Friday, December 17, 2010

Good start to the day

This video made my day. And well that 90 second clip of Mr Assange outside the courthouse made my day yesterday.

The things he has to say may not necessarily be what you have been hearing. Though for me, it is good enough just seeing him out of solitary confinement and speaking as well as always. And a coooool cucumber, Julian Assange is quite the master at public speaking. Despite annoying and repeated interjections from the host interviewer, he keeps the lid on.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

We aren't holding a gun to your head, stop bitching

**Corrections from last post**

**1. Melissa Martin has said the following about the story in question:

The long story short of that is because the only evidence I, and several other reporters far more talented and experienced than I, could find came from an individual with a vested personal interest in seeing Ross Eadie lose the election… and this person would not go on the record.

We can’t put serious allegations in the paper unless we have strong evidence to support them. The stronger the allegation, the stronger the evidence needed, for obvious reasons. Parroting allegations made by an anonymous source with a clear and undeniable bias, along with some untraceable complaints, is not strong evidence.


**2. Bartley Kives did look into the Ross Eadie accusations. In my previous post I stated that "he did nothing." I take it back.

**3. Melissa Martin spoke to Red River College journalism students about reviewing, and entertainment reporting, and nothing about news.


*** New Post ***

For some the idea of human rights is difficult to understand. We live in North America, a place that by and large, consider themselves to be above and beyond human rights, as if it is in the past, that these things no longer happen.

To many, not having "freedom of speech" means nobody holds a gun to your head. It means that because there are other avenues to pursue, your "right to free speech" can be taken elsewhere. Like the internet.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed in 1948. I'm pretty sure the internet didn't exist then, or in Al Gore's infant brain. If The Great Canadian Talk Show had been cancelled in 1949, today, the same people ridiculing me in my comments would be saying "well you can still stand on the sidewalk and shout."

The facts here, remain. The truth is all we've got in the end. TGCTS existed for 4 years under the leadership of RRC President Jeff Zabudsky, who declined to act on political pressure, or Winnipeg Free Press pressure, to cancel the show. Within 3 months of new leadership, Stephanie Forsyth was bending to the pressure of the Winnipeg Free Press, to cancel another show, by leaning on two members of a non-profit executive. The reasons for the show's cancellation are bogus. We can all see through that, regardless of whether or not you are a fan of the show.

That, is interference. That, is silencing a voice of opinion and expression. Because one has other avenues to pursue, such as standing on a soap box with a megaphone on Portage and Main, does not make the accusation empty.

Choking off options and eliminating something that gains steam and has influence, is part of controlling information. If something becomes a threat to your existence in one medium, it does not mean that influence is transferrable. TV and radio have the ability to gain the most attention.

Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of the Press, are necessary to hold government to account and keep the truth from being swept under the rug forever. With an American-style attack ad campaign for next year's provincial election already ramping up, Winnipeg, and Manitoba, are worse off with even just one less alternative voice.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Red River Censorship over a Free Press cover-up

Tonight was TGCTS Live, at the Norwood Community Centre. Both "Young Josh" and the twitter-blogger Hacks and Wonks tweeted from the event and I suppose that collectively it kind of amounts to a sort of live blog. Marty and TGCTS of course was silenced on November 8th.

Where does this all stem from?

Well it turns out that the Winnipeg Free Press has a history of going to the Red River College president to get Marty fired. Just that Jeff Zabudsky wasn't as malleable as Stephanie Forsyth obviously is.

Why did someone go to the president this time? Well, that person was Margo Goodhand, editor of the WFP. The reason, was that Marty had "defamed" a reporter. Publisher Bob Cox, alleges that Marty had not checked his facts and was spreading lies.

Who hasn't checked their facts? Bob Cox.

The story in question was during the civic election, written by Melissa Martin and Bartley Kives, about Ross Eadie and the NDP, at a Point Douglas Residents Association-held candidate debate.

Ross Eadie, during that very meeting, stated that he could not run if he were not financed by the NDP. Melissa Martin, failed to write this for the story. Because she failed to write it, I suppose, her bosses, Margo Goodhand and Bob Cox, believe it did not happen. Because it did not happen, I suppose, Margo Goodhand, can go to the president of Red River College and allege that Marty Gold is defaming her reporter.

If you wish to read a first hand account of this incident, you can go here.

If that is not enough to convince you, more than 5 formal complaints were made to the City Elections Official Marc Lemoine. Though, these were not investigated, because according to Mr Lemoine, he is not able to investigate such things.

Bartley Kives, although he was not present at this candidate debate, was also made aware of this allegation via email. That is, both writers of this story, were fully aware that Ross Eadie, had let it slip that he couldn't run without NDP support. Melissa Martin didn't report. Bart knew, but didn't do anything about it. And the Winnipeg Free Press never ran a correction, nor a follow up story, nor did they ever run a story about how the City Clerks office apparently cannot investigate illegal campaign activity, which would suggest there is no body to uphold civic election laws.

So when Margo Goodhand got wind that Marty Gold was criticising Melissa Martin for not reporting this incident? It seemed like high time to go talk to the new RRC President, Stephanie Forsyth.

After the election, Melissa Martin spoke to RRC CreComm journalism students. I wonder how many of those students are aware of her fine work in gatekeeperism? Or of how the Winnipeg "Free Press" was involved with getting Marty Gold off the air, or of how their new president is clearly a fan of free speech and human rights.

Freedom of Speech is article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Not only does Marty Gold have a right to express his opinion that the Winnipeg Free Press' civic election coverage was crap (a right both Margo Goodhand and Bob Cox should familiarize themselves with), but that this basic human right and founding principle of Western democracies including Canada, is not to be interfered with.

Stephanie Forsyth? Meet Article 19. By the way Steph, Canada voted in favour of passing this Universal Declaration. And by the way, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights is coming to town.

The City of Winnipeg, home to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, and home to a community college president who violates said Human Rights.

It is fascinating to me, how "journalists" in this town can go to a candidate debate during an election and fail to report a candidate who admits to engaging in illegal campaign activity. Then, the paper's brass can lie and accuse someone of defamation to a post secondary institution president. Meanwhile, the paper can pretend that the incident did not occur. Then, the college president can do no investigation into whether or not these allegations are true, and terminate a radio broadcast, without legal reason to do so. With no formal complaint, and with nothing in writing.

The Winnipeg Free Press has succeeded in controlling information. Their previous attempts to silence TGCTS were foiled by Jeff Zabudsky, who was aware of the relationship between Kick FM and RRC, and refused to get involved. Kick FM station manager Rick is responsible for all programming and has been for the past several years.

With the exception of one program: The Great Canadian Talk Show. Marty Gold's show remains the only one pulled off the air since November 8th under the guise of "student interest."

The RRC Kills Free Speech Facebook Group.

If this contradicts anything anybody may have received from Graham Thomson, his email is: gthomson@rrc.mb.ca

Or please, by all means, email the editor and publisher of the Winnipeg "Free Press." Or by all means, email RRC President Forsyth's (sgforsyth@rrc.mb.ca) and educate her on Article 19.

Smeared

One thing in particular continues to crop up in relation to Julian Assange, founder and spokesperson for Wikileaks, that very much disturbs me. It is bothersome to me how people, especially people writing for American media outlets, can be so ignorant, and well, stupid.



....That this man, is motivated to bring down the US Government.

Or that he is politically motivated.

How can this be? It is so ridiculously stupid that you must really have to have your head so far up your ass with patriotism that it is not possible to remember where the Afghan Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, or the US Embassy Cables came from.

Not like they hacked it out of US servers, or pulled a B&E at the Pentagon. A fellow by the name of Gordon Crovitz writing for the Wall Street Journal has succinctly presented this rather comedic point of view by saying:

"The reason he launched WikiLeaks is not that he's a whistleblower....but because he hopes to hobble the U.S."

The piece refers to a couple of essays Assange wrote (which I will have to try and find somewhere) which, though Crovitz attempts to spin things his way, the quotes he lifts seem to be better fitted to explaining the current situation than explaining someone's motives to topple a specific government. Crovitz then stretches it to compare Assange to some guy who sent bombs in the mail. Absolute lunacy.

They were sent this information. They published it. If you watch Assange speak, he frequently refers to material Wikileaks published that greatly affected Kenya in 2007. Either they have stayed true to their mission statement, which I believe they have, or sometime between 2007 and 2010, Assange decided he was going to hate on the US and launch "attacks" against them.

It is hard to argue that publishing information is an "attack." US Congressman Ron Paul is (not surprisingly) the only US politician that has not denounced Wikileaks. Rather beautifully, he said:

"In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Highly recommended

I would like to recommend a book, and author, to anyone interested in Middle Eastern politics, or Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. And for everyone else, that's alright, because these books are stories of fiction.

The books is Sirens of Baghdad, the author is Yasmina Khadra.



The heart of the book is about life as we do not know, how an everyday Iraqi lives his life.

As the novel progresses, it becomes more and more unsettling as perceived realities are probed and dark times are examined from a distraught and broken mind. Building up and up, the book becomes more and more whacked, peaking in the last few dozen pages, no actually, peaking at the very last page and very last sentence.

