30 October 2009

Oh, the Compassion! - Part 2

Here's more about BC's new bill to sweep Vancouver and other cities' streets of layabouts.

The bill says the definition of 'extreme weather' will follow the definitions cities are using in their Extreme Weather Response Plans, but the provincial cabinet can make regulations to adjust the definition.

Criteria in Vancouver include temperatures near zero with rainfall making it 'difficult or impossible for homeless people to remain dry'. Sleet, freezing rain, snow, high winds or temperatures below negative two degrees Celsius also count as extreme weather.

In other words, the BC government can tweak the definition of 'extreme weather' to suit their own agenda-laden purposes, which is what I'd suggested likely in Part 1 of this post.

As the Bill itself suggests, when it comes to staying dry (or warm), 'difficult' isn't the same as 'impossible'. Street people are inventive; given how long many have been on the streets, it's safe to assume they know how to survive in all manner of weather.

Here's the short, and not so sweet, Bill 18 - Assistance to Shelter Act.

ETA: There's also this little inconsistency concerning the province's purported regard for street people's health and safety. (That David Eby! Formerly the driving force behind Pivot Housing and now, deservedly, the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, he's a champion of the best sort.)

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29 October 2009

Oh, the Compassion!

The wording in the BC Government media release says it all. The new Act, just announced, is intended "to protect homeless in extreme weather." How fortunate that the Act has been put in place in time for the Olympics!

The Province has introduced the Assistance to Shelter Act to keep homeless British Columbians safe from extreme weather by giving police the authority to take people at risk of harm to emergency shelters, announced Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman.

"When an extreme weather alert has been issued, we want people at risk off the streets and into safe accommodation," said Coleman....

Once at the shelter, [homeless] have the right to decide whether or not they want to stay at the shelter....

"The RCMP fully endorses efforts to assist homeless and less fortunate people on our streets," said Gary Bass, RCMP Deputy Commissioner, Pacific Region. "We recognize that for the most part, these individuals do not commit crimes, but consider it a key pillar of our Crime Reduction Strategy... We view this as a positive step forward in terms of assisting not only the homeless but those making efforts to avoid a criminal lifestyle."

For the most part, street people are VICTIMS of crime, not the perpetrators, you idiots!

Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham said, “The terrible dilemma for police officers is when the weather is so extreme and vulnerable people are found who are at very substantial risk. When a mental illness or addiction takes over rational decision making, the only hope is for the police to have supportive legislation allowing them to take people to safety."

Who are YOU, your officers, or anyone else for that matter, to decide what is "rational decision making"? How do YOU know that the decision to stay away from shelters might not be based on excellent reasons? And who are YOU to say whether someone is 'mentally ill' rather than simply one who doesn't conform to YOUR standards?

Compassion and concern for the wellbeing of street people isn't driving this Act. It's concern for the unsightly appearance of BC's homelessness problem during the Olympics. As for the Act, now all the government has to do is get Environment Canada onside - or at least its BC equivalent - so that 'extreme weather alerts' occur regularly during the optimum period.

ETA: See also Part 2 of this post.

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14 October 2009

I Support the HST

... but I don't support the way our Liberal government foisted its particular brand of the HST onto British Columbians.

In principle, I consider taxes on consumption to be a good idea and a harmonized sales tax an improvement over two or more separate taxes. Simplicity is better; additional paperwork and process for the collection of money from the same source introduces needless complication.

However, the HST being rammed down the throats of British Columbians now, wouldn't likely have been the HST British Columbians ultimately got - and supported - had the process been vastly different. Indeed, had the May 2009 election been decided in a different manner, then the process surrounding the HST decision WOULD, in fact, have been vastly different; and so, likely, would the election campaign itself.

I am referring to the way the Liberals and other MLAs were elected.

Had BC-STV been the system by which voters elected their government, the likely result (all else being equal) would have been a coalition of the Liberals and Greens.

In a coalition government, one political party cannot arbitrarily ram through its favoured policy in a legislature. It must negotiate with MLAs of other parties. They, no less than MLAs who are members of the party who got the most votes, are elected to represent their constituents; and in a coalition government, they can do so more effectively.

In the present case, the BC Greens have come out in support of the HST, but say it should have been set at 10 percent.

Had our political representatives been elected in a fairer manner, closer to proportionally representing British Columbians' voting preferences in the legislature, our government's policies would likely have better reflected the majority's own values. We'd likely still have the HST starting in July 2010. But it's form and the process by which it was implemented and presented to the public would likely have been considerably different.

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03 October 2009

Sex Trade Workers Arrested

So, there have been complaints from a neighbourhood in the lower mainland about the sex trade workers.

A targeted police investigation led to the arrest of 15 sex trade workers last week in downtown Maple Ridge.

This was the latest effort by Ridge Meadows RCMP to clean up the streets and address complaints from the community.

“It is illegal and when it is that type of activity that is so blatantly obvious, the police do have to act and intervene from time to time,” said officer-in-charge Supt. Dave Walsh.

The article goes on to say that the customers are diverted to social programs:

Men are diverted to the prostitution offender program, run by the John Howard Society, on a weekly basis, Walsh said. The program aims to give men a greater understanding of the social issues that stem from prostitution.

Nowhere does it mention that the men are arrested or charged for their part in this age-old dilemma. How much quicker the streets would be cleared if the men's pictures and their stories were made public.

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01 October 2009

Bossy, The Cow

We all seem to have an image of Bossy, the milk cow, placidly chewing her cud in a field of vibrant green grass. This is the cow we all get our milk from, carefully raised on the local farmer's field. Isn't it?

The reality of cows bred for milking is far different. This video may be an extreme example of cruelty, but it is more common than we want to believe.

The dairy industry's standard forms of cruelty also led to suffering for these cows. In order to make milking easier, cows' tails were amputated by tightly binding them with elastic bands, causing the skin and tissue to slowly die and slough off and leaving the animals unable to swat away flies, which, in addition to tormenting the cows, also led to the spread of disease. Tail-docking is unnecessary and cruel, which is why it has been condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Milk produced for human consumption comes at a high price: to the cow. First they must breed and produce a calf at least once a year to maintain their milk flow. They are dosed with numerous drugs. They often do not see the light of day, as they are continuously kept in filthy barns. The calves they bear become the tender veal we find in our grocery stores. Torn from their dames almost as soon as they're born, they are put in small corrals in the dark for a short time before they are slaughtered then rendered into human food.

As I haven't had milk since I was a teenager, I am always appalled when I encounter just what takes place in agri-business today.

I choose, instead, to drink an almond beverage, rich in protein, calcium and a small amount of easily digestible fat.

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