Saturday, November 29, 2008

Merry Christmas - from Kristen Woodruff


I am exhausted but happier than I have ever been. The police took just about everything we had---tents, sleeping bags, food, winter jackets, blankets. Leaving me and most of the other campers with only the clothes on our backs. All this after we had quite willingly agreed with Ken Kelly, head of the Downtown Victoria Business association, to leave Centennial square by noon today (Friday, November 28th) so that he could host a Christmas tree lighting ceremony for the public.

The City insisted that this wasn't good enough--and sent in a host of bylaw enforcement officers and police men to make sure we were out of there by 9a.m. On the authority of the city's "bylaw enforcement policy" restricting tents to the hours between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., the bylaw officers issued several $100 tickets for "constructing a temporary structure without a permit." They then arrested David Arthur Johnston and Tavis Dodds, on the charge of "continuing to disobey a bylaw." They didn't seem to want to arrest me or anyone else who, like Johnston and Dodds, maintained that the officers had no authority to enforce the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. policy. They did give me a $100 ticket for the lit candle I had in front of me during the whole proceedings.

Just when we thought it was over, we heard a scuffle a few hundred feet way, under an awning where one of us stood watch over tents, tarps, sleeping bags, food, and other effects we had packed up earlier--before the police even arrived. The police were loading all the goods into a truck, and wouldn't let us have anything back. Scott, who had been watching the pile when the police came over, reported having told them, when asked "are these yours"--"no, I don't believe anything belongs to anyone, but I am taking care of these things. And they are more mine than yours." Mine or yours or theirs, our stuff was, yet again, carted off to the abyss of the Police Department. Never to be seen again, most likely. People without a fixed address rarely get anything back from the police.

So we were back to nothing again. No big deal, really. For some reason we were all deliriously happy, maybe because we knew that the police and the City can't take away anything real---they can steal our stuff, imprison our friends, neglect the rule of law. No big deal. They can't take THAT away. Someone from the media asked me if I was worried about my friends in jail. I answered---"Well, when your friends are in the hands of people who show little respect for the law, it's natural to worry. But what are they going to do? What's the worst? Torture my friends and make me watch, then kill them, then torture me, then kill me? Well, fine. Because even then you can't take anything away." Pain comes and goes. Love is forever. Life outlives the prisons and the grave. Or as a young man who was released from police cells early this morning and came by the camp for a rest said--"When you are free in here--" he gestured at his heart--"then you can be free, even in there[in jail]."

The City of Victoria does not seem to be honoring the law in this case, to say the least--and this instance is just a sign of a broad pattern of lawlessness on the part of the City of Victoria. And the victims of the City's lawlessness are most often those least able to defend themselves. Our City government is not benevolent, even though there are some well-meaning individuals who work with the city in various capacities, and well-meaning citizens who would like to believe the City acts in the best interests of the people. And the police are on the whole a gang of publicly-sanctioned bullies who intimidate the most vulnerable of our citizens into compliance. That said, there are a few individual police officers who sincerely strive to protect the people, and I feel sorry for those commendable officers that they have to carry out the city's illegal policies.

So, on the authority of a most likely illegal bylaw, the city held two people in jail today. Happens every day to many homeless individuals, only it doesn't usually make the evening news. Every day this week people came into the camp in Centennial square sharing stories of how the police stole all their stuff, beat them up, drove them out of city limits, or a combination of the three. I had no idea it was as bad as it is.

Well--this afternoon Dodds and Johnston were released from custody, and given a speedy trial---unlike many people with No Fixed Address, they have a strong support net work, the back-up of two ninja-goddess lawyers who work for free (Irene and Cathy) and much public visibility. The Justice System still works badly for them, but it works better for them than it does for most people living on the street.

Johnston and Dodds will appear in court on Friday, December 5th for a trial which will begin the process of determining in the court whether the city has any legal authority in enforcing a ban on tenting between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., in light of madam Justice Ross's recent Supreme Court ruling. This is really good news.

I was going to set up camp in Centennial square again tonight. I changed my mind. When I returned to Centennial square with David Johnston and Tavis Dodds around 5 p.m., our friends who had been waiting there while I was at the Courthouse were gone and so was their stuff. The square was full of people celebrating the opening of the Christmas shopping season, courtesy of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. Christmas Carols played on loudspeakers. The space under the tree that had served as our home for four days was empty. No room in the inn and even the manger is off limits."It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

We eventually ran into Jonathan LeDrew, who told us the bylaw officers had been by again, and had threatened to issue more tickets and make more arrests if Jonathan and two others didn't leave the little patch of pavement where they and their few remaining belongings were huddled--quite out of the way of the official celebrations.

The four of us--LeDrew, Johnston, Dodds, and myself---hadn't been there five minutes when a kind woman came by with a bag full of sandwiches for us--she had seen us on the news and was inspired to help. Hot on her trail was a security guard working fro the City, who threatened to call bylaw enforcement if we didn't all move along. Apparently, it is illegal to give gifts on public property in the City of Victoria. Merry Christmas, hey? But a little later another security guard came by, shook my hand, and gave me a tiny music box. Yes, Merry Christmas.

