Thursday, September 27, 2012

CEO Sleepout: 2nd Annual

Last year at about this time, a bunch of wealthy CEO's held a big, glossy, highly promoted event downtown at 201 Portage. They were "sleeping out" for a good cause, to raise awareness about homelessness. They raised a bunch of money, but that wasn't the point. The point was to use the event to promote themselves as caring members of the community.

But the event is far from anything giving CEO's a hint of what it's like to be homeless. As I noted last year, the CEOs get tents, food, security, and even breakfast.

This year: more of the same. Except for one fellow...

Michael Champagne, who is - not - a CEO, will be attending the event. However in a blog post, Michael detailed what he will be consciously denying himself.

Because I want this to be a meaningful experience for myself, I want to spend a night feeling the hard concrete. I will NOT be sleeping in a sleeping bag. I will NOT be accepting any food throughout the entire event. I will NOT make use of any provided bathroom facilities. I will NOT access any provided extra shelter.

Michael should be given some sort of a medal for that.

This will be a very meaningful experience for Michael, as he hopes to accomplish. However for the CEOs, it is a slumber party for 1%'ers and their 1%'er buddies. In the well-lit shadows of a prominent building in this city known for business and commerce, no less. They've barely left their own backyard.

Michael's blog post is quite remarkable, I highly suggest reading it. He mentions he spoke to the folks at Red Road Lodge (where I've been myself a few times for various things) who gave him the down-low on what facing homelessness is really like. Just walking into a place like Red Road (corner of Logan and Main) without CEO Sleepout fanfare gives you a different perspective on things. Not being afraid to get out and walk that block of Logan where Red Road sits, as many Winnipeggers no doubt are, gives you a different perspective.

What the slick campaign for the CEO Sleepout, the media attention and the CJOB appearances the next morning miss are the actual realities of homelessness. The cold concrete. The lack of security. Being shooed out from well-lit places like 201 Portage. Being given a cold shoulder on the street, ignored. No warm coffee in the morning waiting for you.

No cameras when you wake up. No radio interviews about how hard it was to sleep in a sleeping bag on Portage with security standing there watching over you.

The CEOs need to re-think their process on this one. I hope Michael has/will inspire that.

Because it's a shame that Red Road Lodge was denied funding. No amount of money the CEO Sleepout can raise will fight that funding shortfall. Will CEO Sleepout donate half the money they raise to one shelter? Red Road only received $19, 800 last year from the Sleepout. Could the Sleepout have been moved to the parking lot beside Red Road? Maybe, but not as great for PR as 201 Portage. Meanwhile, at Logan and Main...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What the Free Press layoffs exposed: their priorities, ignorance, and backwards-ness

Last week as we all know, not one, not two, but seven Winnipeg Free Press staff were laid off. That's seven folks from a relatively small town's “newspaper of record.”

I`m not writing this to weigh in on what I think of the Free Press layoffs. I`m writing to juxtapose two astounding viewpoints that are very telling of the current media environment in this town. On September 22, Dan Lett posted this on his Free Press-approved blog. The next day, September 23rd, the Free Press published a piece by a 3-week-old RRC CreComm-ling. One a middle-aged journalist who condescendingly faults readers for not paying up and reading for free, the other a 19-year old who only gave her own viewpoint (and was largely thrown under the bus for it) on what's wrong with media.

Funding high quality journalism

Let's start with Dan's piece. Dan is like the Free Press in the way he thinks, in fact, he is exactly like the Free Press. It goes like this: readers don't pay, so how do we pay for journalists to create more and more content with less and less revenue? The mistake here is thinking journalism in the 21st century must work exactly as it did in the 19th century. People (readers) must pay. Revenue from subscriptions, revenue from print advertising. If only online adverts generated as much as print adverts! Here, Dan says it better than I do:

I'll try one more time to make the fundamental point that everyone is missing: YOU CAN'T EARN ENOUGH MONEY RIGHT NOW OFF ONLINE CONTENT TO PAY FOR THE PRODUCTION OF ONLINE CONTENT.

But, Dan is wrong. It's not like the FreeP is the first news organization to face this problem. They have just failed spectacularly at adapting to it. Letting go of your Internet-savvy online editor isn't going to help. It's all very Darwinian. Let's trot around the Internet Machine to see.

We can start with a very successful print-online hybrids, Politico. According to Wikipedia, Politico was founded in 2007. Politico's circulation is limited to the DC area and is a sad 35 000 daily. And that daily is free. But they receive over 6 million unique visits per month to the website. I don't have to pay a dime to read it. Not only that, they're hiring, not laying off.

Mother Jones is another outlet that successfully merged print and online. They're not just producing remarkable content, but they have broken the biggest story of the current US Election cycle. And they're a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This is real, groundbreaking journalism, original, exclusive content. It must cost a lot to produce that. Somehow they are not only making enough money to pay great journalists, but succeeding wildly. They went online, get this, in 1993. When the Internet was like this (thank Dave for that). They went online knowing there was nothing there for them. And yet here they are now, producing some of the most compelling content in US media. You'd be crazy not to pay attention.

Furthermore, it only costs me $22 to subscribe for a year of print magazines to Mother Jones. By contrast, it costs me $12 a month to subscribe to the Winnipeg Free Press online. Which is half of what I pay just to access teh ent1re internetz every month.

There are solutions out there. To say you can't make a go at it and chastise readers in the process doesn't display how much we don't know, it shows how beholden some are in the newspaper industry to the good'ol days. Other successful online models include Truthdig which has received nods from the LA Press Club and Webby Awards, which existed entirely online until 2008 when they launched a tiny-circulation magazine.

Quality of content

This brings me to the “groundbreaking must-read” coverage the Winnipeg Free Press provides. The unquestioning support for the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, sycophantic love for parking lots where apartments were supposed to be, and columnists telling readers that crime is just in your heads. All Jets, all winter.

Maybe this is why the StefSpeaks of the world don't read newspapers. Maybe if newspaper articles couldn't be condensed into 140 characters, she might be wide-eyed enough to scroll through one on her iPhone. But what's to be wide-eyed about recently?

On last Saturday's Free Press, BONO is on the front page!!! Let that sink in....BONO!!! Did U2 play here on Friday? No, of course not. Oh how great it would have been for Bono to announce the Jets are coming back! That happened A YEAR AGO! Sharing headline space with BONO!!! is a teaser for an architecture design competition. This is a Saturday paper? Seriously? In the bottom corner, is a tiny photo of Phil Sheegl, the only bit of actual journalism on the front page. And it's cast off to the bottom corner like an afterthought.

Isn't that telling of the Winnipeg Free Press' priorities? Fawning over a year-old concert and the dream-that-would-have-been Jets announcement? Why the hell should I pay for that? Kicking the scandal du jour off to the corner in the process. Pssh, who cares about fire hall-gate? It's complicated, you have to read stuff. Bono's face sells papers, not Phil Sheegl's! Subscribers pay for year-old recollections from Mark Chipman, not for actual CONTENT, right?

Fast forward to Monday's paper. Front page: good samaritan bus driver. Hey, nothing wrong with that. The rest? What rest? The effectiveness of laptops in schools? What home builders like in the SW corner of Winnipeg? A sustainability project....

Do you want to know what's up for tomorrow's Free Press? Courtesy of Paul Samyn's editor's bulletin:

  • Geoff Kirbyson will tell us why Winnipeggers are happy, even though the Jets aren't playing and the Bombers suck.
  • Gerald Flood tells us about his subarctic holiday.
  • Doug Spiers' contest idea for the soon-to-be-obsolete Blue Boxes.
  • Something about the NHL lockout.
  • Allison Gilmour interviews a food writer from Regina.

In other words: THERE IS NO NEWS! Is this the kind of professional journalism only trained journalists can do? This is what professional journalists get paid to do? This is why I should pay attention? You're going to blame me, and StefSpeaks, for not wanting to pay, for flipping through our Twitter feeds? I won't even be through my first sip of coffee tomorrow before I'm done with the Free Press.

Is it any wonder the money pit keeps dwindling? What is worth paying for here? Where's the hard-hitting, effective journalism? The FreeP's got 99 problems, and fluff ain't one.

Independent media does what the big boys won't 

Enter independent media. Enter “citizen journalism.” The most remarkable thing about the Age of the Internet as it relates to journalism, is the rise of independent media. The independents seem to care more than the major broadsheets about journalism. They've taken things into their own hands, with their own passion, and their own hearts. And that's precisely what makes their products so compelling.

Democracy Now! started in the mid-90s on radio, but only exploded in popularity recently. What's their business model? Listener support. You like their news, you like their program? Donate. And with the topics they tackle, it's no wonder the program is successful. They've got one hour. They aren't spending time on what Bono did a year ago. It's all relevant, all the time. Their survival depends on must-listen content, not advertising revenue.

