” Someone can write a negative story by taking a picture of someone in a doorway,but we have some things to celebrate.” ~ Rich Coleman


 (Well, Rich, you sure know how to give a good quote ! )

 ******* UPDATE – FEBRUARY 07th, 2010.

 Last year I bookmarked a page from The Province’s Operation Phoenix series that I found to be particularly authentic, and   Several days ago, the link disappeared and ‘ this story was no longer available.’

  To be honest, it seemed rather odd  to me that this story in particular was gone, because  the Operation Phoenix section still has many other stories from that series. But then again, this Opinion editorial by Chief Bill Wilson is not as flattering to the perception of positive change in the Downtown Eastside as many of the others, nor does it agree with the BC governments  Propaganda Information Booth’s viewpoint that things are improving and their many initiatives are making a difference. In the downtown eastside, as with other areas in the lower mainland plagued with persistent poverty and drug addiction, perception is everything. Take Whalley for example – site of the  Surrey 2010 Olympic Celebration – and Newton, to which some RCMP have remarked to me, is beginning to look like the next Downtown Eastside. 

Many people think that I am anti – Olympic, but really, I’m not. It would more accurate to say that I am anti- bullshit, and the amount of bullshit  that has been passed onto the people of BC leading up to these games has been far more than I find palatable.

I  do think  that it is important to support the athletes within the games with our spirit – many of them have worked hard blood, sweat, tears and financial sacrifice to get here, but  I also think it is important that we do not try and hide the reality of what life is like in all our cities while the spotlight is on us. (In that same vein, nor should we try to hide or diminish the  truth behind the horrific budget cuts and employment loss our premier and government have dealt the people of BC, within the last year, nor refuse to answer questions surrounding the amount of money being spent on this two week party for the world.)

 The Downtown Eastside is as much of a reflection on who we are as British Columbians, as the effort put in by thousands of volunteers who – without their tremendous amounts of effort and time –  these games would not be happening. So please, scroll down to the bottom of this New York Times post and read the Chief Bill Wilson editorial about the downtown eastside that can no longer be found anywhere on the internet, except for the one location I did manage to find it still in existence in a cached form. While I may not agree with everything Bill says, I do think  he touches on the most important reasons this poverty and addiction still persists in the DTES- it’s all a huge industry with no product.  


Thanks to my lovely and well-read daughter for finding  and sending me this timely little story featured in the New York Times!  Yes, I know I’m a little behind, but I’m into a big story, and many of my readers are across Canada and the rest of the world and might find this fun.  ( I guess that tuition bill is going to good use after all! )  Notice how the lovely little propaganda booth didn’t escape any notice, and the mention of coverage in other international papers.  Here are excerpts from…

In the Shadow of the Olympics

Published: February 4, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — In this urban oasis widely considered one of the most livable places in the world, the Downtown Eastside is about 15 square blocks of something else.

At the corner of Main and Hastings, residents of the poorest postal code in Canada passed a recent Tuesday afternoon. One man lighted a crack pipe, inhaling deeply. Another urinated on a wall. Another burned a book of matches, muttering at the flame. Two men started fighting. One brandished a bicycle seat, the other a salad that spilled onto the sidewalk.

“All that over drugs,” a passer-by said. “Welcome to the Downtown Eastside.”

That scene unfolded five blocks from the site of the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics, scheduled for next Friday, and a five-minute drive from the athletes’ village.

By bidding for the Olympics, Vancouver invited the world to visit. Now city officials are trying to redirect the international news media spotlight from this blighted neighborhood in the shadows of the picturesque North Shore Mountains.

News accounts throughout the world have zeroed in on the striking juxtaposition of the Downtown Eastside with the Winter Games.

“North America’s festering sore of what do with its homeless and disenfranchised is crystallized in a few short blocks,” The Sunday Times of Australia wrote. The Daily News of Egypt wrote, “Just be careful not to stray too far south of Gastown into the city’s notoriously squalid and poverty-stricken notorious Downtown Eastside, where drugs and prostitution are rampant.”

