderson’s e-mail reveals her support for CUPE as well as her need for a little time on the Mavis Bacon typing tutor to get the hang of the space bar:

“We have been talking about the situation withCUPE members, Ethel [Carnegie Director], the CCCA [Carnegie Community Center Association], our own union at Capilano College and ourDean. Right now, we have a short-term, 2 week plan to respect the strikeand strongly urge a resolution to the dispute. Hopefully, we are headingin that direction but it is very hard to tell. If the strike continues, wehave many issues to consider and we will bring everyone together to helpformulate a plan.I know that some of you have been helping out in other areas of theCarnegie and some of you have been away, or anxious to get back tovolunteering. We will try and keep you as up to date as possible. I amconcerned about our current students and all the people who regularly usethe facilities of the Learning Centre and the Comunity [Luuuuuucy! Spell check!] Centre. We are alsoconcerned about Carnegie staff who have been on the picket line for almost2 months.I am wondering if anyone has any ideas about bringing pressure to secure aresolution. Do we want to have an email discussion or get together atCarnegie next week?Tomorrow there is a rally at City Hall organized by CUPE. I am going to goafter I have completed some work at the College. It is from 12noon until2:30pm. Also, there is a march from Science World starting at 10am. Let me know any thoughts, ideas or concerns, Lucy"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

CUPE Rally on Wed. Aug. 29th

There is a march starting at Science World at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wed., Aug. 29th. It will be followed by a rally from 12:00 to 12:30 at City Hall. It is intended to show support for CUPE and to pressure the City to settle the strike.

CUPE members who attend will receive picket hours.

It is a bad day for a rally as it is welfare day. After five weeks without a cheque, the poor -- some of whom would like to go -- have shopping to do.

CUPE Has A lot of Nerve Demanding Whistleblower Protection

CUPE BC President, Barry O'Neill, spoke to the media yesterday about the strike by civic workers in Vancouver. "[O]ur members are hurting out there," O'Neill said.

Paul Faoro, President of Local 15 which represents indoor workers, was with O'Neill at the press conference. Local 15 and the City of Vancouver have been able to agree on a wage increase of 17.5 over five years. But like Local 1004 (outside workers) and Local 391 (library workers), Local 15 hasn't been able to get the City to meet their demands for job security as well as protection for whistleblowers.

Protection for whistleblowers?

O'Neill has a lot of nerve. There is an unresolved complaint against him for allegedly being involved in the harassment of a whistleblower inside CUPE. A former secretary to two CUPE Presidents was blowing the whistle on unfair labour practices inside CUPE when a letter she had written to Barry O'Neill about the issue was turned over to police in Dec. 2002. She was then visited by VPD Constables Ng and Herrmann in what she alleges was an exercise in intimidation.
One of the issues raised by this secretary -- who had left CUPE with two glowing letters of reference -- was that she saw female co-workers fired after they spoke up about such issues as unfair workloads, verbal abuse, and the fact that CUPE had renegged on a promise of a pension. They had no job protection as these CUPE secretaries did not have the benefit of a union.

Earlier the same year, 2002, CUPE had muzzled a whistleblowing steamfitter and CUPE member working in Plant Operations at the University of British Columbia. The steamfitter persistently spoke up about alleged irregularities in WCB payments which he was briefly receiving, cheques which were processed through the employer and the union. Twice large cheques arrived at his door, for the amounts he had claimed he was owed. They came from the Back to Work office at UBC which was headed by a woman who was on the CUPE Local 116 Executive. But no explanations were given for these cheques. He didn't shut up. The Executive of CUPE Local 116 called the police on him, claiming that he had been threatening.

CUPE BC took an interest in the steamfitters case. They sent a lawyer to a meeting with him and the university. He had not brought a lawyer. The CUPE lawyer,whom he described as "tough", told him that he had to get a psychiatric assessment and take medication or he would lose his job. Guess who shut up about the WCB issue? But CUPE was accused of becoming involved in "political psychiatry".

Conclusion: Barry O'Neill has alot of nerve to demand that the City grant CUPE's membership with protection for the whistleblowers amongst them. But Local 15's Faoro, who is rumored to be angling for O'Neill's job when he retires, has alot of nerve too.

Local 15 was made aware in 2003 of the tactics from unfounded police complaints to political psychiatry that their dues to CUPE BC were supporting. What did Local 15 do to ensure that workers could speak up about workplace conditions without fear of harassment? Nothing. But Faoro had the term "fair" on his lips during this summer's CUPE strike, so the secretary wrote to him asking that he show some leadership and ensure that her grievance against CUPE was resolved.

Faoro ignored her.

"[I]t's time to actually end this dispute," Faoro told the Vancouver Sun yesterday. Which dispute would he be talking about? The one between his members and the City of course, not the whistleblowing secretary's dispute with CUPE.

"In order to show leadership, and try to resolve this dispute, we are prepared to take the lead....", Faoro also told the Sun. The whistleblowing secretary has yet to see these leadership qualities in Faoro.

Harassment of a whistleblower by CUPE is not restricted to the case of the secretary and the steamfitter. The Downtown Eastside Enquirer has obtained documentation supporting two other cases: the case of a whistleblower about the Vancouver School Board and that of whistleblower at the CUPE stronghold of Carnegie Center.

The Vancouver School Board Whistleblower: a CUPE member working inside the VSB involved herself in harassment tactics targeting this whistleblower

This situation occurred after several Vancouver residents had independently complained over the years to the Vancouver School Board about a verbally and at times physically abusive, and racist, teacher. Nothing was done. A woman wrote to the School Board in the fall of 2002 about the VSB's duplicity in the handling of such complaints, specifically their public assurances to the public that "bullying" complaints were taken seriously while in reality disregarding them and treating the complainants as the problem. She stated in the letter that she intended to draw public attention to this duplicity by campaigning in the School Board election, just two months away. In the same letter she made a freedom of information request for recent documents from the file pertaining to her complaint against this teacher.

The response this woman got was a visit from Car 87, in which a police constable and a psych nurse ride together. She believes that this was an attempt to undermine her credibility in the upcoming election campaign. When the woman read the psych report which cleared her but smeared her, the sole reason given for the visit was that she had made "freedom of information requests." The primary witness against this whistleblower was, guess who? A CUPE member. It was Georgina Kosich, the Labour Relations and Freedom of Information Assistant who processed foi requests at the VSB. Kosich was the only staff person who met with the psych nurse, Don Getz, when he arrived at the VSB in the police car, according to his report, (although he had briefly spoken to an in-house lawyer, new on the job, who directed him to Kosich.) More about Kosich: the targeted woman has letters she received from Kosich in response to her freedom of information requests encouraging her to feel free to contact her. The targeted woman's FOI requests had not been excessive; she had made two over the previous year. This case has been labelled "political psychiatry" by Downtown Eastside advocates.

