Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
i'm not sure why the street newz and i aren't on cool aid's mailing list, but thanks to lisa from b channel for forwarding this very last minute press release (see next page).
giving credit where it's due, the olympic vista housing and the queens manor appear to somewhat successful efforts to house low income people. how affordable these will be remains to be seen -- we don't know what the olympic vista rents will be, and the queens manor (what a name) only has secure funding from the province for three months. after that, who knows. market rents (currently 800+ for one bedroom apartments) ?
when the work-in-progress humboldt street building is announced by press release, be sure to ask what was on that lot prior to the new building's construction. no doubt the press release will not tell us that a building constructed specifically for blind people used to stand on that site, a building that had been recently renovated. we will not be told what happened to all those blind people, though we do know what happened to blind kenny -- he is still at vic general, mourning the loss of his partner of 42 years, waiting for 'the system' to find him appropriate housing since he and linda were removed from the blind accessible building on humboldt street to make room for this new structure.
we are in a crisis situation, with poverty and homelessness increasing as capitalism falters and fails so many so completely. as a friend says - we don't need affordable housing, we need people who can afford housing! we need systemic changes to stop this growing chasm between ultra-wealthy and ultra-poor. we also need to continue to pay off the olympic debt, quietly and without any fanfare.
shelter beds are nice for emergencies, and this weekend will prove how valuable those can be, but they shouldn't be heralded as the be all and end all solution.
while we're all encouraged to be excited about the new insitutionalized shelter building in rock bay, it appears that only some of the street link people will be alright while folks from two other shelters will not fare so well. an inside source says street link currently houses 96 people (rather than the 80 this announcement mentions), 84 of whom will be moved to a new neighbourhood far away from resources they need, but at least they'll be inside. there's no mention of the people being displaced from the two other shelters, at st. john the divine and the salvation army, an estimate of about 72 lost mats, also about 60 hot meals no longer served.
it's hallowe'en weekend. the homeless who will spend that night outside might as well paint big targets on themselves so the drunken goons can find them more easily.
the chamber of commerce and the downtown victoria business association, and their employees at city hall, have won. homeless people, and the bottle exchange, will be removed from the downtown and we can all pretend victoria is the queen's cleanest colonial village as we admire the shiny new multi million dollar bridge. except ... there are still soup kitchens downtown, and the big new expensive 'our place' drop in centre. how soon until those are moved, or closed, too?
there's talk of a rally monday at noon on pandora green, to resist this final, just make them go away so i don't have to see them while i'm buying sweat shop products at the mall, solution.
From: "Alan Rycroft"
For Immediate Release: October 29, 2010
Cool Aid Opens Rock Bay Landing and Queens Manor Next Week
Rock Bay Landing -
The Victoria Cool Aid Society, with support from BC Housing, is moving
the services from the Streetlink emergency shelter at 1634 Store Street
to the new Rock Bay Landing facility at 525 Ellice Street on Wednesday,
November 3. No residents will lose their bed during the transition -
they will sleep at Streetlink on November 2 and sleep at Rock Bay on
November 3. To enable staff to complete the move, drop-in services will
not be available from November 1-3.
The new, purpose-built Rock Bay Landing facility offers many
o 84 permanent shelter beds; up from 80 at Streetlink.
o 23 new units of transitional housing will be available starting
o Two units of family shelter are available - the first in the
o There is expanded space for 20 shelter mats during extreme
o A card lock system and lockers for each resident will allow
almost 24-hour access to their rooms. At Streetlink, room access was
restricted to overnight hours only.
o A large exterior courtyard, accessed through the building, is
available for residents and drop-in visitors. No courtyard was available
o There is a day storage service available for non-residents and
carts can be accommodated on site.
o Washrooms, showers, laundry, training workshops, computer
access, kitchen and dining facilities are greatly improved.
o Additional rooms allow more opportunities for group work,
counselling and client meetings and services.
o A community policing office is located in the shelter.
o Rock Bay Landing is built to the highest green standards (LEED
GOLD) including solar panels on the roof, heat recovery, superior
insulation and much more.
o Pets are welcomed at Rock Bay Landing.
o There will be many more volunteer opportunities for community
Queens Manor Housing -
On November 1, Victoria Cool Aid Society, with assistance from the City
of Victoria, BC Housing and Vancouver Island Health Authority, will be
opening "Queens Manor" - a building with 36 units of supportive housing
for adults currently without a home. The building, a former Travellers
Inn which was purchased by the City of Victoria, is located at 710
Queens Street (corner of Douglas). Sixteen or more adults will move in
on November 1, and the rest of the units will be settled during the
remainder of November. Single adults, couples and tenants with pets will
be accommodated at Queens Manor.
The building will be operated with two Cool Aid housing staff on site
24/7 until the end of January 2011. At that time, renovation work will
begin to make the motel rooms better suited for permanent housing. With
the assistance of our many partners in the Greater Victoria Coalition to
End Homelessness, we are confident that alternate accommodations will be
found for our Queens Manor tenants while the renovation is underway.
