Saturday, May 31, 2008

Grad 2008

You work hard to graduate, you get all dressed up, and where do you end up? McDonalds.

Hopefully it won't be a metaphor for your life.

A red and black bus carrying grads -- presumably so that they wouldn't drive drunk -- parked behind McDonald's at Quebec St. and Terminal Ave. on Friday at about 5:45 p.m. The young woman in the gown above was enjoying a McFlurry.
Because anyone who survives the BCTF deserves a reward.

Related story:

Friday, May 30, 2008

City Staff Lock Out Poor on Welfare Day

Who is on welfare? Wednesday was welfare day and City staff at the Carnegie Center locked the poor out of the building all morning, claiming they were having a staff meeting.

Then they closed the cafeteria early in the afternoon, claiming "It's a staffing issue." One Carnegie member dropped in to buy some soup and found the cafeteria closed at 3:40 p.m. Another guy had dropped by earlier and was irritated to find the cafeteria closed, pointing out that there were two full time staff walking around inside the cafeteria. And the kitchen supervisor, Catriona Moore, was in the building too.

This is an ongoing problem. CUPE members who staff Carnegie, as well as City management Ethel Whitty and Assistant Director Dan Tetrault, act like welfare day isn't a regular work day. But you'd be surprised how many low income people in the neighborhood want to use Carnegie Center on welfare day.

It doesn't have to be welfare day for Carnegie staff to slack off though. On Tuesday morning, the day before Welfare Wednesday, the line up in the cafeteria was so long it snaked out of the cafeteria and well into the seating area. There was one inexperienced volunteer doing all of the serving and working the cash. Carnegie members reported that staff were standing around chatting with one another. Catriona Moore, the kitchen supervisor was there. Colleen Gorrie, the Volunteer Co-ordinator was there putting her hands on an older man in the line up and joking with him. "There's staff everywhere," a guy with a French accent called out. "They don't see." Another man said he stood in line for 20 minutes just to buy a bowl of cereal.

The problem of the kitchen closing early is certainly not restricted to welfare day. When Anthony -- who members say is friendly and a pretty good cook -- is supervising, it is not uncommon for the kitchen to close ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes early. This is irritating to people who make a point of going over to Carnegie to get a cheap bowl of soup before closing.

There is one thing that can be counted on to get CUPE members moving: bloggers tipping off taxpayers. The topic even dominated one of their welfare day staff meetings. Some CUPE members are worse than others though: Catriona and Anthony haven't been instigators in the witch hunt for bloggers. But Colleen Gorrie was. She would like to, as George Bush says, "Smoke 'em out."

"Cooking Drugs" Triggers Flood at Glory Rooms

Last week a guy was “cooking drugs” in his room on the top floor of Glory Rooms near the Gassy Jack statue at Carroll and Powell St. on the Downtown Eastside. But his home cooking accidentally triggered the sprinkler in his room. (The late City Councillor Bruce Erikson, Libby Davies husband, fought to have sprinklers installed in all Downtown Eastside hotel rooms because people were dying in fires.)

Water was streaming down the stairs of the Glory. An aboriginal man who lives in the room below – he's not a drug user and quit drinking years ago – came home in the late evening to find water streaming down his walls. His brand new big screen tv was wet. So wet, in fact, that he's still scared to turn it on. His laptop computer was wet too and he's been drying it out with a hair dryer, said a guy chatting with other Downtown Eastsiders in the Ovaltine Cafe. Even his desktop computer was wet.

Flood damage extended to the Glory Foods store below. The man who runs the store said water came through the ceiling and walls. "I lose a lot of money", he said with a Korean accent. He said that the insurance covers some but not all of his losses. He had to replace a lot of merchandise.

“What happened to the guy cookin’ drugs?”, I asked Downtown Eastsiders talking about the flood at the Ovaltine CafĂ©. “He took off”, said one. But he returned on the weekend when he knew the manager would be off. He hung around outside but the other tenants wouldn’t let him in.

Chinatown Opens Donation Depot for Earthquake Victims

On Main Street near Keefer in Vancouver's Chinatown, a storefront has been opened to take donations for victims of China's recent earthquake. They have photos and information about the quake.

I saw it open a few times when I walked buy. It was open on Wednesday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I am Mark Steyn

The blogosphere is abuzz over the protest planned for Monday outside the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in downtown Vancouver. The Tribunal is holding what truepeers, a blogger at the Vancouver blog Covenant Zone, calls a “Stalinist Show Trial” for author Mark Steyn. But Steyn's rights are everybody's rights. Hence slogans like, "I am Mark Steyn" or "We are all Mark Steyn."

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has scheduled a hearing for Steyn, a Canadian-born newspaper columnist living in New Hampshire, and MacLeans magazine on Monday. Both are accused of hate speech based on an excerpt published in MacLeans from Steyn's best-selling book, America Alone. One of the complainants is Dr. Mohammed Elmasry, president of The Canadian Islamic Congress who pushed for sharia law in Ontario.

But Mark Steyn is not alone, says dag, one of several bloggers at Covenant Zone -- he also writes at No Dhimmitude -- who is organizing the protest in support of Steyn as his trial kicks off. "His right to express opinions is on trial", says dag. The protest will be held at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 2 in front of the Provincial Court House at 800 Hornby where, according to the BCHRT website, the hearing will take place.