In response, British Columbia and Vancouver officials opened an information center in the neighborhood, with hopes of managing the way the story is told. Fact sheets are being distributed, and journalists are urged to consider positive developments in the neighborhood.

“Someone can write a negative story by taking a picture of someone in a doorway, but we have some things to celebrate,” Rich Coleman, the minister of Housing and Social Development, told reporters last Friday.

Now, go on.

 Read the rest of this telling little tale HERE: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/05/sports/olympics/05eastside.html?ref=todayspaper

Then read some local reaction to this that I just found here on the TYEE yesterday : http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Olympics2010/2010/02/05/media-attention-2010-downtown-eastside/


‘A huge industry with no product’

 Downtown Eastside reminds him of the Department of Indian Affairs, says native chief
The ProvinceOctober 8, 2009Comments (21)

Operation Phoenix is a year-long project by The Province, CKNW 980 and Global B.C. We hope to engage the community in seeking solutions to the issues facing our most vulnerable citizens in the Downtown Eastside.

– – –

Operation Phoenix asked Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla (Chief Bill Wilson) what he thinks needs to be done on the Downtown Eastside

I was recently led on a “tour” of Skid Row by one of my nieces and another good friend. I was familiar with the area, having come to Vancouver to go to university in 1962, frequenting it with relatives and friends and then driving a taxi in town for five years while still at the University of B.C. The place has changed.

In the ’60s, it was not dangerous to visit. Sure, there were the drunks and those addicted to the other drugs, mostly heroin. There were the pimps and the prostitutes and poor people who were not accepted in other parts of Vancouver.

Except for the pimps, a disproportionate number of the people there were aboriginal. At least 90 per cent of those aboriginal people were in no way involved in drugs or prostitution. This remains true today, yet it is still the “white” impression that every native woman seen in the area is a hooker and every native man is a drunk, a junkie, a pimp or a pusher. Prejudice, racism and ignorance are alive and well, especially when it comes to society’s view of my people.

I have been asked many times why so many native Indian people live in the Downtown Eastside. The answer is obvious. Native Indian people have never been welcome anywhere else in Vancouver, even when they could afford it. I remember a trip I took to Vancouver with my father, mother and sister Donna in the late summer of 1950. We drove down Vancouver Island from Comox to Nanaimo in my father’s new luxury Packard car and caught the old C.P.R. ferry to Vancouver. As native Indians, we were not allowed to leave the car deck except to go up to the stern of the top deck. This I never understood, and it made me mad because I wanted to get something to eat.

We tried to register at the Hotel Vancouver, where we had a confirmed reservation. We were sent away quite abruptly with the recommendation that we would be more comfortable in the East End. We tried all of the good hotels until we ended up on the edge of Skid Row, where very early the next morning we finally found a cheap hotel that would take us, but only after my father paid in advance for the week, left a large damage deposit and had to swear that he would not have any wild drinking parties. Funny, my father never drank in his whole life.

My recent tour of Skid Row was depressing at best and extremely frustrating at worst. I must admit that, despite the good company of my two companions, I could not wait to escape the horror of the area. My frustration resulted not just from the human carnage that the new drugs have exacerbated but from the simple realization that all of the money spent there and all of the glorious plans announced have made absolutely no difference! Nuts!

Perhaps the thing that angered me most was the fact that the horror of the Skid Row area fuels a huge industry with no product, just like the Department of Indian Affairs. My friends informed me that at least $1 million is spent down there every day! How can this be, without any visible improvement? Is it because our society really does not care? Is Skid Row just the garbage dump for our living human waste? Out of sight, out of mind? And now, with the Olympics, we seem determined to push our rejected off their six-block-square human garbage dump.

The six-square-block area is very different from what it was in the ’60s. There are now “police free” zones where police do not make arrests for drug deals. Drugs and cash change hands out in the open with apparent immunity. Is this not the same thing as “legalization?”

I was informed by my niece that the zones and the injection sites, while a good idea on the surface, represent a danger to women and are starting to be shunned. Apparently men prey on women who they identify as having drugs in the zones where they are not protected by the police. Their appearance at the injection site also makes them targets. Many women actually feel safer injecting in the alleys. Madness!

