Cheers and jeers to go around for 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

It’s that time of the year when reporters and editors like to make lists.

You’ll see the Top 10 news stories, photos, the best cartoons — it’s not only the season for gift and resolution lists.

And this was going to be a list at first, one with the winners and losers of 2007 in Kamloops, but that just seems so arbitrary.

Because, you see, some people were both winners and losers.

So, instead, and in the spirit of the season — both days past and the days to come — herewith some cheers and jeers.

And the biggest hip-hip-hooray has to go to Mayor Terry Lake for surviving yet another year of potshots from his predecessor while making some pretty smart decisions and setting a tone for council that we haven’t seen for a while.

Some people might feel he deserves some jeers for his tough stand on water meters, but, from my perspective, it’s cheering all the way to finally have a mayor willing to do what we elected him to do and make a decision, rather than hiding behind a referendum.

And, while we’re passing out the cheers, hooray for Coun. Peter Milobar, too, for taking that extra step and saying the hybrid program council copped out and went for doesn’t go far enough.

Cheers to Coun. Tina Lange for showing that she may be a rookie, but she’s not afraid to speak out and speak up on issues that matter. While she’s a super advocate for the business sector, the moment she finally started to fit into her political shoes came when Lake cajoled her to speak before hundreds demonstrating in front of city hall against federal child-care cuts.

Lange spoke from her heart — and from her own life experience — and it was a moving moment.

However, Lange gets some jeers for that lame-brained statement that the core of Kamloops is on the South Shore. Not smart. Really dumb. There are people on the North Shore just looking for any reason to whip up the waves that divide this town into two — and that was one of them.

Cheers to our MP, Betty Hinton, for flying into Fulton Field and bringing with her millions of dollars for the airport expansion.

But jeers to Hinton’s inability to speak for herself on issues. If we’d wanted a parrot on election day, we would have gone to Petland and bought our own Stevie.

However, cheers to her decision to put her health first and step down from office when — please, someone tell me, when? — the next federal election is held.

Hinton’s family has always been her anchor, and I’m sure they’re going to enjoy having mom and grandma around with them.

Cheers to MLA Kevin Krueger for no reason other than he’s a great guy who at least speaks out and stands up for what he believes in. And, unlike some politicians in town, Krueger has never once declined to comment because he has disagreed with something I wrote about him.

He understands the game.

Cheers to the Blazers for finally dumping their prima dona, Keaton Ellerby, a boy with more talent than team spirit, it seems.

And cheers to Tom Gaglardi for putting his money where his mouth was, and buying the team.

Now, if only he could figure out how to get them to win again.

But maybe the Blazers’ playbook is with the bylaws of the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association, somewhere off in the netherworld, never to be referred to again.

Need we say any more about this group?

But mega-cheers to Ladd and Monica Maloski. In fact, make it a wave of applause.

Cheers to School District 73 for showing the creativity to go with the idea of schools of choice and mobile trailers to ensure everyone gets the education they want.

Arts, science, trades— some may call it elitist education, but if it helps make this world a better place for my kids and grandchild, I’m all for it.

Finally, cheers to everyone one of you out there who said a prayer, held out a hand, shed a tear for Zofia Cisowski and her late son, Robert Dziekanski.

You did good and showed that Kamloops looks after its own.

And that’s what it’s all about.

We need more Joey Jacks in this world

Friday, December 21, 2007

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?

Joey Jack has made me smile.

He makes me smile frequently whenever I see one of his posters that proclaim "War is Over — If You Want It. Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.”

Joey got the inspiration from a website that had the poster and encouraged people to print and display it throughout the holiday season.

They’re simple posters, black on white.

Their message is simple, too.

He’s made hundreds of them and they’re popping up on hydro poles, telephone poles, signposts, store windows, places you might not expect.

And it makes me smile for so many reasons.

First, it is satisfying to know the next generation still harbours the dreams that one day, there might actually be peace in someone’s lifetime.

It’s probably not going to be mine, but maybe my children might some day know a world without war

And if not then, perhaps my grandchildren.

Joey’s signs make me believe that could come true.

His signs make me smile because they transport me back to my own younger years, when we knew in our hearts that war is wrong — something many hearts don’t seem to realize now, especially in Ottawa — and that all it took was love.

Corny? Yup.

But back then, it was our theme song.

Joey’s signs make me smile because they remind me of all the incredible music that came from the mind of John Lennon.

More than the schmaltzy Do They Know It’s Christmas, it was Lennon’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over) song that resonated at the time and continues to do so today.

And every time I see one of Joey’s signs, all those memories and emotions and beliefs come tumbling back.

So for people — including some I consider to be friends — to decry Joey’s signs as littering is unbelievable.

Perhaps, to continue the Lennonisms, one could call it unimaginable.

Every day of every week of every year, it seems like these sign, hydro and telephone poles are being plastered with gaudy, often illegible, posters advertising this concert or that show or some other event that has a limited — if, indeed, existent — audience.

There’s never been an outcry in the media — at least that I can remember — excoriating these poster posters to stop the littering and clean up.

In fact, many of these signs remain in tatters, held on by super-industrial-style tape, apparently, until the Kamloops winds finally remove the last vestiges of them.

But poor Joey puts up a truly universal thought and he’s condemned, even before anyone bothers to ask if he plans to take them down once the season has finished.

(Which, by the way, Joey says he has always planned to do.)

Joey was told by one media outlet that he should respect the city and keep things tidy.

And that makes me smile, too, at the kind of thinking that would view the enthusiasm of a young man who wanted to bring some thoughts of peace to his community could be criticized for not keeping the city tidy.

If we’re going to talk tidy, let’s make everyone take down their posters within a time frame.

Let’s get the litter picked up at Riverside Park after all those events it hosts.

Let’s deal with the needle detritus found in many back alleys and roadways.

Let’s put out a hand to someone who needs uplifting.

It’s Christmas time, for heaven’s sake.

For some, it’s Hannukah. For others, it’s Kwanza, For Muslims, it’s the time of the hajj and its finale, Eid al-Adha.

Whatever your belief, it’s a time we think of peace.

And that means wishing war was really over.

This mom wishes boys wouldn’t always ‘be boys’

Friday, December 14, 2007

Benjamin Garrison Sprague was found dead last weekend in his fraternity house.

On Sunday morning, after a night of partying with him at a nearby house, Benjamin’s buddies awoke to find their friend’s body on a futon, still, cold — and polluted with alcohol.

Now I don’t know Benjamin, never would ever cross his path, given he lived in South Carolina, but his death upset me.

Benjamin was 18 — obviously old enough to know better but still young enough to want to party hearty till the break of dawn.

His grandfather was a state senator.

His mom and dad, Joel and Gaye Sprague, run their own engineering firm and Benjamin, a freshman, was studying the same discipline at Clemson University, following in his parents’ footsteps.

He played soccer on his high school team and centre for its football team.

A family friend said Benjamin was “the hub and the player that could pick the team up if they were down. He loved life.”

And now he’s dead.

He drank himself to a much-too-early grave.

After promising not to wade into the issue of underage drinking, to let it go and hope it just falls off the radar of other media, it’s impossible now.

Because of Benjamin.

And because of my own two boys, who once played minor hockey — thankfully, not in Kamloops.

I’m in a minority here at the office, it seems.

I just can’t buy the “boys will be boys” explanation others are giving for the fact a young hockey player got drunk at the home of the man everyone expects to set the tone for minor hockey in this city.

Let’s not get sidetracked by what the boy’s blood-alcohol level really was.

He was puking drunk.

I’ve been that way once, many years ago, as have many other Kamloopsians — and we know how that feels and how we got that way.

We felt like hell the next day and knew what we had done was wrong.

So why can’t we see that this situation is wrong as well?

I’ve debated this with the boss, the boss’s boss, others who share my little corner of the work world and it’s so obvious they don’t understand why I feel this way.

It’s interesting, though, that a co-worker mentioned his dad agrees it’s a “get over it” issue while his mom is truly dismayed at the lack of supervision provided at the home of Kamloops Minor Hockey Association president Stan Burton when his son and other hockey players got together to party.

I’m with her.

Because I’m a mom.

I’m a mom who has been at the rink at 5 a.m., freezing but proudly watching my guys out there on the ice, practising what is apparently the greatest sport in the country.

I’m a mom who has also been up at 11 p.m., at another rink, watching my guys play the game I just don’t get and haven’t since Bobby Orr hung up his skates.

I’m a mom who wants to know where her children are going if they go out with buddies — yes, even when they were teenagers.

And if they went to parties, I wanted assurances a parent would be present to monitor what happened.

Because I am a mom.

Not naive, but ever-hopeful I can continue to protect my kids from the evils of the world as long as I have to.

Gaye Sprague is likely wishing today she could have protected her son a bit longer.

She’s probably wondering what she might have done wrong, what she could have changed, how she could have kept the evils away for one more day from her not-quite-a-man.

The party at Burton’s house didn’t result in a dead athlete.

But because we’re moms, we always worry that it could have.

Especially when we read about Gaye Sprague’s son.

Boys will be boys?


And wishing they wouldn’t be?

That’s a mom thing.