The Carnegie Center Whistleblower: CUPE members were involved in getting an alleged whistleblower barred from Carnegie Center

The most recent case, of course, of the involvement of CUPE members in silencing a whistleblower is the notorious case of Bill Simpson, a homeless man who was barred from Carnegie Center because he was suspected of being associated with a blog. The blog was being used to blow the whistle on Carnegie Center staff [most of whom are CUPE members] and Director Ethel Whitty for not always giving taxpayers what they had paid for.

Roughly a year ago, bloggers began reporting to taxpayers when CUPE members [and one BCTF member] were locking patrons out of publicly-funded educational and computer services that were scheduled to be open. CUPE members interrogated volunteers at the Center in what took on the characteristics of a "witch hunt" for the blogger. In fact, one volunteer claims he was separately questioned by Rika Uto, Colleen Gorrie, and Carnegie Assistant Manager Dan Tetrault -- all CUPE members. The volunteer was also interrogated by two members of the BC Teachers Federation, Lucy Alderson and Betsy Alkenbrack, and Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty. This witch hunt resulted in Bill Simpson being led to the office of Skip, Carnegie Head of Security and a CUPE member with some seniority, and informed by Lucy Alderson that he was barred from the Carnegie Learning Centre.

But here's the thing about Skip: he showed a tendency to skip Simpson's rights. When Simpson asked him for something in writing so that he could appeal this barring from a public space, he recalls Skip saying, "Ah come on, give me a break, I'm new here." Skip never gave Simpson anything in writing, and neither did Alderson who was also asked.

Carnegie Board member, Rachel Davis, recently stated on Vancouver Co-operative Radio that every barring at Carnegie must be accompanied by an incident report. But security guards don't always produce one and when the do, she explained, they often won't allow the targeted individual to see it.

But efforts to stop legitimate whistleblowing at the Carnegie Center didn't end with this barring. They continued when bloggers alleged that a CUPE member in a social work role was repeatedly having sexual relations with male clients, many of whom were troubled. Two of these clients had successfully committed suicide and one made an unsuccessful attempt by jumping off a bridge and becoming a quadrapelegic -- although no direct link was claimed to exist between these tragedies and the supervisor's former sexual liasons with these men. The 'Sex in the City' supervisor was not named in the post at the request of sources who simply wanted her misconduct to stop.

Not only was the 'Sex in the City' supervisor never genuinely investigated but, with the support of CUPE, managed to wrangle a Workers Compensation judgement out of this situation. She took the position that bloggers at Carnegie were creating an unsafe work environment. Carnegie Board member, Grant Chancey, an outspoken CUPE supporter during the strike, wasn't buying this framing of blogging as a safety risk to a CUPE member. "This is not a WorkSafe issue", he said at a Community Relations Meeting at Carnegie, adding that he had seen no threats whatsoever on the blog posts "and I've looked and I've looked and I've looked."

The result of the WCB claim, according to Ethel Whitty, was that homeless Bill Simpson was once again barred -- this time from the entire building. He was no longer accused of blogging but simply of "featuring links" on his website to the blog criticizing CUPE members at Carnegie. Written notification of the barring was personally delivered to Simpson on June 21, 2007, after he was held at the front door of Carnegie by Trey, a security guard and CUPE member. Director Whitty and Assistant Director, Dan Tetrault, a CUPE member, came downstairs from their offices to deliver the letter. This was one of Tetrault's last acts on the job before going on strike to demand more money and of course whistleblower protection for himself and his CUPE dues-paying co-workers.

CUPE members from top to bottom at Carnegie involved themselves in this barring despite the fact that low income members of the Center had elected Simpson to the Board of Directors two weeks earlier. Did I mention that Simpson is not even allowed into the building to attend Board meetings? The henchmen at the front door, all CUPE members, will stop him.

In the case of the attempt to penalize whistleblowing on a blog, a characteristic tactic of CUPE leaders or members turned up -- the unfounded police complaint. Bill Simpson was contacted by police and so were others suspected of being associated with the whistleblowing blog. But a visit to an ex-boyfriend of the 'Sex in the City' supervisor and CUPE member was particularly telling. The police officer who appeared to be off duty told the ex-boyfriend that the Crown would not be laying charges as the blog content was true, but that he had come to register concerns about the blogging. Blatant intimidation. Blatant police state activity.

Carnegie Assistant Manager, Dan Tetrault, would have at the very least known about this police complaint. Did I mention that Tetrault is the guy with a high five figure salary out on the picket line asking for more money and whistleblowing protection for himself and his co-workers?

It's documented. CUPE leaders and members have a record of harassing whistleblowers by employing illegal tactics ranging from police complaints unsupported by actual evidence to political psychiatry similar to that employed in the People's Republic of China. And while doing nothing to address the suffering of whistleblowers whose reputations they have damaged, CUPE has the nerve to demand whistleblower protection for their members.

It's time to blow the whistle on CUPE.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thief Steals Confidential Patient Information from Downtown Clinic

(photo) Maureen Whyte, accused of "obfuscating"

Hot pink posters in the Downtown Community Clinic warn clients that their personal information may be in the hands of a thief. Clients who have had clinic staff fill out “financial” applications are possible victims, Maureen Whyte of the Vancouver Health Authority announced in an Aug. 21 memo which was photocopied onto the hot pink sheets. We are "very troubled" by the theft, wrote Whyte who is the former director of North America's first "safe fixing site" for drug abusers a few blocks away.

A thief, Whyte wrote, had stolen a piece of “equipment” from the clinic which contained “limited personal client information”. The information was primarily related to “applications for benefits and income tax.” The clinic on Powell Street serves the Downtown Eastside poor and many drug addicts, a large number of whom get assistance filling out welfare and other government forms which require medical information.

Police believe that the theft was a “crime of opportunity” Whyte wrote, and that the thief was after the equipment but not necessarily the information on it.

I told Serg, who lives on the Downtown Eastside, about this theft of “equipment”. He laughed and exclaimed, “A computer got stolen! They’re obfuscating.”

Serg has used the Downtown Clinic and believes that the “limited” information Whyte claims was on the equipment stolen would have almost certainly included social insurance numbers, birth dates and addresses. Although he agrees that the thief may not have initially been after the data on the computer, he said,“What if an Asian gang member [PC pause: there are gang members in all races] gets hold of that computer? That information could get into the hands of a credit card fraud ring.” Identity theft is a big industry globally, he pointed out.

What were the security guards at the Clinic doing when the theft occurred? Watching television? Two security guards are in the waiting room within full view of a row or receptionists behind plexiglass. One sits behind a desk in the corner at all times and, like clients, occasionally has his eyes fixed on the small television hanging from the ceiling on which DVDs play. On the positive side, the security guards seem to have good rapport with clients, some of whom are regulars and stop at the Security desk to chat.