My guides pointed out to me the many “service-delivery” offices and organizations in the area. I was amazed at the number, and these included only those in the six-square-block area. There apparently are five times as many more in the Downtown Eastside, all supposedly ministering to the suffering of Skid Row people. Many of these groups deal with the disproportionate number of aboriginal people there. In fact, there are more groups dealing with aboriginal people there than the number of aboriginal people I saw on my tour that day. My niece provided me with a list of groups and government agencies that numbers in the hundreds. Why so many?

I really have no idea what all of these groups do. The increased human horror makes it perfectly clear that they do very little. It is so much like the Department of Indian Affairs that it makes me want to puke. I am particularly disgusted with the multiplicity of aboriginal service groups that overlap in their mandates and compete with each other for funding to supposedly serve the same people. Has anyone heard of the “economy of scale?”

Fact is that the perpetuation of the horror is the foundation of their economy. Failure is actually the real mandate, for without it there would be no need for more money. It is with great disgust that I mention the fact that the Department of Indian Affairs budget this coming fiscal year will exceed $12 billion and yet the living conditions of my people have continued to worsen.

The sad situation on the reserves and in the Downtown Eastside has produced a lower life form known as the “welfare pimps.” They are the lawyers, consultants, social workers, healers, gurus, mystics and other so-called experts, many of them aboriginal, who have crawled out from under their rocks and thrive on the suffering of my people. They breed as cockroaches feeding on decaying flesh.

What can be done? I am not an expert on the subject, but it is patently obvious to me that drugs must be legalized and controlled by the government. We basically have this now, without the control. We must go further and take the gang profit out of all the illicit drugs. How many more shooting deaths do we have to witness on our streets before this sinks in?

Legalization is, of course, no panacea, but it would free up human resources and be a source of revenue to deal with the problems of drug abuse which are rapidly increasing under the present system and which will never go away completely.

Let me conclude by dealing with the crazy multiplicity of service groups. The suggestion has been made that a “czar” be appointed to rationalize the number of groups and agencies who purport to service the needs of people in the Downtown Eastside. Provided the czar was given the proper mandate and support, I would agree.

An independent Downtown Eastside aboriginal czar is also necessary. His or her specific task would be to evaluate the work of all the aboriginal groups based on success, not failure. He/she would be given a mandate of no longer than a year to do the work based on a commitment by government that the funding would be allocated in accordance with the findings. Recommendations about the rationalization, streamlining and efficiency of service delivery would have to be enforced.

There is no need for all the groups and agencies to be stumbling over each other and scrapping about the funding, all trying to service the same people. This would not be an attempt to save money. Rather, it would be an exercise in making proper use of the present funding and actually making a difference in the horror that is Skid Row and the depression that is the Downtown Eastside.

Obviously, this individual could not come from any of the groups or agencies presently working in the area. He/she would have to be a strong, independent person who could get things done without relying on committees or other time-wasters. No usual bureaucracy or “representative” political body would be necessary. This would be one aboriginal person with a clearly defined mandate and sufficient funding to get the job done in a year or less.

Consultation with the community would be required, but the major job would be to examine all the aboriginal groups on the basis of successful service delivery and make funding decisions in accordance with the proof of concrete, positive results. No positive results, no more money.

Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla (Chief Bill Wilson, BA, LLB) is a B.C. native leader with 50 years of service in aboriginal politics across Canada. He is most proud of the fact he helped to draft and successfully argued for the entrenchment of aboriginal title and treaty rights as the first amendment to Canada’s new constitution in March of 1983.