With one security guard's warning and another's sweet gift, we moved along, each, eventually, in their own direction. The community that had been building a home together was, yet again, divided by the City and its laws. What the City and its laws don't know is that no amount of apparent division can ever divide us. We are a community bonded by love and by life and, no, you can't take that away, even if you do everything in your power to drive us apart. "We aren't protesters," Jonathan said, "We are lovers." "We aren't here to promote anything," G. said, "We promote living. Living. Period." "They want to stamp out everything living," Scott said, "but you can't stamp out anything living--just because you have a gun doesn't mean you get to tell life what to do." Life, it seems, just keeps doing its beautiful life-thing, quite oblivious to this silly world of guns and money.

Well, speaking of guns, I hadn't taken twenty steps before I ran into constable Jamie Pierce, one of the policemen who was most keen to see us removed from Centennial square. I had just seen him at the Courthouse, where he told me "well, you had your little time,"--waving his hands in the air and wiggling his fingers--"and now it's over." Then he added--- "And you should tell your friends in Centennial square that we are going there next to see them." Greeting me, as promised, in Centennial square, he said "So what are you doing here, Kristen?" I said, "I'm celebrating the Christmas season with my neighbours, just like you, Jamie."

Pierce and I parted company and I saw him going over to where a very tired Jonathan LeDrew sat on a rolled up blanket with a guitar given to him earlier in the day by a man who also had no fixed address, but wanted to give his guitar "to the future Tent City." I caught up to Pierce in time to see him asking Jonathan to move along if he didn't want his stuff seized again.

I left Centennial square shortly thereafter, but not before running into a man who gave me his tent and blanket. He and his girlfriend were sleeping in a doorway, he said, and so they wouldn't need their tent for awhile.

So I'm not staying in Centennial square tonight. There is a time to strive and a time to surrender, a time to push and a time to yield. I'm tired and tonight I won't be sleeping in the public eye. The city and the police department can rest easy, even if no one else can.

We will see what tomorrow brings.

Words can't say "thank you" well enough to all the human angels who supported us in various ways in centennial square this week. For all the gifts, in all their forms, and to all of you---thank you. Your collective presence stuns me with its beauty. This is what a community built on love looks like. I had no idea. It feels like we are on the verge of a miracle. That we got this far is miracle enough for one night. Thank you.

in peace and with much joy,

Kristen Woodruff.

An Arresting Christmas Spirit ....

photos and story from Pete Rockwell:

According to Kristen Woodruff, the protest campers at Centennial Square had reached an amicable understanding with the Downtown Business Association to move thier camp out of the way in plenty of time for the DBA'S planned lighting of the Christmas tree [Friday night].

[Friday morning,] Jonathan LeDrew, along with a couple of supporters had started moving thier tents and belongings down to the covered area a couple of hundred feet away. In spite of this, eight to ten police and bylaw officers moved in and arrested David Johnston and Tavis Dodds. They then went back and removed the remaining tent.

All of the campers possesions were loaded on to a city truck and driven away [aka stolen].

update from Janine:

i spoke with kristen friday morning - she confirmed that david and tavis had made it known that they would remove their tents by 11 am, but the cops arrived at 9 am anyways and arrested them. the cops stole everything, again, so the tenters are tentless and without sleeping bags, again. the campers intend to return to the site, they'd really appreciate donations of tenting equipment. large cardboard boxes, especially those with wax coating are also useful for shelter purposes.

in case you hadn't heard, the last time david and tavis and kristen and jonathan were arrested for attempting to protect themselves from the elements by way of a tent city, the judge dismissed the charges. welcome to the police state, where men in uniform exert authority they don't actually have. isn't patriarchy fun! bring on the witch burnings and stonings!

in other news, the mayor's alleged coalition to end homelessness has been in operation for a year. apparently their successes consist of creating a strategic report document, employing three people, and establishing an office down the street from our place. they have no provincial or federal representation on their board and one of their token street representatives is currently homeless - the coalition seems incapable of providing even him with a roof overhead.

on thursday past i spoke with a woman from olympia's fully functional tent city (the audio is available here). in olympia there are now eight churches involved in sharing the responsibility for the camp. what are victoria's good christians doing? are they aware that david and tavis are also christians? but most of city hall and the police hate them, though some in the justice system appreciate them. if only a couple of good christian folk would get up off their pews, take the train to olympia and/or portland and convince themselves it's possible (amtrak goes daily, it's about $50 from vancouver), and then get city hall on board like they've done in other cities. it's not that difficult. or is it okay to watch these good people be continually harassed and arrested for their attempts to establish a safe community for all the homeless people 'the system' continues to create?

and lastly .... who's robbing the banks when all the bully cops are busy busting the homeless?

more of Pete's photos are online here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Camping at City Hall

photos and article by Pete Rockwell

Last night (Nov 24) Kristen Woodruff said in an e-mail: "We are sleeping outside tonight because we prefer to take care of ourselves. Tonight we have nowhere to go. Call us homeless or call us monks who have lost their monastery--we have no place to go. Proponents of the view that everything can and should be either bought or sold have hoarded up nearly every last corner of this god-given planet, such that any notion of a "commons"--a free place for the public to go--has all but disappeared. The marketplace has usurped the commons. And the City no longer serves the people because it has to cater to the interests of the marketplace. The Chamber of Commerce has set up shop on the Commons. This is not new news and it is not a situation peculiar to Victoria. It is a world-wide situation, only I must address it here where I am in this particular situation (which expresses the general global trend for Business to buy up every last corner of Planet Earth only to sell it back to us at a price few of us can afford.) Make no mistake about it, I am homeless because the world is homeless."

