Canada’s fateful next step

October 17, 2012 at 3:11 pm | In canada, green, justice, politics, resources, scandal | Comments Off on Canada’s fateful next step

Canada’s government, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is about to sign into law a new trade agreement with China. The agreement has had no public input by the Canadian people or their elected representatives. One can only suppose that it’s designed to enrich Canada’s corporate class. It certainly impoverishes Canada’s democracy.

As The Tyee, in an article entitled Chairman Harper put it:

By Nov. 1 three of China’s national oil companies will have more power to shape Canada’s energy markets as well as challenge the politics of this country than Canadians themselves. And you can thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for this economic treason. (source)

Read the article for more details, each of which is more stunning than the last. This agreement, the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPPA), marks “Canada’s formal entry into the ranks of dysfunctional petro states,” as The Tyee puts it.

If you’re concerned about this and you’re Canadian, please sign LeadNow’s petition, Stop the Sell-Out – Canada is NOT for Sale.

The following is the response I received from Elizabeth May, the leader of Canada’s Green Party and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands:

Thank you for your interest in the Canada-China Investment Treaty. Although Stephen Harper prefers to keep Canadians in the dark about this Agreement’s grave implications for our sovereignty, security, and democracy, I am hopeful that we can force the issue into daylight. Your letter proves that you recognize the seriousness and urgency of what is about to take place behind our backs.

While the Canada-China Investment Treaty will likely be our most significant treaty since NAFTA, Stephen Harper plans to sign it into law as early as November 2nd, 2012, without any public consultation, any consultation with First Nations, any Parliamentary debate, or even a single vote in the House of Commons. I do not accept such blatant disrespect for either the will of Canadians or for our democratic institutions.

Sadly, in addition to the anti-democratic process to approve this Agreement, it is the actual content of this investment deal with which I am most concerned. For the first time in Canadian history, the Canada-China Investment Treaty will allow investors (including Chinese state-owned enterprises such as CNOOC or Sinopec), to claim damages against the Canadian government in secret, for decisions taken at the municipal, provincial, territorial or federal level that result in a reduction of their expectation of profits. Even decisions of Canadian courts can give rise to damages.

Realizing what the Conservatives were attempting to do, in secret and without debate, and realizing that we will be bound by this destructive Agreement for up to 31 years once it is ratified, on October 1st, 2012, I made a request in the House of Commons for an Emergency Debate to allow Canada’s democratically elected Members of Parliament to study the implications of the Canada-China Investment Treaty.

Although my request for an Emergency Debate was regrettably denied, we have not given up and are continuing to pursue all available options to stop the treaty’s approval. Given what is at stake, we hope that you will join us.

In addition to the tools found on our Canada-China Investment Treaty campaign site at, I urge you to push back against this sell-out of our sovereignty, security, and democracy, and help to educate Canadians by talking to your friends and neighbours, writing letters to the editor in local and national newspapers, calling in to talk radio shows, and filling up the comment boards of news website.

Crucially, this is not a partisan issue, and it is only by coming together to stand up for Canada that we will succeed in stopping this agreement.


Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands
Leader of the Green Party of Canada

I am so glad that May and Canada’s Greens are paying attention, and that the NDP is now also on board with stopping this incredible sell-out of Canada and its resources. Canadians: hewers of wood and carriers of water forever, eh? In whose interest, exactly?


Where’s our “I, Claudius” when we need it?

December 22, 2011 at 8:14 pm | In arts, authenticity, justice, philanthropy, politics | 1 Comment

When I read about art events like this, I can’t help but think of I, Claudius and its relentless chronicle of Rome in decline…

…performance art legend Marina Abramović created a stir when she was accused of exploiting other artists during L.A.’s MOCA gala. Guests at the posh event paid up to $10,000 dollars so they could be seated at one of her tables decorated with centerpieces that included rotating human heads and naked bodies pseudo-copulating with skeletons. Gala guests were allowed to touch the performers and feed them, because the live tabletop pieces signed a non-disclosure agreement and were paid off with a whopping $150 bucks that allowed them to be manhandled as desired. (source)

Who are these $10K-per-plate patrons of the arts who shock and amuse themselves by feeding or otherwise stimulating human centerpieces?

(See also this article about an artist who protested.)

On the erosion of the middle class, see also Rich Shopper, Poor Shopper (PBS Newshour, Making Sen$e) – high end and low end are “doing alright,” but the middle is absent.

The poor artists are renting themselves out for $150 at events where the rich pay $10,000 to support the arts. This is one f-upped world.


December 13, 2011 at 10:58 am | In innovation, justice, politics | Comments Off on Stop SOPA

I’ve censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet–a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit:

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Uncensor This

Respect and the authoritarian personality

June 11, 2010 at 11:55 pm | In ideas, johnson street bridge, justice, victoria | 7 Comments

Aretha Franklin demanded it, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, because to get it confers authority on the person who is respected. Singing from the perspective of the blues, that is, of the oppressed, to get authority and therefore respect is a good thing.

But what happens when established authorities themselves harp on demands for respect? Or when the supporters of the powerful circle the wagons and call those who are critical “disrespectful”?

What happens when demands for respect are just a cover to protect the powerful from criticism?

That’s a question I’ve been grappling with, here on Fantasy Island (aka Victoria BC), where it’s common coin to tell those who are critical that criticism is (a) “disrespectful” and of course (b) unwise, because, after all, it’s a small town and we just can’t “afford” to piss anyone off.