The Steyn hearing is not the first time Human Rights Commissions or Tribunals in Canada have acted as “thought police” on behalf of Islamic Imams. Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard, has been forced to appear in front of the Alberta Human Rights Commission for publishing material that a Saudi-trained Islamic Imam has complained about. Levant has pointed out that when complainants don’t have a leg to stand on in the real courts, they take their case to a Human Rights Commission.

How did Human Rights Commissions get the power to harass authors and publishers? They were founded as an inexpensive way to handle disputes between landlords and tenants or employers and employees, cases in which discrimination was being alleged. Now they've become a tool for Islamic Imams to curb the free speech of infidels.

If you think Human Rights Commissions care about free speech, listen to the words of Dean Steacy, the primary internet "anti-hate" investigator for the Canadian Human Rights Commission. When questioned by Barbara Kulaszka, a lawyer for a website owner in a human rights case, Steacy said, "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has become a bad guy here too. It was pointed out on Covenant Zone, a generally pro-Harper blog, that before becoming Prime Minister, Harper called Human Rights Commissions in Canada “totalitarian”. But since then, he has angered his supporters by failing to reign in these publicly-funded “thought police”.

Not only Prime Minister Harper but the average Canadian has done little to rescue their right to free speech from Human Rights Commissions/Tribunals. According to Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren, most of the donations to Mark Steyn's defense have come from Americans.

On Monday, though, Canadians will be speaking out about free speech erosion by Human Rights Commissions and Tribunals. That's obvious from the 80 comments left on the Covenant Zone post about the planned protest. As dag says, “I’m getting really excited about it.”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vancouver Art Gallery Presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Jeff Wall, Alleged Operator of SFU Sexual Harassment Ring

The Vancouver Art Gallery knew of allegations that he had operated a sexual harassment ring at SFU. Condo developer Michael Audain knew of allegations that he had operated a sexual harassment ring at SFU. But that didn't stop them from awarding artist Jeff Wall the Audain prize for Lifetime Achievement at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Thursday.

Did Wall's lifetime achievements include operating a sexual harassment ring when he was head of the Visual Arts Department at Simon Fraser University? At least one serious complaint is outstanding at SFU about a sexual harassment ring which operated in the 1980's and was allegedly composed of Wall, who was head of the department at the time, and Assistant Professors Greg Snider and David McWilliam.

A woman who suffered lifetime consequences when she dropped out of SFU without finishing her degree due to alleged chronic sexual harassment, calls Wall the "crotch-watcher" due to his signature style of sexual harassment. "One thing he would do that really bothered me was he would stare at my crotch in a really obvious way and then he would look me right in the eyes."

This former student says her life was destroyed by the sexual harassment. She had to interrupt her education because she lost her ability to concentrate due to the sexual harassment. And after dropping out, she lost her student loan eligibility . . . .

Destroyed Room by Jeff Wall

Michael Audain, a condo developer who funded the award, has been aware for months of sexual harassment allegations against Wall. But Audain was apparently willing to overlook allegations that Wall's sexual harassment had resulted in a woman dropping out of SFU and entering a life of poverty on the Downtown Eastside. And Wall could hardly be seen as an ingrate: "As an artist you have to appreciate the fact that someone is appreciating you", he said when interviewed by the Vancouver Sun about the prize Audain had funded. The two men are apparently on a first name basis, with Wall referring to Audain as "Michael" in the Sun interview.

The Vancouver Art Gallery was aware when they hosted the Audain prize ceremony that Wall faced allegations of sexual harassment. Shortly after Kathleen Bartlett became Director, the VAG was asked to put a hold on accolades for Wall until SFU met its obligation to hold an investigation into sexual harassment in the SFU Visual Arts Department under Wall. A victim says she "spoke at length" to Bartlett's assistant about the allegations against Wall and still has her notes from that conversation. The VAG and Bartlett nonetheless continue to publicly present Wall as the VAG's little darling, giving the public no hint of their awareness that he evaded investigation for a serious matter.

The sexual harassment in the then tiny SFU Visual Arts Department -- just 15 students were accepted each year -- while it was headed by Wall also involved an element of fraud, alleges the woman who eventually dropped out due to sexual harassment. Each applicant to the School for the Contemporary Arts was expected to attend an interview, ostensibly so that their potential as an artist could be assessed, but there were indications that potential as a sex partner for professors was being assessed. The woman recalls being interviewed by Greg Snider and an administrator on the Burnaby campus. The two men were sitting side by side, both facing her, and when the adminstrator was jotting down notes, Snider sexually harassed her. “He gazed at my body, up and down. He was leering at me and then he tried to lock eyes with me.” She didn’t confront him, partly because she was shy, partly because she “couldn’t believe what was happening”, and partly because she desperately wanted to get accepted into the program. “I figured I could just avoid this letch if I got accepted,” she says. “But when I got in, I found out they were all like that!”

In fact, when the eventual drop-out arrived at her first Drawing class, the professor, Jeff Wall -- she didn't have a clue who he was at that time -- engaged in similar behavior. “It happened the instant I walked in the door,” she says. “I was just six feet in the door; it was as though he knew I was coming.” She had the impression that Snider had discussed her with Wall in advance. She believes that these professors were sharing information about potential conquests and being competitive in getting students into bed.