This morning (Nov 25), at 7am, I saw David Johnston, Kristen Woodruff, and Jonathan LeDrew encamped under the xmas bedecked sequoia at Centennial Square. At 7:44 Officer Jamie Pierce appeared suddenly and dismantled thier tent, saying they would be arrested if they didn't leave. Words were exchanged as to the legality of officer Pierce's actions. Mr. Johnston re-erected the tent. Mr. Pierce left. The morning wore on. Somebody said that the secuirity guard managing the public bathrooms (a bizzarre ticket booth/border crossing structure occupies the entrance to the bathrooms) wouldn't let him use the facilities. Apparently the security guard said; "It's closed to you guys..........We don't want you in there". When I went to see about this the secuirity guard said the bathrooms were closed for cleaning. When I questioned this he said I was a "troublemaker" and stuck his tongue out at me. Usually it's my girlfriend's grand daughter that does that. She's seven.

When I asked David Johnston why he was there, he replied; " I've come back because the city has no (legal) leg to stand on and I'm going to have a tent up after seven o'clock".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Beyond Partisan Politics .... time for change

Even if you don't normally support the Green Party, this is definitely a worthwhile listen ...

Elizabeth May (Green Party leader) was in Victoria yesterday .... I recorded the entire presentation and it's online here.

If that link doesn't work, go to and click on Podcast.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

the only thing to fear .....

photo: the los angeles 'river'

i'm having another one of those 'it'll sure be great when i don't have to live on this crazy planet anymore' kind of days.

now before you send the cops to climb in my window and take me to the house of mental dysfunction and stuff me full of pills, let me clarify --- it's not that i'm suicidal, i've always been too chicken for that, it's just that some days it's more difficult than others to look at the world, to really see it, and to just move through it as though nothing's inherently wrong with it. i'm not afraid to acknowledge that some days, especially november days, are more difficult than others. in addition to that, here we are on the brink of extinction but people are still dressing up to serve their corporate masters, shopping for stuff that they don't really need, walking past homeless panhandlers, pumping increasingly rare (and artificially cheap) petrol into their often unnecessary vehicles.

i can't imagine what i'd feel like if i didn't at least have important right-livelihood work to do every day ... though many people manage it. that's the part i find so crazy. people seem to move through their lives without really thinking about what they're doing - who built the products they're buying, what kind of tortured animal part are they putting into their bodies, how their lifestyle choices impact the health of the planet. i suppose this is the quiet desperation that henry david thoreau was referring to.

at yoga this morning we spent some time talking about fear - its source, its implications, its manifestations, and how we can best deal with it. i suggested that our november fear is coded into our dna -- it's the consequence of our ancestors observing, over generations, the increasing darkness, wondering if and when the light might return. a story was told about folks talking on the cbc, concerned over the economic crisis. apparently people are all freaked out about it and willing to offer up whatever is necessary in order to remedy it. the cbc people apparently also talked about how accredited scientists have been warning us of the implications of global climate change for many years, decades in fact, but in comparison many people are still reluctant to offer up much of anything by way of real changes that can remedy that situation. the moral of the story is that if it hits them personally, in their pocket books, they get scared into action. the lesson of new orleans, it seems, wasn't enough for people to 'get' global warming. it has to hit individuals personally before they get it.

i thought about this very phenomenon when the results of the american election were in. i know there are a lot of very cool americans, and i'm glad obama won (though i would have voted for ralph nader or cynthia mckinney since we knew obama's as corporate as the next guy), but it seems it's taken an economic crisis to actually get our goofy neighbours to vote for some (real or imagined, but at least promised) change. my canadian sister naomi klein has already written about the impacts of the economic crisis on obama's political career in great detail. it was the turning point - when the grand facade of capitalism fell, obama's popularity soared. not a surprising correlation, i suppose, from the land of rugged individualism.

back to yoga class -- i sat surrounded by women and men of varying ages, all listening to and learning from the wonderful shirley, founder of victoria's iyengar yoga studio. we are all so privileged just being here, i thought, as they shared their opinions. one woman told about her family's decision to stop using their dishwasher, in an effort to be a part of the collective that cares enough for the world to join in the work to live more gently. with ahimsa. she said the house is much quieter, more peaceful, without the dishwasher. i was silently grateful for her decision, but another part of me recoiled in horror at the thought that there are many hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions more who haven't yet thought to make that small sacrifice. the fact that the people surrounding me live in houses also rose to my consciousness.

there was some discussion about how our actions don't, ultimately, actually change anything except our own selves. i wanted to disagree aloud, but it wasn't the right time. if more people were to refuse to use their dishwashers, i thought, if they were to buy only local and organic, if they were to boycott the consumer frenzy of the usurped solstice celebration more commonly known as christmas, if they were to park their cars once in a while, that would indeed make a significant difference to the world. perhaps i haven't studied enough indian philosophy to really understand what they were trying to say, but certainly if gandhi's comrades hadn't believed that their collective boycott would produce some overall result we would all be living in a very different world.