With just two 8" X 10" posters taped to the plexiglass at reception wickets, and a font size on the poster no larger than what you're reading now -- even for the headline, although it was in bold font -- Whyte was obviously not giving the theft of personal information any higher profile than she had to. The Vancouver Police, on the other hand, have been sounding alarms over the past year about the seriousness of identity theft in Vancouver. They have been giving interviews to various media, including the Vancouver Sun which ran a huge feature on the topic, warning people to wake up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Law Firm Asks Homeless Man for $1,000 Retainer

Lawson Lundell, a major law firm in downtown Vancouver, has asked a homeless man, Bill Simpson, for a $1,000 retainer. Simpson received the request in an Aug. 18th e-mail from Tom Woods, who identified himself as head of the Lawson Lundell Defamation and Media Law Practice.

Simpson had been hoping for a little pro bono help from Lawson Lundell in what is believed to be a clear cut libel case against the Carnegie Center Association (and some say, the City of Vancouver). The writer apologized and admitted in writing that he had published "libellous commentary" about Simpson.

Simpson was specifically named in the libelous commentary which included various claims, including one that Simpson had resorted to fraud to get himself elected to the Carnegie Board of Directors in June. In his subsequent retraction, the author of the libel stated that publishing such claims was "unconscionable". But the damage was done.

And it is not the first time that libel has been disseminated by the Carnegie Center Association, although it is the first time that Simpson was specifically named.

Woods told Simpson in the e-mail that after he paid the "up front" $1,000, he would be charged $400/hr. for his services as a senior lawyer. Woods would attempt, though, to recruit a junior lawyer to work under his supervision, whose time would go for $250 - $325/hr. Woods acknowledged that Simpson might find these "high numbers", so he offered to provide him with a number to call to get the names of lawyers outside the downtown core who have lower fees.

Unfortunately anything other than FREE is outside Simpson's price range. He has no job and no home. And he doesn't get welfare.

Simpson was amazed by the letter from Woods and appeared disheartened. He had believed that Lawson Lundell was aware that he was homeless. Material he had dropped off at the law firm pertaining to his case had included links to his website, Downtown Eastside Enquirer .ca, and to a blog, both of which identify him as homeless.

Simpson says it is possible that Woods had not reviewed the websites and was not aware that he was homeless.

Salvation Army: Hot Soup in a Five Week Welfare Month

A mob of people, roughly two hundred, milled around on the sidewalk around the Salvation Army soup truck last night. Every Tuedsay night, the truck pulls up in front of the Main Street court house, near the police station on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

People are entering the final stretch of a five week welfare month. The welfare cheques don't come out for another week, August 29th.

The Salvation Army truck --which is like a french fry truck with a small side window --came prepared. There was no shortage of food. People lined up for a bowl of vegetable beef soup with bread.; many lined up for a second bowl. They stood around talking and eating the soup as well as sandwiches which are given out at a table near the truck; usually the sandwiches are peanut butter and stawberry jam. A woman in her eighties showed up, as she regularly does, to hand out fresh baked raison bread and scones, slathered with butter, that she makes herself.

Being a pillar of the poverty industry, the Salvation Army would be aware of what a five week month is. Four times a year, the welfare month is five weeks long instead of four. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure out that that saves the government one welfare cheque per recipient annually. The Salvation Army gets government funding to help the poor; it doesn't operate strictly on charitable dollars as many people think.

Brian B. is well aware that the Salvation Army doesn't rely strictly on donations like those people toss into kettles at Christmas. He says that when he was homeless, he went to the Salvation Army and they told him to register with welfare so that they could bill the government for his bed.

Government funding to the Sally Ann raises questions about the separation of church and state. When you are given a bowl of soup at the truck, a polite man says "God Bless" with each bowl he hands out. When the truck first arrives, he says a prayer to the entire crowd. Occasionally, people eating soup are approached by young Christian women proselytizing.

But there is no doubt that the Salvation Army soup truck is a hit. People know it can be counted on to show up in front of the court house every Sunday and Tuesday night. And they show up too.

"Look at this," Serg, a Downtown Eastside resident, said as we walked down Main Street past the crowd by the soup truck last night. "This is the real essential service. Not Carnegie." Sarg was referring to the fact that the Carnegie cafeteria has been designated an essential service during the current strike by CUPE members who work for the City. "You have to pay for food at Carnegie. These people are here because it's free."

See other CUPE strike-related stories on this blog such as: Striking Librarians Should Look Up Fair.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Flood at Carnegie Center Last Evening

The basement of Carnegie Center flooded last evening. A patron said, "They kicked everybody out at 8:30." Usually people are allowed to sit around in the building playing board games or talking until 11 p.m., although most services such as the library, computer room, and basement tv and computer lounge close at 10 p.m.

The flood occurred in the area of the washrooms, across from the weight room in the basement. Staff had to shut off the water in the entire building. So toilets couldn't be flushed and dishes couldn't be washed.

Carnegie is staffed by CUPE members who are on strike, but food service workers, as well as a few janitorial and security staff and a front desk receptionist are still on the job. That's because the cafeteria and related volunteer program have been designated essential by Labour Relations.

Carnegie was open again this morning.

See more CUPE strike-related stories on this site, such as:
CUPE Boss Asked to Settle with Secretary
Striking Librarians Should Look Up "Fair"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

City Mgr. Gets $48,000 Vacation Payout

City Manager Judy Rogers has "recently received a vacation payout of $48,000". That's according to the "Counterspin" page on the Fairness for Civic Workers website, funded by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. It is also reported that last year Rogers earned $318,838.

Striking civic workers have pointed out that Rogers' vacation payout exceeds what many of them earn in a year.

For more CUPE strike-related news on this blog, see: CUPE Strike Haunted by Secretary Scandal

Back-to-School Welfare Cheques

Welfare cheques issued in British Columbia for the month of August contained a bonus for people with children in school full time. A note was included at the bottom of each cheque:

"This cheque includes the school start-up supplement. This supplement is $84 for each child aged 5-11 years and $116 for each child aged 12-18 years."

The cheques were issued by the BC Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance at the end of July.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Plagiarizer Nabbed at Blogger News Network

A plagiarizer has been nabbed at Blogger News Network.

BNN publisher Robert Hayes was contacted yesterday by an author who said that a post by Shantanu Duttu on BNN contained plagiarized text from his published work. Hayes immediately investigated and discovered that Duttu "had extensively plagiarized many, many of his posts at BNN, copying outright from other news sources."

Today Hayes notified contributors, writers, and registered users at BNN of this issue. He said BNN is working on improving their ability to detect plagiarism.

"BNN strives for the highest ethical standards," Hayes wrote in his memo. "When we fail to achieve those standards, as we have in this case, we are obliged to be forthright about our failure."