Together with the 23 transitional housing units at the new Rock Bay
Landing building on Ellice Street, Cool Aid is now operating 315 modest
apartments with 24/7 staffing -saving taxpayers millions of dollars
annually*. (These savings occur because people who are homeless require
significantly more expensive emergency health and justice services, such
as hospital beds and emergency room visits, police calls and court
Early in 2011, Cool Aid will open, in Saanich, 36 apartments for
low-income seniors who might otherwise be without housing, at the new
Olympic Vista building. Later in the year, an additional 23 modest
apartments will be opened at Swift House, in the renovated space vacated
by the old Streetlink emergency shelter.
This year marks a significant step forward for many people without homes
in the Capital Region and for the whole community. Cool Aid thanks its
partners without whom none of this would be possible, including: BC
Housing and the Province of British Columbia, Vancouver Island Health
Authority, City of Victoria, CRHD - all partners in the Greater Victoria
Coalition to End Homelessness - as well as VANOC and many generous
individuals, foundations and businesses.
The Victoria Cool Aid Society has been building hope, lives and
community in the Capital Region for over 42 years, since 1968, through a
wide range of programs including supported housing, emergency shelter,
community health and dental services, employment services, mental health
support and recreation and exercise programs for adults who are homeless
or in need of help. For more information visit www.CoolAid.org or call
- 30 -
Kathy Stinson, Executive Director
John Crean, Manager of Housing
Don McTavish, Manager of Shelters
* Quoting the 2007 City of Victoria's "Mayor's Task Force on Breaking
the Cycle of Mental Illness, Addictions and Homelessness":
"Put simply, if we did nothing to change the system of services and
supports, homelessness, mental illness and addictions would cost
Victoria's taxpayers an estimated $50,000 per client per year - a
significantly higher cost than the $17,500 to $47,000 per client, per
year the Expert Panel estimates is needed to implement the new service
Alan Rycroft, M.A.
Victoria Cool Aid Society
(250) 414-4781, 383-1639 fax
102-749 Pandora Avenue, Victoria, BC, V8W 1N9
Charitable Tax No. 12820 5069 RR0001
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
There’s a document taped to the window of the nearly completed Ellice St. building, on Jensen Group Architects letterhead, that specifies a September 9th completion date. It also says the building contains 80 shelter beds, 2 family units, and 23 self contained units. Alongside the building is a different sign, the official Cool Aid sign, (Cool Aid is funded from various sources to manage some different housing around town) and it says there will be 83 shelter beds and 25 transitional housing units.
The Rock Bay shelter is located a distance from the city where the soup kitchens and the Our Place drop-in centre is. It’s walkable, it’d probably take 45 minutes for a healthy, in shape person with no physical disabilities. There are buses nearby, but of course those cost money. One thought that crossed my mind, as I rode through the Rock Bay neighbourhood where, I’ve heard, the sex trade proliferates in the evenings, is that there may be other employment opportunities for shelter tenants with initiative and a bit of luck. Rock Bay is a light industrial area, there are carpenters and mechanics and people who build various things and a recycling centre. I wonder, of those who make the long journey from the city only to find the shelter spaces are full, how many will take a ride with a stranger? Does anyone care?
Prior to my radio show this morning, with help from Rebecca at VIPIRG, we were able to contact the City and learn that they’re working on a press release which will, presumably, alleviate all our fears of three shelters closing prior to the opening of this new shelter, and which doesn’t seem to have enough space for all the people they’re displacing. A phone call to Philippe Lucas, a couple of days ago, was returned with a message saying he didn’t know the numbers, he referred me to a city employee to find out what’s going on. I haven’t had a chance to follow up.
The signs and papers posted at the Ellice St. building indicate that Knappett Projects is the general contractor, and Cityspaces Consulting is the project manager. If September 9th was the agreed upon completion date, who's really responsible for tossing homeless people onto the streets in November?
My best sources for information about what’s happening on the streets continues to be the people who live there, the people who hang out there, and their friends and advocates. Here’s what I’ve heard (and if anybody wants to do some investigative journalism and affirm this, be my guest …. maybe I’ll be able to hire you some day).
I’ve heard that those who provide official “shelter” are paid, presumably by some level of government (us taxpayers) forty dollars a night per head. St. John the Divine has space for about 40 people, allow shopping carts and dogs, and are a bit more lenient about taking people who’ve been consuming various substances than the Salvation Army which has about 20 mats, and you can’t get in if you’re not completely sober. On the other hand, you can only get into one of the few (about ten, as I recall) detox beds. I know people who’ve gotten hammered in the heart of winter so they can get a decent night’s sleep. Vancouver apparently has a place that will accept people overnight even if they’ve been imbibing heavily, and there are police present to keep the peace. Vancouver also has a safe injection site, which keeps things safer all around.