The woman who dropped out of SFU recalls finding Wall's brazen style of staring at her crotch odd considering he often came across as a shy man. She wasn't the only student who perceived him as shy. She recalls that after she disclosed the Visual Arts sexual harassment during a Women's (History) Studies class, a beautiful woman with long auburn hair and green eyes approached her outside the office of the School for the Contemporary Arts. The woman, whose name she recalls, was in both her Women Studies and Visual Arts studio classes but they didn't know one another well. The woman disclosed that Greg Snider had been putting the moves on her. Snider, she said, would stroke her back and say, "How's your back, [name]?" She imitated the soft voice he used as he asked her that question. (Snider had a spouse and at least once child.) The auburn-haired woman said she had not experienced sexual harassment from Wall but during the brief conversation that ensued, she did offer an observation, "He's a very shy man."

The woman who dropped out believes that Wall's gruff, even authoritarian communication style, was an effort to cover up his shyness. But he wasn't always gruff. Like when she was working in the SFU third year studio on Quebec St. and he commented, "You got your hair cut". She had gotten several inches trimmed off the ends of her hair and he told her, "It looks nice." Even that comment though made her uncomfortable because it was part of a pattern of inappropriately "intimate " conduct for a professor who was, to quote a phrase he once used with his class, "hanging a mark over your head".

It was during the same year, third year, that she was bent over on the floor working on her drawing when she looked up and saw Wall looking down her v-neck black sweat. A woman, Barbara, was speaking to him and he wasn't paying attention. "He was looking down my sweater."

She wishes now that she had spoken to the auburn-haired woman longer when she approached her outside the Center for the Contemporary Arts office in second year, but she remembers feeling "so burned out by the sexual harassment thing."

The auburn-haired woman, after confirming that she had not been sexually harassed by Wall, just Snider, said that Walll had actually recently come to her aid. It had been in response to David McWilliam (who was in a sexual relationship with another student from our class that year, the same year his spouse had a baby) telling her that he didn't think she should remain in the Visual Arts program due to her arthritis. She was in her early twenties but had arthritis in her back that occasionally required her to lie on the couch during studio classes, which were informal classes. She submitted a written complaint to the department that she was being discriminated against based on her disability. Wall then notified her that she was accepted her into third year.

That was part of the problem, says the woman who dropped out. "The sexual harassers got to pick who would get into third year." Students didn't automatically move from second to third year in Visual Arts; Wall, Snider, and McWilliam decided who they would allow to enter third year.

Keep in mind that the Visual Arts department, started by Wall, was small. There were only three studio instructors. Wall never hired a female studio instructor even though over 90% of the students accepted into the program were female. "All the studio professors were male and they were all trying to get laid", says the woman who would eventually drop out. After Wall left, women instructors began to be hired.

One of Wall's lifetime achievements not mentioned when he received the award at a ceremony at the Vancouver Art Gallery was allegedly hypocrisy. Wall, Snider, and McWilliam pretended to be sympathetic to feminism but it was an act. An act. The woman who dropped out recalls Wall showing up for a conference at a feminist video place on Broadway near Oak in Vancouver. She can't recall the exact name of the place but she does recall censorship being a theme of the conference. Lisa Steele, an artist from the Ontario College of Art presented a large-screen video of herself having sexual intercourse with her partner.

"Anyway, Wall shows up late and he sits at the head table and gives a keynote speech on something or other. I could barely listen, I was dumb founded. The crotch-watcher was at the head table! And feminists had invited him; he had them conned." This was just a few months before she would drop out of SFU due to the sexual harassment ring operating in the Visual Arts Department under Wall's stewardship, and it was roughly in this time period that a female Dance student left for Toronto to recover from her relationship with Wall whom she realized had no intention of divorcing his wife.

But you did not have to be a target of Wall's alleged sexual harassment to notice his hypocrisy. A former Theatre instructor in the SFU Center for the Contemporary Arts who acknowledged having had sex with a large number of women -- he was tight-lipped about whether any of them had been students and he avoided uttering even a peep about SFU's sexual harassment history -- recalled that Wall had crossed a picket line despite claiming to be a Marxist. (See Lifetime Achievement Award Given to Marxist who Crossed a Picket Line.)

After the woman who could no longer concentrate dropped out, she learned that Wall had left SFU and taken a job teaching photography at the University of British Columbia. He was later fired from UBC by Serge Gilbault, who was Department Head and a well known writer on art. The reason given by Gilbault in a front page article in the Vancouver Sun was that Wall was too often absent from work. That was a problem at SFU too says the woman who dropped out. Wall went to Holland for three weeks when she was in two of his third year classes, both a theory and a studio class, and he arranged no substitute instructor.

"It was hurtful", said the Downtown Eastside woman when asked how she felt after seeing Wall receive yet another award and more public accolades at the VAG. She would like to see a moratorium on awards for Wall until there is an investigation into the alleged sexual harassment ring that operated at SFU while he headed the Visual Arts Department.

Lifetime Achievement Award Given to Marxist Who Crossed a Picket Line

Here's a drawing Jeff Wall made as a teenager in the 1960s for the Vancouver Sun. The Sun reprinted it and other drawings last week after Wall received the Audain award for Lifetime Achievement at the Vancouver Art gallery on Thursday. Did Michael Audain, the condo developer who funded the award, include as an achievement the fact that Wall crossed a picket line while presenting himself to his students and the world as a Marxist?

A fellow instructor in the SFU Center for the Contemporary Arts never forgot about Wall crossing that picket line. It was during a conversation about SFU's sexual harassment history -- he was mum on the sexual harassment issue -- that he interjected this tidbit more than once. The hypocrisy of it still bothered him years later.