My personal opinion? I post on BNN and I find the site well run. When a writer first starts posting at BNN, their posts are blocked briefly so that they can be screened before publication. As a writer at BNN, I had a question for Robert Hayes and he got back to me within hours. That told me that a writer at BNN is not treated like some Rodney Dangerfield character who can't "get no respect". And BNN now has the added perk of a Book Review Club. Approved writers can join the Club and get free books, DVDs and CDs to review --which reminds me, I have a book to review for them.

BNN's ethics where showcased a year or two when they stopped taking Google ads, as a way of protesting their unethical practices in China.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Striking Librarians Should Look Up "Fair"

Vancouver librarians have chutzpah. They have insisted that their union, CUPE, secure whistleblower and harassment protection for them in their next contract.

They want their union to obtain for them what CUPE has a record of not tolerating inside it’s own organization.

By now, many of us have heard the story of the whistleblowing
secretary inside CUPE. CUPE called the police on this former secretary to two CUPE Presidents when she blew the whistle on CUPE -- and wouldn't stop blowing it when they ignored her -- for operating a "non-union sweatshop". The secretary who had left CUPE with two glowing letters of reference, alleged that CUPE staffed Local 116 exclusively with non-union secretaries who were being fired without warning. The firings always seemed to come after a woman had spoken up about such issues as: excessive workload, the pension CUPE had promised her, or chronic verbal abuse. The fired secretaries had been whistleblowers too.

The library workers Local 391 and other CUPE Locals fund CUPE BC and it’s President, Barry O’Neill, who allowed a letter sent to him about working conditions to be submitted to the Vancouver Police as “evidence” of harassment. They also fund CUPE National, which has allowed a similar letter to their office to be filed in the Police Property office as “evidence” in this case. And they fund the BC Federation of Labour and it’s President, Jim Sinclair, who has allowed a letter addressed to him about working conditions in the non-union sweatshop” to sit in the police Property Office.

And many of us have heard the story about the steamfitter on whom CUPE called the police. The police were called on the steamfitter, a dues paying CUPE member, during a period when he was alleging that money was missing from WCB cheques processed by the employer through the union. The steamfitter who was well-liked amongst his co-workers was required to have a psychiatric assessment and take medication, or lose his job — leading to accusations against CUPE of involvement in “political psychiatry”. The steamfitter’s whistle stopped blowing. His allegations were never investigated by an independent body.

It is not just CUPE leaders who could be seen as having harassed whistleblowers, it is the rank and file too.

CUPE members staffing Carnegie Center — in the heart of the Downtown Eastside poverty industry which is a rich source of union dues for CUPE — were displeased when, for the first time in the 27 yr. history of Carnegie, patrons were blogging about their experiences there. When patrons repeatedly arrived at Carnegie to find doors to taxpayer-funded education and computer services locked by CUPE members (this was unrelated to the current strike), they occasionally reported it to taxpayers through the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog.

And one particularly loud whistle got blown at Carnegie: when a CUPE member was alleged to have had a series of sexual relationships with clientele, two of whom have killed themselves and one of whom has survived a suicide attempt to live as a quadrapalegic, bloggers reported it. (Bloggers did not claim a direct link between the CUPE member’s sexual relationships with clients and their suicides or suicide attempt.) Her name was not used, though, at the request of sources.

But she knew who she was and, with the support of CUPE, she went on leave and lodged a Work Safe [WCB] complaint, claiming that blogging was creating an unsafe work environment. Even Carnegie Board member Grant Chancey, an outspoken supporter of CUPE during the current strike, said at a public meeting that he did not believe that the blog in question created a Work Safe issue for staff. There were no threats on the blog, he said, "and I've looked and I've looked and I've looked."

To make the environment safe for the Work Safe complainant, Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty explained at a Community Relations meeting, a homeless man suspected of involvement with the blog had been barred from the building. How convenient. And even more convenient was the fact that the CUPE member accused of serial sexual misconduct escaped genuine investigation.
But a CUPE-supported attempt to silence whistleblowing wouldn't be complete without the lodging of an unfounded police complaint. The CUPE member lodged a police complaint and individuals suspected of blogging or of having been sources for the blog were contacted. A brazen attempt at intimidation, say bloggers.

Long before the sexual harassment story broke on a blog, CUPE members had been working to stop whistleblowing bloggers at Carnegie. Late in 2006, CUPE members -- Rika, Dan, and Colleen --had been involved in a witch hunt at Carnegie in which volunteers were questioned about who had been seen blogging on the public computers. Bill Simpson was barred more than once and CUPE members had a hand in each barring.

Most recently, he was held at the door by Carnegie Security guard Trey, a CUPE member, while Director Ethel Whitty and Assistant Director Dan Tetrault, also a CUPE member who is currently on the picket line at Ray Cam Community Centre) told him he was barred from the entire Carnegie building. They delivered a letter to him from the City stating that he had been "featuring links" to a blog on his website. This barring was later revised by Whitty and the pubic was told -- but never Simpson himself -- that he had been barred because of the Work Safe complaint by a Carnegie staffperson/CUPE member. CUPE members on Carnegie Security continue to enforce the barring of this suspected whistleblower.

Last year a whistleblower blogged about an incident in the Vancouver Public Library, the small branch inside Carnegie Center. A library worker was playing chess with a pal and interrupted the game to call Security to expell a patron who had farted in front of a nearby window. The library worker claimed that the man had farted on a previous occasion and had been warned. The library worker/chess player, a CUPE member, later expressed annoyance that a whistleblower had blogged about this very public incident. He was one of a chorus of CUPE voices inside Carnegie who expressed disapproval of this whistleblowing via a blog. Director Whitty was under pressure -- although not specifically from this library worker -- to bar anyone suspected of blogging from the Center.

Long time Carnegie member, May, stated on Co-op Radio recently that Whitty had told her that she barred a homeless man suspected of being involved with blogging about the Center, not because of any specific behaviour but because staff felt "uncomfortable". But the public incidents reported by whistleblowing bloggers are not libelous, as they can be supported by multiple witnesses and sometimes even documentation, seems to have been overlooked by those Board member Grant Chancey noted at a recent Community Relations Meeting at Carnegie that he assumes this is why no legal remedies have been pursued.

Whitty stated at a public Board meeting on June 25, 2007 that in barring a homeless man from Carnegie for his association with a whistleblowing blog, she went not so much with evidence but with the "feelings" of the staff. CUPE members don't feel like putting up with whistleblowing.
When it comes to whistleblowing protection, CUPE obviously doesn't practice what it preaches. In fact, there is mounting evidence that the public could use whistleblower protection against CUPE.

The word "fair" is being bandied about by CUPE spokespersons during the current strike. What is CUPE's definition of fairness? Maybe it's time librarians look it up.