we are a privileged bunch, i thought, as they told their stories, and i'm not sure that they appreciate that. as we sat in our comfortable yoga clothing, in the warm space, talking philosophy and awaiting a physical workout that would go a long way towards healing our physical, mental, and spiritual ailments, i thought of the people who live outside. i couldn't help it. there are so many people who can't even get through that yoga door - they're not clean enough, they can't afford it, they'd feel so out of place. i listened to the entitled yogis sharing their fears - the children aren't street smart anymore, and they've lost the ability to run through the woods without fear. there was talk of everyone's fundamental fear of death and pain and i realized that if i'd lived all my life as i lived the first part of it, in a middle income way, my own fear, and my perception of the fear that others feel, would be very different.

i left the yoga studio feeling somewhat more energized, thankful for shirley's teachings and the sharing in the class, and looked at the people on the streets, and all the stuff in the store windows. some of these people have chosen a new mayor, a man who refuses to help the homeless and destitute build their own communities. he participated in his first photo-op this week, our new mayor did, handing out winter coats to the poor. another band-aid on a gaping wound. as i write this it's cold and windy and raining outside. tonight many hundreds of people will sleep outside - in doorways, under bushes, perhaps thankful that a supreme court judge has finally stopped the police from preventing them from setting up a tent or a tarp. but our new mayor has moved to appeal that judge's decision. and the people i pass on the street, some of them, voted for him. at least, i suppose, those people will have nice new coats to maybe keep them warm through the nights.

it's tough, sometimes, not to be angry, and bitter. i will continue to go to my yoga classes, thankful for the opportunity. i will get up every day and do my best to dredge up some hope that the work i do, the work my friends do, will collectively make some kind of difference in the lives of those who are so often victimized by the very society that so many others so often move through without even thinking. i will learn philosophy and theories about non-attachment, and niyama and ahimsa. and i will spend my vegan days trying, as best i can, to influence a tiny amount of change in a big and often cruel society. maybe it doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world .... but it's work that needs to be done and i can't honestly think of doing anything else.

Public Forum re: Court Decision that protects Homeless Rights

a lawyer, a historian, an activist, and a nurse walk into a classroom .....

this short video was recorded at the public forum november 17th 2008, and it offers more information about Mme. Justice Carol Ross's recent bc supreme court decision - the legality of the city's response, the history of the bylaws, and some of the impacts these have on the homeless community.

a police officer was invited, but didn't show. audience members speculated that all the vic pd officers were busy busting homeless people. (they manage to send 18-20 of them to break up a tent city .... a good time to rob a bank, perhaps?)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Victoria City Politics and the Plot to Take Over the World

by David Arthur Johnston

Alrighty... we have the new mayor, Dean Fortin, on video stating that if we took the tent-city to the Legislature lawn he would supply the
porta-potties. Quaintly cute at first glance, I would advise closer scrutiny. The city has given indication that it would prefer the tent-city thing be taken on by the province which, in my submission, means regional tent-cities where those without property or the means
and opportunity of other people's 'property' could be interned. They (the city and province) will fight tooth and nail to avoid the notion of every municipality having to sport their own tent-cities, and I expect them to fail. The city will continue pretending like public opinion has some sort of say in the right to deny people the ability to take care of themselves and they will continue to manufacture 'public opinion'.

The spirit of the Supreme Court of BC ruling on 'homeless' people being able to construct their own temporary shelter is that an 'across the board' prohibition is unconstitutional. What the city has done in response to this, using the excuse that the judge agreed that the city has the authority to create new Constitutionally compliant bylaws to manage how tents can be allowed, was to ignore the 'Constitutionally compliant' part and suggest that instead of having a 24/7 'across the board' prohibition they are allowed to have a 12 hour a day 'across the board' prohibition. They are enforcing it, acting as if they have the right to.

People have been arrested for 'Obstruction of Justice' in not complying and go to court (WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19TH at 2:00 PM in Courtroom #103) to plea 'not guilty' and set a trial date. It is expected that the first thing determined at this trial will be whether or not the City is in Contempt of Court. Which they are.

In the meantime, there is going to be much spin-doctoring and hate propaganda directed at the notion of tent-city and all those who like them. The city will be dedicating much energy into mats on floors in churches and overflow in the emergency shelters. These things are not
adequate, not only because of the culture of violence and drugs that asserts itself in these places, but also because there is no just reason to not presume innocence of people in their ability to take care of themselves, providing their own survival.

Speaking of shelters and the such... there is a phenomenon called 'poverty pimps' and right now some of them are busy crucifying Reverend Al Tysick so that the new 'Our Place' can be completely corporate run and devoid of any compassion beyond allowable maintenance criteria. I also expect organizations like Food Not Bombs to be made illegal unless they apply for licensing to share food.

Have you noticed the condemnation from the media and police towards people who live in houses that help those that don't? The subtle conditioning that would have people think that only those with the least means and opportunities can help themselves. The 'take over the world' management plan will leave survival to said 'poverty pimp' corporations with the help of municipal and regional bylaws that restrict things like having more than 4 non-relatives residing on a 'property' and sleeping in cars.