That program, by the way, is an hour long with two very brief breaks. Can StefSpeaks sit through that? Maybe she only leads us to believe she has ADD in her column, but DN! isn't counting on people like her tuning in, they're counting on people like me spreading the word about how great it is, how you have to listen. Long-format interviews, they hold debates on air sometimes, they have foreign correspondents. They have journalists who believe to the death in what they do. They don't buy the government's press releases or millionaires' smiling faces.

Hey, that rhymes!

While I'm on this subject, let me try to turn you on to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), another non-profit that does absolutely stunning work. They're non-profit as well. They have done incredible stuff that no other mainstream outlet has dared to do: investigate the US drone strike civilian death toll. (Notice what it says at the top of that piece...”Support our work - share this article.”) They won an Amnesty International award for digital media two years in a row.

One thing that separates the independents from the mainstream, is their willingness to work with others. Check out the list of partners TBIJ has: BBC, Chanel 4, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times, and Le Monde. Same goes for DN! They regularly have (my favourite) Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian (who rose to prominence squarely on online content), and Jeremy Scahill of The Nation. They had Chris Hayes of MSNBC on the other week. When Wikileaks launched CableGate, doing the work journalists are supposed to do, they farmed out the source material to journalists who cared around the world to disseminate it and put it into context.

Independent media did happen to arise in Winnipeg. The Great Canadian Talk Show did, and like others in the field, slowly but steadily grew a significant audience. The purpose of the show was to look deep into issues, not give the glance-over. To give long-format interviews. To include everyone, from the Free Press and the Sun, to ChrisD, to anyone who raised a decent point on the blogosphere. Instead of listening to the criticisms launched at mainstream practices, the former editor of the Free Press engaged in a campaign to shut it down, by lying, by smearing the work of people like me, by smearing the reputation of beloved station manager Rick. She also lied to the National Post about it.

Totally becoming of a journalist. I mean, professional journalist. This also emphasizes what the priorities are at the Free Press. Holding their reputation, making sure their buddies and business partners are happy. Totally becoming of professional journalism. And not one Free Press journalist spoke out about this injustice or wrote about it. Totally becoming of professional journalism.

One size does not fit all

Between that event, Dan Lett's “are readers so dumb they don't get that you have to pay?” tone, the “we train citizen journalists” program, and the recent layoffs, the Winnipeg Free Press clearly cultivates a culture of dictatorship. One paper rules all. One outlet rules all. All your subscribe are belong to us.

That era is gone. The era where I can subscribe to one source of news, and gladly pay for it, is gone. It's not about one place anymore.

The Internet is the ultimate Darwinian model for news content. The best stuff goes to the top. This is why Mother Jones, why Democracy Now! And why Politico are successful. They are successful because they produce content, because they believe in journalism, because they are adaptive, because they know they have to change their game in today's world. They think outside the box, how to deliver content, how to obtain it, how to spread it. The Free Press is thinking about black and red lines.

In that sense, Dan's music analogy is very apt. It is about turntables and iTunes. The Free Press turfed those who knew how iTunes worked. But John White doesn't only know how iTunes works, he knows what Spotify is (this whole paragraph is a metaphor), and he knows it's a joke we pretend it doesn't exist. Dan bemoans the fall of physical mediums and the artist's revenue that automatically came with it, but doesn't bother to find out how a pipsqueak indie nobody like Amanda Palmer makes Universal look like amateurs. By cultivating an audience, by only caring about her fans. By devoting herself entirely to her product. By finding new ways to get that product to her fans, no matter what. The old guarde and others are bitter, jealous of that.

Readers of the Free Press might be less hostile to the layoff situation if it looked like the paper was moving forward. Instead, we're talked down to by a senior columnist after some promising, forward-thinking staff are let go. That's followed up by a column from a 19 year old who hasn't yet had the realization that Twitter is niche. That's followed up with the promise of a super-exciting column about recycling boxes from Doug Spiers tomorrow. Through the cracks of the mainstream, some very persistent weeds have survived to show us all that it can be done.

And I'm out here in the DIY world of blog-land, watching the dandelions grow.

Friday, August 24, 2012

To all those who have supported me in doing public street art in Assiniboine Park

On Friday, August 10th, I went to Assiniboine Park to do street art (chalk). A semi-frequent activity of mine these past two summers, though I don't consider myself much of a visual artist, I was attracted to the idea of street art and enjoy doing it for fun. After being welcomed into the community and encouraged to keep coming back, I kept at it.

I was going to do a piece of semi-abstract design, with a stanza of a poem I wrote, extending from the foot bridge over the Assiniboine River to the road inside the park. I planned to be there for several hours. I put out my busking hat and began to work.

What happened next, I talk about in an email I sent around to the community, and later posted it on Facebook. You can see the note here (and please keep sharing it!) After Kelly Hughes stepped up and shared the FB note on the 21st, it took off and was shared hundreds of times, and is still being shared. By the way, you can return Kelly's goodwill by helping him out.

The events with security and the police in response to my grave, sinister crime of (legally) doing street art with chalk is also detailed today in Gordon Sinclair Jr's column in the Winnipeg Free Press.

So far I have received dozens of messages on Facebook and by email of support. They all have the same things in common; expressing their outrage at the City, at the Park, at the Police. The sheer amount of emails and messages I have receieved over the past few days is overwhelming and very heartwarming to know that Winnipeg is behind me on this.

Today's post is for everyone who has contacted me....thank you so much. Your messages keep my spirits up during this whole situation. The following is a sample of some of the messages I have received.

* * * * *

Aw, I wondered where Graham's art went, I bike by there every day, and I loved the work he did! This really sucks....

It seems that Winnipeg's venerable, world-renown PUBLIC park is having something of a problem identifying as public. Questionable management priorities, fingers of local politicians, law enforcement confusion, suppression of local artists - what is going on here, people?

Isn't this park (always referred to as "City Park" when I lived in Wpg) still a PUBLIC park? Maybe talk to your City Councillor? The minimum you should expect is a PUBLIC apology!

I have always loved seeing the chalk art as I ride through the park. And what is this "privatized" business?

Banning sidewalk chalk art in a public park?! Seriously?!

Apparently, chalk art at Assiniboine Park is now illegal. Is all art at Assiniboine Park now illegal? And when did Assiniboine Park become a private park? Like, what the hell?

I know!! I have a friend who works for 311 and gets calls about Assiniboine Park all the time, but they can't do anything, because it's privatized. (Graham's note: This is true. I called 311 myself prior to the 10th, they do not answer any questions regarding Assiniboine Park.)

Think, people travel to Europe and enjoy the lifestyle, the chalk art. Here they ban it.

He once had a quote from Kierkegaard (Graham's note: I have never quoted Kierkegaard. But glad whomever I did quote at the time had the impact!), which i spied in the middle of my 10k run. It almost made me stop, because i was brooding about it for the next half km.

Is Assiniboine Park Private Property or Public Property? Some of it is poetry. His drawings aren't like paintings on the side of a van.

This makes me want to grab my chalk, head to the park and create a civil disobedience movement via hopscotch.

Assiniboine Park should remain a place of freedom to express beauty, and rest to all artists and visitors alike. This is not an expression of gang tagging and should be encouraged with enthusiasm.

For my whole life, Assiniiboine Park has been a place for people to go to play, share and enjoy. Not it would appear that their enjoyment is regulated and limited. A simple thing like drawing on the sidewalk in chalk is being prevented to the detriment of all Winnipeggers. Apparently this would also apply to any kind of busker who might wish to pull out a guitar or just sing at the park. This is NOT private property, as long as my tax dollars go into it. This is a public park where artist MUST have a right to express themselves. I haven't been to the Park yet this summer, nor do I think I would wish to go, knowing that this is the way people are treated there. This is a sad day for Winnipeg. That park is one of our treasures.

I moved to Winnipeg 3 years ago, but I kept leaving during the summers to busk around other parts of the world.  The art scene in Winnipeg, combined with the attitudes of most Winnipegers I've met has made this city my favourite on the planet!  I love it here. (Graham's emphasis) But this is my first summer in the city, and thus the first time I've attempted much busking.  I've never been hassled as much in my life as I have in the last two months.  Street performing has become so over-regulated in this city.  I'm really glad that you're speaking out against it.

You are creating beauty, and bringing people together with your art. It's wonderful to see and I hope you keep doing it!

I live right next to the park and I remember seeing such art there last year - it was beautiful. Please let me know how I can help.

I love walking by and seeing your art and seeing random musicians playing near the bridge as well. I think it only adds to the community spirit that makes the park so wonderful to visit. I have seen you on a multiple occassions and you are always friendly and peaceful. I am shocked this happened and hope everything works out for you, your art is beautiful.

I'd like to sign on to your letter to city council regarding street art in Winnipeg and your treatment in Assiniboine Park. I am so sorry to hear this has happened. I walk in the park every weekend and had been wondering why I hadn't seen your work there in a while. Now I know. You do such fabulous work and I enjoy discovering each new piece. Quite frankly, they make my heart happy and bring a smile to my face.