Another Questionable Barring at Carnegie

On Saturday, I was sitting in a coffee shop near Main & Broadway with a few people from the Downtown Eastside. Bill Simpson, the homeless Carnegie Center Board member who has become notorious for being barred from the entire Carnegie building, walked in to say hi. Then another guy walked in and waved. Bill said, "I know that guy; he's an artist."

"I got barred from Carnegie," the artist said when he approached our table, laughing a little nervously.

The tall, caucasian, twenty-something artist, wearing knee-lengthy grey shorts and a white t-shirt, explained that he had been barred when he walked into Carnegie "the Friday before the strike" with his small two-wheel pull cart (the type people used to bring home groceries or books from the library.) Security guards stopped him and told him that he could not enter the building with the cart. "I told them they were being unreasonable," he said. He argued with them.

By the time they were finished, "there were three security guards and two cops", he said, shaking his head.

"They told the cops I was violent," he said. "I wasn't violent. I didn't comply but I wasn't violent."

The artist was asked by a man at the table to describe the security guards. There was a Black guy and a White guy with a ball cap. He didn't describe the third one.

"Did the Black guy have short sort of dreadlocks?" a woman at the table asked. "Yeah," the artist said. "That would be Trey," she said. But the artist made a point of saying that Trey was not as bad as the other guard, the one with the ball cap. There are two White security guards at Carnegie who wear ball caps, Skip, the Head of Security, and Mike, but we couldn't pinpoint exactly who that second guard was.

The artist doesn't know how long he is barred for. Like most barred people, he wasn't given anything in writing that would identify the reason for the barring or the name of the security guard who had made the decision to bar him from an entire City building. And like many barred people, the artist seems to be intending not to go back to Carnegie.

"It was a blessing," he said, adding that Carnegie Centre is not a good place to be going anyway.

This is only one side of the story of course. The guards no doubt have a different side. A volunteer at Carnegie has explained that the guards are under strict instructions not to allow carts in as part of the battle to keep bed bugs out of the center. He said they also don't want people carting in bottles and cans that they've collected, although the artist wasn't doing that.

The problem is that the apparent lack of due process in the artist's barring is an all too familiar story at Carnegie.

Rachel Davis, a Carnegie Board member, talked about the pattern of barrings without due process at Carnegie on Vancouver Co-operative Radio on July 30. There are rules that pertain to barrings, she said. "[A]ll barrings are supposed to have incident reports attached to that barring but, yes, often there aren't incident reports and if there are, they won't show them to you."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

CUPE: 50 Ways To Evade Your Secretary

[photo: Paul Faoro, CUPE 15]

The problem is all inside your head
CUPE attorney Aikenhead has said
The answer is easy if you
Take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle
To be free
There must be fifty ways
To evade your secretary.
Aikenhead said it’s really not my habit
To intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning
Won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself
At the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways
To evade your secretary
Fifty ways to evade your secretary


Screen out her voice, Moist
Call the cops to make a deal, O'Neill
Just step out for air, Sinclair
Put her off 'til tomorrow, Faoro
Stay within the faction, Jackson
Pretend you never heard, Youngberg
And get yourself free

Paul Faoro, President of CUPE 15, has claimed on the "Fairness for Civic Workers" website that the City has met with workers for less than seven hours over a total of eight days.

"That's more time than CUPE has given me in five years," says a former secretary to two CUPE Presidents.

When the secretary attempted to get CUPE to take responsibility for operating a "non-union sweatshop" inside Local 116, CUPE avoided speaking to her and asked the unionized Vancouver Police to muzzle her. In Dec. 2002, Constables Herrmann and Ng -- who don't have jurisdiction at Local 116, in the endowment lands policed by the RCMP -- ordered her to muzzle herself about labour practices at CUPE Local 116. The secretary wants CUPE to take responsibility for using what she calls "everything but brass knuckles" intimidation tactics. CUPE has evaded speaking to the secretary about her case for 4 1/2 years.
It is the secretary's position that CUPE 15 and other Locals became involved in this case the day letters addressed to President Barry O'Neill of CUPE BC, President Jim Sinclair of the BC Fed, and CUPE National, were passed off to police as "evidence". In fact, due to the role played by Jim Sinclair and the BC Federation of Labour, it is her position that this case has now become the responsibility of all unions funding the BC Fed.

The secretary recently noticed CUPE National President, Paul Moist, reassuring striking Vancouver civic workers of their right to "fairness". So she asked him to, in the interest of fairness, ensure that CUPE resolved her case.

Moist has evaded responding.

Monday, August 13, 2007

CUPE Cooks a Turkey

CUPE members would rather be talking turkey. But yesterday they were cooking turkey.

CUPE members are on strike in Vancouver. Yesterday was Day 24 of the strike in which inside and outside City government workers, from librarians to garbage collectors, are off the job. But workers at Carnegie Center’s low cost cafeteria on the Downtown Eastside, Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, are on the job because Labour Relations has labeled the cafeteria an essential service. This is partly because people volunteer at Carnegie to earn 80 cents an hour in vouchers which they trade for food in the cafeteria. People can also use money to buy meals in the cafeteria.

And you don’t need much money. Yesterday CUPE members, along with volunteers, produced a turkey dinner and here’s what you got for three dollars:

  • Turkey: everybody got a mix of white and brown meat.
  • A scoop of steamed red cabbage.
  • A scoop of steamed carrots, not overcooked, still a bit crunchy, with a few green peas tossed in.
  • Brown rice, short grain. Carnegie switched to brown rice last year after years of serving white rice.
  • A large slice of homemade brown bread with margarine.
  • Chocolate chips and banana cake, with chocolate icing. Carnegie makes their desserts and muffins low in sugar. There is a diabetes epidemic in this neighbourhood, so if you want to skip the cake, they’ll let you chose an apple, banana, or orange for dessert instead.

The City-funded cafeteria in Canada's most used community center wasn’t as busy last evening as usual. That could be because the strike has closed services which draw a steady stream of people into the building: the small Vancouver Public library just off the lobby, and the public access computers in the basement and on the 3rd floor. But even with a slower evening than usual, the sixty meals — that’s the number prepared seven evenings a week – would probably sell out. Other food is sold at the cafeteria too: soup for 75 cents, sandwiches, low-sugar blueberry muffins, and even homemade granola for a buck a bowl with soy drink or milk to pour over it.

And CUPE hasn’t cut off the coffee. Despite the strike, you can still get a good cup of coffee in the basement of Carnegie. There is a volunteer on duty – a few volunteers are still allowed to work in the building, but only in food service — selling coffee down there. It’s Guatemalan, freshly ground everyday. Sixty cents for a small takeout, with real cream. There’s a television blaring down there too, but not much else going on during the strike.