The Salvation Army, I’ve also heard, is paid $4 for each person who shows up for their lunch. I can’t recall how much people pay to eat that lunch, something like $5, and apparently there are two soup kitchens at the Sally Ann, one for those who can pay, and one for those who can’t. The people who can’t pay get a significantly crappier lunch than those who pay. My understanding, too, is that the Sally Ann downtown Victoria functions as a sort of half way house, and they receive money for each former prisoner they house. The Sally Ann, aka the Starvation Army, does alright financially it would seem, especially with all their fundraising efforts on top of this.
Maybe these shelters have enough money in their reserves, and compassion in their hearts, to extend their hospitality for another two or three nights, at least until the new shelter is opened?
The motels that the City recently bought are being renovated to include a bar fridge and a microwave. No hot plates. Again, this is what I’ve heard. They’re being touted as “low income” and, if you’ve got $700 a month to spend on rent, you’ll be able to afford it.
I suppose I could get in trouble for writing this, without absolute evidence and documents to prove it, but I’ve heard these stories from various people over many years and, with this latest horror story in the making with the potential displacement of many people and the lack of public information about it, I’m gonna take a chance and put it out there. I’m all for creating employment, and of course people who organize shelters and prepare food are entitled to a decent salary, but I’m increasingly concerned at the motives of some of those who maintaining this structural, institutionalized poverty. They really don’t want to change the system so that poverty and homelessness can be eliminated. They can’t imagine it. They’d lose their jobs.
November 3rd, Victoria’s poor and homeless will lose 72 warm, dry beds, and 60 hot meals daily.
Starting November 1st BC Housing will cut funding to St. John the Divine, a 40 mat Cold/Wet overnight shelter, and funding for the Salvation Army’s 20 free chapel mats. These mats were funded in July in response to public outcry around the Pandora Street ‘epidemic’. November 1st Cool Aid will lose their BC Gaming funding for drop-in services which funds 60 hot meals served daily to drop-in clients. November 3rd Streetlink will close down and Rock Bay Landing will open, Cool Aid’s new homeless shelter facility, creating a net loss of 12 beds at the new shelter. In the span of 3 days Victoria will lose 72 warm, dry beds and 60 hot meals.
The Streetlink 3:20pm Drop-In meal feeds 60 people every day of the week. Many come daily. Many have housing but can not afford to feed themselves. Many choose to sleep outside. A majority of the 3:20 regulars live on fixed incomes, such as disability or a pension. Losing the 3:20 meal means putting these people at a higher risk of homelessness, worsened physical health and reduced food security. And losing the Saturday and Sunday meals means losing the only hot meal option in the city on weekends. [This is not quite true .... Food Not Bombs provides free, hot, vegetarian food on Pandora Green every Sunday at 3 pmish].
St. John the Divine shelters those who have fallen between the cracks. People who have been barred from other shelters, people with dogs, people on their 7 day time away from staying at Streetlink – mandated by BC Housing to qualify as temporary housing – and people who generally don’t do well in the more structured and rule-based shelter system. The Salvation Army mats serve peoples who want to be in a more sober environment than at Streetlink, but who cannot afford to pay the $21/night that a bed at the Salvation Army would cost. Losing these 60 mats, at the beginning of November, adds another nearly insurmountable barrier to Victoria’s homeless.
Some believe that the loss of these mats will be made up for by new E.W.P (Extreme Weather Protocol) mats beginning shortly. E.W.P is called at 11am each day, and those mats are not a certainty each night. E.W.P is activated on the basis of weather: snow, wind and cold temperatures. These warm, dry spaces are not something that the homeless can rely on; being cold and sleeping outside is the only thing they can.
Critics claim that the city has dealt with the Pandora problem (by additional police presence in the area) and therefore these shelters are no longer needed. But these shelters are just one small band-aid for the Homeless community, and removing them will only exacerbate drug use issues, despair and the myriad of problems for those living around the 900 block of Pandora, and those who remain invisibly homeless elsewhere.
There is also the perception that Rock Bay Landing will have more shelter beds. In fact Streetlink currently provides shelter for 96 people each night, while Rock Bay Landing will only have 84 beds, with a net loss of 27 male beds as compared to Streetlink’s current occupancy. Also, without the drop-in meal, the 27 more homeless men who will no longer have somewhere to sleep will no longer qualify to eat.
These cuts, in effect by November 3rd, will undoubtedly cause a crisis among Victoria’s poor.
Rock Bay is some distance from Victoria’s downtown where the tourists play. The image City Hall has been pressured, and seems to want to present is one of a pristine capitalist playground, where the failures of a system that bails out banks and tosses its children aside will not have witness. It’s Leave it to Beaver all over again, a mythological world where mommy quietly pops little pills to convince daddy that all God’s ducks are in a row, where no children are hungry, where all are housed and happy and fed. I was in Qualicum Beach recently, it kinda looks like that – no visible native people, no panhandlers or binners or homeless. If that was really the world we live in it would have been beautiful. But it’s not, there are 200,000-300,000 homeless people in Canada and it’s eerie to be in a town that doesn’t reflect any of that reality. Surreal. Creepy.