Whether or not the city is found guilty of Contempt of Court will indicate how we will all face the future. If I am not forced into an internment camp I will facilitate, from my temporary abode in my tent-city, Gardens Not Lawns (a massive volunteer campaign offering free labour and expertise in converting lawns into food producing gardens).

David Arthur Johnston
Victoria, BC, Canada

Home page
Journal of the Occupation of St. Ann's Academy (Victoria, BC, Canada)
Crimes of Necessity (from filmmaker Andrew Ainsley. Very comprehensive.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Die Bold for the Homeless

Yesterday I voted in a Die-Bold machine.  

Interesting name, that.  I wonder who thought of it?  "Let's build dysfunctional voting machines that flip votes, be sure to tell people these machines don't work, and then convince them to establish their democracy on the faulty machines anyways."  What a marketing coup!  On top of it all, they're called "Die-Bold."  

And that's what will happen, for another three years, as a predominantly right wing mayor and council take over Victoria.  Hundreds more homeless people will die.  Boldly?  Perhaps.  But die they will unless Sonya and Philippe, the only two candidates who have voiced any real concern about enabling homeless people an opportunity to help themselves, can persuade the rest of them that a Dignity Village is a good idea.  The incumbents won't go for it .... they've been fighting against providing temporary housing for homeless people for many years.  There's some hope that Lynn Hunter will follow up on her contacts with other levels of government, calling on her experience as an MP, and demand something real.  John Luton's main concern is transportation so there's some hope that we save the world cyclists will emerge after three years with fewer deaths or road crashes.  But there's no doubt more homeless people will die.

I don't like being so pessimistic about this, but there's really not much hope for the increasing numbers of poor people in Victoria, unfortunately.  Another three years of mats on floors, empty promises, and a lot of taxpayer dollars spent fighting a supreme court decision that protects the rights of the poor - that's what we can look forward to.

I asked the guy at the polling station if they double check the votes and he assured me they do.  They have to check the machine recorded vote against the actual votes that people put into the machine, he said, and make sure it all computes.  There's no paper trail, though, so who knows what might go wrong.  I also noticed that citizens of Victoria can vote at any of the many polling stations, and each polling station has a complete set of names.  It's possible, isn't it, that people can go to more than one polling station to vote?  Or do they check those books to ensure that sort of fraud doesn't occur?   

In Cuba, candidates are chosen locally.  If we were to do it their way, in an election we would vote for local representation in Fairfield, Fernwood, James Bay, etc.  Each of the candidates would be provided with a stack of posters containing their photo and biography.  Each candidate, in each region, would be provided the exact same number of posters and then the people in each region would select their candidate based on their personal knowledge of the person, their experiences working with them in the local CDR (Committee for Defense of the Revolution).  It's tough to say what's more democratic.  They don't count the votes by proportional representation, but then neither do we.  

It's not that I'm bitter, though on behalf of all the dead homeless people I certainly am not thrilled with another three years of the same old shit, but mostly I'm concerned that Victorians voted primarily based on name recognition (some candidates throwing more $ at the election than others), in machines we know to be faulty, maybe more than once.  

And, is it true, our new police chief's leaving his job as a bicycle salesperson to oversee Victoria's finest?


Friday, November 14, 2008

Ben's picks for Saturday municipal vote

I have been asked about my voting intentions for Saturday's municipal election in the City of Victoria. It has not been an easy decision but here are my choices -- candidates whose platforms, track records, and stated positions on the issues come closest to my values and my vision for a socialist, environmentally sustainable society. Ending homelessness and ecosystem loss are top priorities for me in this election, alongside a harm reduction approach to substance misuse that puts an end to ever-increasing police budgets.

Voters are faced with a crowded field. In future elections, a unified left campaign may provide the best means for moving our city and region in a progressive direction.

Ben Isitt


Steve Filipovic - for his courage to support a different path on homelessness, respecting the Supreme Court ruling and proposing the diversion of funds from policing toward long-term solutions


Rose Henry - for her commitment as a social justice activist
John Luton - for his track record moving us away from a car culture
Sonya Chandler - for her work as an independent voice at City Hall
Philippe Lucas - for his expertise on harm reduction strategies
Pam Madoff - for her record challenging ill-considered development and protecting Victoria's cultural heritage
Lynn Hunter - for her experience as a progressive legislator and track record on environmental issues
Simon Nattrass - for demonstrating leadership and giving voice to the concerns of young people
Diana Smardon - for her vision and forward-looking policy proposals for Victoria's future


Peg Orcherton
John Young
Bev Horsman
Mike Hayes
Catherine Alpha
Starla Anderson
Tamara Malczewska

VOTE! SATURDAY, NOV 15 8am-8pm

Bring along two pieces of ID, one with your address
You must be a Canadian citizen, a BC resident for at least 6 months,
and a Victoria resident for at least 30 days.

Voting Places:

Burnside-Gorge Community Centre 471 Cecilia Road
Central Baptist Church 833 Pandora Avenue
Fairfield New Horizons Centre 380 Cook Street
George Jay School 1118 Princess Street
Glenlyon Norfolk School 801 Bank Street
James Bay Community School 140 Oswego Street
James Bay New Horizons Centre 234 Menzies Street
Oaklands School 2827 Belmont Street
Quadra School 3031 Quadra Street
Sir James Douglas School 401 Moss Street
Sundance School 1625 Bank Street
Vic West Community "Y" 521 Craigflower Road

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Judge Madam Ross' actual ruling

If you'd like to read the actual Judge's ruling, about the tent city controversy/mess in Victoria BC, you can get to it by clicking on this link.