The long journey home

Saturday, December 8, 2007

East or west, home is best.
It's a simple phrase, one of several on a yellow piece of paper taped to the kitchen wall of Zofia Cisowski's home. She made the list weeks ago to help her son, Robert Dziekanski, learn English when he arrived from their native Poland.
Tomorrow, Zofia is going home, a trip that will take her through the Vancouver Airport where her son died in October.
It's a trip she originally had looked forward to, "but now, I am so scared."
Fear is an emotion she lives with now. She's afraid to go to sleep because "everything comes back to me."
She's afraid to watch television because she never knows when snippets of the videotape made of her son's last minutes before he was tasered at the airport and died will be shown.
"I've stopped watching the news. It just makes me more sick," she said.
She's afraid to be alone — and the Polish community in Kamloops has rallied around her, supporting her and just being with her as she tries to get through every day "without my son. I don't have my son. It is so hard."
The trip tomorrow was paid for by a local businessman who wants to remain anonymous. However, he told KTW he had to do something for Zofia after meeting her at a celebration of Robert's life last month. He's also arranged for concierge service from start to finish for the trip because he can't imagine her flying without support.
The Vancouver Airport Authority has also arranged for tickets to Poland, but Zofia said she's not sure she'll take advantage of this.
"I feel no good if they pay for me," she said.
When asked about returning home, she started to cry. The last time she was in Poland was earlier this year, when she visited Robert to make final arrangements for his immigration to Canada. The Polish construction worker was coming to Kamloops to start a new life with his mother.
Her two brothers are waiting for her, as are her nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives.
She knows she will cry when she gets there, as will her brothers.
"We will cry together, I know. They loved Robert."
Half of Robert's ashes will be buried in Poland, but she won't take them there until later in 2008, after a headstone has been prepared and she has had time to face the reality of the burial. The other half will be buried in Kamloops.
Zofia said she can't express how much she appreciates the support she has received from her community, her church and Kamloops.
More than 300 thank you letters have been written and signed by her. In the lettes, she writes that "while I am vising my family and friends in Poland, I will certainly tell them how kind-hearted and compassionate" everyone has been to her.
That is the message she wants to convey, said friend Barbara Wells. Zofia and those supporting her have been overwhelmed by the reaction to Robert's death.
"I take her out for lunch, people recognize her and they pay for our lunch," Wells said.
"When she goes to Poland she is going to tell people how kindly she was treated in Kamloops, how amazed she is by it all."
Adam Szpak spoke of a man who attended a human-rights forum last week at Thompson Rivers University, an event called in the wake of Robert's death. The man was so disturbed by the story of the immigrant's death that he called a local Polish priest to find out how to get "real Polish food" for Zofia.
The man ended up going through a Vancouver distributor — but he got Zofia her authentic food.
There have been cards from children, pictures from students, messages from so many people Zofia has never met.
Carmelle Lean, a local woman, did a painting of Robert and gave it to Zofia last month.
This support, Zofia said, has helped ease the desolation she has felt since spending hours at the airport, desperately looking for her son while he remained in the secured immigration area, unable to speak English and get help.
That is something the airport authority doesn't want to see happen again. On Friday, authority officials announced $1.4 million in changes to the international area, including 24-hour staffing at customer-care kiosks in the area, access to up to 20 languages through a translation service, multilingual signs with pictograms, and creation of new public-safety officers skilled in negotiations and non-physical intervention.
Emergency services will also be improved.

Here’s hoping we don’t celebrate a 50th anniversary

Friday, December 7, 2007

Eighty-nine people picked up the phone and called the Kamloops Sexual Assault Centre (KSACC) during its last fiscal year.

Can you imagine the courage it took for them to do this?

They weren’t calling for a friend or family member — they were referring themselves to the agency.

They had reached the point where they knew they needed to get help.

And that’s just one statistic.

Another 25 people were referred by family or friends. Royal Inland Hospital sent 21.

By the time all the agencies and government ministries and concerned people were finished, the agency that has just celebrated its 25th year of existence had added 354 new clients.

That’s almost one a day because even the incredible, dedicate staff who keep KSACC alive have to have time to live their own lives.

Although the statistics from the agency’s first 20 months of operation aren’t as detailed as they are now, it’s obvious the staff was busy from the moment the office opened on Fourth Avenue.

During those months, the staff dealt with 1,112 instances of sexual assault on adults, 147 on children and another 44 from battering and harassment.

It was tough work then.

There were only six such centres in the province and Kamloops was described as having one of the highest incidences of rape in B.C.

Public awareness was targeted as essential to reducing child abuse.

As the agency grew, its services expanded to include a 24-hour crisis line (oops, it’s gone now, thanks to government cutbacks), a sexual assault response team program (also gone, thanks to cutbacks), counselling services for males over the age of 19 (also gone, thank you, Gordon Campbell), and victim services (not gone, just hit with a 25 per cent cut in financing.)

Through it all, a core group of women, surrounded by many volunteers, kept KSACC going, confronting the reality that sexual abuse continues to exist in the 21st century.

And it hasn’t been easy.

Consider these anecdotes, two of thousands the staff have experienced:

• A young mother finally managed to sneak away from her abusive husband to call the provincial 1-800 call-centre line instituted when rape crisis lines were shut down by the Liberal government.

Those lines aren’t staffed by counsellors, but by people with lists of places to make referrals. The woman, who suspected her children were being sexually abused, was required to remain anonymous and told to call KSACC the next morning — and it was two more months of abuse before she could sneak away to make that phone call.

• A 23-year-old man, about to become a father, had never received counselling for abuse he experienced from ages five to nine by an older male.

With the impending birth, his experiences were causing him emotional turmoil. He sought out counselling but, other than to pay for it and go on a waitlist, there was none available once KSACC had to shut down its adult male-counselling services.

A few years ago, KSACC’s agency co-ordinator Cynthia Davis, announced there would be no Take Back the Night event because her agency staff didn’t consider Kamloops safe enough for women to walk alone at night.

That caused quite the furor, with the right-wing side of local media condemning her for saying what many people today believe to be true. Even our transit exchange isn’t considered safe these days by many people.

In some ways, it’s unfortunate KSACC is marking a quarter-century. It would be so good if our society didn’t need agencies like it to exist.

But we do and, because of this, we owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of women — Connie Scanks, Grace Chronister, Ronolee Stevens, Linda Halliday, Gwen Gosgnach, Carol Reiter, Bev Munro . . . this list goes on.

Each of them has fought a fight most of us wouldn’t be able to address dispassionately.

For 25 years, they’ve been there to pick up the pieces when society’s ills shatter a soul.

Wouldn’t it be great if we don’t have to celebrate their 50th anniversary?

The Great Global Warming Swindle great fiction

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Next Wednesday will mark the 667th anniversary of the Royal Society.

Now, to most of you, that doesn’t matter at all, but to a small group of you out there, it should give you pause to stop and reconsider.

But the fact the Royal Society — the national academy of science in the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth — has been around that long funding researchers, promoting in-depth scientific investigations and generally doing the kind of work we would expect of those at the forefront of our scientific community to do tends to give it some credibility.

And the Royal Society has been engaged in a debate with documentary filmmaker Martin Durkin since British broadcaster Channel 4 aired The Great Global Warming Swindle, a film that argues there is no such thing as climate change and global warming; rather, we’re all being duped.

And this is the documentary our school board trustees are making available to students who represent the “other side” of the argument put forward by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth.

Channel 4 has worked with Durkin before. In 1998, he was shopping around a show on silicone breast implants.

When the BBC heard his assertion — the implants aren’t harmful, but in fact, actually reduce the risk of breast cancer — it rightfully sent him packing.

He ended up at Channel 4, where Durkin was given a TV researcher and producer who was formerly a research biochemist.

It was her job to help him get the show ready to be broadcast.

Instead, she walked out on it after two weeks because of the way Durkin was manipulating information.

Channel 4 still aired it.

Back in 1997, again for Channel 4, Durkin made a series called Against Nature, in which he argued environmentalists were like Nazis, conspiring against the world’s poor.

After complaints were registered about Against Nature, the B.C. Independent Television Commission handed down what has been called one of its most damning verdicts, describing the series as being “distorted by selective editing” and misleading interviewees.

In 2000, Channel 4 aired another Durkin film called Modified Truth. A geneticist Durkin interviewed later said he was “completely betrayed and misled” about his participation or how his views would be presented.

But it’s the Royal Society that has really gone on the attack against Durkin and The Great Global Warming Swindle.

It has cited seven major misrepresentations of scientific evidence and research Durkin presented, including relying on research later shown to have been wrong, mislabelling graphics to show average temperatures through history and ignoring other relevant research that would have contradicted the point of his film.

The society went further, lodging a formal complaint with the regulatory body overseeing broadcasting in Britain.

A letter was also sent from the society to Durkin, signed by 37 scientists involved in the study of the environment and climate.

In September, Bob Ward of the Royal Society sent yet another e-mail to Durkin, pointing out the letter the group of scientists had signed, that misrepresentations included in the complaint to the regulatory board had not been made and imploring him to remove the DVD from sale and recall those already sold.

Durkin’s reply?

“Bob: Are you on drugs or something?”

This is a film producer with, at best, a controversial history of presenting his theses. He has promoted positions that defy logic.

He has been criticized for playing fast and loose with what should be facts.

He has been renounced at least once for distorted editing.

Three dozen renowned scientists have told him he’s dead wrong in The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Yet our school board still says seeing this documentary will be an exercise in critical thinking.

Durkin didn’t use any.

There is nothing in his documentary that could even generate critical discussion.

It’s time to take those DVDs out of the school district library’s documentary section and put them where they belong — in fiction.

Tears shed for Robert

Monday, November 19, 2007

Staff reporter

Jurek Baltakis addressed the overflow crowd at Kamloops Funeral Home.