Telling someone that they’re “disrespectful” is a put-down of the first order that squashes ideas (and critique). You’re essentially telling that person that they have no right to speak: you’re being a “daddy” (or perhaps a “mommy”) who’s tutoring the ignorant in manners.

That’s the way of all authoritarians, isn’t it? It’s so easy to shut people up by telling them that they’re not respectful. Add to this cop-out strategy the tendency for people to feel offended by the slightest thing, and respect becomes the currency of the realm.

It would be interesting to see The Authoritarian Personality, a (somewhat flawed) 1950 study on right-wing authoritarianism, get a rethink with an eye to our Western culture of entitlement and our prickliness about being offended.

The study has been criticized (mainly because it focuses on right-wing authoritarianism), but check out the F-Scale Test and see how many questions still resonate …even on the supposed left. Granted, none of the flaming right-wing questions would be answered in the affirmative by anyone in “proper” society these days, but it’s almost uncanny how many of the questions apply if you make slight alterations. Take the following three, for example:

[2] A person who has bad manners, habits, and breeding can hardly expect to get along with decent people. [substitute: doesn’t subscribe to “our” way of thinking, doesn’t try to fit in, isn’t “one of us”…]

[5] Science has its place, but there are many important things that can never be understood by the human mind.  (and) [6] Every person should have complete faith in some supernatural power whose decisions he obeys without question.  [group-think on eco-spiritualism / new ageism, anyone?]

Anyway, we live in interesting times when a politician (for example the City of Victoria’s mayor) can shut down debate by telling a perfectly reasonable critic that he is disrespectful – all the while totally avoiding the criticism that was leveled – or when a supporter of a politician is offended by a critic calling that politician “foolish,” offended to the point of accusing the critic of being “disrespectful.” Interesting – and definitely strange – times indeed.

As far as I can see, the authoritarian personality is alive and well, right here in Victoria.


Front-line/Downtown – Community Solutions

April 2, 2009 at 1:25 pm | In addiction, community_associations, crime, health, homelessness, housing, justice, leadership, local_not_global, victoria | 1 Comment

On Monday March 30, the Downtown Residents Association (DRA) hosted a public meeting, On The Front Lines: Community Solutions for Homelessness and Social Issues, at City Hall. Moderated by DRA chair Rob Randall, we heard from Victoria City Councilor Charlayne Thornton-Joe, the Coalition to End Homelessness‘s Jill Clements, the Downtown Victoria Business Association’s Ken Kelley, and Victoria Police Department Chief Jamie Graham.

Rob wrote a follow-up report on his blog – go check it out (especially the comments). Davin Greenwell also posted a great summary, and included photo documentation, so do take a look at it here.

I haven’t commented on Rob’s post, but just left a long comment on Davin’s entry. Click through to read my (partial) response to the session.

One of the categories I’m filing my post under is “leadership,” a quality that Jill Clements of the Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness seems to have, and it’s something we expect from Jamie Graham. We also see it in Charlayne Thornton-Joe.

As I was checking off categories, I also checked “justice,” as I was reminded of Graham’s discussion of implementing Restorative Justice (see Saanich’s program), which we hope to see used more frequently in Victoria. Incidentally, Restorative Justice is modeled on First Nations approaches to crime and social disorder, and reminded me that the American Congress (and Senate?) is modeled on a New World/ First Nations approach (vs. the British Parliamentarianism we still practice in Canada, where everyone shouts at the same time and heckles the opposition). Sorry, can’t provide a link right now, but just think of the concept of the talking stick. Works for me – bring it on.

Canadian cities in a quagmire?

December 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm | In affordable_housing, canada, cities, housing, justice, social_critique, street_life, vancouver | Comments Off on Canadian cities in a quagmire?

We’re experiencing an exceptional cold weather spell in southwestern British Columbia, and last night a 47-year old homeless woman died in Vancouver.  She burned to death, trying to keep warm with a live fire; the police think her blankets must have caught fire. The story is all over the news of course, including here: Woman’s body discovered in burning shopping cart.  Like so many others, she kept her possessions – and at night, herself – in a shopping cart.  The cart, enclosed by blankets, became her pyre.  Unlike many people who are homeless, she was also a drug addict and shelter-resistant (someone who refuses to use shelters).

Regardless of where you stand on the issues surrounding homelessness, shelters, affordable housing, and what to do about people who are mentally ill or drug addicted, there’s one thing that struck me in the news item.  It showed once again that Canadian cities don’t have the autonomy they need, and that they will continue to face unique problems because of this lack.

I’ve written several times that it’s wrong that cities in Canada are “creatures of the Provinces” that don’t have real powers while simultaneously the senior levels of government have downloaded (or offloaded, the terms are used interchangeably) more and more responsibilities to them.  Trying to solve homelessness with the limited abilities to raise money that cities in Canada have is a huge challenge.  Compound this with problems posed by people who are seriously mentally ill or drug addicted, and you get a quagmire.

Quagmire, as in beyond “mere” crisis.

Tracey, the woman who died, was approached three times by Vancouver police and asked if she would come inside into a shelter.  She refused, and got quite angry by the third try, which took place around 12:30 a.m. Dec.19.  By 4:30, she had set herself alight.  What’s the city to do?