Alternatively, go to and click on the Blog page and you can link to it from there.

(again thanks to Pete Rockwell for this photo of a firefighter dousing a barbeque at a tent city. good use of tax dollars, that!)

leaves don't fall everywhere

i suppose there are people in this world
who live in places in this world
where leaves don't fall.

who don't realize the exquisite beauty
of this transformative death,
the marvelous crinkling underfoot
of dry, colour-filled leaves.
they never see the sidewalks
painted with leaf-shaped imprints
after the rains fall.

there are those who have never held a rake,
who never must endure the horrid
gas-filled stench and noise
of the 'leaf-blower' machines,
who never appreciate the solace
and the rhythm and the final triumph
of the piles of leaves gathered

i suppose there are people
who never live through winter
with the starkness of leafless trees,
who never thank the earth and heavens for the
only and ever green of the spruce and pine and fir.
neither do they witness the energy of spring
infusing life into tiny buds again,
miraculously, and without failing,
and rejoice that we've survived
another winter.

the DVBA's idea of democracy

last week the DVBA (downtown victoria business association) had a mayoral candidate's debate.

it seems they've already narrowed their choice down to two .... how very democratic of them!

(thanks to pete rockwell for the photo)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Battle of the Cowshed

The sinister fact about electoral censorship in Victoria is that it is largely voluntary.

By Tavis Dodds Work Less Party
Candidate for Councillor

I left a phone message for the people producing a play based on Orwell's Animal Farm performed in a prison. I asked for a ticket so I could write a review. As it turns out, however, I was arrested on the morning of opening night on Hallowe'en for demonstrating at City Hall. I went to the holding cells for Hallowe'en night in the dungeon of the police station and from my cell I could watch everyone being brought in. I saw a group of police verbally abusing a 17 year old, like sadists, saying "there's a big boy" and other nastinesses like high school bullies. I saw a young lady dressed as a honey bee, weeping quietly the whole time and then, when she was locked up, she lost in and truly freaked. Two really nasty cops decided to play games with David Johnston and said really nasty things to him about his family, making the claim that he wasn't homeless and that he has a martyr complex. The only way to tell the difference between these officers and the worst of the inmates was their uniforms. There was a homeless guy whose dog was taken. In the end, it felt like I was a character in Animal Farm, perhaps the horse, watching the pigs claiming to be more equal than others.

They confiscated all my campaign materials (I was trying to run a serious campaign for a seat on council that I've recently given up on) for the second time in this election. I went to Wilkinson Prison on my birthday, Nov 1st, which was also the birthday of the female officer that handcuffed me. When I mentioned my birthday she adjusted the cuffs to be extremely tight. All the guards at Wilkie think highly of Ron Taylor, the mayoral candidate. A lot of the inmates I had chances to speak with had a lot to say on the subjects of recidivism and drug abuse and such. There are some really inspiring projects to do with prison advocacy. It was not fun to be in there, but when I was released on Monday afternoon I felt good about the experience. I had just enough time to get to the all-candidates forum to hear the candidates talk about restorative justice. Hugh Kruzel mentioned the idea of putting kids in jail so they get a taste of prison as a deterrent. I agree that it is enlightening and I advocate for all candidates to spend some time in jail. Perhaps I caught a sadism disease because I can't help smiling when I think of Dean Fortin and Al Lowe sitting on a bench in a cell blubbering to themselves and tears rolling down their fat cheeks. They deserve twenty years for all the blood on their hands.

God has more patience than I do. Perhaps he can forgive these swine. I'm more disillusioned with the population and with some or even most of the other candidates. There are little old ladies that believe this crap they're feeding us, like Orwell's sheep. The poor even believe in the plan put forward to help them, which is a complete lie. I am at a lowest point. Good thing for council that I am a pacifist.

Are we going to let them get away with this? Are we going to sit by while they wipe their butts with the constitution? Are we the sort that leave our own brothers and sisters behind? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. This city will sink deeper into totalitarianism, the despots will be more deeply entrenched, our civil liberties will be tossed to the wayside and the people will not object. Was it Jefferson that said that He/She who sacrifices liberty for security loses both? Was it Eisenhower that warned against this military industrial complex, saying that we don't just receive slavery, but that complicity deserves it?

Those prison walls at Wilkie don't just end at the property line. When I got out I heard that I was on the news and everyone was saying "you're free!", but I am not free. This election has proven the law to be two-tiered. The wealthy can call for the law to protect them, but to the poor the law is a shackle, a chain, a yoke. It was beautiful to watch the poor enfranchised by the charter, becoming constitutionalists defending the Rule of Law from the anarchists in city hall, the nihilists to whom nothing but money is sacred. At this point, I have given up all hope in the process. I have given up on the electorate who is going to let these swine get away with their crimes. I feel more alone than ever before, nobody seems to see what's going on. But Orwell saw it. Orwell saw it. Those pigs in City Hall are in bed with the Farmers of big business, and the working men and women are perishing under their weight.

