Monday, October 13, 2008

"Don't Believe the Truth": Oasis for Poor during Olympics to be Photo-Op for Media

The nerve. Ethel Whitty, Director of Vancouver’s Carnegie Community Center who has established a reputation for banning poor and homeless people from Carnegie quicker than you can say “Nixon’s enemies list”, has now announced that she is a prime organizer of a “refuge” for the poor and homeless at nearby Oppenheimer Park. It is called the Oasis Winter Festival and will occur during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Whitty announced the Oasis Winter Festival in her Director’s Report at the Carnegie Board meeting membership of Carnegie Center at the Sept. 4 meeting of the Board of Directors. The Oasis will be held on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 7-10 days in February 2010, during the Winter Olympics. A trial-run Oasis will be held in 2009.

“We’ll set up two large tents,” Whitty wrote in her Director’s Report. “One tent will be a source of nutritious food and beverage for participants and one for art activities and entertainment. ….” Whitty, who knows the poverty game as well as any Olympic athlete knows their game, is aware that a sure way to draw a crowd to any event on the Downtown Eastside is to offer free food. The other tent at the Oasis will be “for art activities and entertainment.”

Totem pole in Oppenheimer Park where the Oasis Festival on the Downtown Eastside will be held. Photo taken Oct. 2008.

“The intention”, Whitty writes in her report, “is to give homeless and poorly housed residents of the Downtown Eastside a chance to receive support from the community at a time, during the Olympics, when they will otherwise be the subject of media scrutiny and tourist interest.”

That’s not the real intention though, according to poverty industry watcher Dag Walker. The intention is to create “a sea of poor people” in plain sight of the media. “It’s not nearly as effective if the media just sees a few homeless people here and there,” Walker explains, “It’s more effective to attract a huge number of the poor and homeless to a small space.” Whitty and her povertarian partners will essentially be telling the media, ‘Don’t look at the elephant on the table’, but they know that the media scouring the notorious Downtown Eastside during the Olympics in search of stories will take photographs of this large congregation of poor people, photographs that will be transmitted around the world. The povertarians are arranging a media event, a photo op, with the intention of embarrassing the government globally.

The message transmitted through the global media will be the same as that regularly transmitted by the povertarians through the local media: “Poverty is an out of control problem on the Downtown Eastside and the government must direct more money toward this problem.” More money directed toward the Downtown Eastside means more money for povertarians who make their living in the lucrative poverty industry here.

Box for discarded needles of drug users attached to the fence of the baseball diamond at Oppenheimer Park. Photo taken Oct. 12, 2008.

Anyone unaware of Whitty’s record of human rights abuses targeting the poor and/or homeless — she was even caught feeding fraudulent “evidence” to a CBC Radio interviewer about the reason for the barring of homeless man, William Simpson, from Carnegie after poor people elected him to the Carnegie Board — could get the impression from her Director’s Report that she cares about the poor: “This event will be ongoing everyday and will provide a refuge and a comfort zone where participants can be entertained or take part in organized art activities arranged by those who know them best; their fellow community members.” Arranged by their fellow community members? Most of the people working at Oasis will be well paid unionized povertarians who, at the end of their shifts on the Downtown Eastside, can’t get out of the neighborhood fast enough.

Just look at the groups Whitty lists as being recruited to operate the Oasis: “We hope the community partners will include Carnegie Centre staff from Oppenheimer [Park] and the Outreach teams, Aboriginal Front Door, VANDU [Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users], VCH, Pivot, DEWC, Community Arts Network, Gallery Gachet, etc.” The overwhelming majority of workers in these groups do not live on the Downtown Eastside and their loyalty to one another is stronger than their loyalty to poor people.

Take Pivot Legal Society, a group of radical young lawyers who claim to be committed to improving civil liberties in the poor Downtown Eastside neighborhood and creating “trickle up” benefits for everyone else in society. When homeless William Simpson asked Pivot for help after Whitty hand-delivered him a letter banning him from the Carnegie premises and Board meetings just two weeks after poor people had elected him to the Carnegie Board – the barring was carried out under the supervision of City Manager and Olympic Organizing Committee member Judy Rogers – Pivot turned him away with the response, “But they’re our friends.”

All of these “friends” running grant guzzling organizations on the Downtown Eastside are experienced in dealing with media; they can be counted on to have designated spokespersons at Oasis who can be trusted not to veer off the message about the government obligation to give more to their assorted projects. Those projects range from a supervised drug injection site a few blocks from Oppenheimer Park to the annual Heart of the City theater production by Carnegie in which Whitty has been exposed for passing off actors from more affluent neighborhoods to the media as Downtown Eastside poor people speaking on behalf of their fellow poor people — not unlike the way Whitty is passing off Oasis as a refuge for poor people “arranged by those who know them best; their fellow community members.” Let the games begin.

On the morning of Oct.12, 2008 when this photo was taken, there was one person sleeping in Oppenheimer Park.


Dag said...