So the failings of capitalism, the economic system that demands a percentage of unemployment to function properly, the system that rewards the ultra wealthy who got there by paying their employees minimum wage in only part time jobs with no benefits, while Native land is bought and sold for ever increasing prices, those individuals who cannot or will not fit into such a farcical and failed structure, they’re moved along like cattle, to the edges of the city, to a neighbourhood where, coincidentally, country folk used to gather to exchange their goods. (That unusual intersection where Government and Douglas and the Gorge Road connect is, I was told, paved pathways where people used to herd their animals to market.)
I don't know where the people live who've made this terrible decision, and I wouldn't want them to wake up to heaping piles of human excrement on their doorsteps the day after Hallowe'en. I'm sure there are porta potties out there for that. Oh, no homes on Hallowe'en, and no porta potties either? Oh dear ....
In other news, David Johnston’s back in jail starving himself in an effort to bring light to the horrific injustice that surrounds us all. I can’t say I completely understand or agree with his tactics, but he does what he believes will bring change to benefit all of us. And, I would like to thank whoever has provided the bursaries, apparently available through Our Place (now soooo much farther away from where the people in need have been shuffled), to study computers at Camosun. Let’s get writing, kids, this is history and we are it.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The mysteries of this world continue to astound me.
Today, on my way to visit with one of the very original and amazing and colourful Raging Grannies, I realized I’d left the house a little late and, even with my electric bike, would not have time to stop at the locally owned middle eastern food store for snacky foods to go with our tea. Instead, I took the shortest route and stopped at Thrifty’s.
Thrifty’s used to be one of those little, locally owned and operated gems. They sourced produce from local farmers, and paid a fair wage. I don’t know if they still do any of that, but today I learned they’re not much interested in the reuse “R” of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
I had locked my bike outside, remembering years ago when the very first mountain bike I ever bought, a bright red shiny one (the purchase inspired by Pee Wee and his Big Adventure) was stolen from that very location (it was a very sad day), and worked my way inside as politely as possible given the great hurry I was in. I got all the way to the deli counter and realized I’d left the plastic container in my bike’s saddle bag, raced back out to the bike and back to the deli counter, saying “excuse me” as I went.
My request for dolmades, as many as would fit into the container, was refused. “We can’t take those back,” the deli clerk said, referring to the plastic container. “I don’t want you to take it back,” I said, “I want you to fill it up and give it back to me.” To no avail. It turns out Thrifty’s is all paranoid about legal implications that may arise if I become sick after eating something they’ve put into my own container. I said I’d be willing to sign an agreement to protect them and, when that attempt failed, wondered aloud when we became the United States with all its I’m gonna sue you madness, and asked the clerk if she understood that plastic is made from oil, and what about that gulf of oil fiasco?!?! She’s just doing her job. I get that.
To their credit, Thrifty’s sells dolmades for 25 cents each and veggie samosas for only 99 cents each. This is kind of amazing. For two dollars a person can get a decent lunch. And the deli clerk, when asked about ingredients, was able to produce a list quite readily.
As I left the store I wondered how it is that Thrifty’s can sell genetically engineered, chemically fertilized products without concern that customers might one day file a class action lawsuit linking these to their growing health concerns, but they can’t fill a perfectly functional, and clean, reusable container.
One day maybe I’ll be a Raging Granny. It’s my understanding that it’s not necessary to actually have the grandchildren, just the rage. I’ve definitely got that, and it’s good to know there are so many creative non-violent places to channel it.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
If ‘Nanaimo’ is a Native word meaning “land of many malls,” then ‘Qualicum’ could be interpreted as “land of many stumps.” And I’m not referring to the charred leftover stumps of industrialized logging that destroys entire ecosystems and leaves only death in its wake, but massive free standing stumps, remnants of ancient giants scarred with notches marking their last days, yet still holding strong to the forest floor and standing with dignity, supporting new life.
Having explored the Gnome Forest, where a 1000 year old cedar stump remains surrounded by a perfectly intact coastal rainforest ecosystem, I ventured to the Brown Property, as locals call it, or Heritage Forest as the signage suggests. It’s on the other side of the village, near the golf course. In its centre is a bulletin board outlining its history, starting in 1913 when “General Money bought the property,” then sold it to Jim Lowery of Home Oil who sold it to Bobby Brown who maintained a family farm which was sold to the City. Luckily one day a woman, Anne Klees, discovered plans to ‘develop’ the forest, turn it into a subdivision, and the community rallied and raised over 2 million dollars to preserve it as it is today.