He spoke just a few words, and about a dozen people raised their right hand.

It was a telling moment.

“I just told you in Polish to raise your right hand,” he said. “And most of you didn’t know what I was saying.”

It was an experiment, Baltakis said, to show how vital communication is to people – and how hopeless the man he was there to eulogize, Robert Dziekanski, must have felt during his last few minutes of life before he was tasered and died on the floor of Vancouver International Airport on October. 14.

The Polish construction worker had just taken his first flight, spending 15 hours travelling from Poland to Vancouver, where he was to meet his mother, Zofia Cisowski.

He arrived, made it through the first checkpoint and for reasons YVR officials have not explained, spent another 10 hours in a second secured area, with no access to food or water, and where no officials provided any help. Minutes before RCMP arrived, he had begun throwing things and blocking the doors, sparking some to call for security and one man, Paul Pritchard of Victoria, to record the four officers surrounding Dziekanski, giving him orders in English – after being told he didn’t speak the language – and, 23 seconds after confronting him, tasering him.

Baltakis, who told KTW he was both nervous about speaking and afraid his “experiment” would seem ridiculous, said most Canadians don’t understand how frightening it can be arriving here for the first time, unable to understand what is being said to them.

Add to that the unimaginable fear Dziekanski must have felt after spending those hours waiting for his mother – not knowing she was just outside the secure area immigrants must go through – and it’s a story that haunts the man who was in the same position two decades ago, arriving in a new country, hoping for a new life.

The celebration of Dziekanski’s life attracted national attention.

It was witnessed by hundreds of people, many of them strangers to the man who died after he was tasered by RCMP. The 250 seats in the chapel were full long before the 11 a.m. service began Saturday; the overflow sat in adjacent rooms, stood in hallways and listened through the audio system in a reception area.

Through it all, Cisowski, sat in a front pew, surrounded by family and friends, her eyes almost swollen shut from the crying she said she cannot staunch. Afterward, she spoke to the media in the funeral home parking lot, thanking everyone for coming to remember her “beautiful boy.”

The service, donated by the funeral home, featured music by Blue Moon, a local acoustic quartet, and speeches from Maciej Krych, consul-general of Poland, and Danuta Tokarczyk, president of the Polish Canadian Kongres in B.C.

Then Trudy Dirk, former executive director of the Kamloops Immigrant Services, took the microphone and talked of meeting Cisowski eight years ago when she, too, was an immigrant, arriving in Kamloops from her native Poland.

Dirk talked of how Cisowski worked two jobs, learned to speak English, saved money to buy a car, passed a driver’s licence test and made plans to open a cleaning business – all to bring her only son from Poland to Canada to start a new life.

Later, Riki Bagnell spoke of how she feels forever linked with Cisowski. Her son – also named Robert – died after being tasered twice in 2004. She said seeing the community and national support Cisowski was receiving at the ceremony had left her feeling some comfort since her son died.

Afterward, she told KTW how amazed she was at the way Kamloops residents had come together to show their support for Cisowski and their anger about the way her son died. Bagnell said she and her daughter, Patti Gillman, felt they had to attend, especially after she saw the videotape of Dziekanski’s death.

“I’ve been haunted by a vision of how [her son] must have suffered in the last minutes of his life and after I saw that tape, I realized how horrible it really was for him.”

Bagnell, who lives in Prince Edward Island, and her daughter, who lives in Belleville, Ont., have campaigned since the death for an independent review of tasers, a weapon she said is marketed as not being lethal but which has caused almost 300 deaths in North America in the past six years.

The joy of being a reporter, take 2

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Below you'll see a story I wrote today that we posted online first, thanks to the fact that our paper doesn't come out again until Friday. It's the story of the taser tape, of the man who taped it, of the lawyer representing Zofia Cisowski -- and it will be watched many, many times once it's released tomorrow, even though everyone watching it will know they are watching a man die.

Interviewing Paul Pritchard, the man who made the tape of the last moments of Robert Dziekanski's life, was brutal. He has his own story; he was at the airport because he had flown home from China to be with his dad, who has a serious illness. He missed his connection in San Francisco, caught the last seat on a later flight, got into Vancouver too late to catch a bus to the ferries to go home to Victoria.

He's only 25 and he has seen things no one, especially someone that young, should ever have to witness.

And here's proof I'm getting old; I really didn't want to talk to him. I didn't want to hear him describe the tape. I really wanted my colleague at our Richmond paper to do the interview but he couldn't fit it in because he was too busy trying to chase down how we could get our hands on this tape once it was released.

But I talked to him. And I listened to him. And I guess the mother part of me felt so awful for him because he was describing for the umpteenth time something that he will live with forever.

I'd like to think I made a bit of a difference for him, too, because he asked if I knew the story of Robert's long wait at the airport, of Zofia looking for him and I told him I knew it too well. That seemed to satisfy him and he went on to complain about so much of the media that has focused on him and his tape and forgotten that there is a woman who is so much more damaged by all of this than he is. A mother who has lost her only son. A mother who has lost pretty much all her hopes.

Paul was angry, too. He had just this day learned of the fundraising going on for Zofia to take Robert's ashes back to Poland. He had asked lawyers involved about fundraising. He had offered to sell the tape and give the money to Zofia. No one told him that she has nothing left. That her friends here in Kamloops are trying to raise money to pay for Robert's memorial on Saturday and for Zofia's flight to Poland.

Paul was angry the story had become all about him. Because he knows what the story is. He's losing someone he dearly loves in his family too; not quickly but in the way only a serious ailment (he doesn't want the word used) can cause.

None of it seems fair. And I just want this story to end.

Taser video to be released Wednesday

Editor's note: Video that shows the final moments of Robert Dziekanski's life will be released to the media Wednesday afternoon, with an embargo on publication until 6 p.m. KTW will have the video on this website as soon as possible. In the meantime, KTW spoke with Paul Pritchard, the Victoria man who captured the tragic scene.

By Dale Bass

Paul Pritchard was flying home to Victoria — a place he left seven years ago — to spend time with his ailing father.

Instead, he stepped directly into a media maelstrom, videotaping the last minutes of the life of Robert Dziekanski.

Were it not for a missed flight in San Francisco, Pritchard, 25, wouldn’t have been at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, trying to catch some sleep in the customs and immigration area he had entered after finally arriving back in Canada from China.

Pritchard was trying to ignore Dziekanski, at the time nothing more than “a foreign man slapping his hand on the glass trying to get back in” the immigration area he had just left.

The next thing Pritchard heard were arguments.

“So I got up and got a better seat,” he told KTW. “It sounds awful to say it now, but at the time, it was, well, like entertainment. It was something to watch.”

A man, later identified as Lorne Meltzer, a corporate valet at the airport to pick up a client, used his access card to let Dziekanski back into the secured glassed-in area.

At some point, Pritchard said, he began taping the incident with his digital camera. He said he’s not sure why he did it, but he’s glad he did because police have said it’s likely the best evidence of the final minutes of Dziekanski’s life.

Pritchard said it was obvious the Polish construction worker, who was coming to Kamloops to live with his mother, was trying to get help.

“You can see it on the tape, the deep breathing, sweating. He just looked scared. You could see he was trying to get someone’s attention.

“He was walking back and forth. He was picking things up, putting them down. Then two security officers came and we thought it was the police and we said, ‘Leave him alone. He’s just scared,” because by then he was barricaded behind chairs. And he was almost like he was happy the police were there.”

At some point, four RCMP officers showed up and, said Pritchard, they can be heard asking if they should use their tasers.

The tape shows the four officers, two security guards and an unidentified man in a suit making a semi-circle around Dziekanski, who put up his hands “almost in defeat, shrugs his shoulders and takes two steps, speaking in Polish. Then you see them taser him and there’s this blood-curdling scream that just keeps going on and on.”

Three officers jump on Dziekanski, by then lying on the floor writhing in pain, Pritchard said, and there is talk of using the taser again.

“I don’t actually see them hit him again . . . but after I got the tape back [from RCMP, who had borrowed it and at one point refused to return it], I saw one of the officers handling him was using his shin and knee to pin [Dziekanski’s] head against the ground. And there were four of them on him. And it wasn’t just for a little bit. They kept him like that a long time.”

The man in the suit checked Dziekanski’s pulse, said something to the RCMP, “and they just looked up in the air. And I remember thinking ‘This is an airport. What the hell just happened here?’”

After several minutes, paramedics arrived and started CPR immediately, which has also caused Pritchard to wonder why none of the officers or security guards were doing CPR before this.

“What? His heart stopped beating the second the medics got there?” Pritchard said.

With the first bus for the ferry not leaving the airport until almost 5:30 a.m., Pritchard said he didn’t mind remaining there while police started their investigation, taking statements and gathering evidence.

“I was willing to do it,” he said. “I was definitely on the cops’ side then.

“But not anymore. Not after I saw what I saw.”

Up to the point whenDziekanski was let back into the glassed-in area by the corporate valet, there had been no problems, according to Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer representing Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops.

“He was not a problem on the plane,” Kosteckyj said. “He arrived at customs [from his Poland homeland] at about 4 p.m., which is a reasonable hour. He went through customs. He was no problem from 4 p.m. until about 10:30 p.m., and even then, he wasn’t really more than an annoyance.”

Dziekanski, who spoke no English and had never flown before, “bumbled his way to immigration by about 10:30 p.m., and was processed by 12:30 a.m.,” Kosteckyj said.

Even at this point, with no idea where his mother was, Kosteckyj said Dziekanski “was not in a rage. He was not ramping up. He was not causing a problem.”