A book of deep emotional reality, about a subject we as Canadians cannot relate to or ponder, imagine or comprehend. We'll never be forced to comprehend such things, where here, the loss of your home means a flood or tornado. Oppressive force just is not in our minds, not even remotely. The end of the world is some grand fictional apocalypse to us, the Bible is practised occasionally, every other Sunday, as a leisurely pastime, such luxuries are allowed for.

You can read the New York Times review right here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister 'Deplorable'

Well now here's a name that doesn't seem to come up all that often. Lawrence Cannon, our very own homegrown Foreign Affairs Minister, decided to join a large group of politicians who disagree with Wikileaks' release of documents.

Cannon called the action "deplorable" and that it "did not serve any body's national interests."

Careful, Mr Cannon.

It most definitely does serve national interests. And global interests. And after what has come out today, especially about the UN Leaders, proves that some of this stuff isn't just backroom comments and trying to strategically position yourself to leverage another country.

Mr Cannon, and for that matter, Mr Harper, had better damn well realize that if Canada was attempting to secure biometrics, that is, fingerprints and retina scans, of UN Leaders, Canadians deserve to know, even if it's only so we can vote your asses out of government for such a - deplorable - action.

From the Wikileaks site:

The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in "client states"; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

Furthermore what makes these important is that these documents extend into 2010, displaying that nothing indeed has changed in Washington. That is to say, President Obama may have won our hearts during the election but at the end of the day, Obama not only allowed war crimes to continue under his administration, but has also continue to foster this kind of behaviour and attitude by giving such directives to US Embassies all over the world.

The US has blatantly ignored human rights abuses in countries they deal with, while hypocritically championing their bringing of democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan, and supposedly bringing justice to these countries. Those of us that follow these kinds of things closely have been aware of corruption for a very, very long time. And for a very very long time I could not convince most people that the actions exhibited by the US overseas were either wrong, unjustifiable, or outright war crimes. Hopefully, with all these released documents, people around the world will maybe wake up a little bit. The US Government has been painted as a superpower empire out of control, masquerading their crusade in the Middle East as a war on "terror."

Why Mr Cannon is calling out Wikileaks over documents that are very unlikely to put Canada in a bad light, I'm not sure. Unless you've got something embarrassing to hide. If I were Canada's Foreign Minster right now, I'd want to know everything I could about this moral-less country we're allied with.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Appeaser

Forewarning: anyone who is not interested in international law, foreign policies, or the Middle East, will find the following quite boring. The most local I can get is that Cherenkov wrote briefly about this topic.

One of my favourite journalists is Robert Fisk.

He wrote a piece I will not reflect on so much as I will link to it, though I found the following very powerful and relevant.

Anyone who panders to injustice by one people against another people is called an appeaser. Anyone who prefers peace at any price, let alone a $3bn bribe to the guilty party – is an appeaser. Anyone who will not risk the consequences of standing up for international morality against territorial greed is an appeaser. Those of us who did not want to invade Afghanistan were condemned as appeasers. Those of us who did not want to invade Iraq were vilified as appeasers. Yet that is precisely what Obama has done in his pathetic, unbelievable effort to plead with Netanyahu for just 90 days of submission to international law. Obama is an appeaser.

If you would like to read the rest, Fisk's piece ran in The Independent on Saturday.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Going National with TGCTS

The National Post has picked up on The Great Canadian Talk Show's cancellation and story. With a few very interesting tidbits of information.



Most interesting of which, besides the anti-left spin that the author placed on the article (which I swear to God I will detest until the day radio ceases to exist), is that Winnipeg Free Press editor Margo Goodhand may have talked to the newbie RRC President, Stephanie Forsyth.

This is from the man who is dealing with the fallout, Graham Thomson:

“As I understand it, the president did get a communication from the Free Press...There were some concerns about Marty having taken shots at the Free Press ... I believe that the concern about the show was voiced by the president to one of our vice-presidents who is on the board."


Really?

Hmm well now I smell a rat, don't you? Here's the little thing Ms Forsyth and Ms Goodhand would be well to learn, journalists, as published authors, are available to criticism. I myself, receive criticism.

Other people are free to discuss any particular news outlet's methods of journalism. Or, "journalism." These sorts of things become abundantly clear when you start digging yourself, and end up with more information than appears in the broadsheet press. You then call the reporter, err "journalist," responsible for the story and learn that they know as much as you know but...all these...important things are...mysteriously left out.

Marty Gold stated in the National Post article that this is 110% a freedom of speech issue, and I, 110%, AGREE!

You can email Graham Thomson at gthomson@rrc.mb.ca to press him on this or phone him at 949-8377. In addition you can call Twylla Krueger at 632-2264.

If the new president of the college is so lackadaisical as to not do her own research in the show, not listen, not talk to Marty, or students, if this decision to axe TGCTS mysteriously came from nowhere under the guise of student access, and Mr Graham Thomson can't answer questions in a strait forward manner or truthfully, then what is it?

Nobody wants to say why TGCTS was really cancelled.

Instead of seeing TGCTS as a benefit to the community, as a complement to mainstream journalism, and accepting criticism of their writers to make things better, instead of working together, instead of feeding off each other, we've got a story where somebody didn't like TGCTS and someone wanted Marty Gold to shut the fuck up, and somebody got what they wanted.

Whether that was Margo Goodhand or Stephanie Forsyth, or both, remains to be seen.

The word "controversial" is in the title of the National Post article. The word is aptly chosen. For the way journalism and the media at large work today, anything resembling putting facts on the table for discussion and not covering anything up is seen as "controversy."

RRC President Forsyth would be much revered for stepping in and re-instating TGCTS, as a model of free discussion of ideas, topics, and an alternative to gatekeeper-style journalism. After all, isn't presenting opposing points of view seen as a valuable thing at post-secondary institutions?

Join the Facebook group here.

And again, Graham Thomson's email is gthomson@rrc.mb.ca

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Red River Censorship

The Kick FM website has been completely scrubbed of any link, or reference, to TGCTS or Marty Gold.

Wiping out the record of the hard work the community at large has put into that program by bringing forward their concerns and opinions is obscenely absurdly disgusting.

You think the Station Manager was given marching orders? I think.

In addition to this, there is now no student programming between 4-6pm on weekdays. It seems censorship is alive and well to supress those who contribute to RRC.

The Kick FM Station Manager has put up Twylla Krueger of College Relations's phone number on the website, for inquiries about the cancellation of the Great Canadian Talk Show. The phone number is 632-2264.

Perspective

Though it has only been two days thus far without The Great Canadian Talk Show on the airwaves, reaction to the show's sudden knee-jerk cancellation has been nothing short of astounding. As I write this, I am setting new site traffic records, and the day is all but half over.

More details will come this week. However details is not in the cards for today's post.

So what's it going to be? Feel like some perspective.



Fresh perspective?

First, James Turner, respected crime reporter for CBC sums up Marty Gold's four year program at Kick FM quite nicely. You can read that right here.

"I’ve been a quiet fan of the show for some time now, for the sole reason that regardless of one’s feelings about its host, it was information about Winnipeg that you just couldn’t get anywhere else.

In my view, the show’s recent coverage of the civic election was must-listen radio for those interested in civic issues."


Well said, James. The truth will stand forever, regardless of how low your opinion of Marty Gold can go: you would never have heard about Assiniboine Avenue if it were not for Marty, "Kim the traffic reporter," and myself, because the Free Press pretended the problem didn't exist. You would never have heard about Ross Eadie's claim of NDP-backed financing and simultaneous denunciation of NDP faith for the new Protestantism - independent - because Melissa Martin forgot to mention it in her articles, or anything about the approximately ten formal complaints made to elections officer Mark Lemoine about it.

You will never hear a word uttered about Upper Fort Garry or the boondoggle that is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights....because the Winnipeg Free Press sends Gordon Sinclair Jr to wax sensationalism and drop a few tears unto his Remington keys to sway opinion.

After all, opinions can be easily swayed if you control information. Winnipeg was none the wiser until The Great Canadian Talk Show came along.

And there are those who would claim the show is right wing buffoonery.

From a comment left on Chris D:

This show was no alternative for the truth. It was a springboard for radical anti-social right wing nutbaggery. The kind of “get off my lawn!” paranoid vitriol that makes us laugh at the United States almost daily. Gold has let guests lie on air without ever correcting them or enforcing a shred of journalistic integrity.

Now this fellow has Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Christine O'Donnell and Fox News all mixed up with Marty Gold. You'd never hear Marty suggest a mosque being built at Ground Zero was a terrible insult to a country, you'd never hear him suggest evolution was false, or make a case for abstinence, or lobby to ban masturbation, or call Africa a country, or make a mockery of a day of national pride by holding some protest march under the name of a hero who's been dead for more than a century.

For some, the truth goes in one ear and out the other. For folks like this, it gets plugged at the first ear. Talk to the hand I suppose.