I am an art student in Winnipeg, and I heard about what happened with the police, and think it is absolutely wrong. I have walked past your chalk drawings most days and I love them. Personally I think art is all this city has going for it. I will sign your petition.

* * * * *

Again, thank you, everyone, for all your amazing support.

More to come.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Don't drink...the Manitoba Beast Bug drink

Coming across Manitoba/Winnipeg references is always fun. Many are familiar of course, with Matt Groening's likening for this place with references in both Simpsons and Futurama. But this one, in my mind, takes the amusement cake.

There's an indie game out there called Gravity Bone, which is known to be a quite good, but very short, game. It was released in 2009, you PC gamer-types can download it for free, as it's a free game.

In the beginning of the game, one of the first things that happens is you find a suitcase with an audio tape. The tape says you must deliver a drink to somebody. You deliver the drink, completing the oh-so-important task.

You soon learn what was in the drink. The drink contained...

A Manitoba Beast Bug.

And the Manitoba Beast Bug lets you track the unsuspecting target to the ends of the earth, and indeed....across the galaxy. If the game wasn't released in 2009, I would think this was the dream child of something Vic Toews cooked up to see what you're up to online.

So...don't track me, brah.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lloyd Axworthy and David Barnard have a memory problem

On Friday, two letters to the editor were published in the Winnipeg Free Press, authored by two distinguished presidents of the University of Winnipeg and University of Manitoba. Also, it seems slightly co-ordinated, as if to validate their noble opinions of the Museum and it's virtues, that both President's letters arrive in print on the same day.

The comments were RE: Dan Lett's piece on the loan idea, and both presidents dutifully came out in support.

Dan's column aside, the letters offer no intellectual depth or argument for or against the CMHR. They are the total opposite, shining examples of the purveyance of the narrative used by CMHR proponents. The same sort of narrative that willingly casts aside all managerial mistakes, all budget shortfalls, all funding shortfalls, all tax gaffes. The kind of narrative that, if they weren't writing about support for the Museum, they'd be arguing for you to crack your wallet open. Again.

But these things are not what makes their letters offensive. Lloyd Axworthy might as well be applying for a job as chief CMHR Spin Doctor. Behold:

"Beyond the economic benefit to our city and province, it will act as a centrepiece in the promotion of Winnipeg as a place where human rights are valued."

And I've no idea where David Barnard got this little completely unsubstantiated factoid from:

"Already, people are equating Winnipeg with human rights education."

There must be a CMHR flavour of Kool-Aid I'm not aware of. Or maybe there are flavours for each of the 30 Articles. Maybe you get some of this if you sign up as a Friend of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights as "new member" schwag. And if you mix them all, maybe you get a super-duper formula that leaves you with a euphoric sense of amnesia about your own country's human rights abuses.

Let us refresh these two Presidents' - recent - memories.

Most recently, the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian-born man who has been "convicted" (by a US Military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay) of terrorism. Khadr is allowed to transfer as a prisoner to Canada, where he could serve the remainder of his sentence. Canada, however, has refused to act on this, since Khadr's transfer eligibility last year. The Canadian Government even refused to act based on a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling that found the Government had violated Khadr's constitutionally-protected rights.

I'd hope the Presidents are well aware that the CMHR could fill all it's galleries for opening week with examples of human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay alone. That Canada, in not transferring Khadr, is by proxy aligning itself with the practices at GITMO. So, it is clear that the case of Khadr most definitely embodies the actions of a country as a place where human rights are valued.

And we're off from Afghanistan to Syria. Where Maher Arar, a Canadian-Sryian holding dual citizenship was whisked off to Syria by the US and tortured for a year. Again the Canadian government refused to intervene in the case. At least we gave the man $10.5 million dollars in repatriation, and an apology from Stephen Harper after the fact. Doesn't it show that Canada is a place where human rights are valued to allow this to go on without government intervention?

A quick search on Human Rights Watch shows several surprising things, like bill C-31, which proposes changes to the Immigration and Refugee act. Including "mandatory detention" for anyone who the government might think has anything to do with any sort of smuggling. Which of course leaves all sorts of opportunity for abuse. That bill passed, 159-132. Canada, a place where human rights are valued, is now okay with mandatory detention practices for refugees and immigrants, including minors.

To go local, James Turner recently reported that 2 in 5 police calls (ie 40%) relate to domestic abuse. Couple that with City Hall refusing to pony up a paltry $450 000 to Osborne House to take care of women and children who are victims of this abuse and you might get a sickening feeling in your stomach. Especially when that CMHR loan deal would cover the additional $40 million needed to finish the museum. This is again, another example of how we live in a place where human rights are valued.

Nearly half a billion dollars are being spent to build a museum with a operating cost of $22 million, championed by politicians, millionaires, and all three presidents of local post secondary campuses. And Winnipeg City Hall shut down a half million dollar request to keep a domestic abuse shelter running to take care of the victims of 40% of police calls? Yes indeed, a place where human rights are valued.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that this town of Winnipeg has a free speech problem. It is apparent that the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press does not actually believe in the idea of a Free Press. Editor Margo Goodhand suggested to the two Presidents' post-secondary cohort RRC President Stephanie Forsyth, that the only truly independent journalism and news program in Winnipeg be dealt with. Margo Goodhand got her wish. The program, which gained considerable popularity over 4 years of broadcasting, was silenced.

In a couple months, the prominent folk of this city, the rich CEOs, politicians, will have another go at the CEO Sleepout. A glossy PR stunt to raise money for homelessness that is so fake it would be funny, if it weren't about such a serious issue. Last year these people ignored Mark Horvath's visit to Winnipeg as if he was never here.

This year, the goal is $250 000 from 80 CEOs sleeping out at 201 Portage. Which, if you do the math, is a pitiful $3125 per CEO, an amount that for people making an easy six figures, should be no problem. People like Lloyd Axworthy might do well to consider that $40 million fundraising shortfall for the Musuem, and how long $40 million would eradicate homelessness from Winnipeg for. After all, this is a place where human rights are valued, not a place where the prominent do publicity stunts to make themselves appear as good corporate citizens, and turn around the next minute to sell us the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Again. Right?

I should note: this blog post does not go out just to Mr Axworthy and Mr Barnard. It goes out to everybody who has ever touted the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in this manner. Which would include anyone who has publicly spoken in favour of it, or attempted to wring a few more dollars out of the public sector for an ever-cost-increasing project.

Contrary to what people like to believe about Canada, we are not this amazing, platonic sense of Canadiana as we often feel we belong to. The reality of Canada is far more dark than our happy stereotype-enforcing Ron James-esque image leaves us to think of ourselves as. Canada has a great history of human rights abuses. The other thing that gets me about it, is that Canadians often feel as if these abuses are in the past, that we have moved on as a Nation, and that we are no longer the purveyors of evil.

This attitude is even emboldened in the Human Rights in Canada article on Wikipedia:

Most Canadians believe the country to be a strong proponent and positive model of human rights for the rest of the world.

Which is rather frightening. Not only in the cases I outlined above, but also on the fronts of: internet surveillance, letting American cops into RCMP detachments with authority, irresponsibly sharing information with the US, happily and readily joining the Libyan conflict without question, expansion of oil and mining operations that greatly undermine our pristine image and threaten our environmental well being.

The CMHR is a nice thing. But we can do more for human rights in Canada, other than unquestionably arguing how great we are. We could do more by examining our role in human rights abuses, by admitting we did them, by admitting they are ongoing, even in Winnipeg, mere blocks away from the Museum itself. By challenging draconian bills in the House, by demanding all Canadians overseas be protected, looked after, and offered legal counsel, by knowing our government will step in where abuse might be committed. By not playing along with the United States of America in their choice wars, torture regimes, and insidious demands to more access to Canadian information and soil.

Reality check, Mr Presidents. Don't applaud for what we have done in the past, or play to Canadians and Winnipegger's noble-superiority-complexes. Challenge that noble viewpoint we have of ourselves. Educate people on current abuses and issues. We are already equated with human rights education, aren't we?

If that is the case, then why don't Winnipeggers, and Canadians, know about these issues? Why are we kept in the dark? Why don't newspapers write about these things more prominently? Why do we think these sorts of things can't happen here? Why do we think abuses are things of the past?

Opening a Museum won't answer those questions. Letters to the Editor parading support for a mismanaged project won't answer those questions either. So maybe it's time to start answering them. And we don't need a Museum, or it's completion, to do it.

It starts with you guys. Our community leaders.

* * * *
Post Appendix: Human Rights Articles under question in this piece
* * * *

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. (domestic abuse)

Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. (human trafficking)

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. (Omar Khadr, Maher Arar)

Article 8: Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law. (Omar Khadr)

Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. (Bill C-31)

Article 19: 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. (cancelling of independent news programs)

Article 25: (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (homelessness)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Who is the monster? Omar Khadr or the average Canadian?