One small problem. In this forest, and in the “Community Forest” closer to town, there’s clear evidence of indigenous culture. Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs), with strips of cedar bark removed and woven into baskets and clothing, stand in these forests as reminders that people lived and worked and played in these woods for thousands of years prior to the real estate crowd’s arrival. Just how did General Money come to buy these woods, I wonder? How many native people were slaughtered, or died with disease, before the General plunged his flag into the earth and proclaimed the land as his? Was there a treaty process to transfer land ownership? Did the indigenous people who signed it really understand what they were entering into?
I think it’s wonderful that the citizens Qualicum Beach feel so strongly about keeping their community green and natural that they pooled their resources and bought the Heritage Forest. If I were an indigenous person, I’d be grateful that some white folk are also able to appreciate the value of a standing, intact ecosystem. But I’d sure like to be remembered as part of the history of the place.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
It complicates otherwise simple relationships.
Then there’s prostitution, which I really don’t understand. I mean, I’ve been poor and near homeless and I’ll admit the thought crossed my mind …. but it was quickly dismissed by a much more rational voice in my head with very angry instructions to never ever return again.
Really. Prostitution is so 19th century.
So says this feminist, who continues to be surprised at otherwise rational womens’ attempts to justify it. On the APTN news, a women celebrated the recent court decision to legalize it. Women who are being abused, she reasoned, could now call the police. Great. “Hi, 9/11? I’m busy objectifying myself and the guy doesn’t respect me for it.” And when the cop arrives to “rescue” her, she can get his badge number and do a quick interweb search to make sure he’s not one of those cops involved with covering up or ignoring the hundreds of missing women across Canada. And Robert Pickton’s farm.
I’m not saying anyone deserves to get beat up. I’m not saying prostitution should be illegal. Of course prostitution shouldn’t be illegal. Capitalism, and its “everything’s for sale” philosophy is what should be illegal.
Why in the world would anyone take five million years of human evolution and hand it over to capitalism? Why would anyone say “I have a right to take something so incredibly beautiful it’s inspired the world’s greatest poets and writers and artists, and put a monetary value on it, and hand it over to a stranger – not for love or babymaking, but just for the quick buck.” I know the answer …. hunger. Right? Everyone who’s ever traded their precious, magical, mysterious body for sex was hungry. Why else?
Wrong. My understanding is that, at least in Victoria, it’s impossible to be hungry. Anywhere in North America, I’m guessing there are friends, food banks, soup kitchens, and/or dumpsters full of the spoils of capitalism. Just get through another day, and maybe your luck will turn tomorrow. Hold on!!!
So if it’s not hunger driving the prostitution engine, then it must be need. Men NEED sex. It’s simple supply and demand theory. Women only sell themselves because men need sex. If it weren’t for the demand, there’d be no supply.
A prostitute once told me the reason she trades sex for money is because it allows her to feel some power in a relationship. She was giving it away, and then realized she could sell it, and that somehow equalized the power dynamic of the relationship. What kind of a sad and sorry relationship is that, I wondered.
So I go to the grocery story and look at the half naked women on the magazines as I’m waiting in line. Or I pick up a magazine, or watch television commercials where women are telling me I’m not as good as them, I’ll never be as good as them, but if only I’d think of myself as an object I might have a chance.
And the cycle continues. They insist that it’s okay to objectify themselves, that they have the right to take five million years of human evolution and hand it over to capitalism. That there’s absolutely nothing else they can possibly think of doing aside from turning their flesh into cash. That it’s not their fault, it’s the men’s fault who keep asking for it. The men who see those women on those magazine covers, on the internet, on the TV commercials, and then assume that all women are hot like that and if only they could get some their manliness would be forever revered.
If only someone would encourage critical thought.
When I think about it, I wonder about the nature of relationships generally. Traditional monogamous relationships are supposedly about devotion, dedication … and ownership. I am yours, you are mine. It’s so romantic! For a while. After a while it gets boring, and people stray. Cheat. Fall in love with somebody else. (Why do we “fall” in love?) If they don’t think they can get away with an affair, and they’re certain they need sex to fulfill themselves, they go buy a one night stand. Which is worse – getting caught in an affair, or getting caught buying (or selling) a piece of flesh created by five million years of evolution and then reducing what might be a magical experience to a momentary climax that’s ‘just business’?
Maybe monogamy is the problem. Maybe there ought to be alternatives, for those who aren’t comfortable there, for those who feel the need to wander and experiment. Some people try polyamoury, which is about realizing it’s possible to love more than one person … without having to pay for it. It’s certainly true that there’s no limit to love, it’s endlessly abundant, and perhaps it is possible to love more than one person equally.
I’m not sure I could do it. I could love equally, but I’d definitely want to the number one person receiving love. I’d be jealous, for sure.