Here’s what the article says:

[Gregor] Robertson [Vancouver’s newly-elected mayor] is considering other ways to remove mentally ill people from the streets in life and death circumstances.

“We can’t literally let people die on our streets that can’t take care of themselves,” he said. “That’s immoral in my mind.”

One of the options is a program called “Code Blue,” where outreach workers can forcibly bring people inside if they’re believe to suffer from mental illness. It’s used in New York when temperatures dip below -9 C.

“It is something to look at,” says Rev. Bruce Curtiss of Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission. “If someone is out there and not in a capacity for whatever reason.”

A final decision could not be made by the city and would rest with B.C.’s provincial government. There’s concern a Canadian version of Code Blue would be unconstitutional.

“The issue there really is ‘are we barred by the charter of rights and freedom from implementing that particular system or is there some other approach that our government could use to help someone like this individual?'” said B.C. Solicitor General John Van Dongen.

Yes, and while the B.C. Solicitor General studies the problem and the city consults with its lawyers, more people will die.

Remember that Vancouver, alone among Canada’s cities (at least in the West) has a Charter of its own, and therefore more autonomy than other Canadian cities.  (It’s a unique fluke that Vancouver has a charter, as far as I understand it. Lucky Vancouver.)

But even Vancouver is hog-tied, if not by the Province (of which, even with a Charter, it is still a “creature”), but also by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which seems to have been concocted at a heady time when all freedoms (especially in the abstract …sorry, do I sound jaundiced?) seemed like a great idea and no one considered that cities would be the refuge of people who are homeless – a difficult enough situation in itself – but who might also pose extra challenges if they are in addition mentally incapacitated or drug addicted to the point where they will simply die on the street unless forced to survive (by being sheltered).

Oh, and don’t forget: Canadian cities are supposed to “solve” all this downloaded misery with 8-cents from every dollar that Canadians pay in taxes, and with property and business taxes they collect from the folks in their municipality. They can’t float bonds and they can’t collect income or consumption taxes.


Connect the dots: two articles by Miro Cernetig and Bob Ransford that should be read together

March 24, 2008 at 10:16 pm | In addiction, affordable_housing, canada, cities, crime, homelessness, housing, justice, leadership, local_not_global, social_critique, street_life, taxes, urbanism, vancouver, victoria | 1 Comment

The Vancouver Sun published two articles, nearly back-to-back, which make a lot of sense when read in conjunction: on March 22, we read Bob Ransford’s As cities become more complex, our taxes keep rising and on March 24 we read Milo Cernetig’s Approach to social woes a moral failure by all three main B.C. parties.

These two articles have to be comprehended together. One (Ransford’s) wants people to understand the economics of taxation that underlie municipal finance, while the other (Cernetig’s) wants people to understand how a certain kind of underfunding has produced the horrible social problems we see in our (BC) cities today. Cernetig references Vancouver, but Victoria has similar problems.

I have for some months now picked up on the criticisms of municipal infrastructure funding in Canada — even going so far as to publish a short piece on Vibrant Victoria on Dec.3/07, Victoria’s Choice: to be or not to be …is not the question. The gist of Ransford’s article elaborates on the theme I also addressed in my piece: cities (in my opinion, Canadian cities especially, although Ransford argues that it’s a Western/ First World global problem) are too dependent on single sources of income, primarily property taxes, while so-called senior levels of government (state or provincial, and federal) receive funding from many diverse sources of income: consumption taxes, income taxes, and so on. At the same time, cities are in the front line of having to provide services on every level.

This is lunacy, especially when you take into account the fact that cities generate most of a nation’s economic activity and wealth, and that they also will typically attract the largest populations of people dependent on what is collectively referred to as “services”: supported housing, addiction treatment, food banks, welfare, etc. Poor people come to cities because this is where the services are. Very often, they are in a city’s downtown, which is why you’ll find neighbourhoods in downtowns that become magnets for the visibly needy.

The problem is that these services are underfunded or even non-existent, some having once been funded by one of the two senior levels of government, but now having been off- or downloaded to municipalities.

And there we are, connecting the dots.

The Feds “downloaded” to the Provinces those services that used to be Federally-funded. The Provinces in turn have downloaded Provincially-funded services to the municipalities.

And, …well, the municipalities have no one to download to …except us. And that, in a nutshell, is my argument: citizens — people who live in cities — are shouldering the downloaded costs of all the stuff that all the other levels of government, including the municipalities, used to handle. Beggars on the streets; addicts shooting up in broad daylight; mentally ill people freaking out on corners; homeless people in every nook and cranny of public and private spaces; human feces on the sidewalks and in doorways; used needles in parks and on sidewalks; drug deals transacted openly on downtown streets… The list goes on.

The police refer to the mentally ill who openly use illegal drugs and defecate on the street and sleep in doorways as their “clients.” It seems to have gone by the board that the police shouldn’t be dealing with people on that end of the spectrum of social disorder in the first place — the police should be dealing with criminals and with law enforcement. When the people on that end of the spectrum engage in criminal activity — and they do, because they steal to stay alive and to feed their addictions — the police act like social workers …because that’s the role that has been downloaded to them, too.

Criminals exploit this.