Just the other day blogger colleague Policy Frog tweeted "What's the average % of an article that most online commenters actually read before posting their lunatic crap? 10%?"

At least that.

A recent CP story on Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who has spent the past 10 years in Guantanamo Bay, displays this ignorance Policy Frog speaks of.

And more so...this article demands not only that you read the whole thing, but that you understand the history of the case, and that you can comprehend new developments. The Omar Khadr case, a "convicted" terrorist, has been dragging on for years, has lead to a 9-0 Supreme Court ruling upholding that the Canadian Government knowingly violated Khadr's rights as a Canadian Citizen.

It would not be surprising of course, to learn that people of the Winnipeg Free Press comment pool ("citizen journalists" to Dan Lett) think about as much of Omar Khadr as a press release from the US Government concerning "militants" killed in any random drone strike.

For it would appear that by and large people have now, 11 years after 9/11, fully bought into the idea that terrorists are evil people, and that anyone at Guantanamo Bay are there for a reason. As if torture regimes practiced by the US Government (and practiced against Omar Khadr, which the Canadian government was made aware of in 2003) are somehow justified.

I'd like to say that it undermines us as Canadians to condone this treatment on anyone, convicted of an offense or not. But the section of commentary on news sites leaves me with a taste of disgust and contempt for my fellow Canadians. How can it not, with such ignorant comments like this...

"I don't want to wind up being on a plane with this monster when he is free to roam the planet. Do you want this guy to be YOUR neighbor?"

Perhaps I should be mindful enough to cast aside such a statement and not let it bother me. But I fear this is what most Canadians would think about this man. A "monster." For being transported to a war zone, facing an assault by US Marines on your home, and throwing a single grenade. This apparently, makes one a monster.

It is overly easy to label the man a monster, especially if you buy into the US-lead narrative on what "terrorism" is, who is a terrorist, and what a terrorist action counts as. That all of our, Western, actions are "good" and all of their actions are bad, threatening, and endangering to our freedom.

Likewise it is easy to then draw a comparison that he would happily run around throwing grenades in East Toronto committing "jihad," except that no army of Canadian Special Forces would be surrounding his house, threatening to kill his family at any time.

So this single grenade-throwing kid "monster" shouldn't be allowed to spend the remainder of his sentence in Canada? Free from the law-flaunting due-process-denying torture-center known as Guantanamo Bay?

As Canadians, I'd like to think we'd have the decency to stand firm on our values. Which would include proper and just treatment of criminals. But apparently, many Canadians would rather have him "rot" in Guantanamo.

Who is the monster?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why is KICK FM off the air?

The reasons behind the decision to take KICK off the air and "return the license" to the CRTC is not what the "board of directors" would have you believe. A brief timeline of events paints a much different story that local journalists especially, and Red River College students, need to be aware of.

On the KICK FM website, it states:

As a result of recent changes to CRTC regulations regarding campus and community radio stations, and financial challenges, the Board of Cre-Comm Radio Inc has decided to discontinue over the air broadcasting effective Wednesday, July 4 at 4:00 pm, and will be returning the current broadcast license to the CRTC.

This statement is quite astounding. Let me run through it.

The CRTC did change their regulations, they decided that "instructional license" was no longer a category they wanted to have. However, KICK and RRC also knew this. They applied anyhow for a regular campus and community radio license, the same license that UMFM and CKUW operate under.

If they applied to renew their license as a campus and community station, then they must have been okay with the changes in policy. Why would an organization go through the process of renewing their license only to say later that they didn't want it?

Because public interventions happened. When you file for license renewal, the CRTC asks the public for letters of concern and support. Such letters were submitted to the CRTC. KICK FM even, until yesterday, had a countdown of the deadline and encouraged listeners to send letters of support to the CRTC.

In other words: they clearly wanted to continue the station and were perfectly fine with the policy changes that would be required in a move to a campus and community station, instead of instructional.

But they received submissions like mine, which you can read here. Also several others called on the CRTC to investigate corruption and impropriety of the Red River College officials who were involved in illegally cancelling The Great Canadian Talk Show, in plain violation of federal CRTC policies. 

Instead of facing these allegations, KICK and RRC have decided instead not to face federal scrutiny by the CRTC and risk having their license embarrassingly revoked, and instead close the license themselves. This was done with just 3 hours left for the public to submit documents to the CRTC.  

Lastly, the station has been in 6-figure debt for years and years. Why is it only an issue now, today, and not months ago when they filed for renewal?

Dean Graham Thomson, czar of KICK FM, still has a lot to answer for, it seems. To his students. Why should RRC students be denied the opportunities a radio station offers because of their administration's corruption and mishandling of a federal broadcasting license? Why did they feel they could intervene, subvert the role of the station manager (who had turned that station into what it was: successful) and implement their will?

KICK FM; my filing with the CRTC

It is being reported on the KICK FM website that Red River College will effectively shut down the station, claiming CRTC changes in regulation of instructional licenses. This is complete fabrication of events.

The KICK FM (CKIC FM) license was up for renewal. People like myself filed interventions with the CRTC on the proceeding of the license. Until now, KICK was happy to concede to the CRTC's policy changes. They did, after all, file for renewal under the changes.

Now, facing criticism of the College's control over CreComm Inc, the station has instead elected to shut down their station, effectively avoiding federal scrutiny by the CRTC. I will have more postings and comments on this in the coming days.

 In the spirit of journalism, and scientific journalism, here is the intervention I filed with the CRTC.

 * * * *

I am filing an intervention against the renewal of the CKIC FM license. As a volunteer on a former program on this radio station, my experiences gave me exceptional insight into the impropriety of board members with regards to community access and involvement.

 I had great experiences on the show that I was a part of. It taught me invaluable skills which I use to this day, as I have progressed in journalism. I was welcome on the show and to the radio studio. I did work that was meaningful and provided me with a proud sense of purpose. I was encouraged to help, to follow my own stories, to contribute content, and to participate in the day-to-day direction of this show.

Although I cannot speak for other volunteers, I do know they had the same level of involvement as I did, and were treated in the same way I was. They were encouraged to participate in a significant way to the show, and to the station. The Great Canadian Talk Show (TGCTS) also existed on CKIC as the only show to cross-promote all other programs on the station, and encourage listeners to tune in to other programs.

This changed in November 2010, and all of our volunteer work and contributions to the show and the station were halted under the guise of “policy changes,” although only one program was affected: TGCTS. Following this show’s cancellation (after a perfect record of zero complaints during 4 years of broadcasting), myself and other volunteers were essentially shut out of being volunteers on the station. We were no longer welcome to participate, as the show we were community and student participants on was cancelled unilaterally by an “executive committee” of the Board of Directors.

My communication with Graham Thomson (a self-appointed member of this executive committee, and simultaneously a non-voting member of the Board) following cancellation of TGCTS is indicative of the goals of this so-called “executive committee.” Furthermore, in retrospect of these statements, the current application shows a level of collusion that can be considered extensions of their flagrant CKIC and CRTC policy violations.

On 10 November 2010, Graham Thomson replied to an email I sent inquiring about the nature of the “policy change” that occurred.

“Training students, for jobs in the provincial economy, is the focus.” 

This statement describes exactly what TGCTS did. It trained me, and many others, who have gone on to do valuable work in the provincial economy, both as journalists and in the radio industry. After reminding him of this, he responded:

“We know that students were involved in some good learning opportunities with the show.”

This is true, and also precisely why canceling TGCTS was such a mystery. There was no better learning opportunity for radio and for journalism on CKIC than on TGCTS, which ran 5 days a week. Because the show was hosted by a member of the community and not a Red River College student, the show was always there to learn on. A student or community volunteer such as myself, or a board operative, wishing to learn more did not have to worry about bending their already-tight schedules. One could put as much time or effort in as they wanted. It was an ideal training platform.

I again told Mr Thomson this is what the show did and why it was such an asset to CKIC as a training platform. Mr Thomson responded:

“Producing and researching is valuable, but student on-air delivery on TGCTS was limited.”

Training and community access is the purpose of the station, not student air-time. In fact, RRC students were allowed air time on the show, and in a much more valuable way than simply how many minutes they were on air speaking. Because the host encouraged students and volunteers to pursue their own material, it was their journalism material that was broadcasted.

This statement, along with the first statement I highlighted, also shows a disconnect between what the “executive committee” wanted, and what the station mandate was at the time: to provide instruction. Not, as Mr Thomson eluded to, to provide RRC student airtime. Mr Thomson stated this despite being fully aware of the involvement and successful training of RRC students on the program.

After nearly two years, there is still only one program to have been cancelled: the program that gave students and community volunteers such as myself the opportunity to participate in and contribute journalism and talk radio content to, in a professional environment.