What Dziekanski didn’t know, the lawyer said, was that Cisowski had spent hours on the other side of the secured immigration area trying to find someone to help her get a message to her son. And, after almost 10 hours of receiving no help, and being told her son was not there, she went home to Kamloops, only to discover the following morning he had been tasered by RCMP and was dead.

Kosteckyj wants to know why Cisowski couldn’t get anyone to help her.

“If you have a business like this where you’re expecting people to come and meet other people, even people who don’t speak English, you would think you’d have a way to do it,” he said.

Kosteckyj also wonders, in this post-Sept. 11, 2001 world, why no one did anything when Dziekanski’s luggage remained on the carousel unattended for so long that Lufthansa personnel finally took possession of it.

TRU gets a chance to see history in the flesh

Saturday, November 10, 2007

About 18 months ago, I read an article on a website about a young parliamentarian whose colleagues — while sitting in session — threw bottles at her, pulled her hair, knocked over chairs and yelled out threats.

All this because she spoke the truth.

Malalai Joya, the youngest person ever elected to the Afghan parliament, interrupted a former warlord — the parliament is filled with former warlords now masquerading as politicians — who was praising the Mujahadin, a Muslim-based military force.

Joya had the audacity to challenge this man by declaring there were two types of Mujahadin: “one who were really Mujahadin and the second who killed tens of thousands of innocent people and who are criminals.”

A bold step for a woman to take in today’s Afghanistan.

I read other articles about Joya, about how she continued to speak out and was eventually suspended from parliament; how her home was bombed; how she doesn’t talk about her husband or family for fear of making them targets; how she survived four assassination attempts and now must always travel with bodyguards in her homeland.

And so to see this sprite of a woman, with such an unassuming presence, speaking to a political science class this week at Thompson Rivers University was to be truly inspired.

She does not rant. She does not carry banners deploring her country’s government.

She does not dwell on the years she, her parents and her many siblings spent as refugees in Iran and Pakistan.

She speaks for the Afghani women who, despite statements from U.S. President George W. Bush, she says are not finding their lives improving.

Last year, during Women’s History Month, Bush declared of Afghan women: “There’s nothing better than being a country that’s beginning to realize the benefits of freedom. Particularly women who have been completely suppressed under the Taliban are now beginning to see the beautiful, breathe that beautiful air of a free society.

“And so I want to thank the members of the United States Afghan Women’s Council for being so diligent and caring and staying with this important issue, that issue being the freedom of women in Afghanistan.”

Joya does not even express the disdain she must feel when she talks of such pronouncements from the presumptive leader of the world. Instead, she tells stories of real occurrences.

Like the story of Sanober, an 11-year-old who was kidnapped by warlords, raped and then traded for a dog.

Like the stories of activist women Khakiba Amaj and Zakia Zaki, who were killed in their homes.

Like the UN estimates that at least one of every three Afghan women has been beaten, raped or suffered other abuse.

Joya went to a maternity hospital to visit patients there earlier this year. Because of the many death threats and assassination attempts, she wore a burqua.

At first, she was ignored, but, as people learned who she was, they all clamoured to meet her.

The Afghan Women’s Mission writes of how Afghani women will walk for miles just to touch her.

I wonder if the TRU students were aware of just how important their guest speaker is in this world.

Rather than reading a textbook, they had a living, breathing historical-subject-in-the-making standing in front of them, telling the realities of politics in her homeland.

They will never learn more from the media, books or movies than she taught them in that brief hour.

Joya is only 29, not much older than some of them, and she is already making a mark on her country because she believes in something we take for granted — democracy.

She spoke of her quest for a democratic Afghanistan on Tuesday in Toronto. The following day was declared by the Canadian Peace Alliance a day of action to reinstate and defend her. Yesterday and today, she has taken her message to Halifax.

She has been called the bravest woman in Afghanistan — and she is just that.

All we can do is hope that she lives to see her quest completed.

Time for council to make a water-meter splash

Friday, November 2, 2007

There are some things that are just so obviously needed that it defies logic to say no.

Right now, for Kamloops, it’s water meters.

And it’s time for this council to do what the previous council was too afraid to do and make them mandatory for all residences.

Why this must happen is obvious to anyone who has ever expressed any concern at all about global warming, the environment, the growth of the city or something as simple as cutting one of the myriad costs homeowners must pay.

First, some facts.

Environment Canada says more than half of the water used by municipalities goes into homes, followed by the commercial sector (19 per cent), industrial buildings (16 per cent) and — believe it or not — leakage from pipes (13 per cent).

The Organization for Economic Development — an international organization to which Canada belongs and that works toward sustainable economic growth, improved standards of living, financial stability and economic development — ranks Canada 28th of its 29 member countries in terms of water consumption per capita.

Who’s worse than us?

The United States.

Who’s better than us? France (Canada’s rate is twice as high as the average French person), Germany (Canada is three times greater), Sweden (four times greater) and Denmark (eight times greater).

In fact, Canada’s per-capita water consumption rate is 65 per cent greater than the OECD average.

The organization notes that since 1980, overall water use in Canada has increased by 25.7 per cent, five times higher than the OECD average of 4.5 per cent.

Nine OECD members (Sweden, the Netherlands, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland, Finland and Denmark) lowered their overall use.

We’re told we have an abundance of water.

Even at this week’s council meeting, David Duckworth, the city’s public works and utilities director — and a man who has said he can’t believe a city like Kamloops still has no mandatory water metering system — stated this.

Last year, however, Innovation’s online magazine published an article by David Schindler, a professor of ecology at the University of Alberta and recipient of many awards for his scholarship in the field, that said it just looks like we have a lot of water because our water tends to pool into lakes and rivers.

However, if we look at annual water runoff, which Schindler says is the true indicator of total water available, it’s about average, at seven per cent.

If we were to empty our major lakes, Schindler said, it would take more than 100 years to refill them.

Just as we’re all worrying about global warming, we need to worry about our water supply.

And that means we have stop using it as if there’s an endless supply.

The only way to do that in Kamloops is to show people how much water they use and, often, waste.

Meters will do this. There is no other clear indicator to a homeowner about the cost of a utility like having to pay the cost to use it.

Coun. Tina Lange, among others on council, gets it.

She didn’t want to ask for yet another report on mandatory water meters at Tuesday’s meeting, but she also wants to be sure all councillors have every scrap of information possible before they decide on their next step.

That next step must be voting for universal mandatory water meters.

This council cannot do what its predecessor did and wimp out, going to the public on a referendum rather than doing the right thing and risking the wrath of some people with large properties or who just don’t like to see change.

It’s why we elect politicians.

To make decisions. To plan our future. To look at the big picture.

And that means looking beyond the next municipal election.

As Lange puts it, councillors — as well as the rest of us — need to be stewards of the environment.

It’s time for this council to show true leadership. So get your report, take the time to read it — and then do the right thing.

It’s time for water meters.

In many ways, it’s almost too late for them.

Some people would rather step over the hole

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

There’s a hole being filled on St. Paul Street — and, curiously, there are some residents there who don’t want to see it happen.

In fact, these residents take the entire NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude to a ludicrous extreme.

It seems these residents don’t want to have children in their neighbourhood.

Not just any children, though.

These are children who would have fallen into that hole, were it not for the creativity of the city, the Interior Health Authority and the two women who run Insight Support Services (ISS).

Now, a cautionary note upfront: my son is a client of this support agency, so, while this has given me a front-row seat watching the two former nurses who run the agency work their magic, my son has also benefited from them.

But then, what good is an opinion column if you have no facts on which to base your opinion?

ISS is primarily an outreach business that provides assistance to families with developmentally disabled children.

As such, the bulk of their work is done out in the community, in peoples’ homes, in classrooms — in places children go.

But a small part of their work comes in keeping teenagers out of the hole that is the lack of any form of out-of-school care for the child who is a teenager chronologically, but not developmentally.

ISS owners Deb Hubic and Julie Chambers want to provide after-school care for these children, who don’t qualify for day care (they’re too old), group homes (they’re still living with their families) or any other IHA-sanctioned out-of-school care.

The two want to do this not in a sterile, clinical environment, but in a warm, cozy household setting, so they bought a home on St. Paul Street.

They’ve put plenty of work into it, restoring the outside to once again fit with the streetscape, painting and renovating inside and creating a place where kids want to come after school for tutoring help, for lifeskills training, for supervised care for those two or three hours between the end of the school day and the time mom and dad can pick them up.

The rest of the day, the house is as quiet as any other in the area where the kids are at school and the parents at work.

The house is also a safe environment for children who, left unsupervised as many teens are these days, might get into troublesome situations.

The house is also a comfort for those teens who are aware of their disabilities and don’t like the idea of going to a clinical setting for help.

They can come “home,” sit at the dining-room table and get help with their homework.

Or they can go into the basement and hang with others, all the while learning the social skills many disabled children lack.

Hubic and Chambers are concerned, however, that there are some neighbours fighting to force them out of the house.

As they point out, they could have bought it and turned it into a crack shack or an escort service, but that’s not who they are.

They’re helpers, people who have devoted the past 15 years to providing that much-needed guidance to families learning to cope with a developmentally disabled child.

They’re concerned enough that they’ll be at city council on Tuesday when a request for a temporary commercial licence for the house is introduced.

It’s the only way city and IHA officials can see to plug that hole, while others in the health authority work to develop a policy and get it approved to provide some sort of sanctioned care for these teens.