If you want to help, consider spray painting DODDS on all their signs. Filipovic's are the only signs that aren't simply buying access to the process. Check out Boycott the chamber of commerce.

Beachfront Wilderness at Risk

Another chunk of land has been stolen from 'crown' lands on Vancouver Island.

First they stole it from the native first nations and named it 'crown' or 'public' land. Then they gave it to the logging corporations, and now the logging executives are selling the land to the ultra-rich.

We can stop the Jordan River disaster before it starts .... contact the Dogwood Initiative more information about how.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Another view of Friday's arrest of homeless campers

From Chris Johnson:

The City of Victoria was ordered by the BC Supreme Court to strike down by-laws that prohibited erecting temporary structures. Despite the judges ruling that these by-laws were unconstitutional and violated homeless people's right to life, liberty and security of person, the city insists on enforcing these by-laws.

If you've watched A-Channels horribly biased coverage of yesterday's events, here's some video shot by our own independent Right to Sleep campaign media.

Alan Lowe thinks we're 'thumbing our nose' at by-laws the city 'wishes to uphold'. We're doing much more than that, Your Dishonour, we are bringing to light the fact that your by-laws are illegal and unconstitutional, and will see them struck down, as you have been ordered to do by the BC Supreme Court.

[A reminder that lawyers Irene Faulkner and Cathie Boies Parker explained the history of the legal suit, and the judge's verdict on Thursday night. There's introductory information from Rose Henry, also a candidate for councillor, and it's all unedited and online in the podcast section. There's also a 10 minute video summary here .]

Victoria Police Strappado - definitely not Bravado

October 31st, 2008 will go on record as being one of the quietest hallowe'ens that Victoria has seen for a long time, at least in my neighbourhood. I'm very thankful that folks around here seem to be finding hallowe'en fun in costumes and make believe rather than simulated war games. There's enough of the rockets red blare from those neighbours just to the south of us - their majestic Olympic mountains are visible from my apartment window, just beyond the sea of autumn colours. We get enough of their war economy influenced commercial television and magazines and radio. I know there are lots of good people there, and I hope they conquer this up-coming election so we don't have to live in fear for another four years. (vote for ralph!)

Yesterday morning I donned my elaborate hallowe'en costume, consisting of a headband with a set of wiry boingy springy things with cloverleafs on top (they've been occupying space in my apartment for years, I think they're intended as St. Patrick's regalia) and travelled downtown for my ritual Friday morning coffee meeting. I am a visiting alien, I explained to anyone interested, on a peaceful quest to examine your earth ways which are increasingly baffling to us.

Don joined me at the coffee house, he's one of the Street Newz writers who's just commencing a later in life journey of his dreams thanks to the free University that's enabled him to study full-time. After he shared his latest victories (successfully written papers and exams, hope-filled conversations with professors, recollections of a nation-wide free university conference in Calgary) we talked about the most incredible thing to happen to the street community in recent memory - Judge Madam Ross' recent BC Supreme Court Decision that renders a city by-law incapable of punishing people for protecting themselves from the elements overnight. Indeed, it has been found to be in violation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms to prevent people, who otherwise have no place to sleep, from erecting a tarp or tent for their own safety.

Don studies a lot of history, and he told me that there were hundreds of tents surrounding Fort Victoria when the gold rush was on. In those days tents were a sign of prosperity, but nowadays tents are evidence of the failure of capitalism and those proponents of an increasingly failed economic system are too big-headed to admit it so they continue to punish the victims. We didn't realize it at the time, but while we were sipping on coffee and matcha in a warm welcoming coffee house, some brave souls were contributing to the story of history of homelessness in Victoria. They had camped the night before next to City Hall. They represent the 1500 other homeless people who have been identified. Not surprisingly our brutish out-going mayor, Alan Lowe, had them all arrested and later in the day I watched the corporate media's account of the story.

The corporate media spoke of 'David Johnston's group,' in a flagrant attempt to label and identify a single perpetrator. I know that these are all individuals who are fighting, peacefully and non-violently, for the rights of all homelesspeople everywhere. Unfortunately, the corporate news attempts to pander to the lowest common denominator, the thug mentality. They would prefer we celebrate the theft of citizens' money to 'bail out' a failed economic system, at the same time denouncing its victims as criminals.

So Tavis had good reason not to be at the Solstice for coffee - not that it's an obligatory event, just an informal gathering and he had mentioned, the night before, that he'd try to get there. Chris J. did show up, and the three of us talked about the radio show (streetnewz radio, or some such) and how we can facilitate a place where the ever increasing numbers of homeless victims of capitalism can tell their stories ... hang on, Chris my flat-mate has emerged from his space to inform me he's found the research about the method they used to haul Tavis away ... but first he wants to try my funky new ergonomic keyboard and mouse ....

"there comes a time in the course of events when men and women of conscience are challenged to take up arms and stand against the injustices of the system," Chris wrote.

Indeed, we are living in such a time. The method Victoria's police used to haul Tavis away was identified during the Spanish Inquisition and it's called 'strappado.' Basically they handcuffed Tavis' hands behind his back (not sure if they used Oak Bay's senior friendly cuffs or the real metal kind) while he was laying on his stomach, then they lifted him from the cuffs. Another officer held his legs. His back was bowed, his arms stretched unnaturally upwards behind his back.