This silliness to brand an informative show with such brash ignorance is again lost on the truth. Funny how the truth wins out all the time, in the end. Marty Gold was a platform for all political ideas and candidates. If the person sitting here at this computer writing this very blog post from somewhere to the left of centre can tune in and even actively participate in this show, it can't be all that radical. I abhor bigotry.

Nowhere else had candidate Judy-W for over 3 hours of long format interview. Nowhere else can even make that offer. Nowhere else would Jenny Gerbasi have the opportunity to defend her actions before being cut to make sure a commercial break was on time. Nowhere else was Scott Fielding even asked about Berry Street. Nowhere else WANTED to interview these people, and these candidates.

Hell, during this election? Candidate Ian Rabb had to worry about what the Free Press was going to write about him, for no good reason other than the Free Press is clearly more interested in tabloid election stories (unless it involves Ross Eadie or the NDP) than actually allowing candidates the chance to explain their views and platforms.

I happened to be in the studio that day. Here's a perspective shot of Mr Rabb.



Nowhere else would you have heard such extensive post-election coverage and analysis. Almost as if by the time the Friday paper had rolled out two days after the election, it was, there was an election? What election? Everything is same old same old, who cares right?

Well, Ian Rabb, despite his tabloid-worthy past, got a hell of a lot of votes. What does that mean for Fort Rouge? Who knows, it wasn't in the paper. Jarret Hannah was such a nice guy to not force a recount of Charleswood, but what does it say that a Liberal came that close in Toryland? Who knows. What electiooooon, it's all the saaame Sam Katz blah blah.

How about the vote counts and the polls? Can we see them? Can you put it up online?

Where did you hear that kind of discussion?

The Great Canadian Talk Show.

Who decided these things were worthy of attention and analysis?

Marty Gold.

Nobody else is calling for things like a Civic Ombudsman. Nobody else is calling for council meetings to be streamed online, nobody else is raising the issue of posting poll-by-poll results. Nobody else is bashing 311 into it's desk with a phone. (See: figurative language). Nobody else stood up for Eliminator RC, the people of Point Douglas and Elmwood.

There is, literally, nobody else in the media who stands up for the kinds of things I just mentioned on a daily basis. There is nobody else in the media who will give (other than a select couple) bloggers the time of day. Hell, despite the success of this blog, I'm STILL not mentioned on the Free Press blog list.

Marty Gold and The Great Canadian Talk Show gave voice to anybody who wanted it. Including people like myself, who would have never gotten as far as we have without that radio program.

Not just me, either. Red River College students. Board operators. It IS a training facility. That studio, that host and that talk show, that's REAL experience that Red River College simply cannot get without Marty Gold. Have you sat in on a show? It can get pretty hectic, what with multiple guests in studio, people calling in, hitting breaks, playing the right splitters, turn this guy's mic down turn that guy's mic up.

In particular, "Young Josh" former RRC student and Dave Shorr both highly credit The Great Canadian Talk Show as irreplaceable experience. The board ops that have moved to other places in this country owe similar thanks to Marty Gold for providing them that opportunity to learn skills they can get nowhere else.

This day and age, many people are acutely aware of how the media spins things, covers things up. Many people have suspicions of government corruption but they can never know for sure, nothing is ever investigated. Many people wish their newspaper of record would not take sides, would publish something of substance, many people wish CJOB didn't ask lame questions when the Premier is on or screen calls. People KNOW calls are being screened.

People know about The Filter. If you've never experienced The Filter directly, you can sense it somehow. They aren't telling you everything. There's something else going on. It's fishy. It doesn't seem right.

Marty Gold's radio program was right. It felt right. You can try as hard as you want, but you can't sense The Filter, how can you, when Judy-W is on for 90 minutes and she's allowed to talk and expand on her points? How can you, when three or four sources are cited for one story or incident?

The plug was pulled, without rhyme or reason. No formal complaint was EVER made against the show. RRC states it is because they want to remove volunteer programming, yet this program, was the ONLY program cancelled.

You can read some of the details on and support the fight back.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What Happened to the Great Canadian Talk Show?

Spirited Kenny has put a few words up about what has happened to the Great Canadian Talk Show, for those of you who are wondering.

You can read about it HERE, as well as local news blogger ChrisD.ca.

Please join the Facebook group RED RIVER COLLEGE KILLS FREE SPEECH ON 92.9 KICK FM.

More details will come during the week. Please join the Facebook group. If you would like to say something or have something to add, or something to offer for the cause of keeping Free Speech alive, send messages to myself through my email, and I can direct them to the appropriate parties.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Honouring Heroes: What You Don't Know About Canada, and Human Trafficking

On Saturday night, an event hosted by MP Joy Smith on her work with the sex trade and human trafficking (read: slavery in Canada) shed light on these widely unreported and horrendous issues. Honouring Heroes also saw several people, whom I will write about shortly, receive awards for their exemplary work.

Please, please read about the individuals being honoured tonight. You can skip down if you wish to read about them.

To open eyes, attention was drawn in opening remarks to the 16 Hungarian construction workers freed from slavery in Hamilton just one week ago, and a man charged with running four brothels in Vancouver just days ago. The timing of these charges could not have been better to highlight the importance of Joy Smith's work.

Smith asked the crowd to keep in mind the many "unsung heroes" fighting underground, out of public attention and below media radar. She then spoke of her own background on how she got involved. Which I personally think is very important, as we often hear bits and pieces of how Smith is working on trafficking, but rarely about why she is so passionate about it. Smith, a mother of six, one of which is an RCMP officer who has suffered the effects of viewing child pornography and rape, combing archives of violent and unimaginable scenarios, fighting the good fight in attempt to identify criminals and rescue victims.

Shockingly to myself, Smith's bill C-268, when it was first introduced (mandatory sentence for human trafficking), did not receive a motion to proceed. She would have to wait to be re-elected to introduce the bill again.

Yes, slavery, and trafficking exists in Canada.
And quite freely, may I add, as few are aware that it exists, or the extent of the damage caused in these young women, and how widespread it is.

Brian McConaghy, former RCMP officer and founder of Ratanak Foundation, was the first anti-trafficking hero being honoured.

Brian went to Cambodia, but did not become involved until he saw the faces of extremely young victims of rape and trafficking he was trying to help. He quit full time from the Force to spend all of his time on Ratanak (named after a Cambodian child), because of "the privilege of seeing success."

Brian spoke of the need to be informed. Which was, to my delight, a common theme amongst the award recipients. Try as I might, I ultimately fail at trying to convince people (most importantly my friends) that just simply knowing, is important. To which the common response is, well what are you going to do about it, I have no time to read news. Would you rather not know about people living their lives, as a sex trade slave, right here in Canada? Would you rather not know about the gross inhumane treatment of minors and human rights violations, right here in Canada? Would you rather not be aware this is happening not only in your home country, but the city you live in and maybe even the neighbourhood you live in? Being ignorant about events in our own country, as a citizen of this country, is simply not acceptable.

Natasha Falle, escaped sex slavery ten years ago and founded sextrade101.com.

Natasha spoke briefly of life as a sex slave on the streets of Toronto. She is now a strong anti-trafficking advocate. What readers must realize about Natasha, as well as the next guest of honour, is that few former prostitutes involved in sex trades and trafficking come forward to speak. It takes incredible courage for these women who had been abused and raped repeatedly to be able to speak publicly, or, as Natasha does, advocates against trafficking and founded her own organization.

Timea Nagy was lured to Canada from Hungary under false pretenses. When she arrived in Canada and unable to speak English, her sponsor picked her up, drove her from the airport and directly to a strip club, where she was forced to work.

Timea survived after escaping and running away, while still unable to speak English. She is now able to speak English fairly well, and contributed to a book telling many of the untold stories from being forced into the sex trade. While in Winnipeg, she took a ride with Winnipeg Police and provided pointers to officers.

Between handing out awards, Joy Smith spoke about each person. Before introducing Ron Evans, she reiterated the importance of being informed. I hope I don't get this wrong, but I believe Smith quoted 18th century British Politician William Wilburforce;

"Once you've heard, you can never again say you don't know."


Just ten years ago, the knowledge of human trafficking and slavery existing in Canada was non existent. This is the power of just knowing. Without knowing the extent of human trafficking in Canada, remaining willfully ignorant, affects the way your opinions form, affects how you behave, and affects how you vote and who you vote for.

Ron Evans, the Manitoba Grand Chief also received an award. He has chosen to use his position to educate and better inform Aboriginals, especially on reserves, which is an obvious and problematic source of human trafficking in Manitoba. Not surprisingly, a majority of trafficking in Manitoba involves Aboriginal women and children.

Tamara Cherry of the Toronto Sun is the only journalist in Canada doing continuous and investigative journalism on this issue. Tamara is only a couple of years older than myself, and just three years ago she was not aware trafficking existed in Canada. Like most of us, the reaction to discovering the existence of slavery and trafficking in Canada is denial or outright disbelief.

Tamara spoke freely, openly, and graphically of various women in the Toronto area and their stories. She drew attention that this does not just happen to foreign women or Aboriginals, it can happen to any young girl or teenager, as the predators prey on their vulnerability. The predators as Tamara explained, have "vulnerability radar," which she has also developed working so extensively on (un)covering this, which they use to put the charms on and lure them away from any security they may have had. Girls are promised jobs or opportunities, or lured into relationships where their "boyfriend" will tell them that they are loved.