It seems so simple, though.

There are children in need.

There is help available for them.

It involves a couple of hours a day of child activity in a house.

And each time the child leaves and heads for home, he or she leaves a bit better, a bit stronger, a bit more aware or, perhaps, just a bit happier.

Seems to me it’s exactly the kind of atmosphere we’d want to see in all homes.

But I hate flying too . . .

Monday, October 22, 2007

Many, many years ago, an assistant city editor at the London Free Press (where I spent 25 years before discovering B.C.) found out I am terrified of heights.

Really terrified. Can't even go up a ladder terrified. Can't watch movies that show heights terrified.

Silly terrified.

This perverted little gem of a reporter, who probably taught me more about interviewing than many others I worked for while there, decided I was the perfect person to cover a poker run -- via small aircraft.

The idea was to go from airport to airport in the Southern Ontario region, pick up the cards, finish, play your hand, win prizes, have dinner, lots of fun.

My stomach still churns at the memory of it all.

The arrival of Pacific Coastal airline to Kamloops on Oct. 22 brought that incident back to mind. In addition to free food (a natural attractant for all reporters), there was this need to fly on the plane around the city for 15 minutes. Now normally, one of my co-workers would have had this assignment because, on Mondays, my world revolves around laying out the Wheels section of Kamloops This Week. But not this time.

Seems my co-worker is afraid of flying. So, being the daring role model I believe myself to be, off I went, camera in hand, nausea bag in plain sight.

It was horrible. It was like riding a bumping roller-coaster in 40-degree heat. It was truly awful. It was the kind of ride that makes you want to kiss the ground when you land.

But, notwithstanding this, the jubilation expressed by the many business people who attended the ceremonial lift-off of the first flight from Kamloops to Vancouver was palpable. And that makes it all worthwhile.

So, welcome to Kamloops, Pacific Coastal. It was fun, but I'll stick to the Coq, instead.

The fun of being a reporter

Friday, October 19, 2007

There are some stories that are just really hard to do and this week, one of them fell onto my list.

Well, to be honest, I grabbed it for my list by deciding I'd find the mother of the man who was tasered at Vancouver Airport. And, after a call to a contact, who made another call and then another call and then another call -- she had a first name and a phone number.

Reverse directory provided last name and an address. No answer to a phone call meant head on down and do that thing we dread to do: knock on the door of a grieving parent and try to do our job.

Zofia Cisowski, however, opened her door told me her story, as much as therapy for her, I think, as it was to let people know that something was very, very wrong with the way her son had been treated by police who confronted him, tried to calm him down (not realizing he spoke no English), tasered him and then watched as he fell to the floor, dead.

A colleague said later his journalism teachers taught that, when dealing with a subject who is emotional, to stay calm, separate and just wait it out. Probably good advice for someone starting in the business -- we don't want them to start crying the minute their subject does -- but for me, the mother side took over and I stopped asking questions and just hugged Zofia as she cried.

It's not the first time I've done this kind of story. In fact, throughout my 30-plus year career as a reporter, I've had to do it more times than I wanted to. But then once is too many.

The next day, I stopped in to see how she was doing and return a photograph she had lent me to use with my story. Zofia had accidentally dropped her purse and all the contents were strewn over the livingroom floor. And she was crying. Just crying.

So I put the photo back in the small shrine she's created in memory of her son, got down on the floor, picked everything up and put it on her table. I asked if she needed anything, asked a couple of questions I needed for the story and then had to stare down a very big, very angry Polish man who decided that I was a leech taking advantage of a distraught woman.

It wasn't an argument I was going to get involved in, other than to tell him I didn't appreciate his choice of words. Because, by not following my young friend's caution from his teacher, but in letting my own emotions lead the interviews, I don't think I was using Zofia.

I'd like to think she was using me, and every other media person she's talked to, in an effort to find the truth behind why her son is dead.

There but for the grace of God go all of us . . .

The mayor and several councillors are off on their all-expenses-paid jaunt to China — but there are still plenty of city councillors left in town.

So here’s an idea — head to the Kamloops United Church on Sunday at about 5 p.m.

Bring your sleeping bag and warm clothes and spend a night living the way too many Kamloopsians do every night.

On the street. Cold. Hungry. Probably not with a down-filled sleeping bag. More likely with a worn blanket.

When you’re out on the church lawn, where the overnight vigil is being held, talk to people.

Talk to people you might not normally talk to.

Ask questions. Ask them what their lives are like. Ask them how they survive. Ask them what’s wrong with a country that cannot care for them.

And then listen.

You’ll all be better politicians — and human beings — than you are now.

And then take the information you get and do something with it.

Talk to your colleagues — after they return from their trade and tourism promotional jaunt — about ways Kamloops can make a difference.

About ways Kamloops can start to mend the shattered social safety net.

Don’t do any more studies.

The statistics are there for the reading. We’ve done the homelessness census.

We’ve counted the paltry number of affordable housing units in the city.

Don’t hold any more workshops, because it’s the same people at every one.

It’s like preaching to the choir.

The people who really need to know aren’t the people who take part in these repetitive sessions.

They all sit and nod and know those statistics because they either helped compile them or they see them every day in their agency offices.

Behind each statistic is a story and, combined, it’s a tragic anthology of dreams lost, hopes dashed, lives ruined.

But that does not mean these are lives to be ignored.

I met an incredible woman once who has a mental illness.

She had been homeless. She had been lost to society.

But people showed interest in her, listened to her and discovered she too had dreams.

She was not her mental illness, but it was what was defining her.

Once people were able to see past that, an incredible support group developed around her that helped her leave the streets and start the life she wanted.

Today, she’s a homeowner with the most adorable little boy who is growing up surrounded by the kind of love that only those who have lost it can ever really express.

I spent time once in the old tent city that erupted behind the New Life Mission years ago, talking to a Maritimer who was once bringing in more than $70,000 a year.

He had a wife, kids, friends, hobbies — everything most of us take for granted.

Then his government job was gone, the victim of downsizing.

And out in the Maritimes, well, the jobs weren’t all that plentiful then.

Rum became his reason to get up every morning. Eventually, rum was more important than his wife and kids because, when he spent time with it, he forgot that his life was a disaster.

Eventually, it led him to a tent behind the mission, where he talked of wanting sobriety but not being able to handle the wait to get into a program.

One day, when I went to talk to him again, he was gone. His buddies in that back lot didn’t know where he was.

To this day, I wonder.

It’s too easy to ignore them, the panhandlers, the “strange ones” we see on the streets every day.

It’s too easy to think those thoughts you know you’ve had before. We all do at some time.

But it’s important to remember that these are our brothers, our sisters, our parents, our friends.

These are who we might be if the cards had been shuffled a bit differently for us.

And it behooves our politicians, those who claim the right to represent us and work for us, to learn who all of us are.

And that means spending some time at church on Sunday.

In a brief 26 years, Darcy touched so many

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Darcy Robinson — as a person, a hockey player, a student, a friend, a fiance, a son and a brother — touched too many lives during his too-brief 26 years.
They will be coming from near and far for his service Monday morning at the Calvary Community Church on Rogers Way.
They may be coming from Ontario, Calgary, Saskatoon, Red Deer — all to pay their respects to a young man who was taken from the earth far too soon and as yet without explanation.
They’ll join together on Thanksgiving Day, a time when families are supposed to gather around the dinner table and reflect on all their blessings.
Perhaps Darcy’s parents Ernie and Dave will find some time to think about the blessing they had for those 26 years, nurturing a young man whose death Sept. 27 has impacted far more people than they could imagine.
Perhaps his brothers Ryan and Daniel will also think about how their lives were blessed by Darcy, the oldest son, the one they got to watch as he started to live out his dreams playing hockey in Italy.
Perhaps his fiancee will also find some solace as the community gathers together at the church — the scene of many happy graduation ceremonies for young men and women about to set out into the world — and know that she, too, was blessed.
It’s a testament to this young man’s impact on those who knew him, or had watched him play, that they came together so quickly, thanks to technology, to create a website where they could post their thoughts, share their grief.
In a few short days, a Facebook site had registered more than 800 people, including a former teammate on his Italian hockey league squad Asiago, former classmates from Aberdeen elementary and a former Kamloops sports reporter who will make the trip from Calgary back to Kamloops to pay her respects to a young man she watched — and often wrote about — as he developed his love of the game.
Even the omniscient YouTube has a video honouring the man who had dreams of playing for his mother’s native Italy one day in Olympic hockey.
Kevin Stinelli, a student at Pennsylvania State College, copied a slide show of Darcy the hockey player from a tribute one of his former teams created, and set it to lyrics he chose especially for Darcy:
“It’s good to have you with us, even if it’s just for the day, Outside the sun is shining, seems like heaven ain’t far away.”
Heaven wasn’t far away when Darcy missed the puck, turned, collapsed and died with Kristen sitting in the stands, watching.
Some have said it was good she was there but does the heart ache any less if you’re there to say goodbye?
Is the pain any less knowing your son died doing what he loved the most?
Surrounded by his teammates, his coach, his fans?
Is it eased knowing that even young men who never met Darcy remembered him by placing his initials on their helmets, next to the blazing B he never wore? An honour they’ll carry into many games in this painfully young season.
Parents never really know who their children will become, what dreams they’ll have, what heartbreaks they’ll endure.
All they can do is the best they’re able to do, and then watch and hope — until that day comes when they know they did OK, their child did right and the world is a better place because of it.
Even if it was for just 26 years.