It sure seems like a povertarian set-up to me. Why does it take so long to do this if it's important? And why only during the Olympics? Why make the poor into a media spectacle? Who benefits> And what is this about art? Art is the last thing homeless people should be thinking, other than the art of getting out of the cold. But none of this is about the poor, they being nothing more than props in some git-prop theater staged by well-to-do middle aged hippies living on lush grants. Art? Who are they kidding? Only "artists" care bout art. The rest of us live with aesthetic experience, unmediated, thank you very much, by bo-bo poseurs.

Looking forward to more on this.

laniwurm said...

You write that “The workers in these groups – VANDU is a possible exception — do not live on [sic] the Downtown Eastside.” As a staff person at DTES Community Arts Network (CAN), I assure you that I do in fact live in the DTES, and that CAN is very much driven by DTES residents. We have been approached about this festival, but so far have not endorsed it and will not be operating it in any way, as you suggest in the article.

Dag said...

It's nice to know that ome people in in the poverty industry feel a liking to live in the area; but that hardly addresses the issue at hand: that this is becoming an agit-prop/ photo-op for Vancouver's Povertarian clique, those who make a living from a personal philosophy of Social Gospel and gnosticism at the expense of the people.

I'm glad you add something relevant to the story. No doubt there is much more to come. I'm keen to find out what that is. I assume many others feel the same way.

reliable sources said...

Thanks for the input. I'm not as familiar with the arts groups as I am with the major employers on the Downtown Eastside such as Carnegie which has community centre staff as well as outreach workers at Oppenheimer.

There are no doubt exceptions to the rule of Downtown Eastsiders being overseen (too often harassed and stripped of civil liberties) by outsiders. But there is no question that the majority of the workers who have real power on the Downtown Eastside do not live on the DTES. In this article, I identified Ethel Whitty, who comes to the DTES from some other neighborhood everyday, as being involved in serious human rights abuses in her role as Carnegie Director. But there are many others I could have identified.

Sandy MacKeigan, who lives outside the neighborhood, was formerly supervisor of the Carnegie Seniors Center, and was hastily transferred to Oppenheimer to supervise the Outreach workers when she allegedly took the fall for a human rights scandal at Carnegie. That scandal involved the barring of a woman who was complaining about ongoing sexual harassment by a coffee seller there and found herself mysteriously barred. (Olympics Committee member and City Manager, Judy Rogers, should have been fired in the view of several Downtown Eastsiders over that scandal which has still not been resolved.)

MacKeigan was then head of the Carnegie Outreach workers when some of these workers allegedly reached out far enough to become involved in a harassment campaign to silence criticism of Car 87 abuses. (MacKeigan was not, unlike some of the outreach workers/nurses, seen approaching the Car 87 whistleblower on the street, but MacKeigan certainly should be investigated along with her subordinates).

You can bet MacKeigan, who remains the supervisor of the Carnegie Outreach workers at Oppenheimer, will be prancing around Oasis at Oppenheimer like somebody who cares about the poor. There will be no mention of the fact that the woman barred under the Sandy MacKeigan/Judy Rogers/Michael Clague administration at Carnegie noted in a written statement at the time that she was getting the impression that because she was a Downtown Eastside resident, it was assumed at Carnegie that she could be treated as some variation of a sex trade worker. No, it wouldn't do to mention that in front of the international media.

And if Ethel Whitty at Carnegie sends over any "volunteers" to Oasis -- that would be people who work alongside unionized staff in the Carnegie apartheid labour system for 80 cents an hour in food vouchers -- we will no doubt see Carnegie's Volunteer Co-ordinator, Colleen Gorrie from Burnaby, prancing around. There will be no mention of Gorrie's past human rights abuses or fraud.

Media should ask Gorrie about the WCB/Work Safe settlement she got by claiming that Downtown Eastside bloggers posed a risk to her. The fact that there was no evidence of risk and that it was eventually determined that the homeless man she was singling out as posing the risk was not even a blogger, did not stop Gorrie's WCB claim. Whitty stated at a meeting at Carnegie that the City lawyers put their head's together and got the claim accepted. Gorrie's WorkSafe claim resulted in a homeless man being seriously libeled; he was given no opportunity to defend himself. Most importantly from the perspective of povertarians, Gorrie's claim resulted in several months off work with pay, and avoidance of a serious investigation into her alleged professional misconduct in relation to poor people that was being exposed by bloggers. All of this questionable activity went on with a wink and a nod from Ethel Whitty and Judy Rogers, now an Olympic Organizing Committee member.

laniwurm, I'm glad you pointed out exceptions. But there are too few exceptions and still too many workers flocking to the DTES each day who too often leave in the evening after doing harm. They should be investigated instead of being funded for yet another public relations exercise in the form of Oasis.

Whitty referred to DTES Community Arts Network as one of Carnegie potential "partners" at Oasis, although you say you won't be "operating" it. How about not partnering with Oasis until all the human rights cases mentioned above are resolved?

reliable sources said...

UPDATE: Since writing this article, I have learned that the Winter Oasis was mentioned in a recent staff report to Vancouver City Council, as organizers are seeking a portion of the $1 million civic fund for Olympic social sustainability programs.