The strike the Theatre instructor was referring to would have been "before my time" at SFU, says the woman who dropped out of SFU due to sexual harassment. But she wasn't at all surprised to hear that Wall had crossed a picket line; she too had seen such tendencies in him. She saw them at a meeting between Visual Arts professors and students to discuss a pending general strike known as "Solidarity", which took place in the mid-1980s to protest the right-of-centre Social Credit government in British Columbia. When faced with the dilemma of whether he and his fellow professors would strike, Wall said emphatically, "It's illegal for us to go on strike!". It was her impression that he was rationalizing an intent to cross a picket line and come to work while workers province-wide were engaged in a general strike. She was struck by such an attitude on the part of a Marxist. "I told my friend [E.S.] what Wall had said. [E.S.] had been a Marxist when he was younger but he wasn't anymore." E.S. told her that she should have pointed out to Wall that most striking has been illegal at one time or another but that hasn't prevented workers from taking that action.

In the end though, a group decision was made that the entire Visual Arts Department would go out in support of the general strike. She believes the decision was actually made by representatives from all departments in the Center for the Contemporary Arts -- Visual Arts, Theatre, Acting, Music, Dance -- but she can't say for certain. "I didn't pay much attention to what was going on in other departments", she says. "I remember walking into studio class one afternoon and Greg Snider was in the entrance way and he announced that they were all going out the next day [when the general strike was to start]." He seemed "hyped up" about it.

Wall would possibly deny having crossed a picket line. It would be one man's word against another. Who ya gonna believe? Wall or the Theatre instructor who couldn't shake the memory of it?

Carnegie Locks Poor Out of Services

On Saturday, Carnegie locked the poor out of the Learning Center. On Saturday evening, they locked the poor out of the computer room.

Time to replace CUPE members responsible for keeping these services open: Colleen Gorrie, Rika Uto, and Gorrie's assistant, Sindi.

One Carnegie member had an explanation for the closures. "It's the weather. It's sunny out." It's gotten to the point where you have to listen to the weather report to know if services at Carnegie are going to be open.

Time to replace Ethel Whitty and Dan Tetrault. But that won't happen. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Conrad Black Not a Prisoner of Political Correctness

Conrad Black wrote in the May 9th National Post,

"The Europeans have become frightened by their own weakness; by their own failure to regain great influence in the world for the European Union; or even to respond effectively to Islamic infiltration."

He may be in jail but he can see where the real erosion of freedom is going on.

Samantha Nutt Lends Star Power to SFU as it Dodges Responsibility for Sexual Harassment Ring

Simon Fraser University is attempting to make a name for itself as a world class university, as it passes the 20 year mark of evading responsibility for operating a sexual harassment ring targeting female students. And Samantha Nutt is helping them.

Nutt, a globe-trotting doctor who accepts awards for working to improve human rights and social justice and was named one of Canada's top five activists by Time magazine, is bringing her star-power to SFU’s international conference on global health issues this weekend. Nutt told Canadian Press that these conferences “make a difference” because they allow people to “share their experiences”. It would make a difference if she would remind SFU's President Michael Stevenson to finally arrange an investigation into the sexual harassment ring and allow victims and witnesses to "share their experiences". After all, Nutt wrote the forward for the book,"The Young Activists".

Phrases like "gender inequality", "gender gap", and "poverty" are a mainstay of this conference. But such words ring a little hollow while SFU remains unapologetic about it's record of offering female students a fast track to poverty by reducing them to crotches, resulting in at least one to drop out without getting her degree.

Colleen Phung, a researcher in SFU's new Faculty of Health Sciences which this conference is intended to advertise, will deliver her “findings on gender inequality”. SFU has no findings to deliver though on the gender inequality created by allowing a sexual harassment ring to openly operate at SFU for years. That's because they've evaded investigating it. Even when a woman dropped out of SFU due to stress caused by the sexual harassment ring, they evaded investigating the harassment. In fact, they gave one of the members of the ring, Greg Snider who had been seeking sex with students behind his spouse's back, a promotion to department head.

One of Phung's conclusions to be delivered at the conference is, "It comes down to the issue of empowerment, women not having control over their own lives." SFU seems more comfortable with empowerment of women, if they're on another continent. It's difficult for a female student to feel that she has control over her own life when she goes for an interview for entry into an SFU program and discovers she's being assessed as a potential sex partner for Greg Snider, a professor with a spouse and at least one child.

And it's difficult to feel empowered when you have to deal with Jeff Wall's habit of staring at your crotch and then looking you directly in the eye. Or when Wall is looking down your black v-neck sweater at your breasts. This was allegedly occurring at the same time as Wall was bringing another student to sleep at his Pt. Grey house, a student who discovered he had no intention of divorcing his wife. Empowering is not a word that would apply.

The woman who dropped out of SFU when she lost her ability to concentrate after being targeted for years by the sexual harassment ring and now lives in poverty, has nothing against health conferences. But she believes that as SFU extends it's global reach, it has an obligation to extend it's reach at home and to finally investigate the relentless sexual harassment ring that strained the psychological and physical health of female students on campus.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Woman Jumps from 7th Floor of Regent Hotel

The word on the Downtown Eastside is that a woman jumped from the 7th floor inside the Regent Hotel this afternoon. That's the hotel in the background of the above photo with red vertical lettering.
The woman whose boyfriend had reportedly hanged himself recently, died from her injuries.

One Downtown Eastsider said of people on the sidewalk outside the hotel, "Everybody was looking up."

We haven't confirmed that a woman jumped but two police cars and a ghost car were outside the Regent. Not just constables but a couple of higher ranking police officers were there as well. And an ambulance, we were told, had been at the scene earlier and ambulance attendants had gone inside the hotel.