I just never got the hang of sex and relationships and the attempt to find equality in an inherently unequal world, and so for the past twenty years I’ve been, basically, celibate … which the exception of a couple of relationship attempts. Feels like thirty years! I can’t tell you how clearly my mind works. I’m not consumed with that other voice in my head, asking me when we’re gonna get some more of that, and why hasn’t he called. It’s not that I didn’t have my share of fun in my younger years, it’s just that I finally accepted it’s really mostly confusing and controlling and, ultimately, not worth it. My mind didn’t work properly and my relationships, as much as I tried to break free from the traditional patterns of domesticity, inevitably fell into an unequal distribution of chores and maintenance.
So I’m a boring old maid – NOT! What a horrible thing to label single, independent women who are liberated from the societal expectation of being the perfect wife and mother.
I suppose this is one gift of age …. people, if they choose, can be released from the bonds of sexual status and the competition associated with it. Or, we can feel inadequate and take pills and fool ourselves by placing undue importance on something that’s really, ultimately, about procreation. From a planetary perspective, it’s about survival of the species. Now that there’s over six billion of us, I’m certain the evolutionary thing to do is birth control. Or be gay. Or abstain.
Really, think of it … five million years of human evolution were involved in creating this egg/sperm walking upright live birth thing. You can bang like there’s no tomorrow, and if you end up pregnant …. Voila. You’re one of the chosen ones. Virtuous. Respectable. A Mother.
A human body is a magical, precious thing. The opportunity to live a human life is a great honour. We live in a time where HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases, run rampant. Obviously, sexual proliferation is not a good idea for those who want to live in a healthy body.
Why do we still, in the 21st century, live in a society that has so few reasonable options for girls (and boys) who want to be independent, who want to earn a living in their own way, without having to wreck their dreams with an alarm every morning and then bust their asses doing some horrible and/or meaningless crap so some other assholes can get ultra wealthy and perpetuate this cycle of ownership and destruction of the earth?
Our ancestors died shortly after their procreative abilities had expired. Nowadays many of us have the luxury of living beyond it. And when we do we can look back on our silly, youthful, sexual exploits and hopefully chuckle and forgive ourselves our goofiness.
Sex is beautiful .... and confusing. I just can’t get excited about a patriarchal decision to make the buying and selling of it legal.
Friday, October 22, 2010
People love trains. They wave at them from their backyards, and from their cars while waiting at the crossings. I witnessed this last week, as I journeyed on what is probably Via Rail’s tiniest train that runs between Victoria and Courtenay/Comox. It’s just two cars long, and does one route a day – up the island, and then back to Victoria. I rode the train to get to Qualicum Beach, for a doggie minding gig.
My first morning walking through what’s known as the “Gnome Forest,” at the edge of town and surrounded by what might in future be a sub-division road, I met Hugh and his dog, Mr. Tate. Hugh, in his younger years, was one of the main trail and bridge builders in this little forest. A retired worker for BC Electric (now BC Hydro), Hugh commissioned various community forest lovers to help build signs to identify trees and birds, he found a retired forestry worker who took a core sample of a 1000 year old cedar stump and affirmed its age, he participated in publishing a book about the little patch of Qualicum Beach green space that has taken on a life of its own.
Community forest walkers add their own gifts to the nooks and crannies of the woods, claiming a special relationship with a little piece of ever-diminishing green space. Clay frogs and gnomes, wind chimes, wooden owls (also Hugh’s contribution), bird houses and feeders, even a wishing well adorn the forest. There are two comment books, tucked away in protective wooden boxes nailed to trees and, Hugh tells me, they’ve recorded comments from people all over the world. These will be useful when the day arrives to save this little piece of forest from destruction for some kind of monetary profit.
Speaking about conservation, referring to my own experiences watching green spaces in and around Victoria and particularly Langford disappear, I learn that Qualicum Beach citizens pitched in a few years ago and bought the Brown Woods. Of course this all was native land, and the idea of purchasing stolen land is abhorrent, but these days it seems the only solution. I’ve yet to visit Brown Woods, it’s on the other side of town, I’m told it houses full grown ancient trees whereas the Gnome Forest has only stumps leftover from non-industrialized logging practices. Modern clearcutting, slash and burn, doesn’t even leave stumps behind.
Certainly this Gnome Forest ought to be next on the list for local protection. Part of it’s owned by the city, but of course that doesn’t guarantee anything. Part of it’s owned privately. Both Hugh, and the good people at the Heaven on Earth health store, and I’m sure many others, appreciate the value of preserving green spaces. And, they seem to understand the need to keep an eye on city council so they can stop the bulldozers before the plans are conceived behind closed doors and without public consultation, which seems to be the way democracy works these days.
You can take a virtual hike through Qualicum Beach’s Gnome Forest by clicking here.