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

I am one in four — and taking those scary steps

Someone asked if it’s true my husband and I have academic expectations for our youngest son.
The person on the other end of this conversation seemed stunned when I replied that we did.
But he has autism, this person continued. Wouldn’t his time be better spent learning life skills and collecting attendance slips?
Well, as my other children would say, that’s a big N-O!
I’m sure this person didn’t realize the comments made were reinforcing a negative stereotype.
He doesn’t know that Sean has been successful in every grade so far, that he was well ahead of his class last year in some areas and definitely behind in others.
He doesn’t know we were once told Sean would never speak or interact with others, but now has many friends — including his beloved Kailah B. — and loves to act out his self-written stories, which he illustrates with his own “movie posters.”
The conversation left me not so much angry, but rather sad that an educated adult would have that immediate reaction.
It comes as no surprise to Christa Haywood-Farmer of the Kamloops branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Even in 2007, she said, the stigma of any mental illness is incredible.
In far too many minds, a person with a mental disability or illness is dangerous, scary, unemployable — images Haywood-Farmer said are reinforced in popular culture, particularly movies.
It’s her job to try to dispel these stereotypes — not an easy task considering a Mustel poll, released earlier this week, that shows that less than half of British Columbians who thought they might be suffering from depression would seek help.
Only about one in four would look for professional help.
The rest either wouldn’t or didn’t know how they would react.
The statistics may seem alarming, unless you’ve been one of them. Count me in that group that wouldn’t seek help.
There was nothing wrong with me — it was everyone else who had a problem.
The world was making me nuts — but it wasn’t my fault.
Sure, I cried a lot and got angry a lot and then got happy a lot — but that was just me.
My husband used to dread the days I’d wake up in a truly great mood, because he knew what was coming next. Only I didn’t see it and wouldn’t listen to the family telling me to get help.
Until the day I sat in a corner of the living room in the dark, crying.
And crying.
And crying.
For hours, I cried.
Doctors diagnosed bipolar disorder, put me on medication and into therapy that lasted a year.
Most of that time was spent coming to accept the disease and learning how to deal with it.
That took some time.
I spent about two years saying I had a chemical imbalance in my brain. Just couldn’t get those two words to come out.
I didn’t want people to think I was crazy.
That’s when Sean provided the life lesson that was needed.
He has a disability. He works hard to overcome and compensate for it. I want people to accept him as he is and understand we’re not all made with a cookie cutter.
And just as he puts another face on the concept of autism, it seemed right for me to add my face to the community that battles the stereotype of mental illness every day.
Yes, I’m bipolar. And I work, have a family, a truly messy house, friends, volunteer work, a monumentally bad sense of humour, goals and aspirations.
For those of you out there — and statistics show one in five B.C.ers is living with some form of mental disorder — Haywood Farmer is the organizer of Beyond the Blues, a depression anxiety education and screening day on Oct. 4 at Thompson Rivers University from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
People can attend and learn about mental illness, take an anonymous test that will indicate if they should be addressing their own mental health and get information on how to get help.
It’s a long road being walked by the people with mental illnesses and for those who advocate for them — but for Haywood-Farmer, “every step that we can make is a positive.”
Even when those steps are scary.

© Copyright 2007 Kamloops This Week

Steven Truscott a victim of police tunnel-vision

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I grew up in Southern Ontario, just an hour or so south of the place where Lynne Harper and Steven Truscott lost their lives.

For Lynne, it was a permanent loss, a murder that will never be solved even though so much evidence now points to someone else, a long-dead pedophile.

For Truscott, it’s hard to actually really know how much of his life died on June 11, 1954, when Lynne’s broken body was found and he became the only suspect. He was convicted in a sham of a trial and sentenced to hang, all at age 14.

Like most of us who grew up back then, we knew the Truscott story. Many of us read the first book to challenge his conviction, The Trial of Steven Truscott, written by Isabel LeBourdais and published by a British firm because not one publisher in Canada would do so, including the high-profile Jack McClelland, who often cloaked himself in the cape of freedom from censorship and advocating for the unheard.

Later, of course McClelland opted for the Canadian publishing rights, once the book had made its impact.

I’ve read everything that has been written on this travesty.

I’ve had dinner with one of the producers of the Fifth Estate episode when Truscott, who had built a life for himself under an assumed name, reclaimed his birthright and told the world — again — he was innocent.

It’s good that this horrendous wrong has been officially righted — after 48 years — and the Canadian public now know the police firmly planted their tunnel-vision glasses on their faces back in 1954, decided they had the guilty party and never once looked anywhere else, even though a known and active pedophile lived in the area.

There’s been an alarming number of mistakes made by the police in the last several decades.

In Canada alone, there are 41 known instances, many of them coming in the last two decades.

Names like James Driskell (convicted of murder in 1991, he spent 12 years in prison before being cleared in 2005), Steven Kaminski (convicted of sexual assault in 1992, he spent seven years in prison before being cleared in 1999), Donald Marshall Jr. (convicted of murder in 1971, he spent 12 years in prison before being cleared in 1983), David Milgaard (convicted of murder in 1970, he spent 23 years in prison before being cleared in 1992 after a long, impassioned fight against the government by his mother) and Guy Paul Morin (convicted of murder in 1992, he was cleared in 1995).

This is not a North American phenomenon. Take the time to look at and it will stun you. Then go to and read about the ongoing work in Canada to right wrongs.

It’s there that you’ll read about Wilbert Coffin, who was hanged in Quebec in 1956 after being convicted of murder — although it now appears he was wrongly convicted. Two Canadian groups are looking at this case.

I raise these cases not to point out all the mistakes that have been made. They happened, most can be fixed and some can only be resolved to provide solace to the families.

Instead, I raise it because of a conversation I had with a member of our own detachment last week, one that disturbed me immensely.

I’ve left phone and e-mail messages for Supt. Jim Begley to talk about it, but haven’t heard back from him yet.

The conversation involved complaints I have received in recent months about treatment of people arrested and held in our jails.

In particular, the concerns involve the women’s lockup.

I wanted to know if it is true that blankets aren’t provided, even when it’s cold, and whether the area is usually staffed by male officers, as has been alleged by these complainants.

I wanted to know just what the lockups are really like.

The reply from a local Mountie was to be expected and not really hard to challenge — it’s jail, not a hotel.

Good point, but being the socialist I am, I pointed out that people being held in jail are technically innocent until proven guilty.

And this is where the answers from this officer became frightening.

“That’s the American attitude,” the officer told me. “If we arrest them, we have enough good reason to do that.”

They’re guilty because the cops say they’re guilty? Presumption of innocence is American?

It’s 2007. Isn’t it time for the police to get rid of those tunnel-vision goggles? Maybe if they did, we won’t have any more Steven Truscotts.

Harper needs to learn that we are not the enemy

Saturday, August 25, 2007

While watching some of the televised news of the protests at Montebello, my husband — a very wise and insightful man when it comes to these kinds of issues — said the protesters were carrying the wrong message on their signs.

Rather than condemning U.S. President George W. Bush as a criminal, or Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a pawn, their message should have been this, he said:

“We are the people. We are not the enemy.”

But later, after the event was done and the “three amigos” had all returned to their respective homes, I watched another video that drove the point home.

It’s one on and, while there’s nothing to confirm allegations the three masked protesters were in fact undercover police, just watching it made me feel sick.

There are some of the older protesters, including Council of Canadians head Maude Barlow and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union president Dave Cole. They’re standing between a group of younger protesters and the Quebec police sent to guard the meeting.

A trio is standing there with rocks in their hands. They’re wearing identical masks. They look fit.

They’re trying to provoke a confrontation with the police.

Cole and his crew confront them.

“This is our line,” he shouts. “It’s a peaceful demonstration.”

Then it gets ugly.

Cole says the three are cops trying to get the rest of the police a reason to go after the protesters.

He demands they identify themselves. He tells them to take off their masks. He orders them to put down the rocks.

They do none of this.

Instead, you can watch them start to push their way toward the police, who immediately put them on the ground, handcuff them — and they walk casually to the waiting police vans.

No struggling. No pepper spray. No tear gas. No rubber bullets.

All police tools other protesters were exposed to at the rally.

It gave me the creeps. I don’t know who these three were, but they were certainly spared the manhandling we watched others endure at the secretive talk site.

We are the people.

We are not the enemy.

It’s something these two powerful men, and their buddy from Mexico, President Felipe Calderon, should remember.

But don’t expect Harper to do so.

He sanctioned the police actions.

A protest camp six miles from the posh Montebello retreat was deemed a security risk.

Apparently, six miles is way too close for the average person to approach our prime minister.

For these business titans, however, the room next door was just fine.

Harper wouldn’t even accept a petition from the 10,800 people of Canada who are worried about the talks the trio was having with representatives from big — very big — business to discuss harmonizing the economies and border restrictions of the three countries that comprise North America.

These are discussions about how our economy will synchronize with those of the U.S. and Mexico — discussions Harper has said he doesn’t have to take to Parliament for approval.

They’re talking about regulations and all those mechanisms we rely on to ensure not only that our economy is strong, but that the goods we import and export meet these standards.

And all we have by way of explanation of this Security and Prosperity Partnership are assurances from Harper, Bush and Calderon that there’s nothing sinister about it.

Trust them.

It’s not hard to understand why people went there to protest.

Harper’s comment when he heard of the protests, the clashes with police?

“I’ve heard it’s nothing. A couple hundred [protesters]? It’s sad.”

No, Mr. Harper. It isn’t sad.