As I understand, the CRTC’s policies and guidelines on volunteers, volunteer participation and community access are quite clear. As are the CRTC’s policies on governance of campus and community stations. The governance of CKIC is still under the same people who have shut out the community, volunteers, and any semblance of adherence to any rules. And they want to continue to run a campus and community license.

I received no help at all with other board members, in particular the student representatives. Nobody was willing to stand up to the officials from RRC who stepped in to take control of the station to eliminate one program from their FM band, and spend their time after November 2010 devising ways to lie, deceive, or cover up exactly what they did.

The events surrounding the cancellation of TGCTS and now this license application show that Red River College, the funder CreComm Inc, have successfully usurped control of the radio station. The question the CRTC must ask of Graham Thomson, is how does a non-voting member of the board have such influence, to cancel shows that adhered to all their policies and CRTC policies? How does a non-voting member of the board have such influence that he/she can treat volunteers and community members with such contempt?

Graham Thomson was not the only “executive committee” member to show contempt for volunteers and CRTC policies. The other RRC official of the “executive,” former RRC Vice President Cathy Rushton, did this as well.

In RRC’s attempt to lie to the public about the cancellation of the show as other interveners have documented, Ms Rushton created two preposterous lies about a municipal and federal politician. She claimed that Mayor of Winnipeg Sam Katz, and Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews had made complaints about The Great Canadian Talk Show. No such complaints exist, in fact zero complaints exist against the show within CreComm Inc, or with the CRTC. It was with this logic Ms Rushton tried to justify the show’s cancellation: there had been high profile complaints, therefore, we had to remove the show (a much different reason than Mr Thomson’s “policy changes.”)

Both politicians soundly denied complaining, as Mayor Katz was a frequent guest, and Mr Toews had never even heard of the program, let alone be a guest on it. I had written about this on my website, Myself and others made repeated calls for her to correct the record for this uncalled for slander and defamation against the show’s host. After she had been caught red-handed lying to the public about these two politicians, Ms Rushton contacted me, asking me to “correct the record” by publishing her email to me on my website. I have submitted this email as part of my intervention.

Ms Rushton thought it prudent to “correct the record” not through an official means, or through Red River College, or issuing a public apology, but rather, to have a blogger publish an email where she denies purposeful wrongdoing.

As a third and last example I would like to draw your attention to correspondence between Ms Rushton and Mr Thomson that was discovered in a Freedom of Information request. This email chain is submitted with my intervention.

Another local blogger had contacted Mr Thomson and received a response back. The blogger asked Mr Thomson of the possibility of host Marty Gold to appeal the decision and the possibility of him still being involved with the station.

Note, in this email chain, that it starts with a “Google Alert.” Ms Rushton evidently had set a Google Alert for all new items with “Marty Gold” in them. This shows further contempt for a volunteer community member, as does the resulting conversation with Mr Thomson. It is clear that these “executive committee” members acted on their own accord, to remove one program from the airwaves, and assert RRC control over what is supposed to be an independent non-profit organization.

Note also, that blogger John Dobbin had made a post at 4:03PM on 12 November 2010. (this can be checked in Mr Dobbin’s archives). By 4:59PM on 12 November 2010, less than an hour after Dobbin had published his post, Ms Rushton had sent an email to Mr Thomson in desperation that he was not telling people Mr Gold could appeal or in any way get back on the airwaves of CKIC FM. Why would college officials be monitoring the niche local blog community for dissent against their actions?

This culture of contempt by RRC officials towards volunteers and the community at large is proven in their success in usurping control of the CreComm Inc organization. From the guise of “programming changes” to spreading fictitious complaints by politicians, and to monitoring local blogs for mentions of the show’s host. They have mysteriously “lost” records of the executive committee. And now RRC and CreComm Inc seek to have their license status changed and approved.

The CRTC cannot allow CKIC’s license renewal to proceed. The conduct of RRC officials has been clear, that rules, policies and guidelines are of no meaning and of no consequence. The level of contempt for community volunteers, as well as listeners, that put so much work into helping to make this station successful is astounding. These people cannot be entrusted to run a public community radio station.

I hereby urge the CRTC to revoke CKIC’s license.

Graham Hnatiuk

Monday, May 28, 2012

"Out of Mind" screens TONIGHT at the WAG

Out of Mind, a documentary that follows the stories of several artists living with mental illness, premiers tonight at the Winnipeg Art Gallery at 6pm. All are welcome, it is a free event.

The film was made by local Holly Moore, and I wish I could embed the trailer here on my site, but I'll just direct you to this CBC story which explains everything.

I am not a monster: Interview with Liz from Mental Arts Initiative

Though the damage has already been done to the mental health community because of Vince Li coverage, I will continue to do what I can.

Last week I wrote about Winnipeg Beach staying a decision on a fallout from negative fear-based coverage on Vince Li. This week, I bring you an hour-long interview with Liz Hibbert, the woman behind Mental Arts Initiative.

Liz suffers from schizophrenia. We talk about the direct and personal impact she has felt because of the Vince Li coverage, we talk about her personal experiences with this illness, her recovery, and how she uses art as a way of dealing with everyday life. We talk about Mental Arts initiative, what it is, what she applied for a permit to do, and the discriminatory reaction of Winnipeg Beach Council.

It is a story everyone needs to hear: the story of a person living with schizophrenia who has been directly affected by coverage on Vince Li.

See also: Gordon Sinclair Jr wrote an enlightening piece about the legal precedents and history of mental health-related justice. Though the confines of a column don't allow a more in-depth piece, it's a good start. Legal protections for people with mental illnesses have been a long time coming, and at this point in time, it is more important than ever to understand.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The media's Vince Li fear campaign claims first victim: the rest of us

In the past week, Winnipeg has witnessed the worst example of journalism possible. At least for as long as I've been publishing on this website.

*Comments are closed. I have had enough hatred directed at me as it is, and it is affecting my own mental health. People fear what they do not know, which explains why they placate those fears with more fear, instead of knowledge. Ignorance is not bliss*

Instead of doing actual journalism work on the subject of schizophrenia and the stigmas associated with mental illness, the media at large chose to play up the fear factor. Plastered frequently on front pages and top-of-the-hour newscasts, was the mother of Tim Mclean, who has become a symbol of "it could happen to YOUR kid" that resonates with just about everyone. The very way in which mentally ill people are treated has been questioned, the psychiatry and medical communities scoffed at by the general public.

The fear campaign of non-journalism by the media has succeeded. It has unravelled any anti-stigma gains that have been made. And now there is a victim. In the mental health community of course, and a facet of that community in which I am an active member of, the arts community.

Founder of the Mental Arts Initiative, Elizabeth Hibbert, applied for a permit in Winnipeg Beach on Wednesday for an outdoor art gallery for people with mental illnesses. The purpose of this gallery is for the artists to interact with the public and reduce stigma surrounding illnesses.

Winnipeg Beach council stayed the decision for two weeks to "see about the town's right to restrict certain mentally ill people from the community."

Winnipeg Beach council has, just by their action to stay the decision, supported stigma, and bought into the fear campaign centered around Vince Li.

Four years ago, before the Greyhound Bus incident, the public did not en masse, live in fear of the 300 000 Canadians living with schizophrenia. Four years ago, the council would have okay'd this application with no opposition. Sure, great, open an art gallery. That's wonderful. We support the arts, we support the community, we support mental health initiatives, everything is peachy.

Now, because of the immeasureably irresponsible journalism practices exhibited in the past week, Winnipeg Beach council would rather treat people with illness with fear and prejudice rather than with support. I will leave aside the obvious issues with the town's belief of their "right" to choose which free Canadians can come into their community and which ones can't. For today.

By and large, people's illnesses go undetected and are invisible. You'd never notice. Partially because the illness is rare enough that few witness an untreated schizophrenic person (and nearly all cases do not become public sensations), partially because people living with mental illness are ashamed of themselves to the point that they do not leave their houses or interact with the outside world. Few people talk about it, most hide what they experience.

Winnipeg Beach Council, just like the media and so-called 'journalism' outlets, could have taken a leadership role on this. They could have stood up for the rights of people with mental illnesses. They could have said, yes, we support this art gallery, and recognize that reaction to Vince Li is bathed in ignorance and fear (mostly because of the aforementioned media), we know better, and we know that our community won't be at risk because of a little art gallery.

But now, the media, and Winnipeg Beach, have collectively punished all people with mental illnesses, without even having made a decision. A person like myself who lives with mental health issues and is an artist, is apparently now, a threat, or some sort of risk. As are my colleagues. To prejudice mentally ill people like this is outrageous and despicable. We are not sociopathic criminals, which is what conventional wisdom seems to be at this point.

Lest I start naming the countless artists over the course of human history who lived with and produced some of the most revered art of all time, I will invite you to a documentary being screened on Monday, May 28, at 6pm at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Called "Out of Mind," it is a documentary about the mental health community and art. I am one of a few artists in the film.