Amidst scenes of jubilation from thousands of Palestinians there to greet the convoy, Kevin Ovenden, the convoy director, expressed his joy at being in Gaza once again. "We have driven more than 3,000 miles to bring this essential aid and to break this illegal siege of Gaza. We have been joined by supporters from Morocco and Algeria and from the Gulf States and Jordan, to make this the biggest convoy ever to break the siege of Gaza. We are absolutely overjoyed to be here and to bring with us the soil from the graves of those who were massacred on the Mavi Marmara which will be used to plant trees as a memorial to their sacrifice."
The convoy set out four weeks and five days ago from London. It travelled through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Syria. Everywhere the reception was fantastic and the generosity of well-wishers unsurpassed. Towards the end there was a frustrating delay in Syria whilst negotiations at the highest levels were conducted with the Egyptian authorities. In the end it was all worth it as the Egyptian authorities decided to allow passage of the whole convoy, sadly excluding just 17 members of the convoy including George Galloway.
The convoy will be handed over in its entirety to the relevant bodies tomorrow and the members of the convoy then expect to leave Gaza and return home in the next 48 hours after celebrations and formal thanks are given.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
by cyann ray, published in the November Street Newz. a 20 minute audio chat with kenny, from october 2010, is here.
Another sister has left us. Linda Mary Sam was the seventh of nineteen children born to Edith Sam in Whitehorse, 1947. Linda is survived by sisters Maisie and Elsie and, remarkably, their 97 year old mother, still living in Whitehorse, as well as her three children and three grandchildren. Linda’s father passed away when she was a toddler.
A full-blooded Kwanlin Dün Native, Linda spent most of her childhood (ages 4-16) in residential schools. The abuse experienced there left her scarred and partially deaf. Linda endured those years, then a couple of unhealthy relationships which bore her three children. Still in her mid-twenties, Linda met a young man with thick glasses and a warm heart. Kenny and Linda paired up and remained together for 42 years until September 2nd, 2010 when Kenny had to let go of Linda’s arm for the last time.
We mourn the loss of this strong but poor woman who had such a troubled and difficult life. But those of us who knew Kenny and Linda, know that they were made for each other and had love between them.
Despite becoming completely blind, Kenny always managed to provide for he and his better half. And now that his better half is gone, Kenny is alone.
Blind Kenny has worked the bench outside the church at Douglas/Broughton for nearly 20 years. And while he would sit there and holler “spare a little change?!”, Linda would comb the downtown core, touching base with the street community and making sure everyone was okay. Stocking up at food banks enabled her to feed many of the homeless and less fortunate. Some even found temporary shelter, a hot shower and a smoke and a beer at Kenny and Linda’s small apartment. She was affectionately known as “Mom” on the streets and although the homeless demographic has changed drastically over the past decade, there still remains a crowd quite familiar with the generosity of this long-lasting couple.
Kenny’s bench sitting days are now over. After spending most of his life relying on Linda to navigate thru town, he is now completely on his own for the first time in his life. With no family and a peer group of mostly impoverished alcoholics, this next chapter of Kenny’s life will be quite a challenge.
Admitted to Victoria General Hospital the night Linda passed, Kenny remains in the hospital despite not being sick. Unable to return to his home, Kenny must now await as our over-worked safety network tries to arrange suitable accommodation. A new home to get used to. A new life to learn. A difficult journey for a blind, alcoholic, 58 year old with a grade three education. I fear him falling silently between the cracks and my heart weeps.
Kenny and Linda lived at 950 Humboldt for nearly two decades until several years ago when construction demands displaced them. Pacifica Housing relocated this especially vulnerable couple into a crime-ridden dump. I visited there just once ... it was awful and unsafe. A far cry from their sunny yard where, for about fifteen years, I enjoyed regular visits over cups of tea and laughter.
I’m not sure if the new buildings at 950 Humboldt (originally owned by C.N.I.B., then B.C. Housing) are designed specially for low-income and/or the disabled but I do know that they are not ready for occupancy and Kenny’s wish to move back into his old neighbourhood is unlikely to come true. Living at the hospital is hardly a solution either. The staff seem to have their hands full dealing with sick people and he is quite neglected. From not being able to eat the food, to having to stay in his room (nobody to walk him around, stretch his legs...), this seems like a fate worse than death.
Most recently I learned he has been denied access to his money and forbidden to leave the grounds. Kenny is a grieving widow suffering from (alcohol) withdrawal. He is being further victimized by poverty and a failing system. I am outraged with the lack of compassion and available support in this so-called healthcare facility but I am at a loss as to what to do. Over the years I’ve seen dozens of well-to-do business types, church goers and do-gooders give Kenny envelopes of cash as he sat on his bench with his bucket of change. Are these folks wondering where he is now?
I manage the hour bike ride out to VGH every few days, each visit discovering more details of neglect. Each visit becoming more disheartened. Nobody deserves to be abandoned like this, least of all dear, sweet, generous Kenny. Linda would share my outrage if she knew how her hubby was being mistreated. She spent most of her life looking after Kenny and it was a full-time job. I suspect it will take a small team of professionals to do the work this remarkable woman carried out on her own for over 40 years. I wish I were in a better position myself to help Kenny, but all I can do is share his story and be his friend. Unfortunately, he needs a lot more than that.