My neighbours, who came home at 11pm on a recent weekend night to find that their basement door had been kicked in by thieves while they were away, thieves who robbed them of various items and who apparently fled just as the family returned home, had to wait for over 12 hours before the police could come over. And why was that? Perhaps they were too busy taking care of “clients”…

We — citizens — are the bottom of the food chain in this story. We — citizens — are the last link to off- or download to. We — citizens — are supposed to feel guilty if we don’t express or display the appropriate level of compassion toward the marginalized. But the citizen might ask herself, “Whatever happened to the idea that I pay my taxes, and that they pay for services intended to ameliorate these conditions?” The citizen still pays her taxes — and pays and pays and pays, if she lives in Canada — and the senior levels of government boast of surpluses. The municipalities, meanwhile, relying almost solely on the property taxes she and the many other citizens in the urban area pay, find themselves shouldering the cost of upgrading ancient infrastructure (sewage, roads, parks, recreation centres, etc.), plus the cost of “helping” the growing pool of service seekers.

But there are no provincial mental hospitals anymore, there is no affordable housing or supportive housing being built by the province or the feds, and all the damage that accrues from this out-casting has been downloaded to Joe and Jane Schmuck, i.e., you and me Citizen Jim and Citizen Jill.

That’s the dot.

Let me just present a couple of extract from the above-mentioned articles. Here’s Ransford:

Am I getting value for dollar for the property taxes I pay to local government? Politicians and bureaucrats at city hall would argue that I am getting more for my dollar than I ever have. Despite the fact that the number of employees at my city hall has grown faster than the rate of local population growth, the people that work there will tell you they are doing much more with fewer resources.

The fact is that cities across the country have become much more complex organizations than they were in the past and they have taken on more and more responsibilities. The federal and provincial governments have downloaded a long list of responsibilities on municipal governments. They have also stopped doing things that they once did as governments and the municipalities have stepped in and taken over where a need had to be met.

Social or non-market housing is a good example. Providing housing for the truly needy used to be almost the sole responsibility of the federal government. They started backing out of this area in the late 1980s and have next to no involvement today in funding what most are identifying is a desperate social need in our urban centres

The role of municipal governments has evolved. No longer do you look to your municipality merely to fix the potholes in the road in front of your house or to build and maintain the pipes that dispose of the sewage when you flush your toilet..

As Ransford points out (on page 2 of the article), a key problem here is aging populations:

The concept of a tax tied to the value of your home is beginning to make less practical sense with an aging urban population that will soon be dominated by retirees on fixed retirement incomes with all of their equity tied up in relatively expensive homes.

There’s only one kind of civic taxpayer and one source of civic revenue. There is a looming danger that taxpayer will soon no longer be able to fund the full cost of what it takes to run a city.

I would further add to Ransford’s excellent summing-up that Victoria’s troubles are uniquely compounded by our balkanized political system, which splits Victoria into many separate un-amalgamated municipalities (the Capital Regional District, which is all of Victoria, is 13 municipalities, each with its own mayor and council, fire chief, police department, and so on). At the same time, the City of Victoria holds the region’s downtown, the place where everyone comes for services — social services that range from food banks, charities, needle “exchanges,” and plain old week-end partying — many of which require policing and various levels of clean-up. Who pays? The City of Victoria, not the surrounding municipalities, which merely take advantage of what the City offers.

Let’s look at Milo Cernetig’s article now. He gets a gold star (in my book) for slamming all the BC provincial parties — too often and for too long, the problems we’re facing have been presented in partisan terms: it’s the BC Liberals’ fault (note to non-BC readers: the BC Liberals are sort of neo-conservative, and have little in common with the Federal Liberals); or it’s the NDP’s fault, and so on. Yadda yadda yadda. Blah blah blah.

Forget about it. That partisan shit has to stop, because it’s obvious that none of the parties have covered themselves in glory here, and that whole partisan shtick is old beyond words.

Here are some excerpts from Cernetig’s piece:

…here’s the fast-rewind of the amazing arc of policy blunders — given to us by a melange of Social Credit, New Democratic and Liberal governments — that I tried to explain.

First, imagine progressively shrinking the province’s major psychiatric hospital, Riverview, to save money. Then, in a cruel twist, offer no safe harbour for many of those psychiatric patients, who politicians told us would benefit from being “deinstitutionalized” and put back into society.

Instead, let large numbers of these truly desperate souls fend for themselves on our streets. Let them line up for a room in those bedbug-infested flophouses our health inspectors, for reasons that mystify, somehow allow to stay open. While we’re at it, we’ll also slow down the construction of new social housing, too, since it’s too expensive.

So now we’ve got all these lost souls begging and wandering the city’s downtown, often in a schizophrenic or crystal meth haze.

But we really haven’t done much about it. We’re not good at the tough job of distinguishing between vagrants (who should be moved on by the cops), or chronic criminals (who should be put in jail by judges) and the truly sick (who should be taken to shelters or hospitals by good beat cops, if we had enough of them).

Nope. We somehow got used to the sight of people sprawled on sidewalks and inside the doorways of the world’s “most livable” city.

There it is: another dot: We somehow got used to the sight of people sprawled on sidewalks and inside the doorways of the world’s “most livable” city.

The “somehow” in that sentence is “downloading.” We have been worn down by senior levels of government absenting themselves from the business of governing (a big piece of which includes providing services in exchange for all the money we fork over), and in the British tradition (within which we exist here), we have taken it uncomplainingly up the rear end, “muddling through” and accepting it all as if it were an inevitability.