A constable was questioning a civilian. You can see that if you look closely in the background of this photo, just below the Union Market sign.
At the Sally Ann soup line on Sunday night, a man was talking about the jumper at the Regent. He said that one under reported story is the number of people jumping from the Washington Hotel. One woman he said jumped but didn't die and is now a parapalegic.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"They Got Away With It"

When I walked past the line up at the Sally Ann soup truck at Main & Cordova (photo above) on Tuesday night, I spotted homeless Bill Simpson and stopped to chat.

Simpson mentioned that he had passed Ethel Whitty on the street on the Downtown Eastside a few days ago and she had said hi to him."It eats me up inside", he said. "What eats you up?", I asked. "The fact that they got away with it."

He was referring of course to the fact that when he was elected to the Carnegie Board of Directors last June, Carnegie management delivered him a letter a couple of weeks later barring him from the building. Ethel Whitty, Carnegie Director who is on the City payroll, told him that he would not even be allowed into the building to attend Board meetings. He stood on the sidewalk for meetings in the sweltering heat last summer. Rachel Davis, a fellow first-time Board member, loaned him a cell phone and tried to persuade the Board to at least let him have input and vote at meetings via cell phone. No go.

Carnegie and the City of Vancouver have now blocked this elected representative from attending Board meetings for almost a year.

Come out to this year's Carnegie Annual General Meeting on June 5th. Buy a membership to Carnegie for $1 by May 21st -- that's today! -- and you too can vote in the not so free election.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Poor Locked Out of Carnegie Learning Center on Saturday

On Saturday, Carnegie Center staff locked the Downtown Eastside poor out of the Learning Center. The Learning Center is supposed to be open Monday-Saturday all year long, including holiday weekends.

It was open today, Monday of the holiday weekend.

The poor were locked out of the Learning Center last Thursday as well. The reason was apparently that some of the volunteers had gone on a scheduled trip. But three Carnegie members have reported that Lucy Alderson, the Capilano College staff person who runs the Carnegie Learning Center, was present and could have kept the drop-in facility open.

The Learning Center was closed once last month as well.

These closures are an improvement though. The Learning Center used to lock the poor out more often, until the Downtown Eastside Enquirer started squealing to taxpayers.

The Learning Center is jointly run by Capilano College and Carnegie Center from Monday to Friday. Capilano College staff don't work on Saturdays so Carnegie staff are responsible for keeping it open on that day.

The door to the usually busy computer room just up the hall from the Learning Center was frequently locked in April, according to reports we got from members. (We recorded some of the times and dates of the closures.) But May has been a good month, with the computer room being steadily open.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Carnegie Election on June 5th

It's a better deal than the Dollar Store just around the corner. Pay a dollar for a membership to Carnegie Centre and you can come to the general meeting on June 5th to vote for a new Board of Directors.

But hurry up. You need to have had a membership card for two weeks to be eligible to vote in the Board election. According to a poster at Carnegie, the last day you can purchase a membership card and still be eligible to vote is May 21st.

If you want to run for the Board you need to have had a membership card for 60 days.

To register to vote, you have to be at the theatre on the first floor of Carnegie at 5 p.m. If you come late, you won't be allowed to vote. The actual meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

After you register, you can run upstairs to the cafeteria and get a seafood dinner for three dollars. They serve seafood every Thursday. Or you can get a bowl of soup for 75 cents.

Free coffee is provided at the meeting.

Rachel Davis -- many Carnegie members know her as Rosetta from the music program -- was new on the Board this past year and wrote about it: The Year I Spent a Decade on the Carnegie Board. Lou Anne, a Carnegie member who has overcome a brain injury, praised Rachel at a Board meeting a couple of months ago and said we need more "new blood" on the Board. Some people have spent too many years on the Board, Lou Anne pointed out.

You have to wonder if it is time to vote Jeff Sommers off the island. He spoke against a motion by Davis to hold a review of the barring of William Simpson, a duly elected Board member, from the building and Board meetings. The fact that Downtown Eastsiders, whose interests Sommers claims to represent, had voted for Simpson and were being denied representation while he was relegated to the sidewalk outside during meetings, didn't seem to phase Sommers. He argued that if Simpson's barring was reviewed, everybody who was upset about being barred would want their case reviewed.

But Sommers will probably get re-elected. At this very moment, he may be burning up cell phone minutes rounding up people to come out and vote. And Jean Swanson -- that would be the homeless advocate who didn't speak up when a homeless Board member, Simpson, was denied entry to Board meetings -- will no doubt be using her e-mail list of reliable comrades to get the vote out for Sommers and others who avoided speaking up for the right of an elected Board member to come to meetings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Executive Asst. in Lyndon Johnson's West Wing Fights for Democracy in Powell River

Patricia Aldworth went to the coastal pulp mill city of Powell River to retire. But the woman who had learned about politics while an Executive Assistant in the West Wing during Lyndon Johnson's Presidency, couldn’t retire. Not when she saw that democracy in Powell River was being fed through the wood chipper.

Aldworth ran for a Council seat in a by-election in this scenic British Columbia city, which has become a retirement destination for Americans. She won.

But not one Council member showed up for Aldworth's swearing-in ceremony; Mayor Stewart Alsgard emerged from his office only when the crowd of Aldworth's supporters overflowed into the hallway.