When Phil, a security guard, walked through the cafeteria as people ate their turkey, a volunteer asked him about the strike. The City doesn’t want to bargain, Phil responded. The City, though, accuses CUPE of not wanting to bargain. CUPE is up against the current Non-Partisan Association City Council which is less union-friendly than the previous Committee of Progressive Electors City Council which CUPE helped bring to power. “It looks like it could be a long strike,” Phil said.

For another CUPE strike-related story, see CUPE Boss Asked to Settle With Secretary

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Harper Asked to Cut Cash to Carnegie

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been asked to intercept a federal New Horizons grant applied for by Lucy Alderson, Co-ordinator of the Carnegie Learning Centre. That is, until allegations of human rights abuses against Alderson and Carnegie Director, Ethel Whitty, are investigated.

When Alderson's application for a $25,000 New Horizons grant was announced at the June Board meeting of the Carnegie Centre, it raised eyebrows amongst several Carnegie members. One purpose of the grant was "outreach to the homeless".

That started the jokes: "Maybe when Alderson is doing outreach to the homeless, she will run into the homeless man she banned from the Learning Centre for blogging."

In Dec. 2006, Alderson had escorted homeless man Bill Simpson to the office of Skip, Head of Security at Carnegie, where she told him that he was barred from the Learning Centre. She explained that it was because he had been writing on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. Simpson says he is not a blogger but even if he were, the Downtown Eastside Enquirer is a legitimate blog which can support all claims with witnesses or documentation.

The Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog had criticized Alderson for too frequently locking low income residents out of the Learning Centre or evacuating them in mid-day. She consistently used the same excuse: a volunteer hadn't shown up. Bloggers took the position that with the massive government funding received by Carnegie Centre to provide services to the poor, whether doors to educational and computer services were locked should not be determined by whether an alcoholic volunteer had gone on a binge.

The blog also criticized Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty. In addition to being criticized for at times sitting in her office while doors to educational and computer services just meters away were locked, Whitty was criticized last fall for allowing misleading comments to be made to the public. Whitty and those under her, led the media to believe that an opera put on in the Carnegie theatre at considerable public expense had been written and produced primarily by homeless people. A DTES Enquirer blogger pointed out that when you get past the actors, writers, and musicians with houses, condos, or good social housing, you find just one homeless man.

Although Simpson was the only person barred from the Learning Centre for blogging, a witch hunt for the blogger was carried out in the Carnegie Learning Centre and the rest of the building last December. Volunteers were questioned. One long term volunteer was traumatized by being interrogated by six staff persons, including Whitty and Alderson. All interrogated him seperately, he says, with the exception of Alderson who paired up with a Learning Centre teacher, Betsy. Whitty and Alderson even attempted to get him to 'turn in' one of his closest friends, who had been seen talking to Simpson. He told them that his friend was not a blogger. But he admits giving them confidential information about medical research she was doing on the internet, claiming that he felt pressured: "I had to give them something." The volunteer has now recovered and holds no grudges against these staff persons but jokingly calls them, "The Inquisitors".

Shortly after these interrogations, when Alderson barred Simpson in the office of Carnegie Security, she told him that she had a very reliable "witness" to the fact that he had been blogging on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer in the Learning Centre. She gave enough information about this mysterious witness in the Learning Centre that it led Simpson to the volunteer interrogated by "The Inquisitors". But this volunteer denies that he ever told Whitty or Alderson with certainty that Simpson was blogging on the DTES Enquirer.

Whitty acknowledged at a recent Community Relations meeting at Carnegie that she had "supported" the barring of Simpson from the Learning Centre. And she acknowledges that he was never given a reason in writing. She says she did not give him one because the barring was not her decision.

Whitty is downplaying her role in eroding Simpson's civil liberties at the Carnegie Learning Centre. Before Simpson was barred from the Learning Centre for the long term, he had been barred for an afternoon in November 2006. Chad M., a monitor in the Learning Centre that afternoon, went to Whitty and told her that Simpson had done nothing that would justify barring him. He said Whitty refused to take his version of events into account and upheld the barring, which had been instigated by her staff person Colleen Gorrie and a Learning Centre teacher, Betsy. Chad, however, was the primary witness to the incident in which a woman, Bharb G., had launched into a verbal tirade against Simpson outside the elevator on the 3rd floor of Carnegie, accused him of blogging about the opera in which she had acted, stalked him into the Learning Centre, and continued the verbal abuse despite Chad repeatedly asking her to stop. There was a basis for barring Bharb for the afternoon in Chad's view, but none for barring Simpson.

[The Learning Centre is funded by Capilano College which has a largely hands off approach. Staff under Whitty's supervision are involved in the Learning Center: Rika Uto, Colleen Gorrie as well as security guards. The Learning Centre does not operate entirely independently of Whitty and the Carnegie. Certainly, it is Whitty's responsibility as Director to ensure that any member of the Carnegie is allowed due process and a written reason when being barred from an entire section of the building.]

It's now been almost eight months since Simpson claimed he was told by Alderson that he was barred from the Learning Centre for blogging. The barring was reported in the DTES Enquirer and on major internet news sites, and the details never disputed by Whitty or Alderson. Now Whitty has edited out the "blogging" reason for the barring. At a Community Relations meeting at Carnegie in late July, Whitty claimed that Simpson had been barred from the Learning Centre because he was not a student. Simpson can prove that he was a student. He was registered under the tutor, Chad M.

Carnegie member, Debbie Gosselin, pointed out the obvious to Whitty at the meeting: even people who are not registered students are allowed into the Carnegie Learning Centre. It's an open facility where people drop in to sit and read a book or a newspaper, sometimes eating their lunch at one of the tables.

Whitty appeared not to be entirely on the same page as Alderson who, after permanently barring Simpson from the Learning Centre, had "walked up behind [him] in the hall" and told him that he could return to the Learning Centre after three months -- indicating she did not dispute the fact that he qualified as a student. During that encounter, Simpson reminded Alderson that he had given her a letter requesting that the reason for the barring be put in writing, "And I would like a response in kind." Alderson didn't provide the reason in writing and never again raised the issue of him returning to the Learning Centre.

Despite being barred from the Learning Centre, Simpson managed to get elected to the Board of Directors at Carnegie in June 2007. Just days later, on June 21st, Whitty arranged for security guards to hold Simpson at the front door until she delivered a letter to him from the City barring him from the entire building "indefinitely". His crime? His website, he was told in the letter, "features links" to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. It appeared that he was no longer being accused of being the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blogger, just linking to the blog.

Simpson recalls that just before he was barred, he was able to attend a Learning Centre Committee meeting in his role as a new Board member. He asked about the graduation scheduled for the following Tuesday, wanting to know who from Capilano College would be attending. (He was hoping to button-hole a representative of Capilano College management and ask their position on this barring issue.) Alderson, he said, appeared "rattled" but he noted that she didn't actually say anything. A day or two later, he was barred from the entire building. Guess who would not be attending the graduation to ask embarrassing questions?

