Monday, March 30, 2009

Aboriginal Activists Lose their Tongues over Killing of White Man under Supervision of Aboriginal Cop

Photo: Corporal Benjamin 'Monty' Robinson (center)

When an aboriginal man, Frank Paul, was dragged into an alley by Vancouver Police where he died, aboriginal activists didn't let anybody forget it. For years, they held media events to raise awareness about this death and the police misconduct that led to it. And rightly so.

But when an aboriginal man, RCMP Corporal Benjamin 'Monty' Robinson, supervised what would prove to be the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski -- his mother prefers the term 'murder' -- at Vancouver Airport, aboriginal activists lost their tongues.  Not a peep out of them after it happened.  And not a peep out of them during last week's Braidwood Inquiry -- even though these activists are generally media microphone hounds.  They didn't ask any questions about why a fellow aboriginal would think it was ok to shoot a man five times with a taser gun, even though the first shot left him on the ground writhing in agony.  Long before I noticed that the cop supervising these shots was aboriginal -- he looks Cree to me -- I thought the videotaped shooting resembled the killing of a moose.  Even the ending where Robinson mounts the shot man lying on the floor, pressing his knee against his throat, seemed like a hunter in the finale of a moose hunt.  

I didn't expect aboriginal activists to go all out and hold street marches and demonstrations for Dziekanski the way they did for Frank Paul. But in a case that has become Canada's Rodney King with the videotape being viewed around the world, they could have at least made a brief statement.  

Actually one aboriginal man did make a brief statement, a volunteer dishwasher at Carnegie who tops up his welfare cheque with the 80 cents an hour that white povertarians pay him. This aboriginal man spoke up in the cafeteria line-up at Carnegie last week; he said that aboriginal cop should buck up and tell the truth -- lawyers demonstrated Robinson to be a liar at the Inquiry -- and give the victim's mother a sincere apology.  But he's not an activist.  He's a dishwasher, not a spin doctor maximizing cash flow from the Indian Industry.

Robinson was accused at the Inquiry of doing little to help Dziekanski survive after the excessive tasering.  This is not the first time Robinson's been accused of neglecting the medical needs of a non-aboriginal.  An assault victim and former pizza restaurant operator, Greg Garley, alleged in 2005 that Cpl. Robinson and another officer failed to respond to his medical needs. Garley got himself to a hospital for treatment.  Garley's lawyer, Robert Levin, says the allegation against Cpl. Robinson amounted to "neglect." The matter has been settled but the terms have not been disclosed.  And you can bet aboriginal activists as high up as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, who has repeatedly made public statements about police indifference that has led to aboriginal deaths, won't be delving into this one.  

From now on when I hear aboriginals on the Downtown Eastside ending made-for-media events with their prayer for "All my relations", I will be thinking of Robert Dziekanski taking it like a moose.

Brian Adams Hosts Juno Party at his Downtown Eastside Studio

Brian Adams came home to Vancouver for the Junos this weekend.  He had a party Saturday night at his studio at Powell & Columbia on the Downtown Eastside.   

I could see a live band in the upstairs window.  

Driverless Car on Vancouver Street

Last week a guy from Burnaby who often uses services on the Downtown Eastside, reported what he had seen while on a bus on Broadway near Main.  He looked out the window and saw a car with no driver barrelling down the street alongside the bus.  He believes the bus was in the vicinity of Main & Broadway at the time.

One of the Downtown Eastsiders he told was later listening to Coast to Coast radio, either that night or the next.  A guy phoned in to report that he had been driving down the road and looked at the car travelling in the lane next to him, and it had no driver.  The Downtown Eastsider didn't catch what city the guy was calling from.  But he was laughing about it yesterday.

The guy who saw the driverless car on Broadway wonders if the window had been covered with a photograph of the inside of the car and the steering wheel, to deceive onlookers.  But the Coast to Coast listener doesn't believe a photograph would be that convincing.  "He's just looking for an explanation 'cause he can't believe what he saw."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Carnegie Member Feels Screwed by ICBC and His Own Lawyer

A Carnegie member who was hit by a car in a crosswalk feels screwed by both ICBC and his own lawyer John Mickelson.  The man, who was hit in a crosswalk at Broadway and Yukon in Vancouver at roughly 7 p.m. in Nov. 2007, had the green light.  He also had a cop as a witness.

The accident victim has spent much of his life in Ontario and after his accident, didn't know any lawyers in BC.  So he listened to "a longshoreman friend" who recommended lawyer John Mickelson. 