Councillors and the Mayor had shown up for an in camera meeting just a few hours before Aldworth (pictured above) was sworn in though, on March 4th. At that meeting, they instructed City lawyers to launch a defamation suit against Aldworth and two other pensioners, now known as the Powell River Three. Did I mention that the other two, Winslow Brown and Noel Hopkins, were in their eighties?

Brown tried to wriggle out of this jam. He went to Council on March 11 and, voice quivering, apologized. "I had no idea how far the city was prepared to go. I'm a pensioner on a fixed income. I could never afford to fight this lawsuit in court. If I tried, it would financially destroy me, [I would] lose my home and family." At the end of this groveling, Brown handed his letter to the City Clerk and asked, 'So, is it ended?"

It had not ended.

A few weeks later, Mayor Stewart Alsgard (photo above) publicly reiterated his position that the City had been defamed and had a right to take legal action against the Powell River Three and anybody else who criticized them.

"Sounding more like a Soviet apparatchik than a Canadian," Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham wrote, "Alsgard went on to say the defamation suit provided a tremendously important lesson for the community's young leaders about 'courtesy' and 'mutual respect'."

"I can't imagine a more regressive lesson in democracy," said John Dixon, Secretary of the BC Civil Liberties Association. Dixon has a home in Powell River and went into the local newspaper office to place an ad to sell his motorcycle, only to see the public humiliation of Cecil Brown's apology splashed over the front page.

There is a name for the type of lawsuit that the Powell River Three are facing: SLAPP, Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

The City’s decision to sue the pensioners came after the Mayor and Council decided they'd like to borrow 6.5 million to redevelop the north harbor. Even though there was a by- election coming up (the one that Aldworth would win), Council decided not to let citizens vote on the borrowing but to instead require opponents to go to City Hall to fill out a form. Ten percent of eligible voters – roughly 1,000 people – would have had to make the trek down to City Hall to put a stop to this borrowing. Outraged by this process, a group of pensioners organized to write letters to the editor and hand out copies of the forms at the mall, even helping people fill them out. It was involvement in this activity by the Powell River Three that prompted the Mayor to give them a SLAPP up the side of the head.

“No government should be allowed to sue its citizens for defamation regardless of what is said,” Aldworth told the Vancouver Sun at the beginning of May. “It really goes to the underpinnings of democracy. If you don’t allow citizens to criticize their government, then the government can get away with anything.” And Aldworth, who earned a law degree at Georgetown after leaving the West Wing, noted that because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms only came into effect in 1982, there is not yet much case law upholding the right to free speech.

Aldsworth also said -- and I've been saying this for years -- that Canadians aren’t as well educated about their rights or as willing to stand up for them as Americans.

Dixon wrote a letter to the Mayor and Council asking them to drop the lawsuit. He pointed out that in Ontario, the courts ruled against municipalities in 2006 that had launched SLAPP suits against citizens. In one Justice Kenneth Pedlar wrote: “If governments were entitled to sue citizens who are critical, only those with the means to defend civil actions would be able to criticize government entities.”

If the City doesn't back down, the BCCLA intends to take the issue to the BC Supreme Court and ask them to do what the Ontario courts have done – declare that a government cannot sue it’s own citizens.

In Canada, Powell River is everywhere

The problem in Canada is not strictly in Powell River; the problem is that in Canada Powell River is everywhere. What Bramham called "Soviet apparatchiks" are not only operating openly in the government of Powell River, they are operating openly under Mayor Sullivan in the City of Vancouver, they are operating full tilt at the Vancouver School Board, and they are operating openly in Human Rights Commissions across Canada.

The case of Vancouver homeless man William "Bill" Simpson left no doubt that Soviet apparatchiks are well ensconced in the City of Vancouver government. When Simpson was elected to the Board of the Directors of the City of Vancouver's Carnegie Community Centre, one of Mayor Sullivan's henchwomen banished him to the sidewalk outside. Jacquie Forbes-Roberts, General Manager of Community Services, wrote a letter to Simpson a couple of weeks after he was elected, banning him "indefinitely" from the Carnegie Centre. When City management staff Ethel Whitty and Dan Tetrault hand-delivered Simpson the letter on behalf of Forbes-Roberts, Whitty told him that he would not even be allowed into the building to attend Board meetings.

Forbes-Roberts' revealed in her letter that Simpson's crime was one of free speech. He operated a website, she noted, which "features links" to the Downtown Eastside Enquirer blog which has criticized Carnegie staff. The blog had revealed such taxpayer rip-offs on the part of staff as the semi-regular locking of doors to computer and education services which they were funded to provide to the poor. Lawyer Gregory Bruce wrote to the City, reminding Forbes-Roberts that the concept of guilt by association was "contrary to the rule of law". She did not reinstate Simpson.

It became clear in the Simpson case that City of Vancouver staff were functioning as thought police. When questions were raised at a Carnegie Community Relations Meeting last summer about the lack of grounds for barring Simpson, Whitty defended the barring by stating, "He said he was proud of the blogger." This thought policing by Whitty was actually caught on tape.

Rachel Davis was one of the few Carnegie Board members who opposed the banning of a duly elected Board member from the building and Board meetings. And what did it get her? The Board held a special meeting following a regular Board meeting, when she was on her way home to pay her babysitter, and decided to send her a letter asking her to resign. Davis didn't back down. Did I mention she was born in the U.S.A.?