Unfortunately she was not spending any time in Winnipeg and was on a plane back to the Big Smoke this morning. But speaking to her afterwards, she told me 90% of women working in strip clubs are being trafficked.

Don't go to strip clubs?

Please visit the links I have provided, especially for Ratanak, which was the charity of choice for last night's event. If you would like to donate some cash, Ratanak is where to go. I will also be adding a spot on my sidebar for their organization.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a "story" about it here, focusing more on Craigslist, which was but a minor part of last night. In my opinion, the personal stories of these "unsung heroes" has far more weight, importance, and impact on forcing change.

Thank you to Brian, Natasha, Timea, and Tamara for coming to Winnipeg for this event, and thank you to Joy Smith for her efforts in Ottawa.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Money Shuffling Conundrum

This has been said on my site before, more than once, but I will reiterate because of Bart Kives' better-late-than-never bike lane coverage that continues today, briefly mentions the Omands Creek AT project.

Perhaps I should be writing slightly more professionally and sending this kind of thing to the op-ed department at the FreeP, because there is certainly no analysis like this in said newspaper. How could there be? No journalist at the FreeP has been following these bike projects for half the time I have. Anyway, time for a Gordon Sinclair Juniorism.

But I digress.

The project was a one million dollar street-level bridge over a creek that required no environmental study or communication with Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). What I will reiterate, is a simple deduction I put forward a year ago.

The City puts up 1/3 of the cost of each AT project. For a one million dollar project, that means some $333 333 bucks. The residents wanted an improved bridge, Bill Woroby said no because there was no federal money for that. I call BS. At this point, you do not need federal money to improve a tiny pedestrian bridge over a babbling brook. You can use the $333 333 you set aside anyhow, as THAT money, is City money, and was allocated to AT Projects, and is not contingent on whether or not the Feds contribute.

Now this is in Kives' piece today:

"One project, a $1-million bridge in Omand Park, was cancelled and replaced with $100,000 worth of path improvements"

This means the City is paying for all of it, because Woroby told us the Feds wouldn't approve funding for minor improvements. This means the city has $233 333 left in the kitty from the money originally set aside for Omands Creek.

The Assiniboine Avenue Bike Path Project, Jenny Gerbasi consistently reminds us (remember!?), that the Assiniboine project MUST go ahead and we MUST do it the way the consultants want because that way we have access to the federal buck. That we MUST do it, to save money, even if it's wrong, to fix it later.

How much is the Assiniboine project? Well, it's a total of $120 000. The City kicks in their third, $40 000.

Holy red tape and accounting services from a non-certified-CA, batman! You mean, the City could have told the Feds "thanks but no thanks" and put almost DOUBLE the amount of total project money towards a BETTER solution on Assiniboine?

Hypothetically yeah, that's what it seems. Will it cost $233 333 to rip up this silly curb in the middle of Assiniboine? Probably, at least.

At the end of the day, it won't matter if the street reverts to "normal." The cyclists won't be pissed off about the loss of a cycle track. Hell, a lot of cyclists, and some of those cyclists have left comments right here on my website (thank you), saying Assiniboine was a no-brainer route for them to take...BEFORE this all happened. It was a quiet thoroughfare for both cars and cyclists. Traffic calming wasn't needed because traffic was already calm, and furthermore, both cyclists and residents alike testify that vehicles speeding up and down Assiniboine wasn't an issue.

Now that I know how much money the City is approximately saving by simply just using already allocated City dollars to the Omands Creek fiasco, in my mind is further proof to the ineptitude of not the consultants this time, but Bill Woroby and Kevin Nixon.

How could an engineer in charge of all this stand in front of a room of 400 angry residents asking for simple improvements to their bridge, and tell them over and over that the Federal dollars had to be used? How could an engineer at public works, not have guestimated that the cost of a simple improvement would have cost far less than $333 333?

Hey, with $333 333 you can not only build improvements to already existing infrastructure, but you could probably pay for an environmental assessment and for DFO's opinion, too. And probably plant more trees to replace the ones the kids burn down there for fun when they're drunk.

Then again, maybe some of that $333 333 would be better spent planting more trees on Berry Street. No worries, there's lots of AT fuckups to patch up here and there, after the fact.

Traffic Calming: The Sequel

Grande Finalle!



Beeeeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep beeeeeeeeep


Encore! Encore!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Maybe

More traffic calming in action. Pictures courtesy of a reader who is a resident of the neighbourhood.

So it would seem buses cannot make the turn. The curbs are too high. The turns are too tight. Impossible. Surely this would have all been ironed out during the engineering process.



Engineering? What's that? Oh you mean like, traffic engineering. Yeah, no, we didn't talk to any of those. How would I know that?

See, I filed a freedom of information request at City Hall. I specifically asked for the traffic studies. There are none. They weren't done. Oh there are traffic counts, but not traffic impact studies. I can tell you that during rush hour, vehicles pass Eastbound on Assiniboine/Edmonton at a rate of 400 cars per hour, but I can't tell you what that means for the gridlocked Broadway Eastbound or York Eastbound.



Transit buses are late, they can't make their schedules. Touring buses can't make the turns, they end up going over the curbs, which isn't normally a problem for buses. But these newfangled curbs, the high ones, like you're driving down a bowling lane with bumper boards, can't get over those ones.

A traffic engineer probably would have told you “buses and trucks can't make this turn.” Trucks? You mean like garbage trucks? Can they make the turns? Can they pick up the garbage? What about moving vans? Lots of people move in and out of apartments. Can they make the turns? Can they park legally in a loading zone? Are there loading zones? What about deliveries? Couriers? Can they park? Taxis? Where do they go, anywhere?

No? No? No, no, no, no...no, no, no....no.

Aren't apartment buildings stakeholders? They weren't consulted, as is required. Landowners, residents, were not consulted, as is required under the conditions of the Request For Proposal.

Aren't businesses, taxi businesses maybe, a renowned Winnipeg restaurant (so renowned that it is where the Queen herself goes to dine), an architectural firm maybe, a law firm maybe. Aren't they all stakeholders? Didn't Transit have to be notified? The police maybe? First responders, fire and paramedics, maybe?

Transit found out the hard way. The turns were tight, Transit Tom had to move the barricades himself to get by. The buses were 20, 30 minutes late. The routes had to be re-drawn. Paramedics? Well, they will find out the hard way. When “grandma with the Oxygen tank” gets mowed down by impatient, frustrated, pissed off drivers. Taxis? Well, they found out the hard way too. Routes to Assiniboine are taking triple the amount of time they used to, prior to cycle track construction.

The Legislative Building? Nobody talked to them either. It's obvious. What about the employees that work here? They rely on Assiniboine as a thoroughfare to Main Street, to get to St Boniface or St Vital or St Norbert. What about the TOUR BUSES THAT COME HERE? What about the SCHOOL BUSES that come here? Can they make the turns? Can they navigate the cycle track maze?

Traffic engineers make a lot of money. If there's no money in the budget for professional consultation then...ah well, I guess notifying the public and getting professional opinions are the first two things to go.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Green stompin', federal style

Last Sunday evening there was a small event taking place at the University of Winnipeg. It was a forum/seminar kind of thing with a group of panelists or “experts.” The subject was transportation and it was organized by the University of Manitoba Greens (student group for green party students).

I attended as I was very interested in the panelists. Included was blogger contemporary Rob Galston, Paul Hesse, Paul Larson from the U of M, as well as a couple of candidates running in the election. Mayoral candidate Judy-W was in attendance as well. The special guest, was federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Most interesting, was the question and answer period. Ms May is incredibly well spoken and the ease in which she can launch into a discussion was something to see. I enjoyed watching her on the federal debates the last go-round, but seeing it in action is quite something else.

I used the opportunity to ask Ms May a question.

Was it really true, use it or lose it? I've looked around, I can't find anything. I said Ms May, I have a hard time believing Mr Harper would magically take away all of this stimulus funding, funding for infrastructure projects for the purpose of helping us ward off a global recession.

The answer? Yes, it really is true. If any project...any...project, here or elsewhere, bikes or highways or ports or docks, if it is not finished by March 2011, that's it. No more federal funding, leaving the province and municipal government on the hook. That's not all. If there were any audits into how federal money was spent, there is no way to track where a single penny ends up.

Wow. Reeeally. I still have a hard time believing it, I'm trying to wrap my head around how this helps the Conservative government at all.

Anyhow, as the questions came and went, indeed, the Assiniboine Avenue bike path came up. General feeling in the room to me at least, was that this was a silly, and stupid project...and that's from a bunch of Green Party supporters, super cycling advocates. Concerns were about traffic congestion, and emissions, questions also arose about traffic flow (not necessarily related to Assiniboine) and light synchronization (also not related to Assiniboine).

It was at this point where Ms May truly astounded me. She said something so memorable and applicable to many situations in Winnipeg, I didn't even have to write it down. How some transit projects proceed here...with no common sense strings attached.