I was wincing while watching Tavis who must have been in extreme pain. Chris suggests that if our little local war were recognized as such, the police officers could be charged with a war crime, in violation of the Geneva Convention, for this tactic. And it's essentially illegal to film this, and humiliate their victim, though if they hadn't filmed it and aired it on television, we wouldn't have seen. Strange, too, that Alan Lowe is speaking the very same words they're hearing from Seattle's mayor Greg Nickels who claims that the folks living in Nickelsville, one of Seattle's tent cities, are not actually homeless.

(You're full of shit, Alan Lowe, and your American minded police are violating international conventions. You're completely missing the point. There are a small handful of your homeless community, the community you've watched during these nine years of your development minded administration grow from essentially nothing to now over 1500, who have a clear understanding of why homelessness exists and who its victims are and how evil it is for you to sit on your fat ass and laugh while people die. Those people are in your face with it, lest you forget. And now you've endorsed Dean Fortin to carry on with your death-affirming policies ....)

For God's sake folks, and I don't even believe in the patriarchal deity, but for Heaven's sake, for the Goddess' sake, for all our sake ..... don't vote for more ego-driven maniacal police inspired leadership. There's a clear choice here - are you in favour of helping, in a small way, society's most vulnerable? Not with more rhetoric about education and housing first policies, but immediately, now, with the establishment of a tent city? To any and all who would argue its merits, I say Portland's Dignity Village and no, I don't trust you anymore.

I realize that in recent posts I've described myself as an anarchist, mostly because I cannot stomach the idea of endorsing politicians who vote, for example, without asking my opinion, to appeal perhaps the first supreme court decision that has been argued in favour of homeless peoples' rights. In light of this war we're waging, peacefully and non-violently, with the enemy clearly defined as those who would deny people tents through yet another Canadian winter, who would do absolutely nothing to help people establish even the most rudimentary self-security, I'm going to take a big risk and endorse Steve Filipovic in the November 15th municipal election. I've known Steve for many years and his values and principles remain consistent. He is reasonable, educated, compassionate, and I believe he can offer leadership that will bridge the gap, whether it's illusory or as real as we've been led to believe, between the local business community and the growing number of capitalism's victims.

Steve listened carefully on Thursday night as lawyers Irene Faulkner and Cathie Boies Parker explained the history of the legal suit, and the judge's verdict. There's introductory information from Rose Henry, also a candidate for councillor, and it's all unedited and online in the podcast section. There's also a 10 minute video summary here .

I had started this post as a sort of journal of yesterday - it was an interesting hallowe'en for this space alien, one I'd like to reflect on in my elder years which will undoubtedly be spent either huddling under a tree foraging for food, or in a solitary cell at gitmo.

After the morning conversations I got on the wrong bus and found myself on Quadra rather than Douglas St. but I was in no rush - I'd decided I needed a day just to putz around on this illogical and too often cruel hearted planet. I discovered some wonderful things - the Naanwich place (a subsidiary of Sabri - yummy Indian buffet) and got a massive big vegan lunch/dinner for six bucks; the Simply Accounting friendly staff who searched the internet help me in my quest to find an ergonomic keyboard while I wrestled with a strange capitalistic hording tendency to purchase extra power packs and batteries to prepare for the impending doom of its financial crisis; many driving large public transportation vehicles dressed up as what you call 'bus drivers' as I travelled downtown to London Drugs and then back along Quadra St. to their other location where I eventually became the proud owner of a body friendly wireless keyboard and mouse. I don't own any other microsoft products, I've tried to avoid the empire (though now it seems Apples is one too), but I must say I'm very happy with my new acquisition. Hopefully it'll save me from pain and some alternate therapy money in the long run.

Along the way I talked with Peter the binner who, since being 'evicted' from UVic after having been such a delightful fixture there for so many decades, now hangs out near the bottle depot on Quadra. It's been months since I've seen him. We had many interesting conversations on campus and this one was no different - I told him how different it is without him at UVic, he asked me about my Cuba journey, we discussed the absurd nature of our society that continues to reward corporate criminals while punishing their victims ... until a a man from a shop across the street told Peter there's a big bunch of recyclables awaiting him and we parted our ways.

I got my keyboard and spent too much money at the organic store next door, and found myself back on the buses to home, again surrounded by all sorts of interesting looking characters.

Last night I wandered over to the Oak Bay fire department bonfire. I had wanted to get to Fernwood's fabulous pumpkin house, but the day had been rather tiring for this middle aged space cadet. I'm lucky to live about half way between Oak Bay and Fernwood (if Oak Bay is behind the Tweed Curtain, then our little neighbourhood is the Tweed Curtain) and chose the slightly closer location. I talked to the people dressed as Fire-fighters, asked how they protected the ground from the big bonfire. Sand, I was told. And what are we burning? Palettes, was the reply.

We can't find a little piece of land for people to pitch tents, or build small structures for themselves (of course not, the mayor's an architect), but we can burn perfectly usable pallettes. They cut down the forests, and they throw them away. They fuck, they fertilize the egg, they throw the person away, and they call themselves 'pro-life'.

Alien being signing off .... hoping to find more intelligent life here when I next return. (In comparison to other planetary existences, Earth is really fucked up).