That’s why we put up with the sight of what Cernetig describes, put up with open drug use, criminal transactions in plain daylight, and lunatics on our streets. In the British tradition, we are, after all, but subjects of these governments, not its master. Just as every level has downloaded — until there’s no one left to download to except to you and me, so every level absolves itself of accountability, because of course there’s always a higher level to defer to. In the last instance, the senior levels can defer to “the Crown,” a cruel joke referencing Canadian impotence.

The emancipation of Canadian cities is a project so inextricably tied to emancipation from old ways of tutelage and subjugation that it will amount to a revolution if it is ever to happen.

Unfortunately, since there has never been a Canadian revolution, I don’t hold out much hope for the emancipation / empowerment of Canadian cities. Perhaps — counter to my current pessimism — we’ll eventually strike some sort of paternalistic bargain with the “higher” levels of government after all. Since they hold the power already, they might grok the problem and step up, if only to maintain their hold.

At this point, I almost don’t care as long as the downloading stops.

Photograph by Ian Lindsay, from Milo Cernetig’s article.

The caption reads “A homeless person sleeps on a Cordova Street sidewalk in February. Figures show that investing in social housing would save B.C. $211 million annually.”

Daily Diigo Public Link 03/24/2008

March 23, 2008 at 5:39 pm | In architecture, justice, links | Comments Off on Daily Diigo Public Link 03/24/2008

“Saint Brad” by Andrew Blum (Metropolis Magazine) Annotated

tags: andrew_blum, architecture, brad_pitt, make_it_right_project, metropolis_magazine, new_orleans, rebuilding, urbanplanning

As I don’t follow celebrity news, I had no idea that Brad Pitt is a “design junkie” or a pivotal mover-and-shaker in the rebuilding of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. (I barely know that Pitt and another actress — Angelina Jolie? — are linked/married/ or something… d’oh… )

Andrew Blum’s article shines a good light (good as in “kind” and “illuminating”) on Pitt’s efforts, as embodied in the non-profit he started called “Make It Right” (MIR). And it does an excellent job educating me on the bizarre, yet potentially wonderful, nexus of pop culture/ money/ starchitecture momentum that Pitt has engineered.

The list of star architects makes my jaw drop; Blum discusses their efforts, and doesn’t hesitate to poiint out where some of them go wrong (and others get it right). As Blum puts it, “If Pitt can pull this off, he will have transformed a swath of the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood symbolic of everything rotten in America, into one of the world’s most design-intensive sustainable communities.”

The article is well-illustrated (Blum’s blog doesn’t have the illustrations, but this link to Metropolis Magazine does).

On Robert Dziekanski’s death by Taser at the hands of the RCMP at Vancouver International Airport

November 17, 2007 at 12:02 am | In canada, justice, social_critique | 5 Comments

Below, several articles that report on this matter. I watched the video two days ago, it’s shocking on several levels. It’s a record of stupidity aggregating into calamity — the endless prattle of the moron in the background, insisting that Dziekanski is speaking Russian, alerting us to every detail (“he threw a chair” blah blah blah), and who is clearly chomping at the bit for action of some sort: that is the sound of the devil’s lowest minion hissing into your ear. Frightening, that people can be so stupid. When the RCMP arrives, the stupidity is complete, and thoroughly evil.

Where’s the accountability? In one of the articles, RCMP Cpl. Dale Carr actually has the gall to complain that people are being mean to him by complaining about the RCMP officers’ actions. (Boo-hoo, Cpl. Carr.) Oh, so this is what we do in Canada, eh? We don’t take responsibility, we whine about being picked on? And as for the airport staff — they’ve got their union to protect their hide. No one there will step up, no manager is going to go and commit seppuko on the runway for having a staff that lets a passenger wait, unattended, for nearly 10 hours in a holding area (after what was probably a 15-hour journey), dehydrated, sleep-deprived, and disoriented. Oh no, heaven forbid anyone should step up and actually admit that he or she fucked up.

It’s not just the RCMP, everybody was in on this one.

It’s also very interesting to see how individuality and reason break down in a group dynamic like this. The woman who approaches Dziekanski and tries to talk to him is the only one showing compassion. For the others, it looks like it’s just …spectacle.

From UPI: Report: Cops broke rules in Taser death

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Nov. 16 (UPI) — Police officers involved in the Taser death of a man at the Vancouver airport appear to have violated recommendations in a 2005 report.

Robert Dziekanski, an immigrant from Poland, died Oct. 14 after being stunned with the electric shock weapon. The incident was recorded on video.

The video shows that Dziekanski, who apparently became agitated after waiting at the airport for several hours for his mother to meet him, was not a danger to anyone else. Dziekanski was shocked twice and the four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers then restrained him face down, with two of them kneeling on his neck and back.

The British Columbia police complaint commissioner said in 2005 that police should only use Tasers on people who pose a threat to others or were actively resisting arrest, The Vancouver Province reported. The report said there should be no multiple shocks, and after using a Taser police should be careful not to restrain subjects in any way that would impede their breathing.

A woman who witnessed the incident told the Toronto Globe & Mail that Dziekanski’s agitation appeared to be a product of language difficulties and that an interpreter would have been able to calm him down.

From the Canadian Press: Victoria man who shot airport Taser video says experience changing his life:

VICTORIA – Paul Pritchard was on an emergency flight home to Victoria to help his ailing father when he was confronted by another real-life emergency at Vancouver airport that changed his life.