“You cannot punish people out of their cars.”


The best person such a comment could have come from....save Jenny Gerbasi. Many people I talk to end up telling me they think Ms May is full of shit, I say otherwise. She may lead a party that may have a fair share of environmental wingnuts, and she sure has her work cut out for her to craft it into a credible party, shift the image of the party. She has common sense, a sense that not every politician has. She knows when to stop. She knows when things can turn from green, to retarded.

“You cannot punish people out of their cars.”



This qualifies as “punishment,” right?


*Edit: There is a new blogger in town who was also there. Good writing, and fresh perspective, a critical environmental minded person (like myself). Maybe you need incentive...

I have learned there is more room in the local press to mention the VMAS, the Kanye West & Taylor Swift saga, and Justin Bieber's dad than there is to mention a very important event I attended last night.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Unravelling the 311 web: Part 3

Up and up we go, until we arrive...at the top. That was pretty quick, now I'm getting somewhere. The person in charge of 311, Linda Black. The “Acting Manager,” in Part 2, to recap, lied to me and provided me with false information before refusing to communicate with me any further.

The following series of emails are very, very lengthy.


Ms Black:

I have been directed to you from 311 acting manager Joel Knockaert, after many questions and great reluctance. Can you please confirm that you are, in fact, the privacy officer or coordinator for 311, as Joel has a history of providing me with false information.

How does somebody make a complaint about a violation of the Privacy Act with you? Is it in person or in writing? Is there a form? How much detail is required with the initial contact, (all emails? or just a summary?). Who investigates it? How is it conducted - person to person interviews, all written material? How long does the process take?

A separate issue I require clarification for is who do I complain to about Joel Knockaert, and through him the 311 system, with respect to a request I made to have a letter delivered to the City Auditor?

And again, could you tell me: Is it in person or in writing? Is there a form? How much detail is required with the initial contact, (all emails? or just a summary?). Who investigates it? How is it conducted - person to person interviews, all written material? How long does the process take?

I would also like to know who will answer the eight questions I have posed to Joel that he has refused to answer or provided false information for. Who would that person be, and what would their relationship to Joel be? Would it be independent?

As time is of the essence, can you please assign this information and questions I have in this email a high priority, and get back to me as soon as possible.

Thank you very much for your time,

Graham Hnatiuk


Vacation, vacation. Everyone uses August for vacation!

Out of Office AutoReply: Complaint and unanswered questions from 311

I will be out of the office from August 16 - September 7, 2010.

For the week of August 16 - 27, please contact Brian Rosenberg A/Director at 986-4214 for assistance.


Brian Rosenberg, as it turns out, is Linda Black's deputy. It would become very clear very quickly that Brian, a Business Tech guy, writes conspicuously like a lawyer. Despite the charade, it is also clear that he is in fact not a lawyer, as a lawyer would have undoubtedly kept one thought at the back of his mind: I am speaking on behalf of Linda Black.

I had to read this probably close to 9 times over and over, just to comprehend it so I could collect my thoughts and write up a response.

Mr. Hnatiuk:

I have thoroughly reviewed the comments in your email to me dated August 18, 2010, and I am providing the following to bring this matter to conclusion.

To begin, I would like to point out for context that, when a person sends electronic communication to a non-personal mailbox like 311, there is no capability to ensure only one specific City employee (in your case, the City Auditor) would be the only City employee to read the message. Given the nature of your request, the 311 Customer Service Representative (CSR) who handled your email message determined the most appropriate recipient of the message.

As the 311 website indicates:

“The implementation of the 311 consolidated Contact Centre is intended to enhance the quality of service provided by the City of Winnipeg. In the majority of cases, our highly trained CSRs will be able to provide the answer to your question, however, should you require additional service/information, our CSRs will be happy to generate a request for the department to contact you directly.”

Given that our CSRs are expected to route calls to the most appropriate recipient based upon established processes and scripting, it is hoped that citizens recognize that the calls and messages may need to be routed to others for effective handling. For that reason, these communications do not reasonably attract an expectation of privacy.

That being said, citizens who feel aggrieved by the City’s administration of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) are entitled to complain about a City response. As noted in Mr. Knockaert’s response to you on August 17, 2010, there are two avenues open to citizens under FIPPA, as per the following two excerpts:

1. Section 1(1) of the City of Winnipeg FIPPA By-law http://www.winnipeg.ca/CLKDMIS/DocExt/ViewDoc.asp?DocumentTypeId=1&DocId=1942 “The director of each department of the City is hereby designated as the head of the local public body for The City of Winnipeg for their department for the purposes of the Act.”

2. Section 59(3) of FIPPA
http://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/statutes/ccsm/f175e.php
“An individual who believes that his or her own personal information has been collected, used or disclosed in violation of Part 3 may make a complaint to the Ombudsman….“

In your email, you asked who the privacy officer is for our Department. There is not a position of “privacy officer” per se in our Department. As per the first excerpt above, the head of a department is designated as the head of the public body for the purposes of the Act; this may be what you are referring to by use of the term “privacy officer.”

By writing to Ms Black, Director of Corporate Support Services, you have made use of the option outlined in the first excerpt (s.1(1) of the By-law, director designated as head, or “privacy officer” if you prefer). Ms Black, in her absence, has delegated her responsibilities to me; therefore, for the time being, I fulfill the role under s.1(1) above. I want to emphasize that your writing to Ms Black/me does not in any way prevent you from using the option in the second excerpt (that is; s.59 (3) of FIPPA, a complaint to the provincial Ombudsman).

On your question of how to report a complaint against Mr. Knockaert, Ms Black is his supervisor and would receive such a complaint, investigate it, and act on the results of the investigation. If you wish to file a formal complaint you may do so on paper or via email. No form is necessary; you would simply list the facts of the complaint, in as much detail as possible, providing any supporting documentation you feel is relevant. The timeline and other related components for completing review of such a complaint (interviews or other activities) is not definite, however, we would assure you it would be within a reasonable time frame that allowed review of all pertinent details.

From review of your correspondence it appears you wish to request that the City Auditor undertake this investigation. In that regard, you may already be aware that direct contact can be made between you and his Office through the City website at: http://www.winnipeg.ca/audit/ .

As another note, in your correspondence, you have specifically referred to The Privacy Act. This is an entirely different piece of provincial legislation from FIPPA, though both Acts relate to privacy.

The Privacy Act, however, does not create any complaint resolution mechanism, nor does it mandate any response by the City. It clarifies the common law relating to privacy, and allows an aggrieved person to bring a private action in the Court of Queen’s Bench for a remedy, as excerpted below:

Violation of privacy
2(1) A person who substantially, unreasonably, and without claim of right, violates the privacy of another person, commits a tort against that other person.

Action without proof of damage
2(2) An action for violation of privacy may be brought without proof of damage.

Remedies
4(1) In any action for violation of privacy the court may
(a) award damages;
(b) grant an injunction if it appears just and reasonable;
(c) order the defendant to account to the plaintiff for any profits that have accrued, or that may subsequently accrue, to the defendant by reason or in consequence of the violation; and
(d) order the defendant to deliver up to the plaintiff all articles or documents that have come into his possession by reason or in consequence of the violation.

Neither Ms Black (nor me in her absence), nor anyone at the City of Winnipeg, is designated to receive complaints related to violation of privacy pursuant to the Privacy Act. If a complaint were to be sent to Ms Black, she could act upon it to resolve the situation. However, any remedy beyond that must be sought through a private action in court or a complaint to the Ombudsman.

From my review, which included reading various email exchanges between Mr. Knockaert and you, I am satisfied that Mr. Knockaert has provided complete, accurate responses to your inquiries. Therefore, I have not revisited those questions in this communication.

In closing, I have explained the process for making a complaint against our employee, Mr. Knockaert, adding that we are not able to provide a definitive timeline on investigating such a complaint, until we receive all the pertinent details and can assess the time required to review them fully.

Further, I have also explained the avenues available for you making a complaint about an alleged breach of privacy, through either FIPPA or The Privacy Act. If you wish to pursue your complaint about privacy, I recommend that you pursue the formal complaint mechanisms of the provincial Ombudsman (re FIPPA) or court process (re The Privacy Act), of which I have advised you above. I should also point out that the City is not in the position to advise on the timelines and other aspects associated with those processes.

Thank you.

Brian Rosenberg


If you bothered to read that, congratulations. I'll sum it up: 3/4 of it is about privacy violations, and that it would seem Linda Black is the “privacy officer” for 311, which would mean Brian, in her absence, becomes the “privacy officer.” If I want to file a complaint I can do so via email and there isn't really a complaint process. Shades of the Parking Authority. I just submit it and...somebody looks into it. Which is why Joel Knockaert was able to investigate “Mr Undisclosed” and determine so quickly if any wrongdoing had happened. Of course there wasn't. And of course, Brian would do the same thing and clear Joel of any allegations I was making.