The event is free. The Winnipeg Art Gallery will not be taking precautions, nor will they have increased security on site for the event.

I will be interviewing Liz Hibbert and will include her comments, as well as an extensive analysis of media coverage, in the coming days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Erin Selby ignores ethics complaints, filed against her Jets ticket hookup: Red River College

Over the past two weeks Winnipeg has watched Selinger's NDP contort themselves into a rare full-barrel damage control position, one they don't often find themselves in. Jets tickets were a super hot commodity this past season. Really hot. It's almost impossible to get in...unless you know someone who has tickets.

For Selinger's cabinet, that's easy. Maybe it's who you know. Or maybe it's who’s worked on your campaign or made a political donation. Or maybe, it’s someone you've done political favours for.

Let me address why "ticket-gate" is not worthy of dismissal, as many seem to be doing, at least by my observations.

The tickets are worth far, far more than face value. Market value for the tickets, as everyone knows about were thousands of dollars on Kijiji, before True North clamped down on it. Jets tickets were nearly impossible to get at the beginning of the season. Everybody wanted to go. Getting into the MTS Centre for the first few games was like someone trying to get into the Birds Nest for the 2008 Beijing Olympics 110m men's hurdles. The entire country of China wanted in.

To give precious few seats to the politicians connected with other government organizations, is a scandal. If that doesn't sell you, then perhaps the Criminal Code of Canada will.

It seems the wise ones that put together our Criminal Code foresaw this sort of corruption and possibility of it being used for political favours, and not only put that in the book, but also anything that might be perceived as a conflict. Under Corruption and Disobedience, Sections 119 and 121 of the Criminal Code can be viewed here.

With such value to these tickets, you don't just give them to your friends. Well, you and I do. But 13 cabinet ministers (in a cabinet of 19) do not receive tickets from Crown Corps because they're friends. In theory political gifts and freebies are prohibited under the Criminal Code because they can be seen as either a bribe (for a Minister not to do something) or a reward (for not having taken action). If we didn't have this sort of thing, our Parliament/Legislatures/government might descend into something resembling the US Congress.

But in Manitoba, this may not be only a theoretical problem.

What started as a simple question by MLA Ron Schuler has steamrolled a gaffe-ridden bad hair day for the NDP that has spanned weeks now. In what was probably the best use of an FOI this year, Colin Craig, rather spectacularly caught Jim Rondeau lying. Unbeknownst to Rondeau, Craig had in his hands the information Rondeau claimed not to be able to obtain for awhile.

And so by weeks end, the truth came out that a whopping 13 out of 19 cabinet ministers have enjoyed the “perks” of government-funded season tickets.

Allow me to focus on just one cabinet minister.

Erin Selby, alumni of Red River College, and Minister of Advanced Education and Literacy. Who received at least one Jets ticket from a certain Stephanie Forsyth, President of Red River College.

The question that is hopefully on more members of the media's minds than just mine, is why these particular Ministers got tickets. Who is giving them to whom, and why? Are they just buddies, or is there political leverage going on?

Erin Selby is one who's relationship with her ticket-giver some light can be shed on.

In November 2010 The Great Canadian Talk Show on CKIC, was cancelled, after over four years of broadcasting with zero complaints registered with CreComm Inc and zero CRTC violations. This is probably a familiar story to many of my readers, and I make no reservations to disclose that in 2010 and especially towards the end of the show, I had become a regular contributor and volunteer. It is with that, and the events that followed, that I can shed light.

In May 2011, complaints were lodged with Stephanie Forsyth.

One from “Spirited Kenny,” an RRC alumni and longtime sidekick on the radio program as well as the host of his own show. The other was from a regular listener, Mike Jandavs. Both were alerting Forsyth to the conflicts of interest between college officials; their involvement with the radio station, as well as their deliberate attempts to mislead and provide false information. In effect, alerting the College President to ethical violations.

After getting a non-response, Kenny escalated his complaint and sent it instead to Erin Selby, the Minister of Advanced Education (ie institutions such as RRC) repeating his unanswered concerns, and requesting she conduct an investigation into the misconduct of Red River College officials with regards to TGCTS and conflicts of interests with the governance of CreComm Inc (the radio station). Mike Jandavs did the same.

In July of 2011, another listener named Michael King submitted an elaborately detailed complaint to many people, copying both Stephanie Forsyth and Erin Selby on the complaint. The reason (it must be noted), he copied to so many people, is that he was trying to send his complaint to the RRC Board of Governors, and was unsure of who exactly that was. His complaint was again about Dean of Business Graham Thomson's misconduct. Furthermore he alerted Selby about the College's lawyer, who also gave legal counsel to CreComm Inc, effectively playing both sides although being paid by the one side, the College.

On July 20, 2011, Erin Selby responded to Kenny. She wrote about his complaints and request for an investigation:

“These matters are serious, and are best addressed by the College directly. I recommend you raise your concerns with the Board of Governors, so that they can investigate in accordance with their processes.” Selby, by now had received two complaints directly, and was alerted to someone who already attempted to contact the Board of Governors, to no avail.

With the detailed complaints Selby received, the important need for a non-College investigation would be lost on nobody, as the multiple conflicts of interest and misconduct of College officials were astounding. To let them investigate themselves would be akin to a Star Chamber.

Erin Selby's next response would be to King, essentially the same letter she sent to Kenny, word for word. She wrote about King's complaints and request for an investigation on 4 August 2011:

“These matters are serious, and are best addressed by the College directly. I recommend you raise your concerns with the Board of Governors, so that they can investigate in accordance with their processes.”

With Selby's journalism background from the CreComm program, she has a clearly demonstrated ability to work in copy-and-paste newsrooms. Delivering the same response to two separate complainants sent the clear message that she would not be looking into these accusations, or their evidence, regardless of her responsibility as Minister to the state of post-secondary education institutions.

What makes Michael King's response from Selby peculiar is that he had already tried to bring his concerns to the Board of Governors for investigation, with no response. Selby told him to go back to that Board, that they will investigate "in accordance with their own processes." Their process apparently was to ignore complaints about corruption. Selby's process is apparently to have corrupt people investigate their own corruption.

Always a winning situation.

Michael King again wrote the Board of Governors telling them of Selby's direction last August 28th, and again never was contacted. Quelle surprise.

The College President had also ignored these three complainaints. That is, after all, why they went to Selby. All three of these people went up the ladder, one by one, trying to resolve and sort things out along the way. Only to be ignored and told that no investigation would happen because there was nothing wrong with lying to the public, to radio station volunteers, or to elected officials such as Sam Katz, who made inquiries about the cancelation of TGCTS.

A little over a year later RRC President Stephanie Forsyth is giving Erin Selby a Jets ticket. Only one that we are being told of anyway, and going with her to a Jets game. The 4th home game of the Jets v2.0, to be exact. So soon into the season that it was considered privaleged to be able to attend. A prett-y hot item.

What is the message to students of the College? We own you. Step out of line, your concerns and complaints will be ignored, squashed, then dusted under the rug. And when you graduate and grow up and become a young professional, or even a Cabinet Minister, do your fellow graduates proud by being dishonest and helping stamp out criticism of your colleagues, even if it is unethical. Or illegal.

There's gold in them'thar Jets tickets. What is the message to the public?

Hi, I'm Erin Selby. This scandal is overblown and not a scandal at all. I’m just trying to fit my Andrew Ladd sweater over my head and get to the game with the people I'm unwilling to investigate for ethics and corruption. Totally nothing wrong with that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Art Auction site for Bradley Manning now live

The site that I have been working on to auction off a painting inspired by Bradley Manning and Collateral Murder, is now live. The site is

To those reaching this site because of the auction, welcome. I intend to publish a post about Bradley Manning in the coming days. For now I invite you to read other Wikileaks-related posts I've written, as well as an op-ed published in the Winnipeg Free Press in defense of Cablegate in 2010.

"Collateral Murder" is 48x24 mixed media on canvas. I completed the painting during my stay last fall/winter at Artbeat Studio Inc. And lastly I am indebted to Kevin for building the site.

Please share with your friends on Facebook, and on Twitter use #manningauction and @SaveBradley. Every repost and retweet helps spread the word, find a buyer and raise more money for Manning's legal defense.

Bradley needs our help.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The reason why I want to leave Winnipeg, in 69 words

*Update I*

This didn't take long. The day after I wrote this post, is a piece by blogosphere favourite Murray McNeil, about a building downtown that is to be converted to offices instead of apartments. And why? Because of parking, duh.

Having a car in Winnipeg is such a must that it even prevents someone from pursuing the conversion of a heritage building into apartments. That's huge. Of course, the number one issue this man will face with inquiries to his new office building, is but what about the parking? He's damned if he does and damned if he does something else.