The victim got a settlement of over $37,000 in Sept. 2008.  The lawyer shaved $16,000 off the top so the victim ended up with almost $22,000.

And the victim ended up as well with a plate in his hip and three screws.  He walks with a cane.  

The victim wouldn't recommend Mickelson. "If your lawyer comes to work in jeans, there's something wrong", in his view.  Mickelson would no doubt say he got the victim the best settlement possible under the circumstances.   "I should have held out for a better offer," says the victim. 

The victim accused Mickelson of taking $16,000 for primarily making phone calls. But Mickelson's associate, Sarah Leung, told the victim that the settlement he received is comparable to what others have received in similar cases.  Leung told him that he was fortunate as Mickelson only takes 25% of the final settlement while some lawyers take 33%.

But the victim insists, "I got screwed".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Downtown Eastside Man Collecting Beer Cans says Police Ignored Stabbing Victim Bleeding to Death on Street

When I read that a Vancouver Police spokesman told reporters that Tyson Edwards had been “rushed” to hospital after being stabbed around 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 1, I thought of a man collecting beer bottles and cans that night who tells a different story.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Roughly ten days after 21 year old Tyson Edwards, who was becoming a dog-trainer like his father who has worked with the dogs of Marilyn Manson and Sheryl Crow, was stabbed to death outside Richards on Richards nightclub in Vancouver, I heard Jim A. talking about how the cops hadn’t seemed too interested.  ”Are you talking about that young Black guy who got stabbed?”, I asked Jim when I overheard his conversation in the Carnegie Library on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  I had seen the victim’s mother on the front page of the Vancouver Sun pleading for witnesses to come forward, and his father who had come up from Los Angeles standing in the background. “He was Black or East Indian,” Jim said, “It happened two weekends ago; there’s a memorial outside Richards on Richards.”  He was talking about Tyson Edwards.                                                                                                                                                                                                         Jim, a thin white guy in his fifties, who unlike some Downtown Eastsiders doesn’t make a habit of criticizing police, had been walking around downtown collecting empty beer cans and bottles.  He arrived at Richards on Richards just after Edwards was stabbed.  ”I saw him lying in the curb,” says Jim, who didn’t witness the actual stabbing. There were no police or other emergency workers there yet.  ”I felt for the guy…As soon as I saw him, I could see he needed an ambulance.  ”Take it easy”, Jim said to Edwards and then went for help. “The first thing on my mind was the guy needed an ambulance”.  As Jim walked away, he heard somebody yelling, “He’s dying, he’s dying.”               

Police examine the scene early Sunday after Tyson Edwards, 21, was stabbed to death outside Richard's on Richards in downtown Vancouver.                                                   
Photo: A VPD constable at Richards on Richards on Sunday, Feb. 1.  Edwards had been stabbed at roughly 2:30 that morning.

Jim told the doorman at Richards on Richards that there was a man who needed an ambulance. "I told the door man, the Black door man, he was the first one I told,” Jim says.  ”He just ignored me.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
“Then a cop pulled up and I said, ‘This guy needs an ambulance, he’s been stabbed in the chest and he’s bleeding; they [the people with Edwards] rolled him over, he needs an ambulance right now’.”  Jim dipped his hand into his pocket to imitate the constable’s response: “He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his radio and says, ‘I need back up.’  And he puts the radio back in his pocket.”  He didn’t call for an ambulance.                                                                                                                                                                                       
“I was kind of frantic to get an ambulance right away”, Jim says.  

Jim went up to another white male cop, “a big, bald, guy” who had just arrived, and told him that there was a guy over there that needed an ambulance right away, that he’d been stabbed in the chest.  ”He friggin’ ignored me,” Jim says.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Next Jim approached a white female cop who was talking to a civilian male; she was either checking his ID or searching him; Jim couldn't remember exactly.  He told her that there was a guy over there who needed an ambulance right away, that he had been stabbed in the chest.  But she, like the male cops, ignored him. “She was more interested in crowd control”, Jim said in a disgusted tone of voice.”                                                                                                                                                                                                           
I told at least three cops and none of them paid any attention”, Jim says.  He was clearly still upset.  I heard him telling his story to friends on three separate occasions.   

