Friday, September 7, 2007

Carnegie Board Member Resigns Over Barring of Homeless Man

Sophie Friegang resigned last evening from the Carnegie Center Board of Directors over the barring of a homeless man, Bill Simpson. Simpson was barred from Carnegie in June, shortly after he was elected to the Board. He has not been allowed into the building to attend Board meetings. The reason given for the barring in a City of Vancouver letter delivered to Simpson was that his website “features links” to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog. The blog has published criticisms of Carnegie staff.

Friegang had asked the Board in July to hold a review of the barring of Bill Simpson. The majority of the Board voted against a review. Carnegie President Margaret Prevost took the position at the time that the barring was “a City decision” and therefore not a Board matter. But the prevalent conversation amongst the membership of Carnegie is that the Board was complicit in the barring. Indeed, Vice President Gena Thompson stated in a NowPublic comment that she had been involved in the decision to bar Simpson.

Friegang stated at the July Carnegie meeting that she believed a “serious mistake” had been made in the barring of Simpson. She said she had “poured over” the blog and found nothing that would warrant barring Simpson. I believe in human rights,” she told the Board.

At a July Community Relations meeting, Friegang asked Carnegie Director, Ethel Whitty, if it bothered her that a man may have been wrongfully barred. Whitty did not respond.

Friegang did not attend last evening's meeting. Another Board member, Peter Fairchild, read her letter.

Friegang's resignation comes the day after another Board member, Rachel Davis, distributed a letter accusing Carnegie of a double standard in the barring of Simpson. Davis' letter will be covered in another post.

The barring of a homeless man has become an embarrassment to the Carnegie Centre which presents itself as a "progressive" organization committed to improving the quality of life for the poor and the homeless on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The barring without due process is expected to haunt the Carnegie Community Center Association Project which has arranged for their representative, Jean Swanson, to speak to a United Nations representative in Vancouver about homeless. The United Nations representative has scheduled a visit to Vancouver to assess whether Canada is meeting its international obligations in regard to homelessness.


Anonymous said...

that was not Matthew Mattew, that was Peter Fairchild who read Sophia's letter

reliable sources said...


Thanks for pointing out that error. It's now been corrected in the post.

dag said...

"[T]he barring was 'a City decision' and therefore not a Board matter...."

Now there are two vacancies on the "Board". What kind of board is this? It's not one that has enough say in its own make-up that it can even keep its own elected members sitting if the city decides it doesn't like them. Is that the case? It's doubtful. Someone is playing a game here with the denizens of the Carnegie Centre. Someone is further fooling around with the lives of those who haven't got much to start with, taking away even the pretense that this "membership" on the Board is meaningful in any way at all. This petty joke is obviously not very funny, even to those who set it up for the sake of enticing the Carnegie-goers into thinking they have any say in their own lives, even in the sham of a board of advisers at the Carnegie Centre. The obvious meaninglessness of it all is totally transparent. The plug is pulled in the current going of power to the people. You are in the dark, folks. No spark. No buzz. There is only the noise of mimicry coming from those few who are desperate for the approval of their betters, those who will sell out their mates for the sake of being 'liked' by people with status and money. Maybe they get an extra food-stamp for their good behaviour? I don't know. But the game is obvious. It's one of the people shutting up and pretending that they have a say in their bed-time, smiling when the baby-sitter spanks a brother for misbehaving, approving it. This is for children whose parents are away and for children whose parents have left them in the care of a teenager who does this job for a few bucks till something else comes along. Or, in the case of those CUPE types, those who latched onto the "poor" as a career and who will never let go till pension time kicks in.

And what baby-sitters there are there! Those few who aren't parading around in public demanding more money from the tax-payer are stuck inside with people they don't want to deal with, wishing rather they could be outside with their mates demanding more money too. The baby-sitters are demanding money, and the Carnegie denizens are supposed to like it. Bob Dylan comes to mind in his song about George Jackson, the Black Panther killed so many years ago: "Some of us are prisoners, and some of us are guards; this whole world is just one big prison yard." Carnegie people, inside and out, make it that way for themselves, and they play it like it's real. Well, it ain't. That's a personal choice.

Who gets it?

"Friegang's resignation comes the day after another Board member, Rachel Davis, distributed a letter accusing Carnegie of a double standard in the barring of Simpson."

Of course there's a double standard. There's one standard for baby-sitters, and there's the standard for babies.

Consider, if you will, a half-way house as some improvement. Signing oneself into a prison is a stupid idea, and to then feel good about becoming a trustee is no great improvement on the situation, even if Warden Ethanol "likes" you.

You got no power. It's all a sham. You can't even get an apology out of those people. No, of course it's not the fault of Ethanol, it's up to the governor to sign a pardon. She's just doing her job. So sit tight and smile. Big smile.

Reminds me of Eldrich Cleaver, another Black Panther, who wrote in his memoirs many years ago about bodies in the morgue, those who came in "smiling." He asked what that was about, and his mate said it comes from suicides, they having what he called "the shit-eating grin."

So, sit and smile till it's over. Or don't. Maybe stop smiling. Huh? Maybe?