Photo: Ken Denike, Vancouver School Board Trustee

If you want a textbook case of Soviet apparatchiks shutting down free speech, though, look at the Vancouver School Board. Look at what the VSB did to a woman who wrote a letter to the VSB criticizing their handling of bullying complaints that she and others had independently lodged against a physically and verbally abusive teacher. In the letter, the critic stated that she intended to campaign in the upcoming tightly-contested School Board election about VSB "duplicity" in the handling of bullying complaints. Upon receiving the critic's letter, the VSB quickly resorted to a tactic that was used against political dissidents in the former Soviet Union and continues to be used against dissidents in China: political psychiatry. The VSB abused political influence to arrange, under pretenses the police officer involved admits they knew to be fraudulent, to have their critic subjected to a psychiatric assessment.

The VSB arranged to have Car 87 -- a police car containing an armed police officer and a male psychiatric nurse -- arrive unannounced at their critic's home to perform the psych assessment. Car 87 is an ideal tool for smearing political adversaries as it works like this: even if you're cleared, you're never really cleared. A "Car 87" notation remains adjacent to your name on the police computer system for "99 years".

A few hours after the Car 87 visit, Police School Liaison Sergeant Lester told the critic in a taped telephone call that the VSB had given him a copy of her letter which he read and emphasized to the VSB that there was "nothing untoward" about the letter. (Her letter to the VSB was the sole evidence submitted to him by the VSB in support of the visit, a fact he confirmed during the taped call.) Despite Lester's protests about lack of evidence, the VSB pressured him, providing no additional evidence, until he approved the visit. "It was clear-cut case of fraud," says the targeted critic.

Car 87 visits are restricted by legislation to instances in which there is evidence that an individual is at "imminent" risk of killing themselves or others. The only thing the critic was at risk of killing was the slim chance that the NPA School Board had of retaining power. The critic could prove that an NPA trustee had been assuring the public via television that bullying complaints were being taken seriously, when in fact correspondence being received by complainants indicated otherwise.

When the critic obtained a copy of the psych report, she discovered that the psych nurse, Don Getz, after being briefed by the VSB, had entered "freedom of information requests" as the sole reason for the Car 87 visit. She had made two or three routine freedom of information requests over a period of a year for documents from her file. Georgina Kosich, the VSB clerk who processed Freedom of Information requests was presented to Constable Michelle Sevigny and nurse Getz as the primary witness in the case, and met with them to release the critic's freedom of information requests. Kosich apparently fraudulently concealed from the psych nurse and cop, the letters she had sent the critic encouraging her to submit freedom of information requests to the VSB.

Not only did the critic discover from reading the psych report that her ability to access documents under the Freedom of Information Act was presented as socially deviant, so too were signs of an intellectual life visible in the home-office space where psych nurse Don Getz and Constable Michelle Sevigny interviewed her. A computer surrounded by papers and books, and two bookshelves stuffed with books, were rubricized in the psych report as 'clutter'. The VSB were now burners.

Even the fact that the critic had been competent and responsible enough to substantiate all claims in her letter to the VSB was viewed by the psych nurse -- after he was briefed by the VSB -- as an indicator of mental illness as it made the letter "a little long". He admitted he had not personally read the letter.

As Getz and Sevigny left the critic's apartment, she commented to Getz that it was the election a couple of weeks away that had prompted this psych assessment. He agreed with her! She included this fact in a written complaint lodged with the VSB immediately after the visit. Getz has never disagreed with this statement.

The VSB's pre-election exercise in political psychiatry was successful. The critic was sufficiently terrorized that she abandoned her plans to campaign against the NPA in the election.

Canadians Opposing Political Psychiatry have responded to the failure of the VSB to address their history of political psychiatry by organizing, as an "absolute last resort", an international boycott of diplomas issued by the Vancouver School Board.

Shortly before this Car 87 terror was inflicted by VSB on a potential election campaigner, the outgoing President of the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, Reggi Balabanov, had sounded an alarm about the use of police to intimidate bullying complainants. Complainants were too often finding police showing up on their doorsteps, Balabanov said, resulting in a definite "chill" on the willingness of citizens to pursue school bullying complaints.

But no discussion of the duck-taping of the mouths of Canadians would be complete without a mention of publicly funded Human Rights Commissions across Canada. Originally set up as inexpensive forums for handling discrimination complaints such as those against landlords and employers, Human Rights Commissions have morphed into thought police operating kangaroo courts. Both the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the B.C. Human Rights Commission have targeted writer Mark Steyn, a Canadian living in New Hampshire, after Macleans magazine published a well supported piece by Steyn on Islamists. The Alberta Human Rights Commission has targeted Ezra Levant, the former publisher of the Western Standard, for publishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Levant had published the cartoons as a pro free speech statement, supporting publications around the world which had done the same.

Human Rights Commissions are always your best bet if you don't have a leg to stand on in a real court. They will use taxpayer's dollars to pay your legal fees, while they bankrupt your critic. On the Vancouver blog, Covenant Zone, where truepeers, a Canadian, and dag, an American from Idaho, monitor this racket, there is a link to a column by the Ottawa Citizen's David Warren:

"The notion that 'freedom of speech is an American concept' -- I am quoting Dean Steacy, principal "mediator" (i.e. thought-crime investigator) for the Canadian Human Rights Commission -- is proving sadly true in the limited sense that most of the money donated to the various legal defense funds has come, via Internet, from outraged citizens of the U.S."

Warren asked Canadians to divert donations intended for the Conservative Party of Canada to the defense funds of some of those targeted for these Kafkaesque prosecutions. He believes that action could jolt Prime Minister Stephen Harper out of the "sleepiness" from which he and so many other Canadians are suffering as the right to free speech is blungeoned to death.