Maybe somebody had already called 911 and the police knew that an ambulance was on the way, I said.  Jim replied that he had noticed people with cell phones but, based on his estimation that “15 to 20 minutes” passed before an ambulance arrived, he speculates that they may have asked for police, not an ambulance.  ”It took so dammed long for the ambulance to get there, I couldn’t believe it.”  He said there is a building just a few blocks from there where ambulances are dispatched and he believes he could have walked over there, gotten hold of some ambulance attendants and walked back, and “would have been there faster than the ambulance.”  [Ambulance paramedics recently threatened to strike, one of their grievances being that ambulance response times are becoming slower.]                                                                                                                                                                      
Regardless of whether an ambulance was in transit, Jim believes police should have checked on Edwards right away, after being told that he had been stabbed and needed immediate medical help.  He says Edwards was obscured from the view of police by “a crowd of Black guys standing around him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Jim was amazed at the amount of back-up that arrived for police.  ”I’ve seen back up before but I’ve never seen so much back-up. There were cop cars everywhere, lights flashing, paddy wagons, but no ambulance.”      

                                                                    Photo:  Tyson Edwards' mother points to a photo of the two of them at his funeral in Burnaby.                                                                                                                                            

Jim was “perturbed” by the conduct of police as the victim lay bleeding on the curb and would later mention it to a journalist at the scene.  ”I told the CBC guy about it and he just laughed.  I said, ‘It’s not funny, a guy lost his life’.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Jim readily acknowledges that he’d had a bit to drink that night. “But I wasn’t drunk,” he says. When he’s picking cans and bottles on weekends, he explained, it’s common to find a half empty mickey or bottle of wine that bar-goers have left in an alley or parking lot.  He generally sips on one while he walks around picking cans.  Jim has lived on the Downtown Eastside for 30 years and he is known as a guy who enjoys going to the Pacific or the Regent Hotel to drink beer.  But he is not known to get aggressive or nasty when he drinks.  And he’s not a drug user; he even hates marijuana.                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Before the ambulance arrived, Jim left the scene and walked around the block picking up more cans and bottles.  When he passed by Richards on Richards again, he saw that the ambulance had arrived.  ”The ambulance was there; it was behind yellow tape”, he said in a low voice.                                                                                                                                                                          There’s an old tv show in which each episode ends with a male voice saying, “There are eight million stories in the naked city, you’ve just heard one of them.”  There are also millions of sides to those stories.  You’ve just heard one of them.     

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dollar Store No More

The Dollar Giant that opened at Pender St. near Main in Chinatown last year boasted, "HONEST! NOTHING OVER A... $1"   

No more.  

They've added ".25" to all the dollar signs in the windows.  Everything in the store is now $1.25, other than food items which will continue to be $1.

I asked a security guard when the prices had gone up.  "About a month ago," he said.  

A clerk told me that the prices have not gone up at all Dollar Giants.  "Not at the one on Kingsway & Clark or the one on Commercial Dr."  The clerk speculated that the price increase at the Chinatown location was due to the number of shoplifters. 

To see another photo, click: Downtown Eastside Enquirer


The prices are still good though.  I dropped in a few days ago and got file folders, a package of five, for $1.25.  

I hope they stay in business.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

A few years back, I knew an Irish immigrant, Paul, a tall, blonde, balding guy with a bushy beard. He had a wife and children, a girl and two boys, out in a suburb of Vancouver. I met him a few times; I know lots of people at UBC where he worked as an electrician.  It was a soft job: one of the guys who worked with Paul in UBC Plant Operations told me, "I don't remember ever taking a coffee break less than half an hour long."

A former co-worker of Paul's told me that he played guitar and had been in a band, in Ireland I believe.  Shortly after he quit, the band made it big.  

Paul eventually got out of doing electrical work by getting elected Vice President of his CUPE Local at UBC.  Rather than working at Plant Operations on campus, he now worked in the union office. He had a secretary and when the union newsletter had his photo in it, he would ask her to give him extra copies to send to the relatives.  Working class boy makes good.

People who worked with Paul agree that he was not at all snobby and enjoyed banter with co-workers, but he was quick to rage and to use dirty tactics against political opponents.  A male manager in UBC Human Resources announced that he would no longer deal with him.  A steam fitter in Plant Operations, an immigrant from Scotland who had begun questioning the dollar amounts on cheques handled by the union office, discovered that Paul had told police that he had threatened him. 

Observers say Paul didn't seem to initially have the confidence to be a union Vice President and morphed into a payroll clerk, immersing himself in correcting minor payroll mistakes, mistakes that were common at the time since UBC had switched to a new payroll system.  But union staff thought these were problems that Paul should have been referring to UBC Financial Services. Eventually Paul started doing that, and even referred himself to one of the female managers in Financial Services.  