It is the people speaking.

They are not the enemy.

Maybe some day, you’ll understand that.

Today, they are all viewed as ‘small’ steps

Friday, August 10, 2007

There’s an event happening today that makes me wish that we could all be transported back to the summer of ‘69.
Not to relive all the wild and crazy stuff that was going on, but to once again feel the complete wonderment that enveloped the world on July 20, 1969, when a man from Wapakoneta, Ohio, walked into history.
Remember those words?
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
What a moment.
It was one of the rare times my parents let my sister and I stay up way, way, way past our bedtime (although, in truth, they had to wake me up) so we could watch a grainy black and white image on our very tiny television screen (ensconced, of course, in a massive hunk of wooden furniture and with two controls — on/off and channel).
How could anyone possibly go back to bed after seeing something that, up to then, had been nothing more than a seemingly ridiculous promise made by then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy at the beginning of the decade, that man would walk on the moon before the 1960s ended?
A few years later and we were all tethered to our TVs — many of them by then colour — listening to the only journalist who mattered as Walter Cronkite helped us through the crisis of the disabled Apollo 13.
Remember how you felt when that capsule finally was shown onscreen, bopping in the waves of the Pacific Ocean, the crew aboard all massively stressed but safe?
Today, Canadian astronaut Dave Williams is expected to make the first of perhaps three space walks, using the Canadarm, to make repairs to a space station.
That is beyond cool.
There’s a teacher aboard the Endeavour space shuttle this time, the first teacher to head for space in 21 years.
And that fact is also amazing.
It doesn’t seem like more than two decades have gone by since the shuttle Challenger blew up on takeoff, killing its crew, including teacher Christa MacAuliffe.
By that time, there were few of us even interested in watching the takeoff.
Cronkite was long-since retired; the major networks weren’t carrying the takeoffs anymore.
CNN was watching that day, however, and some of us in the newsroom where I was working were also watching.
It’s one of those moments that lives in your memory forever.
The entire space program still brings a thrill of amazement — at least to me and likely many of my generation.
I’ve tried to explain all of this to my children in the ensuing years — how truly remarkable these accomplishments were.
How they changed the way we viewed our world and gave us an entirely new universe to contemplate.
When I took my older children to the then-Cape Kennedy site, now back to its original Cape Canaveral name, they looked at me in a mixture of bemusement and bewilderment as I rhapsodized about the Gemini series of space flights, of how we were all waiting for John Glenn to fall out of the sky — because the idea of leaving the Earth was basically science fiction.
And now, with the younger ones, it’s become apparent that the space program is old hat, a fact of their lives and doesn’t capture their imagination nearly as much as it did mine.
If they want to experience the concept of space flight, all they need to do these days is plug in a video game or load up a computer game. They can go beyond Buck Rogers and venture into any world they want to create.
And, while they can have fun pretending to be an astronaut at the controls of a joystick, it seems they’re missing out on something that was integral to those of us growing up in the ‘60s — that sense of awe and the realization that the world was just starting to open up.
And that we had no idea what would come next.

Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kamloops

Sunday, July 15, 2007

That Dorothy was right. There really is no place like home.

After spending 10 days in Ontario — two in Toronto, apparently the true centre of the universe in many a mind, and eight in London — it was so good to feel those plane tires touch down out at Fulton Field.

There are so many reasons Kamloops is a great place to live.

Ontario has my older kids, my grandson, some very dear friends — and yes, about 40 years’ worth of memories — but Kamloops has got everything beat.

Consider these:

I went to the University of Western Ontario to visit some friends there. Put a looney in the parking meter. Got 12 minutes.

Put another looney in. That took the time to 24 minutes.

It ended up costing $5 for slightly more than an hour to fit in a visit and quick turn around the old campus.

Went downtown for lunch with that friend from campus. We had to park about three blocks away from our destination, and walk. Got to the street and the cars just kept on whizzing by.

I know we were about to jaywalk, but heck, in Kamloops, cars stop for pedestrians waiting to cross the road just about anywhere.

In Kamloops, drivers don’t use turn signals. Now I realize many of you take umbrage at that statement, but the truth is you don’t.

In London — and moreso in Toronto — drivers don’t pay any attention to a single traffic indicator.

Red light? In Ontario, it apparently means speed up and run it.

Yellow light? Time to go very quickly and make sure there’s a jam of vehicles blocking every road.

Humidity — I had forgotten how humid it is there. We get heat here but it’s not the kind that makes you feel like you should carry a towel everywhere — if you dare to even go out of the house.

People are, for the most part, polite here in Kamloops. When my eldest son moved here a few years ago, he came home one day and said he couldn’t take it. People are too nice, he exclaimed, nothing like back home.

And he’s right. I bump into someone, I apologize.

We all pretty much do that. I can’t count the number of times I was almost bowled over in Ontario by people who were headed somewhere very quickly and determinedly.

Actually, they walked much the way they drove: Hurry up and wait, don’t give an inch and yell at anyone who gets in your way.

When I lived in London, the market downtown was a true farmers’ market. The same families were there with their wares for sale. You could wander around leisurely choosing produce, some handmade items and visit the neatest pet store in town.

The market now is upscale, trendy, fast, and filled with yuppie-food-to-be-nuked-quickly. The old farm families are nowhere to be seen. It’s crowded. Everyone was rushing. There were wrought-iron tables for two placed throughout and along the edge of the building were several restaurants and wine bars.

And not a fresh tomato to be seen, although I did find a place to buy a potato focaccia rosemary loaf of bread.

The downtown area itself is not even a shred of what it used to be. If anything, it looks like some of the rougher parts of Toronto and Vancouver. There was nothing along either side of the street that was interesting enough to make me stop. No Fratelli’s. Nothing at all like Mainstreet Clothing. No Eyes International. No Lavender Lingerie. Nothing at all like our own boutiquey, user-friendly downtown area.

City Lights Bookstore, the business that gave B.C.’s prince of pot Marc Emery an early boost into entrepreneurship, is still there though and still pretty much the way Marc left it decades ago.

Sure, it used to be home. And there was a time much earlier in my life when I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

But it’s not home now. It’s where some of my family lives, and where I’ll likely return to spoil them all and play with the grandson.

But it’s not Kamloops. This is a gem of a city, something we don’t realize until those wheels touch down on the runway.

Is it about public safety? Or about public persona?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

With the city putting a concerted effort into community safety, it’s time to ask the local RCMP some pointed questions.

First, what possible reason could there have been for such an overblown arrest of three people in the parking lot at Harold’s Restaurant?

And don’t call it a takedown.

Don’t buy into the inflammatory language the local RCMP use to justify some of their actions.

It’s like the edict they must never be photographed without their hats on — it’s all propaganda.

However, it’s probably instructive to take a look at the news release the local detachment issued about this arrest: “The Kamloops RCMP Detachment with the assistance of the emergency response team and the police helicopter executed a ‘high risk’ arrest of an adult male in the parking lot of Harold’s Restaurant . . . The arrest of the male, who is well known to police, is part of the ongoing investigation into the brazen daylight shooting that occurred on June 28... The investigation is far from being over at this point.”

Wow. I feel safe.

Why was this considered a “high-risk” arrest? Yes, the man taken into custody has been charged with attempted murder, but we don’t classify every murder attempt as requiring a “high-risk” arrest.

Why were almost two dozen officers required to take into custody one very bad dude and a couple of women (at least one of whom is facing prostitution-related charges) accompanying him?

Aren’t most daylight shootings “brazen?” And “the investigation is far from being over” — what does that mean?

Did the police even stop to think how terrified the customers would be in the restaurant — one that naturally attracts families — when all those concussion grenades started going off during this “high-risk” arrest? Did they apologize to the people who literally hit the floor, terrified?

Or was this just another one of what appear to be headline-grabbing moves by the police to show they’re tough on crime (also referred to as doing their job?)

Next, what was with that roust of sex-trade workers on the North Shore? Could it have been done in a manner that was less clear?

It’s a no-go zone. No, it’s a maybe-you-can-go zone. Then it’s a no-go zone and women are being rearrested for going there. Then it’s a you-can-go-there-for-treatment zone. What is it? Go or no-go? And what’s the point?

Does this not just move the women elsewhere?

The police don’t target the johns — but volunteer members of the safety patrol in that area don’t have any trouble identifying them, confronting them, taking down their identifying information and making them move on.

I’m told members of the RCMP have told city officials they learned from this high-profile roust and will do it better in the future.

One can only hope.

Through my work, I’ve talked to far too many people who have claimed they were mistreated by the local police. While I’m no so naive as to believe them all, some of them are highly credible people who are not “known to police.”

They’re very persuasive and, given what we’ve been learning from the inquest in Houston, it’s cause for concern about the mentality affecting police everywhere.

I raise these issues not because I’m some left-wing fanatic who is always dumping on the police.

Rather, it’s because, during a recent meeting with many city stakeholders, and the police, all talking about community safety, the group was told that the visibility of our local constabulary might start to diminish for a while.

Some calls for help might not warrant the attention of an officer for a significant period of time, if they’re deemed to not be emergencies. Instead, the local police are going to be focussing more on the undercover, the big scores, the “hot spots.”

They’re going to go for the big headlines, the “we’re tough on crime” moments, all the while ignoring that it’s the petty nuisance crimes most of us are subjected to, and they’re just as invasive and discomforting as the big crimes. In some ways, they’re more disturbing because they are the ones that really affect us.

I know the police provide a valuable service, one we must have. It’s not a job I’d want to do. But I worry when they start to alternate between secrecy and overblown.

