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.