The Bill Simpson case is not an isolated one. Low income people are routinely barred at Carnegie without due process. Board member Rachel Davis told Co-op radio two weeks ago that there is supposed to be an incident report written up by Security to accompany a barring. But often an incident report is not produced, Davis explained, and if it is the barred person is denied access to it.

Prime Minister Harper was contacted on July 18th and asked to ensure that the conduct of Alderson and Whitty was reviewed before another grant is approved. His office or somebody from the Ministry responsible really should have gotten back to us by now, says a community member who does not want to be identified. "I know it's cottage time back in Ontario but we have a human rights crisis here inside Libby's Davies [Carnegie] organizing base and it won't get better if he keeps throwing money at the offenders." When it comes to human rights, to steal a slogan from Harper, 'The West Wants In'.

Monday, August 6, 2007

CUPE Boss Asked to Settle with Secretary

Paul Moist, President of CUPE National, sent a letter to striking Vancouver civic workers on July 23, 2007 in which he stated:

“In short, we want fairness and to date this has not materialized….”

With the language Moist was using, he could have been a secretary.

For years, a former secretary to two CUPE Presidents in Vancouver has been saying all she wants is “fairness” in her grievance against CUPE. In Dec. 2002, CUPE called police on this secretary after she exposed the fact that for years, CUPE had been operating what she alleged was a “non-union sweatshop” inside Local 116. Vancouver Police Constables M. Herrmann and K. Ng – who did not even have jurisdiction at Local 116; the RCMP did – visited her apartment and left voice mail instructing her that CUPE wanted her to silence herself about unfair labor practices.

The secretary left CUPE with two glowing letters of reference but she knew too much. She had seen secretaries working for CUPE Local 116 -- the Local was staff exclusively with non-union secretaries -- fired after speaking up about excessive workloads, chronic verbal abuse from a CUPE Vice President, and the fact that CUPE had reneged on a promised pension. She saw a 12-yr veteran secretary take CUPE to court for a pension. She saw a long term book keeper fired when she became less efficient after getting cancer. "I was a credible witness corroborating other women's stories," says the secretary, "and CUPE didn't like that." Another secretary who had attempted to pursue the issue of unjust firings got a Cease & Desist letter, the secretary recalls. She believes that CUPE sent police to her home to throw a scare into her, to weaken her resolve.

“CUPE members across Canada applaud your solidarity and your resolve.”
Paul Moist, in his letter to members

The secretary has written to Paul Moist, President of CUPE National, in Ottawa to ask that he settle her case. She would like Moist to reverse what she alleges was CUPE's "hypocritical stance" in the case, that stance being that writing to labor leaders about unfair labour practices is “evidence” of criminal activity. She would like him to have CUPE lawyers remove from the police Property Office the letter she sent to CUPE National in 2002 about unfair labour practices inside Local 116, as well as the one she addressed specifically to Barry O’Neill at CUPE BC, and the one she addressed to Jim Sinclair of the BC Federation of Labor.

And while CUPE is taking back letters filed in the Police Property Office, the secretary says they should also take back one written by Paul Cooke, Vice President of CUPE Local 116 (he left not long afterwards after considerable in-fighting.) Cooke had written the 2002 letter on union letter head and sent it to a long list of people – but concealed it from the secretary -- falsely claiming that the secretary had merely been a “part-time” worker at CUPE and had never mentioned excessive workloads before leaving. She has pay stubs confirming that she was a full time secretary. And she has a handwritten letter from Paul Cooke apologizing for “working you too hard”.

Not only would the secretary like Paul Moist to acknowledge that writing to labor leaders about unfair labor practices is not criminal conduct, but that it does not constitue the specific offence of "harassment". The police report reveals that the secretary, at the request of CUPE, was investigated for “WORKPLACE HARASSMENT” and the case labeled “CLOSED”. The secretary attempted to have this defamatory phrase adjacent to her name on the police computer expunged but the VPD responded in writing that it would remain on file for “99 years”. The secretary then wrote to O’Neill and Sinclair informing them that as long as this label remained on her record, she would ensure that it remained on their public record as labour leaders -- as they should be protecting people speaking up about working conditions, not smearing them. After that, something mysterious happened. She discovered that the offence for which she had originally been investigated, the one at the top of the police report she had obtained through Freedom of Information shortly after CUPE called police, had been altered. It was now, “HARASSMENT/OBSCENE COMMUNICATION”. It was fraudulently altered roughly a year after the case had been labeled “CLOSED” by the VPD. She wants this retroactively altered “offence” to be removed from police files.

The above issues are just two of several that the secretary has been asking CUPE for years to deal with in a fair way.

“There are many issues . . .and these must be dealt with in a fair way….”
Paul Moist, in his letter to CUPE members

Before and after the police complaint was lodged against her, the secretary says that CUPE never made even one attempt to deal fairly with the issues. A CUPE lawyer, Ian Aikenhead had contacted her in writing and she had responded in writing, only to discover later that her polite response letter had been filed in the police Property Office. (She also discovered through the police report that Aikenhead had released to police confidential information – albeit exaggerated and misrepresented -- that he had in his possession as a result of his wife, Catherine Aikenhed, being an NDP-appointed public representative to a dental regulatory body.) When she asked O’Neill and Sinclair to personally ensure that her letters addressed to them were removed from the police Property Office, they completely ignored her. They had ignored her prior to the police complaint as well. CUPE leaders resort to smear and intimidation, in the secretary's view, instead of dealing with the real issues. “I often hear CUPE use the term ‘good faith’ in bargaining,” says the secretary, "but in my case I’ve never seen CUPE show any sign of good faith”

“Lower Mainland employers have to date refused to bargain in good faith and to address the real issues….”
Paul Moist, in his letter to CUPE members.

The secretary says she would like Moist to put a stop to CUPE’s double standard: one standard for how dues-paying members deserve to be treated and a much lower standard for how their own employees deserve to be treated. She believes that resolving her case would be a good starting point.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Cease & Desist Order To Target Jacquie Forbes-Roberts at City Hall

If Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, the Mayor’s top woman in his Civil City initiative, can’t be civil, she is going to be slapped with a Cease & Desist order. “This is bullying!”, says Carnegie Centre Board member Grant Chauncey of the behaviour of Forbes-Roberts’, who is also General Manager of Community Services. Chauncey was speaking to a small group of Carnegie Centre Board members and the public at a Community Relations Meeting at Carnegie Centre last Thursday afternoon, July 26th .

A couple of Carnegie Board members are heading to Pivot Legal Society on the Downtown Eastside to ask about the possibility of a Cease & Desist order for Forbes-Roberts. The first step, explained Chauncey, would be to have a lawyer send Forbes-Roberts a letter telling her to cease and desist and that if she does not, we will go to the courts to ask that she stop. Chauncey and others would like Forbes-Roberts to stop blocking Carnegie Board member Bill Simpson from entering the Carnegie building until such time as mediation can be arranged between Simpson and herself. Chauncey, like numerous Carnegie members, insists that Forbes-Roberts has no evidence to support barring Simpson from the building.