Funny how Brian here really goes out of his way to ensure I understand that the service reps are very highly trained. You don't say? If service reps are so highly trained as to judge where an inquiry that is labelled FOR A SPECIFIC PERSON should go then 311 probably operates pretty smoothly, doesn't it? They may be highly trained, I don't know. But “Mr Undisclosed” either doesn't have reading comprehension skills, or simply, cannot read at all. Neither does Joel Knockaert, or as it turns out, Brian Rosenberg, either.

Just like Joel did (see Part 2), after a set of emails he provided me with the City Auditor's email. Again, Brian is providing me with the same contact info for the City Auditor, telling me I can contact him myself. Neither Joel, nor Brian, as it would seem, see any problem with NOT forwarding my query to the Auditor, then later telling me I can do it myself.

Nobody wants to admit fault! Come ON guys! How much more simple can it GET? You needed to write up this huge email explaining all this to me, and nobody over there within the 311 bureaucracy has the balls to APOLOGIZE?! Here, I'll help you through the thought process, Joel and Brian!

Email received from citizen: For City Auditor.
Action: Send to AT Coordinator.
Email received from citizen: HEY HOW COME YOU DIDN'T SEND IT TO THE AUDITOR!?
Action: Because we can't and he doesn't take queries from the public.
Email received from citizen: YES he DOES, it says so...ON YOUR WEBSITE.
Action: No, sorry, you're wrong. It doesn't actually say that.
Email received from citizen: Huh? Yes, it DOES.
Action: Fine. Email him yourself then. We could have, but chose not to.

What is going on over there in 311 that someone can look at these series of emails, in this case that person is Brian, and honestly reply to me that THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE WAY MY CONCERNS WERE HANDLED?! Joel provided me with complete, accurate answers? YOU'VE GOT to be KIDDING me!

Holy fucking 311, Batman. Where can I get a job like that?! Where I can provide false information, then contradict myself, then tell someone to screw off, and and my superior will tell the customer I PROVIDED COMPLETE , ACCURATE ANSWERS?!

...Very highly trained...INDEED!

Yikes, crickey, my goodness, was that email from Brian ever a headache to make heads or tails out of, and then come up with a response.

Mr. Rosenberg;

I understand why you are anxious to run as far as possible from the evidence that a city employee deliberately intercepted and redirected communication addressed to the independent city auditor, then provided false information to justify his actions. But I assure you this matter is far, far from concluded .

In fact, you yourself have raised several serious aspects of the matter, which require clarification before I take further actions.

So that there is absolutely no misunderstanding, I wish you to please take this opportunity to correct me where I am wrong.

You wrote:

"From my review, which included reading various email exchanges between Mr. Knockaert and you, I am satisfied that Mr. Knockaert has provided complete, accurate responses to your inquiries. Therefore, I have not revisited those questions in this communication."

Having read the email exchanges, you know that Joel Knockaert informed me 311 had redirected my email to the city auditor because "The role of the City Auditor is not to deal with public complaints."

With your intimate knowledge of the city website, you know that his statement is absolutely false and the exact opposite is true. The city auditor accepts and even welcomes complaints from the public.

When Joel was asked why he provided an answer that contradicted the city website, he raised a red herring about whether the auditor is obligated to investigate a complaint, then he directed me to complain to the city auditor, something I had obviously already done and which was originally blocked by 311.

Yet according to you, providing this false information is considered providing a complete, accurate response by 311. Do you dispute this conclusion?

You will also note that I asked for the name of the privacy co-ordinator for 311 so I could make a formal complaint about a breach of my privacy rights. Joel did not provide that information.

Yet according to you, this refusal to provide information which must be provided by law is a complete, accurate response by 311. Again, is that not a correct conclusion?

The city website says the city auditor is independent of the civil service. Yet you say the civil service can block all communications to the city auditor. Do you inform him when you intercept an email addressed to the city auditor and redirect it? Or is he kept in the dark by 311 staff?

These are not rhetorical questions. Please provide answers.

Regarding the issue of privacy: you said there is no capability to ensure an email for the city auditor sent to 311 is read only by the city auditor. But there is a capability for the person tasked with reading the email to send it along to the person for whom it is addressed.

The 311 CSR would, I assume, not be taking notes or making copies of the email. So for him to see the name of the person to whom it's addressed and then send it along is not a breach of privacy. That, sir, is a capability called common sense.

But instead you have the CSR read the email, thereby breaching my private communication, then send it along to someone who I have not authorized to read it.

You think this is perfectly acceptable because the CSR is "highly trained" to "route calls to the most appropriate recipient".

My email was NOT a call. The most appropriate recipient was the person it was addressed to.

I was NOT asking for information, I was asking the city auditor to undertake a value audit, something nobody else in the civil service could do. I had EVERY expectation of privacy.

I asked Joel the following and I cannot find where his "complete, accurate responses" provided me with the answers. Now I am asking you:

Under what pretense did 311 divert my email for the Auditor?
Is there a written directive? Signed by whom?
If there is, you will have no difficulty providing me with a copy.
By what authority are you intercepting private communications to him?
By what authority are you able to judge which department an inquiry goes to, despite being addressed to a specific person in a specific department?

Lastly, please provide me with the disclaimer you read to, or somehow else provide to, citizens who contact 311, advising them how their personal information will be collected and distributed at the discretion of an anonymous employee.

Do you have a legal opinion regarding the practice of 311 and whether it breaches the privacy rights of citizens. I'm not asking for the actual legal opinion at this time, just if you have one.

Graham


Now I am not looking forward to Brian's next response because, frankly, that last one was so ridiculous that I don't think I could handle another one. Ugh.

Mr. Hnatiuk:

This is in response to your email dated Aug 24th 2010.

In my email sent to you on August 23, 2010 I provided information, and highlighted the mechanisms or processes open to you as a citizen with regard to your complaint.
Respectfully, I suggest that you pursue the options open to you, as I do not feel our Department has anything further to add at this time.

Thank you.

Brian Rosenberg


No WAY. No WAY! I can't make this stuff UP! This isn't FICTION! Brian pulled the plug on me even earlier than Joel did, and when faced with accusations and statements such as the ones I made, he turtles and tries to end the whole debacle by telling me to go back to his last email. Maybe I'll just...GO AWAY. So they can get back to their jobs, not using up any more man-hours to compile responses to me. Wishes don't do dishes!

So here I am, asking new, legitimate questions. I think that's important here. Because although I am venting, calling them on their bullshit, I am also asking new questions, or reiterating questions that went unanswered/ignored. I'm continuing the dialogue, you know, if your answer is this, then okay can I have your written directives?

Well...no, no I can't. Joel provided me remember, with complete, accurate responses. Brian's response to more questions is: no, go back to my last email. Unbelieveable. Un. Be. Leiveable.

I'm going to call him on his bullshit one more time, because I just can't believe it.

Mr. Rosenberg;

First, thank you for your prompt response. Second, let me tell you that you underestimate your contribution.

I could not have been any clearer in my Aug. 23 email. I asked your help to make sure there was no misunderstanding on my part when I concluded that, according to you, providing false information to citizens, interfering with emails sent to civic officials, and refusing to provide the name of the "Privacy officer" as required by law is considered "a complete, accurate response by 311." I asked you to indicate where you disagreed with my conclusions and to correct me if I was wrong.

You now say you have nothing further to add, hence acknowledging that my conclusions are the correct ones.

I must say I am astonished and more than a little dismayed. I believe that your attitude towards the duty of 311 operators and yourself to be honest with citizens must be distributed as widely as possible.

I will need the contact information for your immediate superior. I will contact them first to confirm whether you speak for them when you say giving false information is proper behavior.

I also need you to tell me (without, I hope, giving me false information) which city committee 311 answers to.

Every city councillor on that committee and the mayor must be made aware of your attitude towards the citizens of this city and your arrogance regarding the duty of 311 employees.

I trust you will be as prompt with your reply as before. Thank you.

Graham Hnatiuk


PS. You stated that Kevin Nixon investigated my complaint about MARR Consulting (a complaint I never made to him). I assume there is a written report which you will provide to me. I have already filed a FOI for everything pertaining to me and this report would not have been written without me, would it?


Hiding things. Covering up for other employee's mistakes. Providing false information. Passing judgement on my email and it's subject. Violating my privacy by giving my information to someone whom it was not intended. Covering up more employee incompetence. Refusing to reply to emails. Refusing to answer questions. Pass the buck, pass the buck.

Joel played the “stall” card, right? Yup. Soooo does Brian. And over what kinds of things does he stall?

Mr Rosenberg;

I did not hear back from you today about my two requests for information, in reply to your latest email. To refresh your memory, they were:

1. " I will need the contact information for your immediate superior."
2. " I also need you to tell me ... which city committee 311 answers to."

I am sure there is very little research required for you to provide me with the answers. So a reply is expected.

Graham Hnatiuk


Stalls to tell me his supervisor and what comittee resides over 311. I'm telling you, I can NOT make this shit up.

Passing the buck.

Mr. Hnatiuk:

My immediate superior is Linda Black, Director of Corporate Support Services, tel. 986-2379, email lblack@winnipeg.ca.

Politically, 311 reports to Executive Policy Committee.