The above tactics of Soviet apparatchiks on government payrolls in Canada are a mere sampling of those currently being used to harass citizens exercising their right to free speech.

What is to be done? Maybe Canada needs more Americans.

Friday, May 9, 2008

One Sister Ended Up at Disney, the Other Sister Ended Up on the Downtown Eastside

Last week, the Vancouver Sun ran a "local girl makes good" story about Lisa Stevens, a Vancouver-born choreographer who has made an international name for herself. Stevens has recently choreographed High School Musical, which was picked up by Disney. The Sun reporter noted that Lisa "is looking forward to taking family and friends to one of the Vancouver performances".

Not her sister Anita Stevens, I bet.

Anita Stevens, Lisa's older sister and only sibling, ended up on the Downtown Eastside where the family member who didn't make good so often ends up. Anita looks exactly like the high school graduation photo the Sun ran of her Lisa, dark curly hair, fine features.

Anita was on medication for mental illness, manic depression. Everybody on the Downtown Eastside knew about her mental illness as Anita spoke freely about it. "She never acted as if it was a secret," says one Downtown Eastside resident. Several Downtown Eastside Enquirer bloggers, both male and female, knew her.

Anita rarely talked about her family but she did say that her parents had told her that if she ever showed up at their house again, they would call the police and have her arrested.

Choreograph that!

Anita mentioned that her mother had wanted both her daughters to be artistic but she had been more of a bookish type. She had studied Archeology at Simon Fraser University. She could play the piano well though, and would sometimes play the one in the Carnegie theatre.

Like many people on the Downtown Eastside, Anita ended up on the Disability welfare rate, not the Disney payroll.

You could tell Anita had been raised middle class; she was always a little better dressed than most people on the Downtown Eastside. She was beautiful and men often wanted sex with her, until they discovered she was cracked -- and even then some wanted sex with her.

Years ago, Anita mentioned that her sister was a "much in demand" choreographer and that she had her own dance school. "She said it was called the 'Lisa Stevens School of Dance' or something like that," a Downtown Eastside resident recalls.
Lisa had begun dancing at the age of five at Vancouver's Jewish Community Center, according to the Jewish Independent newspaper. The Jewish community appears quite enamored of their native daughter. But they weren't so enamored of her father, who had converted to Judaism when marrying her mother; he never felt the Jewish community totally accepted him, Anita once said.

Despite Lisa's hectic life according to the Sun article, she often returns to Vancouver, sometimes visiting with her old friend Perry Ehrlich at the Jewish Community Centre's summer program, Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!

Anita once mentioned that her sister was getting married and that she was not invited to the wedding.

Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! Gotta Hide My Sister!

Anita didn't say why she was not invited to the wedding. She didn't have to. Downtown Eastsiders knew that she could be unpredictable, she could cause a scene.

Don't get me wrong, nobody on the Downtown Eastside blames the family. Anita was at least 40 years old when much of this was going on and the family may have earlier tried to help her and become exhausted.

They wouldn't be the only ones. When Anita's mental health was in an unusual downward spiral and she didn't have a place to live, Bob Sarti and Muggs Sigurdson who were involved in the operations of the Carnegie Community Center, let her stay at their Strathcona house. But they had to move her out a short time later; the story was that she had become a fire risk. During the same period she had reportedly started a fire in the lobby of a housing co-op in the Chinatown/Strathcona area where she was staying and got herself booted out.

Anita eventually got her medication changed and stabilized. But a side effect of the medication was weight gain. She was still beautiful, just a ballooned up version. She then got into a social housing apartment building up Kingsway and didn't come to Carnegie or the Downtown Eastside much after that. She said it was too far to travel.

Anita did continue to occasionally submit material to the Carnegie newsletter. She had a long history of submitting poems -- she was a member of the Downtown Eastside Poets years ago -- and commentary. In one of the last pieces she submitted, she advised that the cure for what ails you is lots of sex.

Gotta sing, gotta dance, gotta do what you gotta do.

The Comaraderie of Cab Drivers

This morning at 1 a.m., a few cabs pulled up on Richards St. beside Waves Coffee Shop at Richards and Hastings. A few guys jumped out and there was some pushing and shoving. I dug for my camera but by the time I got it, the commotion had ended. Uniformed police arrived immediately and grabbed one guy and handcuffed him. He didn't resist. There were undercover cops standing around too; they may have been there earlier.

A cab driver with a white turban walked over to another cab in which the driver was sitting behind the wheel writing a statement for police. I asked the guy with the turban what had happened and he said the guy writing the statement had been assaulted. He asked me if I had caught any of the action on camera.

Another cab driver was sitting at an outdoor table at Waves Coffee Shop writing a statement while a police officer sat at another table writing a report. (see photo above). I asked the cab driver if someone had been assaulted. He said no, that a guy had "damaged my car", and pointed to a large dent on the hood of his cab. He appeared angry. A police officer was examining the dent.

What amazed me about this event was how many cabs immediately showed up to help a fellow cab driver in distress. At least 7 cab drivers showed up to help an 8th cab driver. It was like a tribe of yellow cabs blocking Richards St.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Is the Woodwards Tower Tilting?

Two old timers at the Ovaltine Cafe today were saying that the tower at the new Woodwards site at Abbott & W. Cordova looks like it's tilting north. I don't know. What do you think?

One man said, "I hope it collapses. That would be funny." He was revealing the bitterness that some Downtown Eastside residents feel about the fact that despite protests and a squat at the site, they failed to win the number of social housing units they wanted there.