The 25-year-old teacher arrived on a flight from China and stumbled into a deadly drama, recording with his video camera the final moments of a Polish immigrant who died after being shot by an RCMP Taser stun gun.

Pritchard says the video has helped him realize it’s time to get serious about his future and his proud father says his son has always had his feet squarely planted on the ground and a deep sense of what’s right.

Pritchard’s video of events leading up to the death of Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14 raced around the world on the Internet and on TV broadcasts after it was released Wednesday.

The Mounties themselves called it the single best record they had of what happened early that Sunday morning in a near empty international arrivals area, though investigators insist it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Still, the emotional public reaction to the video and the furious political debate surrounding the police’s use of Tasers convinces Pritchard changes are afoot when it comes to the current use of weapons by police.

“Something good is going to come out of it,” Pritchard said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“For me, to have a part in changing something at a national level is huge. This is definitely … changing my life.”

Pritchard’s father John, who is dying of an illness neither he nor his son would discuss, said he’s proud of how his son handled the battle to regain control of the video from police and the intense spotlight he’s been under for a month as a result.

“He’s always had a sense of fairness and loyalty about being bullied,” said John Pritchard.

“He would never back down, like in school. He would never back down to older boys who wanted to push him around.”

Pritchard leaped to prominence soon after the Taser incident when he went public with complaints the RCMP had reneged on a promise to return the video recording, which he handed over voluntarily, within 48 hours. Police gave it back after he threatened legal action.

The recording was made public Wednesday evening and the major Canadian TV networks paid Pritchard a small fee for its use.

The Canadian Press was also given a copy and posted it for use by its online news clients but did not pay a fee.

Pritchard was whisked to New York on Thursday to tape appearances on U.S. network television.

“I woke up this morning and did a couple of phone interviews and all of a sudden I’m flying to New York,” he said Thursday.

Pritchard said he’s considering becoming a reporter now after spending the last two years travelling and teaching English in China.

“I’m looking into a journalism route now,” he said. “I’m really interested in how the media has worked. I’ve got to see the whole media side of things and it’s kind of sparked an interest in me.”

Pritchard said he’s been content until now to travel, but it’s now time to make long-term plans.

“I was travelling around the world,” he said. “I had a couple years left in me. My plans, I was moving to India after China. I was going to South America after that.”

John Pritchard said his son has always stuck to his principles and his determination to ensure the public saw the video is a sign of that inner strength.

“He’s not always made the right decision, like all teenagers,” he said. “But there’s also a very sensitive side to him which I don’t think he lets come through that often.”

He said he’s seen pictures of Paul teaching children in China and the Philippines that show his caring side.

Paul Pritchard said he leaned on his father for guidance after witnessing the Taser incident. He said it was his father who gave him the phone number of a lawyer to contact about getting his video back.

“I needed someone’s influence and help in these situations with my choices, for most of them anyway,” said Pritchard.

“I’ve got a father who’s dying … It’s really brought us together at a pivotal point in my life, our life.”

A cultural analyst at the University of Victoria’s English faculty said Pritchard should guard against being caught up and spit out of a media whirlwind.

He must remember he was a witness to an extraordinary event and he’s not an expert in police tactics or dealing with traumatic situations, said Prof. Kim Blank.

“He’s become somewhat of a celebrity just by the fact of witnessing something,” he said.

Blank said he can’t say if the Taser incident will end up changing Pritchard’s life.

“It may open up some doors. It may make him interested in something he wasn’t interested in before,” he said. “But he may feel he ends up getting used. People can go from naivete to experience very quickly in this.”

John Pritchard said everything has happened so quickly that he and his son haven’t had the chance to talk about the pros and cons of the video experience.

“I’m just myself wondering now how he views the outcome of all of this and where it’s going to go,” he said.

But Pritchard said he’s extremely proud of what his son has done.

“I can’t walk very far at the moment, so he takes me shopping,” he said. “He’s been a really really good son and I’m very proud of him, very thankful he came home.”

From CBC news: Few answers from Airport Customs union in Taser death:

Can’t explain why no one offered help to connect Dziekanski, mother

Last Updated: Friday, November 16, 2007 | 6:54 PM ET


The head of the union representing customs officers at the Vancouver airport says it was unusual no one offered to help Robert Dziekanski connect with his mother the night he died, after being stunned with a Taser by the RCMP.

Before police arrived, Robert Dziekanski picked up a small table and put it in the doorway between the customs exit area and a public lounge.Before police arrived, Robert Dziekanski picked up a small table and put it in the doorway between the customs exit area and a public lounge.
(Paul Pritchard)

George Scott, vice-president with the Customs Excise Union, told CBC News he can’t explain why nobody was willing to check where Dziekanski was on the night of October 14, despite repeated requests from his mother.

“It’s something that wouldn’t be hard to find out,” Scott told CBC News on Thursday said. “We certainly do have the resources.”

The comments from the union leader are the first public statement about Canada Border Services Agency conduct during the incident.

The agency has remained silent about how Dzeikanski went unnoticed for more than eight hours in the highly controlled customs and passport area inside the immigration hall at the airport.

Meanwhile on the other side of the wall, Dziekanski’s mother Sofia Cisowski spent more than six hours in the international arrivals lounge that night trying desperately — even crying to officials — to persuade anyone at the airport to help her make contact with her son.

