Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Missing Woman" Traced to Ethel Whitty

There is a woman who for ten years has regularly dropped into the Seniors Center in the basement of the Carnegie Center to use the public access computers. She hasn't been seen there for six weeks. She is missing. Her disappearance has been traced to Ethel Whitty.

Whitty, Director of the City of Vancouver's Carnegie Center, made an example of the woman. Through this woman, Whitty sent a message: A woman talking back to an abusive man will not be tolerated.

This woman has now been banned by the Whitty administration for over six weeks from the Carnegie Senior's Center for daring to talk back to the notorious Devor, a tyrannical coffee seller from Croatia who Whitty unleashes on Carnegie members at least once a day in the basement Seniors Center. When Devor went into his usual rant one Saturday in June and then pushed the woman who dared talk back out the door by taking swings at her (although not actually making contact with her body), Whitty made certain the woman was punished. The fact that Devor was yelling much louder than this woman was of no concern to Whitty.

Whitty will not be out done by former Ottawa Mayor Charlotte Whitten known for saying, "A woman has to be twice as good as a man to be considered half as good." Whitty's rule of thumb is that a woman has to raise her voice half as loud as a man to be considered twice as bad.

As the woman's banning from the Seniors Center had reached five weeks last Saturday on July 19th, she went to Carnegie Center to deliver a letter to Head of Security, Skip Everall, insisting that he inform her in writing when the banning would be up. "He wouldn't take the letter," she said as she sat outside the Waves coffee shop next door today. "He ran upstairs to get Dan Tetrault [Whitty's Assistant Director]." Tetrault came downstairs with Everall and the two jointly refused to sign for the letter "unless I let them read it first". She told Tetrault that as a City of Vancouver administrator he was required to acknowledge receipt of a letter and not screen it out if he didn't like the content. She explained to Tetrault that if she could afford a courier, he and Everall wouldn't have the option of reading the letter before deciding whether to sign for it. But the two were intransigent on this point so she allowed them to read the polite, brief, letter. Tetrault then gave Everall "the go ahead". Everall photocopied the letter and signed, using only his initials. [At an earlier date, he refused to say whether "Skip" is his real name.]

Yet another week has gone by and the woman has received no response to her letter, even though she provided her home address on it. "I think a City lawyer is helping them write a response," she said.

Every day that the banning is extended, this woman is deprived of access to public computers in the Seniors Center. She is essentially deprived as well of access to the computers on the third floor of Carnegie because Whitty and Everall have created such a hostile environment that she feel uncomfortable going there. "I don't know what they'll do next."

When delivering her letter, this woman also asked Tetrault and Everall whether they would ban her from the entire building if she gave an interview to the media. She reminded them that they had banned William Simpson, a duly elected Board member from the building for being merely associated with media. "Tetrault winced", she recalled. Tetrault evaded the question, turned his back and walked out of Everall's office. She followed him. She asked him again if she would be banned and he responded, "No." Everall would not give her that assurance.

She also asked Tetrault and Everall to tell her who had taped the meeting she had with Everall. (Everall had met with her after she served her initial sentence of five days, Saturday to Wednesday.) Tetrault said the meeting had not been taped. But she told him that a tape was circulating and she had been contacted to confirm it's authenticity. Everall did not say much. "I'd like to hear the tape," she says, "because I want to use it against them. They've been lying."

Downtown Eastsider, Audrey Laferriere, to Run for City Council

Audrey Laferriere is running for City Council as an Independent in the November 2008 election.

You might remember Laferriere as the woman who earlier this month managed to get 100 signatures of Carnegie members who wanted a recount of the election of the Carnegie Board of Directors. She got help from a few others but she was the organizer behind the effort which produced the signatures in just a few days. Laferriere and other supporters of Rachel Davis were suspicious of the election results. Now there will be a meeting at Carnegie on July 31st in which people can vote on whether to hold a recount. (A minimum of thirty people must show up to make the vote valid.)

Laferriere has a blog, Voice of Gone Ballistic, in which a comment she made about the people who flock to the Downtown Eastside to provide services to the poor caught my eye.

"Just look at all the service providers who also have double gated their entrances. The service providers should be fighting for shelters not paying for bars."

This reminded me of something I saw earlier this year, in the winter, at Pathways Employment Center for the poorest of the poor at Main & Hastings. I had dropped into Pathways one morning looking for Bill Simpson, the homeless man banned from Carnegie Center across the street for carrying a link on his website to the DTES Enquirer. The federal government Security guard at Pathways was pushing the side doors open, attempting to push a man sleeping under a white blanket out of the Main Street entrance. The Indo-Canadian guard was yelling at the man in pigeon English to wake up and get out. The receptionist was watching. The computer tech counting the days to retirement was watching. This drama had been going on for a few minutes when I left. I was amazed that the guard was bothering as I had never seen anyone use that side entrance to Pathways; it always appeared locked to me.

The next day, when I walked by Pathways, I noticed workmen there installing iron bars around the steps (photo by dag above). The homeless would no longer be sleeping there. But these service providers claim to be soooooo sensitive to the poor and homeless. And the Director of Pathways, Carol Madson, is according to a client who has had conversations with her, "an NDP type".