It may have been this manager who sent the letter to him at the union office.  Paul never forgave his secretary, Kim, for not seeing the word "Personal" on the front of that letter.  That was the beginning of the end for Kim.  She then pushed her luck by speaking up about working conditions.  Paul got her fired.  That was easy to do since CUPE had been quietly employing non-union secretaries.    

One afternoon when the union office was exceptionally busy and Paul's help was needed, sources say he disappeared.  His explanation was that he had been at this manager's home installing a new overhead light.

He must have been re-installing it at a later date when a staffer in Financial Services walked in on the two of them in a compromising position. "She lost her job," a former co-worker of Paul's at Plant Operations said of the manager.  Paul didn't lose his.  The luck of the Irish.

But then again, some people say the luck of the Irish does not refer to good luck but to bad luck. Then it would be Kim who had the luck of the Irish.

I've heard that the luck of the Irish could also refer to the fact that Irish immigrants were at one time perceived as less than competent, so anything good that happened to them was considered luck. That would bring us back to Paul.

Monday, March 16, 2009

We're Full Up So Bugger Off!

Photo: The building on the left is the homeless shelter near Main and Terminal, Mar. 8/09

The new homeless shelter that Mayor Robertson's administration set up across from McDonald's near Main & Terminal Ave is doing a brisk business.  

It was raining last night and a guy sitting in the back of McDonald's restaurant with his head on the table woke up when he heard another guy, an old hippie travelling to London, Ont., ask me if there was a shelter nearby; I suggested he try the one across the street.  The snoozer said that shelter was full.  He had been there at 5:35 p.m. and was turned away.  He was amazed that they were already full as the place had just opened at 5 p.m. 

Another guy sitting in McDonald's confirmed that the shelter was full.  He said he had stayed there the previous night though, and his cell phone had been stolen.  He had answered it in the morning when he got a call from his boss, and had fallen back to sleep with it in his hand.  He never saw it again.  The hippie -- who used to live in Vancouver and manage the Cobalt Hotel -- was explaining that the trick to sleeping in a shelter is to wear two pairs of pants and put your valuables in the inside pair.  The guy who had his cell phone stolen said he had also recently had his pack stolen at that shelter.

Anyway the snoozer explained that if you go back to the homeless shelter at 11 p.m., they might have space.  That's because some people sign in early and eat, but don't return to sleep.  

These people being turned away from the shelter reminded me of a physiotherapist I knew in Vancouver.  She said she had  been working in a hospital and at Christmas the kids in the hospital performed a play in front of an audience of parents.  A young native boy played the Inn keeper and when Joseph came to the door to ask if there was any room in the Inn, he responded, 

"We're full up so bugger off!"   

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Man Stabbed Near Carnegie Center This Evening

A man was stabbed in the back on Main St., just a little south of Carnegie Center where Chinatown begins, at around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.  The victim was pressing his hand against his wound.  

Smokers sitting on the Carnegie outdoor patio went over to the railing to gawk at the police and amublance arriving.  Police had yellow tape around the crime scene but have since taken it down.

Drug dealers and users hang around on that area of the sidewalk.  

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Daring to Utter the I-Word on International Women's Day

On International Women's Day, what crossed my mind was the Violence Against Women exhibit I had walked past in the lobby of the Central Library on Dec. 6th, and the photos I had taken there but never found time to post. The exhibit marked the anniversary of the murder of 17 women at L'ecole Polytechnique in Montreal by Marc Lapine but was intended to raise awareness about violations of women everywhere.

The women hosting the display had posted an assertion on one of their billboards that they believed it was important to identify themselves as "feminists" in a public space.

They were willing to use the F-word in public space but apparently not the I-word.  The fact that the shotgun murders of these 14 women was at least partially a product of the misogyny of Islam is one that has been largely censored by feminists as well as the mainstream media in Canada.

Marc Lapine was born Gamil Gharbi but he changed his name at the age of 14.  His father was an Algerian-born follower of Islam, whose Canadian-born wife discovered, as she told a divorce court, that he "had a total disdain for women and believed they were intended only to serve men." It’s not an accident that he had that attitude. That’s what Mohammed taught, the prophet who spoke for Allah.