“I was asking the woman and she said do not worry because security people or somebody else… they’ll find him,” Cisowski told CBC news.

But nobody did. Larry Berg, the Vancouver Airport C.E.O was also unable to explain why airport staff would not help Cisowski contact her son in the immigration hall.

Airport staff refused to help mother find son

“I can’t speak for everybody who works at the airport that was in involved that evening. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me,” Berg told CBC News last week. “We’re going to…wait for the coroner’s report before we make any conclusions or decisions relative to that.”

Berg said staff did eventually page Dziekanski, but used a public address system that did not broadcast in the secure customs area controlled by the CBSA.

Cisowski said she was sure here son was inside the secure customs area waiting for her by the baggage carousel because she had told him specifically to wait for her there.

But she later found out the public could not access that area, and she turned to airport officials for help to make contact with her son, who spoke only Polish and had never been on a plane before.

After her repeated requests for help were turned down at the first airport help desk, Cisowski told CBC News she went to the CBSA office in the waiting area near the international arrivals lounge.

But when officials there checked a computer, they told her told there was no sign of her son, even though records would later show he had pass through the primary passport check into the area.

Mother advised to go home

She then found a second airport help kiosk and made several more requests for help making contact with her son, but eventually she was told he was not there, and she should go home.

At around 10:30 p.m., she drove back to Kamloops.

Around the same time, Dziekanski finally made his way to the secondary customs check inside the secure customs area, where he was redirected to immigration control, and eventually emerged from the customs area around midnight.

An hour later an agitated and confused Dziekanski was confronted by the police. Within 30 seconds they stunned him at least twice with a Taser. He died a minute and half later.

Currently there are four investigations into the death underway, by the B.C. coroner’s service, the RCMP, the public complaints commissioner of the RCMP and the Vancouver international Airport.

The Canada Border Services Agency has not said if it is conducting an investigation of its own.

From the Canadian Press: Police statements differ from what video shows of Taser death:Amnesty Int’l:


Police statements differ from what video shows of Taser death:Amnesty Int?l

VANCOUVER – There are too many differences between what police told the public and what a video shows of the fatal night RCMP used a Taser to subdue a frantic Polish immigrant at Vancouver’s airport, critics say.

Amnesty International Canada is calling for an independent investigation and an expert in police force says the Oct. 14 incident and the video released this week raise serious concerns that need to be addressed.

“For me, it (the video) raises a lot of questions as to how decisions were made going into that incident because what you appear to see is that they show up and move to Taser somebody,” Hilary Homes of Amnesty International said from Ottawa.

Robert Dziekanski died minutes after being zapped twice by a Taser-wielding officer in the airport’s international arrivals area.

Police were called because Dziekanski had been acting strangely after spending hours waiting vainly to meet his mother.

The video shows Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, trying to barricade himself into the secure area of the arrivals terminal while bystanders try to communicate with him.

Immediately after the incident, Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, spokesman for the RCMP’s E Division, said three Mounties tried to hold Dziekanski down after approaching him in a secure area of the airport.

In fact, the video shows four officers confronting the agitated Dziekanski and backing him up to a counter inside the terminal’s secure area. The Taser was deployed within a minute of police confronting him.

It’s unclear whether Lemaitre meant officers tried to subdue him before he was shot with the Taser or afterwards.

The video shows the four Mounties piling on to a fallen Dziekanski after he was zapped.

Lemaitre wasn’t available for comment Thursday.

The video shows the officers crowding around the fallen man as he writhed and moaned. At least one of them appeared to put his full weight on the man’s neck.

Dziekanski eventually stopped moving and the video ends soon after a man in a suit bends over to see if he had a pulse.

Traveller Paul Pritchard, who shot the video, said officers seemed to come prepared to zap Dziekanski.

“As they ran in, I heard one of the officers say, ‘Can I Taser him, should I Taser?’ before they actually even got to Mr. Dziekanski,” said Pritchard, who lives in Victoria.

Homes said 17 Canadians have died after being shot by a Taser, which jolts the body with 50,000 volts and is often used to subdue people deemed dangerous to police, themselves or others.

But she said the video clearly shows Dziekanski wasn’t a threat to anybody and the footage does not indicate Mounties tried to restrain him before he was shot, if that’s what Lemaitre meant.

A report published by Amnesty International in May says all police departments should stop using Tasers until thorough studies have been done on its effects.

RCMP Cpl. Dale Carr said he doesn’t understand why people would think Dziekanski was shot with the Taser prematurely.

“How much time does one need to make an assessment that there is potential of danger or potential of somebody being harmed?”

Carr wouldn’t comment on whether the four Mounties could have used other tactics to deal with Dziekanski, who does not appear to threaten them and at one point backs away.

“The whole basis of our investigation is to get to the bottom of how Mr. Dziekanski ended up in the state that he did: deceased,” said Carr, who speaks for the RCMP homicide unit investigating the death.

“We want to answer those questions but they’re not going to be answered through the media.”

He said a coroner’s inquest, which has yet to be scheduled, would answer a crucial question about why the officers involved didn’t use other means of trying to subdue Dziekanski.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “That’s a question for those officers while they’re under oath at the inquest.”

Carr said he’s been getting angry calls about the incident from “people who feel that they have the right to call me and blast me.”