Photos by Nancy Raycroft.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
After the reality show - disguised as a rescue operation - is over.
After all the entertainment industry - disguised as news agencies - leaves town.
After the cunning and opportunistic politicians remove their impeccable coveralls and shinny hard hats.
After the apathetic public ceases to be interested and switches channels to watch another "Reality Show" and after this long and slender, God forsaken country ceases to be in the news, the miners will have to deal with the reality of their miserable lives....again.
Nothing have changed the day after, in the land of unfettered capitalism, perennial usury and endless profits, where the road is not paved with yellow bricks gold, but with red copper bars extracted by Canadian, Australian, American and Chilean consortium who enjoyed their ROYALTY FREE peaceful existence for the benefit of their own wealthy elites.
During their subterranean ordeal, these miners have received the medical aid and monitoring normally denied to them due to their inability to pay for those services.
Their minds, bodies and every possible health index have been examined and measured to ensure their well being: that will not happen again.....unless they can pay for those services: in the land of privatized health, if you have money you live , if you don't, you die.
Their voices - normally silenced by the mine owners, the government, and the police or by all of them combined - have been heard by millions around the world, but not for long, their return to anonymity is imminent.
Their weather beaten, common and regular humble faces have been shown to the world, in contrast with the faces of the "other" Chile, the one that drives expensive cars, travels to Miami for holidays and wear Gucci watches purchased with the money generated by the miners.
Their women folks - normally ignored and treated with scorn by the educated, lighter skinned, fragrant, well dressed well-to-do matrons - are now back to the anonymity of the poor working class: their 15 minutes of fame is over.
Has anyone asked why this accident did happen?
Why the miner's Union representatives were not allowed to be in the camp with their comrades?
Why is the Chilean Labour Code not enforced by the authorities?
Why the mining safety code is being ignored?
Why the precarious working conditions in an industry that generates so much wealth? [for the Canadian, Australian, USA and the Chilean elites]
The miners will come back to their normal routine soon and....yes, they will be forced by circumstances to work under the same conditions [or worse] just to feed their families and to full fill their assigned role in the international economy that demands cheap raw materials .....and perhaps, in a short distant future, there will be another reality show, this time in Guatemala, Indonesia, El Salvador or in other country that will have the misfortune of receiving the foreign investment curse.
Workers do not and cannot expect redemption from those who rob them of their very existence and who profit from their suffering and want. Their liberation will be the result of their own organized efforts and sacrifice to obtain the justice that has been denied for so long.
Yesterday was a day of survival and victory.
Tomorrow is a day of organizing and struggle for liberation…..
Monday, October 11, 2010
my first introduction to shakespeare's 'hamlet' was in high school. we had to memorize the 'to be or not to be' soliloquy, including all the punctuation, for a written exam and i aced it. i didn't really understand much about the play, except that particular act had something to do with hamlet contemplating suicide.
since then, through a college liberal arts degree and an english degree, i've learned that particular bit of poetry, and all the rest of it in fact, can be interpreted in many different ways. hamlet, for example, might have been pondering whether or not it's worth murdering claudius (who he believes has killed his father and married his mother). over the years i've examined and scrutinized and philosophized over and written about the play many many times. today i watched a newish interpretation from the bbc, with patrick stewart as claudius and the ghost, and david tennant (doctor who) portraying perhaps the most afflicted royal son ever. i spotted the dvd on the shelves at yo video (the best video store in the world, if not the universe) and thought ..... every time i see or read this play (probably 2,315 times by now at least) i find something new that i didn't see before. there's no way, i thought, i could possibly glean any more useful tidbits about human behaviour. i've written papers, exams, i've studied the play inside out. i've thought about it from all possible angles.
ten minutes into the film i had it, something i'd never considered before.
it's possible. i listened, rather than watched, a lot of the play as i prepared thanksgiving lunch (fresh farm veggies and polenta casserole, apple crisp with coconut dream for dessert) for my folks, so i can't say with great confidence whether there's a lot in this interpretation of the play to support this particular thesis. i heard a couple of lines that might support it, though, and the idea of having the same actor portray both claudius and hamlet's father's ghost is what gave me the idea.
you just never know what old bill shakespeare intended. one of the things i love most about him is his lack of stage direction. you often never really know for sure who's listening in on what conversations, who sees what, where everybody is, all that sort of thing. and certainly this play was among his finest works. even after all these years i can still find something new to think about. i'd always wondered about that ghost, the rest of the play being so grounded in reality, it didn't seem logical to pin the entire story on something so obscure.
luther and nelly, the little cuddly poodles i'm currently employed to love and protect, were disappointed at the lack of canine influence over the play, but appreciated that at least some dirt was dug up in the graveyard scene.