Isn't it sad that there is no interest in a developer to create an apartment building in the Exchange, because there is no parking? Is that the mentality, you need a car, even if you live in urban Winnipeg? That's another several dozen hypothetical living units lost. Another several dozen hypothetical people living and walking the streets of downtown, making it safer. This is how downtown is lost. One building at a time.

*Update II*

I'm sure Stefano Grande and Dan Lett will find a way to spin this to say that crime is only our perception, but a headline that says "downtown crime is getting worse" only gives the sigh1's of the town more reason to - not - go downtown. And the sigh1's don't even have to read the article to affirm their beliefs, they only have to walk past the newsstand and glance at the cover.

Add to that the inevitable parking rate increase, and you aren't giving these people any reason at all to come downtown. Even if there's a water park. All this news is a perfect storm of bad news to validate and even increase their already-negative view of downtown.

Of course, screaming about lack of parking and taking away green space that isn't really green space to prevent any improvement (such as apartment buildings) from going up in a downtown you never go to, is a great way to keep your view of downtown as a place to never visit permanent.

*Update III*

Speaking of apartment buildings, Winnipeggers in the community of Whyte Ridge have vocally opposed such atrocious improvements just last night. To quote Blogger cohort The Rise and Sprawl...What is this, New York?

Then again, you could put those apartments downtown, but you'd be there to oppose that as well. Thus keeping the cycle of suburbia and non-improvement running like a two-stroke Honda.


* * *

Comment posted on Bartley Kives' "Waterloo" piece by a "citizen journalist" (just for you, Dan) who goes by the name "sigh1."

So the mayor wants to cram MORE stuff into The Forks area?! Geez. As it is, you can't park anywhere close to the stuff that's there. I dread going to events there because the space is more and more limited and I may as well park near Portage & Main and walk there. Am I the only one in Winnipeg who likes green space downtown? Or 'space' at all?

At the time of publishing, the above comment has a +35 rating, which means a lot of people agree with it. A comment in reply by "Dr Zaius" who reflects my viewpoint scores up a -11 rating. This is my problem. These people are holding this city back.

Dear god, MORE "stuff" might go into the Forks! The MADNESS! But you hate that, you hate it, because there is already not enough parking, and because that green space is even more sacred than the sacred Indian burial ground it grows on. You hate not parking exactly where you're going, even though you'll park at the mall, walk 100m to the entrance, walk 1km inside, and 100m back to your car and raise not a single blood pressure point in ire.

Never mind that the sacred green space isn't green at all, rather, it's a dusty sand colour and/or a solid grey. Because that green space we are talking about is actually either a gravel parking lot, or a paved parking lot. But such silly, minor details are lost on you.

Why should you pay attention though? You don't go to the Forks, or to downtown anyway, you complain about the parking and lack of green space. There's no parking, so you don't go. Besides, there's nothing new at the Forks, right? It's always the same. You fear for your vehicle to be broken into and while walking through Portage Place, you fear being mugged, stabbed, or shot or worse, all three.

Why go to the Forks or downtown, when IKEA is opening up with 7517 parking stalls! And green space between the rows of parking to boot! Now THAT's what I call progressive! When someone floats an idea for downtown or the Forks, you're there. You're there with bells on and in spades. They're taking away our green space, and where will we park, goddammit?!

No, this city will stay the same, downtown improving at an abysmally slow pace a snail could out-gun. Any attempt to do anything real to make downtown better, say, putting apartments at the Forks, or building a 20 storey apartment tower downtown, will get pulled down, and pulled down hard. Because there is nothing more revolting to the sigh1's of this town than improvement.

You can't be proud of green space and parking. Ask San Franciconians if they love their green space and parking, ask Vancouverites about how all those apartments and condos that ruined their view of the ocean killed their city. Ask the truly world class cities of the world what they are proud of. Their vast, sprawling suburbs? Their gorgeous, well-maintained Kentucky Bluegrass mini urban parks? Their plentiful and free parking?

No. They aren't proud of those things because they have something better. And no, that 'thing' that is better is not a water park. They have a fucking city to be proud of.

But no, you love it here. You love your franchise chain restaurants with parking lots, you're gonna love your IKEA, you love your house, your yard, your driveway (that comes with free parking), you like the mall, your Superstore with a massive parking lot, and last but not least, you love the fact that you don't have to go downtown for anything, and you can get everything you need without ever having to go downtown or to the Forks.

And when winter comes, you go away to Cuba, or Mexico, or Jamaica. To an all-inclusive where you don't have to ever leave your luxury resort, barred off and secluded from the rest of the reality of the third world country you are vacationing in. You don't go to Vancouver or New York or San Francisco or Copenhagen or Paris. You go to a sunnier, beachier, warmer version of what you already have.

You come back and vociferously and raucously oppose anything that might change Winnipeg. Status quo all the way, baby. Leave things the way they are. Winnipeg is just fine the way it is. And WHAT? You want a PATIO for your PIZZERIA?! Close the damn place, don't need anymore shitty mom and pop restaurants, just go to Boston Pizza! They have a parking lot AND a patio!

A wise man once said "should I stay, or should I go now?" If I stay, I am destined to hear this and fight this for my entire existence. A city is only as good as the leaders they elect to lead it. And our leaders love to cave, they cave on Upper Fort Garry, they cave for the Museum. They cave on apartment projects and tear buildings down for parkades. Our leadership is a reflection of the people who live here and what they prioritize.

By and large, our priorities are keeping everything as they are, building more suburbs, keeping green space and parking plentiful, and all the while moaning for recognition and world class status. We should adopt a new moniker, we are not the Chicago of the North, a phrase that may illicit a picture of a man in a tuxedo and top hat with a moustache, looking bold and stoic, imposing his will and creating greatness out of nothing.

No, in the 21st Century, we are the New Jersey of the North. A vast, sprawling wasteland of not only the intellectual type, but also the physical space type. And our welcoming message painted on highway signs around the 101 should not read "heart of the continent" but rather, "home of future ex-pats."

Monday, March 12, 2012

The ideaological jigsaw puzzle

In 2008 a slice of city land was up for sale. A company by the name of Crystal Developers was set to purchase the land an erect a badly-needed approximately 20 storey apartment tower. Opposition was swift, though coming from those you might not expect, it wasn't the nimby's, it was the Friends of Upper Fort Garry. They launched a campaign to "save" a fort that wasn't being threatened by anything. A deadline was set by Mayor Sam Katz, and the Friends had a short amount of time to raise $10 million. With help from then-Premier Doer and a crusade worthy of journalism awards by Gordon Sinclair Jr, many high-profile families in Manitoba, and you, the taxpayer/"private sector" donor, the Fort was, well, saved.

So when last week it was revealed that the Friends had a new budget of $19 million and they didn't have the money, they are going to appeal to turn their historic we-must-save-thee land into a parking lot. The Mayor was unhappy. 

And so was I. And so are many, many Winnipeggers. Actually I was so unhappy I pondered last week of recording a mini-podcast to vent and capture my rage. Luckily I put off, because some news coming out today makes this jigsaw puzzle even better. 

At this point, the project might as well not go through. If the deal was that the Friends could raise the money they said they needed to build their interpretive centre, and three years later, not only is it not built, but they need another $7 million, doesn't that make the deal they got broken? After all, the only reason the tight deadline was put on this soap opera was because the prospect of the first apartment tower to be built downtown in over 20 years was too enticing to pass up. This was an important addition to downtown Winnipeg. So if the Friends were going to foil that plan, they'd better be serious.

I'll remind people that it was the alternative media and bloggers who were the primary dissenting voice in this City with respect to Upper Fort Garry. Myself, Cherenkov, Policy Frog (read this if you want a refresher), Rob "is he a retired blogger now?" Galston and TGCTS pounded on this issue till our keyboards screamed for mercy, but in comparison to the cheer leading campaign put out by the Free Press, it was small potatoes.

How about that Free Press campaign? Well, as of last week, it is still going on. A no-byline Free Press editorial with the title "Heritage necessary" tells you all you need to know of what side the Free Press is taking. 

Isn't that deplorable? We've been waiting 3 years for our interpretive centre. And the Free Press supports a parking lot? How many paid parking hours will it take for the Friends to make their precious $7 million? After a couple years of that, their budget will increase by another $5 million and either we will have an indefinite Provincial Parking Lot or, the taxpayer will ride to the rescue, bail the Friends out, and build the thing.

Except that that option isn't likely, is it? Winnipeggers are now catching on to this dupe of a scam. The scam has repeated itself in recent years and seems to follow a general guideline: a) new project is announced b) Winnipeggers are on the fence to support it c) taxpayer money is announced to help pay for it d) project runs into delays e) project budget balloons and f) taxpayers asked to fork out more money to save the project. 

The biggest most prominent project going on that follows this pathway is the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which the Black Rod blog has been warning about cost overruns for years but nobody, especially the Free Press, likes to listen. The Museum now needs another $50 million from the private sector. Then we have the other Asper project, the Stadium, with more overruns and construction delays. Disraeli has also seen costs boom. Lest I forget the fancy park at Millenium Library, or the Airport. Or the MTS Centre.  