The Cease & Desist would be a response to a letter Forbes-Roberts had delivered to Simpson on June 21st, just after he was elected to the Carnegie Board of Directors. She notified the homeless man in the letter that he was barred from entering the Carnegie Centre “indefinitely”. Simpson now stands outside on the sidewalk as Board meetings take place inside, with security guards instructed to prevent him from entering the building. Supporters of Simpson say they want Forbes-Roberts to adopt a more civil approach to an elected official.

Chauncey pointed out that Carnegie Centre members make rules and regulations governing behaviour in the Centre and that Forbes-Roberts is overriding them. “She obviously has no respect for any of our rules. Within the guidelines that we have regarding behaviour, Bill Simpson has not broken an iota, anything. He has not to my knowledge broken any rule or regulation and she, Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, has made no accusation of anything he did wrong. And so they’re making a decision on what? We don’t know. But as far as it being legal…she doesn’t have a leg to stand on. She’s doing it to usurp the community.

“People are in an uproar about this,” said Sophia Friegang, a Board member.

One criticism of Forbes-Roberts is that she was not precise enough in her letter about alleged wrongdoing that had resulted in Simpson being barred from the building, making it difficult for him to defend himself. Forbes-Roberts informed Simpson in her letter that he was barred because he operates a web site, Downtown Eastside Enquirer .ca, which “features links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blogspot which she claims contains “inaccuracies”. Simpson asked the obvious question when Carnegie Director Ethel Whitty who is supervised by Forbes-Roberts delivered the letter to him: “What are the inaccuracies?” Whitty refused to identify any.

“Has the City come back after giving us that first letter, giving us any indication as to why this is occurring other than the vaguest of things?” Chauncey asked Whitty. Whitty responded, “No. Other than that letter.” “If you ask me there’s no proof of anything…And if there was at all, they’d take legal action.”

“Having a link to a site is not the same as publishing a site,” said Board member Rachel Davis.

Although the only reason given in Forbes-Roberts’ letter for barring Simpson was that he “links” to the blog, the City did come up with a second reason after the barring attracted media attention. The second reason, announced by Whitty, was that there had been a Work Safe [WCB] complaint against Simpson by a Carnegie staff person who claimed that the blog created an unsafe environment at work. Rachel D. wasn’t buying it. “There’s nothing in that letter saying that William Simpson can’t come in because of Work Safe …If it’s a Work Safe issue, why don’t they just say it’s a Work Safe issue.” Whitty interjected, “It was alluded to in the letter.” Maybe she means “eluded”, says Serg, one of several Downtown Eastsiders who can’t find any hint of a Work Safe issue in the letter. Indeed Simpson has yet to be informed in writing or verbally that he is barred due to a Work Safe issue -- even though Whitty has announced this reason to the public on behalf of her boss Forbes-Roberts at two public meetings at Carnegie.

Chauncey, a former union member and outspoken supporter of the current CUPE strikers, has the Work Safe manual at home. “It’s not a Work Safe issue,” he said. “It’s just not.” He pointed out that there were no threats on that blog. “And I’ve looked and I’ve looked and I’ve looked and I’ve looked.”

Chauncey, like many Carnegie members, sees the Work Safe angle as a ruse. He explained that if inaccurate statements had been made on the blog, if there was “defamation” -- a word Forbes-Roberts used in the letter but for five weeks has evaded supporting with examples -- legal recourse is available. “You do it legally; you don’t hide behind some veil.” He is convinced that the City did not pursue the defamation issue legally because, “They’ve got nothing.”

Despite his vigorous support for legal action against Forbes-Roberts whose behaviour he believes will get worse if a check is not put on it, Chauncey is actually not a supporter of the DTES Enquirer blog. He believes the blog, in which contributors don’t identify themselves with real names is “gutless and cowardly and that [Simpson] should come in and apologize.”

Wilf R., a new Carnegie member, told Whitty that he was concerned that barring Simpson from Carnegie -- particularly a previous barring from the Learning Centre when he claims he was told that it was because he was blogging on the DTES Enquirer -- has resulted in him being "tarred as the blogger". Wilf R. claimed he heard people at Carnegie talking about Simpson as though he was the blogger. Indeed Whitty herself had just spoken of Simpson minutes earlier as though she assumed he was the blogger, saying "He can write about me all he wants. . . ." And indeed the blogger does write about her, criticizing her failure to consistently provide services Carnegie is funded to provide.

Friegang asked Whitty, "Don't you have a concern . . . that Bill Simpson might be wrongly accused?" She added, "If I were Director, I would be doing something about this. I would be doing something."

“There’s no proof that [Simpson] writes that blog,” said Debbie Gosselin, a Carnegie member who attended the meeting, and indeed Forbes-Roberts did not accuse him in the letter of actually writing it, only linking to it. Gosselin asked Whitty, “Are you saying that anybody who links to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog will be barred from Carnegie?”

Whitty responded by explaining that in barring Simpson, City lawyers working with Jacquie Forbes-Roberts made their decision “based on probability”. Simpson operates a website with the same name as the blog, and links to the blog appear at the top of his website “so he probably intends for people to read that blog.”

Although the Community Relations Committee discussed the Cease & Desist order, they require approval of a majority of Board members before getting any legal ball rolling. They unanimously passed a motion at Thursday’s meeting to ask Pivot Legal Society on the Downtown Eastside to for help in wording what Friegang called “a legal motion” to be brought to the next Board meeting.

Simpson is not entirely optimistic about Pivot Legal Society helping him though. He went to Pivot on his own shortly after he was banned from Carnegie but was rebuffed. Pivot claims in their literature that their goal is to fight civil liberties abuses of marginalized people on the Downtown Eastside, creating a “trickle up” effect which strengthens the civil liberties of everyone in society. When Simpson asked a Pivot lawyer for help with the Carnegie case, she responded, “But they’re our friends.”

At this point, Simpson, who calls himself “home-free” and “welfare-free” seems to be lawyer-free. When interviewed on Co-op Radio on Monday, along with Rachel D. and other Carnegie members, Simpson was asked if he had a lawyer. He responded that any lawyer interested in helping him could contact him at his website.

Whether Jacquie Forbes-Roberts will be ordered to Cease & Desist is not yet certain. It remains, to use the language of City lawyers, a “probability”.

[It has become necessary for supporters of Bill Simpson to tape meetings due to the fact that Whitty and the City regularly revise their stories -- this meeting was no exception -- about the various barrings of Simpson. Copies of tapes often find their way to the DTES Enquirer. Quotes in this post are taken from a tape of the meeting.]