And it may not be an accident that his son Marc Lepine was yelling “alla akber or something…” (sounds suspiciously like "God is great" in Arabic)  as he gunned women down, a female witness told a radio station on the day of the massacre. That was reported by writer Mark Steyn, whose source was a good friend in Montreal. But that radio interview was never to be heard again. Censored.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalia-born devout Muslim who became a feminist and has written about Islam’s misogyny, says that Islam, unlike other religions such as Christianity and Judaism, is determined to push the world back into the 7th Century. Islamists responded by issuing a death order. She now needs 24 hr. guards. That’s the way Islam deals with feminists. It’s hardly surprising that Marc Lepine yelled, “feminists!” as he gunned down women at L’ecole Polytechnique.  

But western liberals, leftists, feminists -- with a few exceptions such as the feminist writer Phyllis Chesler who was once married to a man from Afghanistan -- protect Islam. Take an example from the Downtown Eastside:  when Islam's misogyny was mentioned on the Downtown Eastside Enquirer, a woman who lives at the Lori Krill Housing Co-operative, a bastion of political correctness on Cordova St., sent us a message accusing us of making "racist commentary about Muslims". Being Muslim isn't a race.  But never let the facts interfere with shaming critics into censoring themselves about Islam's trampling of women's rights.

In the days leading up to International Women's Day, the Islamic court in Saudi Arabia upheld the marriage of an 8 year old girl to a 47 year old man to pay off her father's debts.  In the days following International Women's Day, the Islamic court sentenced a 75-year old woman to 40 lashes and a prison term for being in the same room as two men who were not relatives, even though they were just delivering bread.

Married eight-year old 

Next year on International Women's Day, do women a favor:  use the I-word in a public space.  

Snowing in March

It was snowing this afternoon in Vancouver.  This photo was taken from the Georgia Viaduct with BC Place on the left.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fire Whitty

Ethel Whitty is not delivering.  

This afternoon the poor were locked out of the City-funded computer room at Carnegie ...yet again. The door to the room was locked and the lights were out, as Whitty sat just a few metres away in her office.  Two low income people have confirmed that they were denied this "service" today. The funding for the computer room is simply not consistently reaching the poor.

As residential taxes are about to be hiked as much as 11% and City Manager Penny Ballem must create more efficient service delivery, it's time to fire Whitty.  

Trail of Blood in Gastown

Early this morning there was a trail of blood on the sidewalk in Gastown.   I've seen trails of blood on two previous occasions when walking through Gastown in the early morning.

Gang Unit Searches Vehicle near Richards on Richards Nightclub


On Friday, Mar. 6 at 2 a.m., the Gang Unit stopped the white vehicle in the photo above on Richards St. near Nelson, on the same block as Richards on Richards nightclub.  They handcuffed the passengers, both men and women, and searched the car.   

Before searching, a middle-aged officer turned to the passengers now sitting on the sidewalk and asked if they knew of anything he was going to find in the vehicle.  They said no.  The officer did not appear to find anything. 

The Gang Unit travels in black SUVs.

The officer standing in the center of the above photo watching the passengers seated on the sidewalk, attempted with his arm to wave away the photographer standing on the other side of the street. Shortly afterwards, the officer turned around and said, "Please put your camera away."

A complaint the public is often heard making is that there is too much respect for the Charter rights of gang members.  Apparently there is not enough for the Charter rights of photographers.   

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Waves of Gentrification

photo: Waves coffee shop at Main St. & Cordova, Mar. 2/09

They say that with gentrification comes dog walkers and specialty coffee shops.

Another Waves coffee shop is opening on the Downtown Eastside, just two blocks from the first one that opened last year at Main & Pender.  The new Waves at Main and Cordova will open on March 16th, in the now renovated space that used to house Vic's Coffee Shop, where you could get good coffee and the occasional bout of e coli.

There were lots of staff in Waves today, all wearing the same dark uniforms.  At first, I thought the place was swarming with cops.  

The new location may prove profitable if the Vancouver Police building across the street once again becomes police headquarters, a move Chief Chu supports.  Chu told the media last month that he would like to move VPD headquarters back to the Downtown Eastside, as the move to Cambie St. allowed the Downtown Eastside to deteriorate.  Even police officers driving to and from work in the neighborhood, Chu said, can deter open crime.

Waves has free internet access which there is never enough of on the Downtown Eastside.  An increasing number of Downtown Eastsiders, frustrated with the unreliable access to Vancouver Public Library computers at the Carnegie Center computer room where Director Ethel Whitty too often allows staff to lock the poor out, are purchasing netbooks now that the prices have come down. But often they don't have internet connections at home.