And that’s what they seem to be doing these days.

Will we win gold in attracting homeless?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

News flash! The tall foreheads in the city of Vancouver — you know, the ones who really, really, really wanted to land the Olympics for 2010 — have started to realize they might not be able to rid the streets of those darn homeless people.

And boy, they want them gone when the world — and all that media — locks its eyes on the city for the duration of the event.

In fact, if there’s one good thing about Vancouver holding the Olympics, it’s that its government, and the provincial one above it, are at least trying to do something to alleviate the incomprehensible situation of the homeless and marginalized in one of this nation’s largest, most progressive cities.

Of course, they somehow have to come up with 3,200 new units of housing in the next four years.

That’s 800 a year, or 15 new units a week.

Anyone want to give odds on that happening?

It must be noted that, according to its own administrative report, issued June 28 by the City of Vancouver, since the city was awarded the games in 2003, only 176 low-income units for singles have been created.

Earlier this month, the city’s Community Services housing centre noted it was still meeting to come up with a way to integrate supportive housing into various neighbourhoods successfully.

Also key to the goal of eliminating homelessness before that torch is lit on Feb 12, 2010, is to see welfare rates increasing, but there’s been no sign from our own Claude Richmond, — the minister who can make that kind of a recommendation — doing so any time soon.

No one should be surprised by all of this, though, because, historically, the Olympic Games displace people, according to the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, a Geneva, Switzerland-based think tank.

In fact, the group reports, during the past 20 years, the Olympics have displaced more than two million people.

It’s expected 1.5 million will be displaced when Beijing hosts the 2008 Summer Games.

The report says that in the run-up to 2010, Vancouver has lost 700 low-income housing units through conversion to tourist accommodations.

So where do you think many of these people will go? The road out of town leads to plenty of places, but most are still in that hallowed area that will either host or bask in the glory of the Olympics.

Which puts Kamloops on the map.

Ask anyone in the social-service sector here where the homeless will head when the spectacle they call the Olympics begins, and they’ll all tell you a large portion will come here. This won’t be during the summer months, when many could at least find a hunk of riverbank to lay claim to — until the local police roust them out — but in February, when they’ll be looking for housing, for places to eat, for ways to buy their drugs, for money to buy those drugs.

And I wonder if the city will be ready for it, or if our own tall foreheads are buying into the myth that the legacy of 2010 in Vancouver will be a new age for the homeless.

If they are, they’re deluding themselves and putting the rest of the city at risk.

If they’re not meeting now to begin the work that will be involved in dealing with this influx, there’s no way they’ll be ready to handle it.

Social-service agencies will be stretched to the limit.

Crime is bound to increase — and it will be that annoying crime that affects us all, the stolen cars, the break-ins at home, the personal goods that will be ripped off to be pawned or sold for some quick cash.

If the city thought it had a panhandler problem before, I can’t wait to see how it reacts to panhandling circa 2010.

The people behind the Vancouver Olympics are right about one thing: It’s time to do something about homelessness in this province.

It would just be nice to see all levels of government putting as much money and effort into winning that race as it is in achieving Olympic gold.

It’s (grit teeth) their (clench fists) life

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I got a marriage proposal this week.

It was certainly not a serious one, coming from a female friend, but I got her point.

I was listing the things I was doing in preparation for an upcoming trip out of the province — things like getting most of the boys’ lunches ready, making sure every stitch of clothing is clean, leaving notes throughout the house on what to needs to be done.

She was trying to tell me that I’m doing the Beaver Cleaver’s mom thing, and she’s right.

I’m trying to ensure the fridge is loaded up with easy-to-cook meals and have already colour-coded a Mapquest printout showing the most direct route — in my mind — to the site of the youngest son’s recital this month.

This is not because their dad is incompetent.

On the contrary, he’ll do just fine without me, won’t miss the snoring and will no doubt enjoy a respite for the nightly fight-for-the-blankets I subject him to (he’s the fighter, I’m the hoarder).

Maybe it’s a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder — although if you saw the house, you’d know it’s more likely I have obsessive-relaxive disorder.

It could be my own deep-set inability to accept that the men of the house can manage great without me.

Or, it may just be that I like things done my way.

Which should have the older children nervous.

Part of this upcoming trip is to spend a week with the three adult children (chronologically speaking) in Ontario.

It’s been a couple of years since I last saw them and, during that time, they’ve experienced those nasty little trip-ups that many hit when starting out on their own.

There have been job searches, lousy-paying jobs, lousy-houred jobs, unexpected household expenses.

They’ve learned that when mom says SAVE YOUR MONEY, it would have been a good idea to do that.

So, on this visit, there are two major priorities: I get to meet the boyfriend who’s been mentioning the word marriage to the daughter (I’m going to define elopement for him), and the girlfriend who moved in with my middle son a few years ago and has yet to speak more than three words on the phone to me.

Apparently, both are somewhat nervous of my arrival, and my children haven’t helped calm their nerves.

They’ve been brutally honest: mom isn’t like most moms.

She’s blunt, she’s not embarrassed to ask anyone anything and she is not shy at expressing her opinions.

At least, that’s how they view me.

Which leaves me with just one question: When did I turn into my mother?

I can remember her visits, where nothing was done the way she would have done it.

I didn’t fold the laundry right. I used too many spices in my cooking and not nearly enough salt. My hair was too long. My younger kids were too loud. Why don’t I plant some roses in the garden?

She pretended to like my husband, but he wasn’t someone she would have chosen for me. He has a beard, he doesn’t wear ties, he golfs — what do I see in him?

I gave up trying to explain it, so wisdom dictates I not even try to get my kids to explain their choices to me.

She never did understand my career choice, and I often heard that I was wasting my talents.

That’s going to be a hard one to avoid myself, since I had such great plans for the kids. And not one of them came to fruition.

There are no doctors, or lawyers, or even plumbers among the three of them.

But that’s okay. I’m gonna fool each of them.

I’m getting off that plane having spent the preceding hours with this mantra: it’s their life. Just like I wanted my mother to understand mine.

It’s a good lesson to learn, even at my age.

Singh no stuffed-shirt city councillor

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It’s been a rough few weeks for Coun. Arjun Singh, culminating in a pretty strongly worded dressing down by Mayor Terry Lake earlier this week.

It seems Singh the politician wasn’t created from the same cookie cutter as all the other pols who sit around our council table.

He’s taken flack about this from the beginning. He talked too loudly. No one understood him (a comment that bordered on racism, from my perspective).

He asked too many questions.

The criticism hit a higher level when he dared to suggest the unthinkable — we need to institute a plastic tax to reduce the amount of plastics we’re putting into our landfills. Heresy!

Throw in the New York computer technology-democracy conference and his defence of the people behind the Save Public Waterfront campaign and you’ve got a city councillor who is definitely on his own path.

And this is good.

Shortly after his election, when many people were probably still trying to figure out how Singh got elected, I speculated he will eventually become one of the best councillors Kamloops has ever had.

That comment drew a lot of flack from friends, colleagues, people I don’t even know, all wondering if I’d lost my mind.

I haven’t. Herewith, all the reasons why I still think Singh is a great councillor.

He thinks outside the box. Sure, sometimes he’s waaay outside the box, but at least he’s willing to consider new ideas, look at radical approaches and engage others in a dialogue about them. (This would be a great time to point out some communities in North America have adopted a plastax, seeing its wisdom, Kamloops not being among them.)

He’s not afraid to speak out. I’d bet Arjun has said more words at council meetings during his first term than Joe Leong and John De Cicco have in their multiple terms.

He is thoroughly engaged in the community he represents. He has his blog, his council/City Hall related website, even his Facebook page on the Internet welcomes feedback from the rest of us. He shows up at so many public events not to get his picture in the paper but to ask questions, to listen, to learn, to do his job better.

And he’s certainly not afraid to challenge the statements of others on council. In fact, that’s what led to his criticism from Lake, who appears to have been in a testy mood already at the last council meeting. The mayor berated Nancy Bepple, one of the pair behind a movement to rezone a parking lot next to the Interior Savings Centre back to park zoning, accusing them of scare tactics.

Seems a bit harsh and certainly uncalled for. Anyone who has read their petition (which, by the way, has more than 2,000 signatures on it, or who has read their website knows that they are being proactive, trying to address a potential situation, rather than reacting after it happens.

That’s smart. There’s too much of this “council makes a decision, people don’t like it, they gather to fight it but gee, too bad, because it’s already got forward momentum.”

Beyond that, the gall Lake showed in criticizing Bepple for exercising two fundamental human rights — to protest and to speak — is, well, revealing, I would say.

Singh spoke positively about Bepple’s work. I’m betting that didn’t please Lake because later, when Singh started to discuss the recent sweep and arrests of prostitutes on the North Shore, he was criticized again, this time because he hasn’t completely read some report about policing.

That wasn’t the point. Singh was suggesting adding someone from the city’s social planning council to the police commission — which is a good idea.

It’s fine to say that Lake and councillors Pat Wallace, Jim Harker, who sit on the police Committee, have social consciences. There’s no doubting they do.

But it’s the members of the social planning council who are solely looking at that tattered safety net, who are helping to address the gaps and take advantages of the assets, who understand the kind of problems the recent rouse of prostitutes has caused. That kind of a voice should be heard by the policing side of our community.

It was a good idea Singh floated out there. It may not be something a cookie-cutter politician would say, but that’s good.

Keep on talking, Arjun. Some of us are listening.