“I suspect they’re making conclusions, based on one piece of evidence and they’re not waiting, perhaps, for all of the evidence to come out down the road and that’s unfortunate.”

He said the video is a strong piece of evidence but it’s only one side of the story.

Carr wouldn’t say if police have a video recording of their own of the incident that has generated buzz on radio talk shows and led to a website called Justice for Robert Dziekanski.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the RCMP is reviewing the practices related to Taser use and that a report is being prepared.

Day is waiting to see the conclusions of that report before commenting.

Michael Lyman, a professor in the criminal justice and forensic science department at Columbia College in Missouri, said the video shows Dziekanski to be in crisis but that he certainly didn’t pose a threat to the four police officers.

“I don’t see where the officers made any attempts to rush him or to control him physically through the use of soft-handed control techniques as in simply just holding him and securing him without having to resort to any weaponry,” he said.

Lyman, who has testified in hundreds of cases in the United States involving proper use of police force, said he’s particularly concerned about a Mountie putting his full weight on Dziekanski after he’s been flailing on the floor.

“That is very, very dangerous because persons have difficulty breathing when an officer places weight on them, especially on a hard floor.”

Lyman said many questions need answers in what has become a huge international story.

“We have to just take a breath and consider what the police might have known about this person, if anything, prior to their arrival.

“How did they receive their message? Was there anybody else that might have come to them and said, ‘This person’s going to hurt somebody?’

“I’d like to approach a situation like this from the standpoint of listening to what the police have to say but holding them accountable for their actions that are clearly depicted by what we see on the video.”

Quote, from above:

Carr said he’s been getting angry calls about the incident from “people who feel that they have the right to call me and blast me.”

Oh, boo-hoo Mr Carr, that must really hurt. Almost as much as getting tasered?

From AP: Cameraman Changes Mind About Taser Death:


Cameraman Changes Mind About Taser Death

TORONTO (AP) — Videotaping the last moments of a Polish immigrant’s life, Paul Pritchard thought the police were 100 percent right to use a Taser stun gun to subdue the man.

That was a month ago, before the police returned the videotape they borrowed from Pritchard, a Canadian who had filmed Robert Dziekanski’s death.

Now that Pritchard has watched his own tape — and no longer believes Dziekanski posed any threat of violence — he condemns the police use of a stun gun just 46 seconds after confronting Dziekanski at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“At the time I thought it was the right thing,” Pritchard said Friday. “I thought it was more of a standoff, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t like that at all.”

A coroner’s inquest has been called and police have launched an investigation. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have said they are reviewing Taser use; 18 people have died in Canada after being hit with a Taser in the last four years.

Dziekanski, 40, of Gliwice, Poland, arrived at the airport Oct. 14. It was his first flight, and was to be the start of a new life with his mother in western Canada.

But Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, began acting erratically at the airport. He apparently became upset when he didn’t see his mother in the secure baggage area — which she was not allowed to enter.

She had told him to wait for her there, and he did, for about 10 hours. When she could not find anyone to help her get to the secure area, and he did not emerge, she thought he had missed his flight and she left the airport.

Pritchard pulled out his camera after watching Dziekanski pace back and forth. Dziekanski threw a computer to the ground, and he lined up chairs, a small wooden table and a clipboard along glass doors that separated the secure zone from the public waiting area.

“He was acting erratically,” said Pritchard. “I saw what I saw, but I didn’t realize the seriousness until I got the footage back. He wasn’t acting violent in any way. That’s what is most disturbing.”

Robert Szaniawski, a spokesman for Poland’s Foreign Ministry, said Poland has asked Canada for an explanation of Dziekanski’s death.

“We believe that the use of Taser on Mr. Dziekanski was excessively brutal and unjustified,” Szaniawski said. “No attempts were made to use other means to solve the situation but from the very start the toughest means available to the police was used. We want the matter clarified and we want those guilty named and prosecuted.”

The video shows:

_Dziekanski acting confused for several minutes before four police officers arrive and vault over a railing and confront an agitated Dziekanski behind the glass doors. Loud cries of what sound like “polizia,” can be heard as the officers are told by someone that the man only speaks Russian.

_The officers stand before him and Dziekanski throws his hands in the air and walks away, and the officers follow, apparently indicating he should put his hands on a desk top. Dziekanski stands with his back to the counter and the officers surround him before they use a Taser stun gun on him and he falls, screaming in pain.

_A voice is heard yelling, “Hit him again, hit him again.” The four officers clamber on top of him, restraining his arms and his head, as Dziekanski twitches. Finally, he is still.

Pritchard turned over the video to police that day and was told he would get it back within 48 hours. When police later refused he hired a lawyer. He got it back on Wednesday following a court order.

Pritchard said police told him they didn’t want the video to taint potential witness testimony. Pritchard didn’t believe it.

“There’s obviously something that they didn’t want the public to see which is why we took the steps to get it,” Pritchard said by telephone from New York City.

Police Cpl. Dale Carr said the video is just one small piece of evidence. “Although the video is compelling and does demonstrate a great deal of what went on there, it’s only one piece of evidence,” said Carr.

“There are a number of other witnesses that have an account and we are interested in getting to the bottom of it,” he said. “We want people to make judgment on the totality of all of the evidence and that will be shared at the inquest.”

I haven’t arranged these articles in any particular order. They tell a balanced story, I think.



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