Brian Rosenberg


Really, he was holding out on me for that? Sheeeeeeeeeesh.

Utter disbelief, that's the state I'm in now. Actually it's the state I've been in on this subject since ending correspondence with Brian. Just...disbelief.

And so I contacted the City Clerks to see about getting on the floor at the next EPC meeting. City Clerks told me that EPC is not the right path for me at this point, unless I am suggesting policy changes, and in that case, I would need permission from the Mayor's Office as 311 is not and will not be on the agenda likely, any time soon.

I realize I was only asking for information, but I couldn't help but be baffled a bit by something the City Clerk had told me: that I had not exhausted all of my options and that I had not done all I possibly could to resolve the situation internally.

Heh. Yeah, they're right. I've yet to get to Mr Laubenstein but...that I had not done all I possibly could? I'm kinda being interfered with there. The people involved in this case aren't helping me out one, tiny, bit. They are attempting to make my investigation and requests as difficult as possible, and two different people in the chain of command have now tried to make me and this issue...dissapear. 311 should adopt a new slogan, perhaps.

Be forewarned, we do not have a policy, nor writtten directive, to apologize or accept responsibility, for any wrongful actions.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Unravelling the 311 web: Part 2

My issues with 311 were moved up the chain of command quickly, following the weekend on Monday morning I was being dealt with by the Acting Manager of 311. This is where things go beyond eyebrow-raising.

Part 1 is here if you are interested.

Dear Mr. Hnatiuk,

I have received your email and wanted to take the opportunity to address each of your concerns, please see responses below.

1) All concerns regarding active transportation are directed to the Active transportation coordinator and from there directed accordingly. The role of the City Auditor is not to deal with public complaints.

2) We have investigated your concern and have confirmed RP followed all internal processes related to your inquiry. In cases where email inquires are forwarded directly to a department we do not provide reference numbers.
3) In order to protect the privacy of our employees, it is policy not to provide any personal information.

4) We take all violations of privacy breaches very seriously and investigate any complaints regarding potential violations. It is our belief that our CSR followed internal protocol. If you still have concerns that your privacy as been breached you can contact the Ombudsman related to your privacy concern.

http://www.ombudsman.mb.ca/

We appreciate all feedback and hope that we have addressed your concerns.

Sincerely,

Joel Knockaert
Acting 311 Contact Centre Manager
City of Winnipeg



Yikes, ya hear that? That's the sound of stone-cold lying. According to 311, the Auditor is not to accept complaints from the public. I promptly checked the City of Winnipeg website as I did not believe it, and you can too if you don't, and we all know where this is going: the City Auditor does in fact accept requests such as mine.

311 lied? It can't be. Have you phoned 311? I challenge you to do so. Ask them something you KNOW the answer to. They will say “one second, sir/ma'am,” and you can hear them typing. The sound of them typing, is the sound of them typing a search query into the City of Winnipeg website. 311 is supposed to provide this information, there is absolutely no mistake here. The hypothesis at this point is: the Acting Manager decided that his best action would be to lie to me.

I also find it funny that they supposedly investigated my concerns internally with “Mr Undisclosed”. This would not be the last time 311 tried this one with me, either. Bold move to play the Ombudsman card so soon. I have serious issues with the way the Acting Manager is acting, and the first chance he gets, he basically tells me to piss off and go to the Ombudsman. You know, in case I don't like his political interference and providing false information/lying to me.

Okay, this should be simple.

Dear Joel:

I am following up for clarification.

You wrote that the City Auditor's role is to not deal with public complaints. However the City's website says the auditor's job includes the following:

To examine problem areas, within the capabilities of the audit department, which are brought to the Auditor's attention by taxpayers.

Can you explain why your decision contradicts what the City website says?

Graham



Simple, simple. Like I said.

I'll note that it took him more than a day to answer this question. Ombudsman didn't work, I'm not going away. Now the stalling card, using up the allotted 48 hour window 311 upholds.


Joel:

24 hours is more than enough to answer this simple question. Yet it only took 4 hours to divert my complaint for the Auditor. What is taking so long?

Graham


Ah, that's better.

Mr Hnatiuk;

Thank you for your reply. I understand why you are characterizing my response to you as contradictory with the website information. Allow me to take this opportunity to clarify.

While a body like Ombudsman Manitoba is mandated by statute to follow a prescribed process with each and every complaint received, the Audit Department of the City of Winnipeg is not. The Auditor is not bound to initiate any particular process merely on the basis of a complaint received by a citizen. Having said that, the Auditor will certainly receive your complaint as information, and will determine internally what, if any, response is required by him.

Given that you wish to have your complaint considered by the Auditor, I encourage you to contact him directly:

http://www.winnipeg.ca/audit/contactus.stm

I trust this clarifies the matter.

Yours truly,

Joel



Wait, what? Didn't he just tell me the Auditor can't accept complaints from the public? Now he's telling me the Auditor CERTAINLY WILL accept it. Not only that, but he gives me the address to contact the Auditor myself.

Well, thanks. So, I could have done this in the first place, is what he's telling me. I could have done this, not gone through 311. Yeah laziness on my part, I just figured the Auditor's info wouldn't be so readily available.

Joel's bottom line: YOU can email the Auditor, but 311 can't.

What a tangled web we weave when we lie and try to spin people around, eh. You know, I really don't get why there's so much dishonesty. Something has to be going on here. It took awhile to compile the next email as I just could not believe what I was reading.

I'll stick this in here first though. Councillor Jeff Browaty contacted the Auditor on my behalf. Here's what the Deputy City Auditor had to say.


Good afternoon Councillor,

Regarding the first question you posed to Brian, yes, citizens are allowed to bring concerns directly to the attention of the City Auditor.



I really don't need to post the rest of that email. Back to 311's Acting Manager.

Joel:

Far from clarification, your response only aggravated and elevated the problem I have with 311.

My request was simple: Please explain why you gave me false information regarding the office of the City Auditor in order to justify intercepting private communication to that office and circling it within the city bureaucracy?

In your reply, you delivered a homily about the provincial auditor followed by your permission to contact the city auditor. I do not require your permission to speak to anyone in the city administration.

I am still waiting for an answer from you to my question -- why are you contradicting the information on the City of Winnipeg website regarding the city auditor's relationship with the public? 311 was designed as a buffer between the public and the administration. Knowing that I sent a message to 311 in good faith to be passed along to the City Auditor. Instead, it was diverted by 311 to another bureaucrat for whom it was not intended and who had no right to see it.

You wrote:

1) All concerns regarding active transportation are directed to the Active transportation coordinator and from there directed accordingly. The role of the City Auditor is not to deal with public complaints.

I'm betting man, and I bet the City of Winnipeg does not have a bylaw requiring all citizen inquiries about Active Transportation to be sent to the AT coordinator. Under what pretense did 311 divert my email to the Auditor? Is there a written directive? Signed by whom? If there is, you will have no difficulty providing me with a copy.

As for the role of the city auditor;

The city website reads:

"The mandate of the department with the addition of the Chief Performance Officer role is as follows:
To examine problem areas, within the capabilities of the Audit Department, which are brought to the Auditors attention by taxpayers, department heads, employees, Council, Standing Committees of Council, members of Council and the CAO."

That could not be any clearer. Taxpayers can bring problems to the attention of the auditor general. Yet even in your latest response to me, you continue to contradict the city website by saying:

"While a body like Ombudsman Manitoba is mandated by statute to follow a prescribed process with each and every complaint received, the Audit Department of the City of Winnipeg is not."

Please read the city website again, especially the part that says "The mandate of the department...is as follows: to examine problem areas...which are brought to the Auditor attention by taxpayers (and others)."

In short, your excuse for intercepting and diverting my email to the City Auditor is bogus. Your explanation on why this could not be sent to the Auditor is not acceptable and is an outright lie. Are you claiming to speak on behalf of the auditor? My understanding from information posted on the city website is that the City Auditor is an independent office and not under your control. By what authority are you intercepting private communications to him? By what authority are you able to judge which department an inquiry goes to, despite being addressed to a specific person in a specific department?

By doing so you violated my privacy. You sent my private communication to the AT coordinator who has no right to know what I am discussing with the City Auditor. Furthermore, you continue to refuse to provide me with the name of the Privacy Officer/Coordinator within 311, which is a further violation of the Privacy Act. Urging me to contact the Provincial Ombudsman is an attempt to detach 311 of any responsibility of dealing with my legitimate concerns and unanswered questions.

Your response hardly skims the surface of my complaints with 311. I await your reply.

Graham Hnatiuk



I'll interject again: I feel insulted by the way I was being answered. The quality of my writing would suggest that 311 is not dealing with a dummy, or just some guy phoning 311 about his water metre. I hope it is abundantly clear that I have some knowledge about civics.


Mr. Hnatiuk,

You have indicated that you wish to file a formal complaint that your privacy rights have been violated by 311. In encouraging you to contact the provincial Ombudsman, I was simply attempting to advise you of the process prescribed by law. As you may be aware, s.59(3) of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides for the handling complaints such as yours:

“59(3) An individual who believes that his or her own personal information has been collected, used or disclosed in violation of Part 3 may make a complaint to the Ombudsman.“

Should you prefer to direct your complaint to someone within the City of Winnipeg organization, I encourage you to contact Linda Black, Director, Corporate Support Services (the Department within which the 311 Contact Centre resides organizationally).