So where is this money coming from? How can the friends possibly raise $7 million? That's $7 million from the private sector for one project, $50 mil from the private sector for another. That's $57 million, just for two projects, that these people are now coming to us to say, sorry, we're bad at budgeting and construction costs went up, so can we please have another $57 million so little Johnny can learn about Human Rights and Louis Riel?

It would be funny if it wasn't actually happening. Today (and this is the first of two reasons why it was good to wait over the weekend before writing) Osborne House had to ask the City of Winnipeg to provide help with their annual operating budget. That is to say, a non-profit organization that provides a fundamental service in Winnipeg to women, needs to ask for money because of....

" apparent nosedive in private-sector support."

Now, I'm sure most of us can do the math here. Osborne House is only looking at needing help with around half a million dollars, per year, to operate. That is to say, a service that one could argue is a required one in the public interest. But with everyone in Winnipeg getting hit up every few months to pony up another 20 bucks for the Museum or now, for the Friends of Upper Fort Garry, the private purse has run dry. And the public purse has run dry, too. Like, really, really dry. A billion kinds of dry. 

It isn't like nobody could see this coming. We all knew these projects would never come in on budget or on time, and that they would keep coming back to us, the citizen, via either the public purse or the private sector purse. Which is actually just a funny way of coming after your money from two different directions. Marty Gold, host of The Great Canadian Talk Show, brought this up last year at council. He argued that waving a payment from Ottawa in lieu of taxes was a really bad idea. That there were tons of organizations in Winnipeg who desperately needed the cash and were suffering from donor fatigue. 

Justin Swandel, the Deputy Mayor, said after Marty's delegation that anyone opposing the motion must have a "behavioural disorder." A obscene remark that earned him a dishonourable mention in Kevin Engstrom's Jerk of the Year 2011 column. 

So now we have this empty gravel lot at Broadway and Main, a phenomenally appropriate symbol of what these projects really offer our city. Nothing. 

By now, Crystal would have most certainly completed their 20-odd-storey apartment tower, adding hundreds of residents to downtown, and no doubt fixing and aesthetically improving the existing park in the process. A much more dignified and respectful homage to the Fort, no? Instead Crystal was kicked down the block to 300 Assiniboine. 

Which brings us back to the subject of the parking lot. Here's an interesting caveat. The Mayor is on the record as of last week saying that the City has been "working hard" to rid downtown of surface parking lots. For the sake of argument, we'll leave out whether or not that's true. At the same time, Premier Selinger, last election, made a campaign announcement. He promised to help rid downtown of a few pesky surface parking lots, and add more housing units.

If the Premier is serious about this, and the Mayor is serious about this, then it is irrational to let Downtown Winnipeg gain an additional parking lot, even if the Friends claim it is temporary. Neither the City, nor the Province, can allow this parking lot request to move forward at this point. Both have pledged to combat surface parking. The Friends, as far as any sane, logical person can see, have failed in their mandate to actually follow through after reaching their initial $12 million goal in 2008. 

The second piece of fortunate news that resulted in me waiting until today to write and publish, is that Qualico and the City are looking to build on some 800 acres of land that will support up to 8800 people. This is in addition to Waverly West, which will hold some 10 000 homes if I'm not mistaken. 

I have blogged for years now about this, which I feel is the greatest issue facing Winnipeg, the lack of a downtown core and lack of population density in it. Undeniably a contributing factor is these large swaths of land being sized up for new developments. Meanwhile, downtown, we reserve our prime land for phony 'interpretive centres' and 'greenspace' at the Forks. If that isn't a signal to the development community, I'm not sure what is. Sure, the tower at 300 Assiniboine is a step in the right direction, Selinger's parking-lot-election-promise (if it is kept) is a step in the right direction, but Upper Fort Garry is two embarrassing steps back.

It is representative, in a broader context, of how we view our downtown. Underpinning the striking gravel heritage lot at Broadway and Main, and the development of sites like Waverly West or this Charleswood site is an unspoken philosophical narrative that dominates Winnipeg's development. All our growth is directed outward, downtown is neglected, however it is important to say you care about downtown and are working to it's benefit to save political face. It is not a desirable place in many people's minds. And how could it, when any real development is sidelined for provincial parking lots. As desperate as many in Winnipeg are to be "world class," no city of "world class" is a sprawling suburb with 8 or 10 lane highways leading to their Ikea. No city spots a piece of land to honour a historic fort and calls it "progress." Then again, no city is so desperate to want to belong to an international community as our leading administrations do. 

Noble and such as it is to have such high aspirations for where this City can end up are hampered by the little desire there is for downtown. Suburbs and corporate franchise outlets do not make a city, it's establishments, buildings and downtowns do. How grand it would be to have a functional, dense urban oasis in this humble prairie town. 

Upper Fort Garry will now stand as a slap in the face to the Katz administration. It is a slap in the face to all those who gave money, thinking that an interpretive centre would be built and the Fort thus, "saved." It is a slap in the face to organizations such as Osborne House who desperately need the money, but are out-competed by the various "Friends" groups with organized marketing campaigns. 

Perhaps the Friends could be drawn back to the negotiation table. They did raise twelve million. Is there a compromise here? Could the land be put back up, the twelve million be put towards a sized-down homage to the Fort, along with the construction of a tower that need not infringe on the "sacred" site? 

Seems like a perfectly reasonable compromise to me. But then again, logical compromises have little space at the board room in this town. In the meantime, get ready to crack your wallets as every non-profit and Friends group come after your private sector support.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

McFADYEN WILL SELL HYDRO! REMEMBER MTS AND FILMON!?!?! But we'll appoint Fraser to the board!

There's a new sheriff in town. That is....a new Board Chair for Manitoba Hydro. Fraser. Bill Fraser.

Some sparklin', shinin' press release that is from the "newspaper of rec'rd" I think they's calls it. Some record! They like to give those ones t'Staff Writer. You know, so they don't ask no questions. Don't even mention Bill's previous occupation! Don't even say anythin' 'bout the guy. Jus' that he's the new Board Chair.

Lucky a young'un like me can do a cache search on The Google. Can yous believe how hard it is for me to find a job?! I was but 9 years old when this fella here Fraser became the C-E-O of a big govm'nt thing called MTS. Here's what The Google turned up:

Bill Fraser, who took over the top job in 1995, protested to Manitoba Business (October 1995) that "... We're not a dying industry; we're a growth industry." But it was difficult to turn the company around. Fraser hoped to cut down the enormous debt, now 80 percent of equity, and to lay off employees in order to get MTS back into shape. Critics sniped that Fraser should simply put a "For Sale" sign on the company. In 1996 MTS did become officially for sale, with its high debt and the need to invest $500 million in new equipment cited as the pressing reason.

The transition came with much political bickering and contradictory sets of statistics. One poll showed that 70 to 80 percent of Manitobans opposed the privatization. Despite much turmoil, MTS became a publicly-owned for-profit company in late 1996.

Ya don't say!

Now I say that don't make much sense, given what Energy Minister Dave Chomiak said in that press release copied and pasted by that Staff Writer theys got there:

"Bill Fraser brings a wealth management experience to the table for his many years of public service,"

Wait just a doggone second there, son! If Billy took over MTS in 1995 and it was sold in 1996 doesn't that mean he has just - one - year of that there "public service" you talkin' about?



Didn't Greg Selinger and his party of "New Democrats" run ads all campaign long about how that banal, evil, twisted Conservative fella Hugh McFadyen was going to privatize Manitoba Hydro? Were'nt they bashing us over the head tryin' to convince us that the PCs were gonna sell our precious Hydro? That there is a classic flip flop!

Isn't that like that Mitt Romney guy they got runnin' down there in the US-of-A for the Republicans? Isn't he before he was before he was against everythin? Is that what our guy here, whats his name, Greg Selinger is kinda like?

'Cause I seem to remember Selinger going oooooooon and ooooooon and oooooon about how Hugh McFadyen was gonna sell Hydro and how Hugh was an eeeeeeevil evil reincarnation of that guy they had there in the '90s, Gary Filmon. Didn't Greg keep tellin' us Hugh was just a Filmon disciple?

So Billy Fraser gets to sell off MTS under Gary Filmon's leadership and now, we got Greg Selinger appointin' the same guy to chair the MB Hydro Board?

Yer just not supposed to be able to get a job like that after a record like that! I mean, in the private sector....

Is that what they call "politics" in this province? 'Cause I sure don't like it much. They only got elected some 4 months ago. Four months! Christ, it took, Sam Katz longer than that to bend us all over with his fancy-pants frontage levies.

Now this here Billy might see the Hydro Whistleblower's stuff as a screamin' alarm bell!

Sell! Sell! Sell!

If that happens, I might just not see much difference between Greece and Manitoba. Whadda we people here got left?