Pursuant to s.1(1) of the City of Winnipeg Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act By-law:

“1(1) The director of each department of the City is hereby designated as the head of the local public body for The City of Winnipeg for their department for the purposes of the Act.”

Ms. Black can be reached as follows:

Phone: (204)986-2379
Fax: (204)986-5966
Email: lblack@winnipeg.ca

As you have clearly been dissatisfied with the responses I have provided you thus far, I encourage you to contact the aforementioned persons. It is not my intention to continue this correspondence directly with you any further, as it is clearly not providing you with the results you seek.

Yours truly,

Joel



Thus far, we have the following cards in play:

1. Deflect responsibility (Ombudsman).
2. Lie/provide false information (spin).
3. Stall (delay so citizen will give up).
4. Justify actions (it's not our fault).
5. Pass the buck (send citizen to next bureaucrat).

Again, the dishonesty. Why lie to someone, then contradict yourself, and then just plain dodge the whole issue. By the time the Acting Manager was at the “dodge citizen” stage, he was passing the buck.

I like that last paragraph the best. As you have clearly been dissatisfied with the responses I have provided you thus far... Is this surprising to you? Is it that hard to admit you were wrong? Or that you failed? Is it that hard then, as a public servant, to work towards rectifying the problem? Damn rights I'm dissatisfied with lying, trying to confuse me, deflecting responsibility for wrongdoings, and then passing me along to your superior.

Well, Linda Black is on vacation. Part 3 will be the correspondence between Ms Black's deputy. How far do people go to protect and defend one of their own? Will ANYbody in this chain of command look at my issues and questions and say, “hey, this isn't right you guys...”

In my job, or past jobs, my superiors would not sit by and defend me if I screwed up. I know this because I've screwed up before, and in more than one job. I'd like to think most people have, when you get on to a job and after a while, after your learning curve, people kind of expect you to do things the right way. Apologies are in line, lessons are learned, and if you screw up bad enough you get fired. I've seen people lose their jobs over far, far less than what these series of emails show.

There's just a level of competence employers are willing to accept, and a line that if you should cross, most employers are not willing to accept. The same of course, cannot be expected of civic government. Wishful thinking at it's best.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Unravelling the 311 web: Part 1

This is a new series of posts chronicling the battle I have had with Mayor Katz's 311 system. It's gone on for far too long, a couple weeks by now. In fact, it's still going. But I'll compile the information here in as organized a way as I possibly can.

I'll be laying everything out for you, with the goal of being as open and transparent as possible. Along the way it will become very clear just how non-transparent 311 and City Hall is. I will not cut or omit anything, nor will I tamper, modify, or alter the material I have in any way. The only exception is the "name" of the 311 Service Representative I first had contact with.

When I set out to see just what was going on regarding cycling infrastructure relating to Assiniboine Avenue, I filed a FIPPA (freedom of information) for the project and looked through the details. Knowing that so much bogus was involved, I drafted a formal letter requesting an audit be done on the project. I submitted it, in good faith, to the 311 service such that it would be forwarded to the Auditor. I could not have been more clear in that manner:

For City Auditor: Complaint: RE: Assiniboine Avenue Bike Path

Complaint for the City Auditor against Marr Consulting.

I am filing a formal complaint against Marr Consulting for failure to comply with contract provisions outlined in RFP NO. 120-2009, Traffic impact study, community profile and community facilitation.

The consultant has failed to engage the public and stakeholders as required under the contract.

B8. CAMPAIGN PROPOSAL

B8.7 For each of the above projects the following will be conducted:
(a) A Community Profile will be developed to identify key organizations and stakeholders that are interested or affected by each project. The information that is gained through this study will be important in ensuring that the project planning process integrates transportation planning and engineering considerations with community planning in its social, economic, environmental and land use dimensions.
(b) Stakeholder Facilitation will be conducted to develop consensus regarding which potential project treatment will be implemented.


PART D SUPPLEMENTAL CONDITIONS

D2.2 Experience with the development of the City’s first Bike Boulevard (Argue St closure done through the WinSmart Program) suggests that the public consultations required (public Open Houses and Public Hearings) for the development of Bike Boulevards is inadequate to properly engage the important stakeholders that are affected by the project. As a result the City intends to enhance the Public consultation component in future Active Transportation projects such as
the Assiniboine; Alexander/Pacific and the Powers Bikeways. The enhanced model includes the development of a Community Profile, which is intended to identify the important stakeholders that will be affected by the project along with their concerns. The next step in the process is to get these stakeholders together for a facilitated planning process in order to reach consensus regarding the possible options for facility development.


The consultant has failed in each highlighted section above. The consultant then consistently failed to ensure prompt and transparent notifications of the evolving plans for Assinboine were made to the businesses and residents of the area, and key stakeholders such as Unicty Taxi. Public consultations were inadequate with zero to no notification of area residents. Area residents were not contacted for input, nor were they adequately notified of public open houses.

A poorly attended open house was held, however the plans revealed at that open house have been changed considerably. The shifting of street directions and funneling of vehicle traffic on specific streets must be clearly enunciated to the area residents and business to allow them to evaluate the potential for gridlock or inconvenience to their visitors or service providers and reflect their concerns to the city.

This failure by Marr Consulting demonstrates a bias towards proponents of the street closures such as Bike to the Future. Other interest groups such as the Friends of Upper Fort Garry have expressed interest in radical traffic calming measures and street closure of Assiniboine with no regard for area residents or businesses. Therefore a value audit must be conducted on this contract as the project is proceeding without the necessary due diligence as required in the contract.

D2.3 The goal of the two processes is to create opportunities for public involvement in the planning process that leads to a preferred option that will be selected based on the following criteria: technically sound; reflect the needs of the community and City in general; cost-effective; environmentally responsible and safe; and is generally understood and accepted by most of those affected.


D3. COMMUNITY PROFILE
D3.1 The purpose of the Community Profile will be to identify key organizations and stakeholders that are interested or affected by “The Project”. The information that is gained through this study will be important in ensuring that the project planning process integrates transportation planning and engineering considerations with community planning in its social, economic, environmental and land use dimensions.


The auditor must investigate this breach of contract to evaluate if the public is receiving the work it is paying for, evaluate if bias is in play, and must also take steps to ensure the public will not have to pay for the consequences of procedural errors or oversights by the contractor before the infrastructure works proceeds. Moreover, the changes to Assiniboine Avenue are not understood by those people and businesses that will be affected.

It is with these contract violations and concerns that I submit a formal complaint against Marr Consulting.

Graham Hnatiuk



With a subject headline and clear direction like that, there was absolutely no mistaking who my letter was intended for. 311 would respond in a surprising four hours with this:

Hello Mr. Hnatiuk,

I have forwarded your e-mail (below) outlining the complaint against Marr Consulting's work in connection with a proposed Active Transportation project, to the City of Winnipeg's Active Transportation Coordinator. I would also like to offer you the Coordinator's direct telephone number: 986-4966.

Thank you for contacting Winnipeg 311.

Sincerely,

Mr Undisclosed
Service Representative
311 Contact Centre
311@winnipeg.ca



It would seem either 311 can't read, or somebody told someone to do something specific. I couldn't have been any more clear, my letter was intended for the City Auditor.

311 instead, promptly returned an email to me telling me it was forwarded to Kevin Nixon...the very man who's department, should the City Auditor decided he/she should investigate, would have been audited. I immediately turned this unsettling news over to my city councillor, Jeff Browaty.

I responded to 311 that Friday evening:

New complaint against 311 RE: diverting my complaint against Marr Consulting from the city auditor

Dear 311,

1) I am reinstating my complaint against Marr Consulting and demand you give me proof it is handed over to City Auditor and to no one else.

2) I am filing a formal complaint against "Mr Undisclosed", the 311 service representative who diverted my complaint away from the city auditor. They did not even provide me with a reference number before engaging in an outrageous act of political interference.

3) I insist on being immediately provided the identity of who "Mr Undisclosed" is, as well as the identity and job title of any persons who directed Mr U to divert my complaint away from the city auditor, as I will be complaining against them as well. It had better not be the AT Co-Ordinator and/or Kevin Nixon.

4) Since my personal information has been provided to somebody who is not authorized to receive this information, and this is a violation of my privacy rights, please provide immediately with the contact information for the privacy co-ordinator for 311, so I can file yet another complaint.

Graham Hnatiuk



The task was simple. Read the email. Citizen wants it sent to the Auditor. Forward it to the Auditor. If I had been requesting a letter be sent to the Mayor...you can damn well bet it would have been sent to the Mayor's Office. But somewhere on the line here, somebody within 311 made the crucial mistake of making a judgement on whom should receive my request for an audit.

This is all that is in Part 1. All of this happened in one day, on Friday August 6th. I moved up the ladder very quickly the following week. Stay tuned for part 2.