*** one of the most telling comments below that post is this one :

Very well stated regarding the numerous fiefdoms suppling “services” to those in need. I personally do not know any person , who as a child dreamed of living in the downtown eastside. Responsible service providers know that the existing system  serves the the executive directors needs first, then their organization and finally the “client”.Has been like that for years, and all levels of government know it too. It is time to revamp the services, move many of them out of the downtown eastside , almalgamate these non-profits, to reduce administration, and increase services to “clients”. All levels of government should take a time out from charging each  other for having the resposibility to those people and streamline their funding streams so that there can be a continuim of services. It is time to seriously understand that many of the people in the downdown eastside suffer from multiple issues which have created mental health issues for the “client-base” down there. I am from the Coast Salish Nation, living in the urban enviroment, and as a rule do not believe in the welfare economy and culture that has kept our people down. We certainly have to take responsibility for assisting ourselves and family, and government has a responsibility to work with us. The real issue, is there the politcal willingness to do so? At any rate good on Operation Phoenix for interviewing Chief Bill Wilson, he has done more for off reserve Aboriginal People than anyone in the history of this province.

” Vancouver’s Olympics head for disaster” ~ The Guardian

This link is appearing everywhere online, and has been sent to me by a number of readers. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jan/31/vancouver-winter-olympics-police

An interesting commentary, it at first appears to be an overseas Op-Ed, but on further examination the author turns out to be a local freelancer, who was in fact interviewed by CBC yesterday! ( thank you C.!)  ** note how many links it has from local sources documenting the harsh financial realities of our fair province, an amalgamation of why so many people are feeling more concern than excitement.  Although the author tends to- as one reader put it- hyperbole, I still think it presents a fairly accurate representation of how many people are feeling in these days before our world debut.  ( someone might do well to stick this right on top of Bill Good’s desk – I hear many are getting tired of his incessant nattering over the lack of enthusiasm over the games. Reality check Bill- we don’t all live in fancy condo’s on the harbour and have two jobs to count on, let alone one for the many laid off and out of work people all over the  province )

An excerpt:

              It’s now two weeks until the start of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic games, a city-defining event that is a decade in the making. But a decade is a very long time. Much of what seemed sensible in the early 2000s has proven to be the opposite: for instance, allowing investment bankers to pursue profits willy-nilly was acceptable when Vancouver won the bid in 2003, but is now viewed as idiotic. So it comes as no surprise that just days before the opening ceremony, Vancouver is gripped by dread. Not the typical attitude for a host city, but understandable when you consider that everything that could go wrong, is in the process of going wrong.


            “The Bailout Games” have already been labelled a staggering financial disaster. While the complete costs are still unknown, the Vancouver and British Columbian governments have hinted at what’s to come by cancelling 2400 surgeries, laying off 233 government employees, 800 teachers and recommending the closure of 14 schools. It might be enough to make one cynical, but luckily every inch of the city is now coated with advertisements that feature smiley people enjoying the products of the event’s gracious sponsors.

Conservative estimates now speculate that the games will cost upwards of $6bn, with little chance of a return. This titanic act of fiscal malfeasance includes a security force that was originally budgeted at $175m, but has since inflated to $900m. With more than 15,000 members, it’s the largest military presence seen in western Canada since the end of the second world war, an appropriate measure only if one imagines al-Qaida are set to descend from the slopes on C2-strapped snowboards. With a police officer on every corner and military helicopters buzzing overhead, Vancouver looks more like post-war Berlin than an Olympic wonderland. Whole sections of the city are off-limits, scores of roads have been shut down, small businesses have been told to close shop and citizens have been instructed to either leave the city or stay indoors to make way for the projected influx of 300,000 visitors.

While  most of the local media are pushing the feel good, rah- rah, “it’s all good” mantra, we are begining to see the international media descend in droves and are looking for other stories about the impact of the Olympics from residents and freelancers alike. Keep your eyes peeled…

Bits and Bites, Wednesday November 4th, 2009

You know what?

There is so much to talk about that is making my blood boil that I did not even need to turn the furnace on this morning. So, without the usual chatty preamble, I’m going to start with  the closure of 5 legal aid offices in B.C. 

That’s right, offices in Prince George, Surrey, Victoria, Kamloops and Kelowna are closing for good. The BC Legal services society says it is because of a shortage in funding- 54 people will be laid off as a result of the closures.

 What does Mike de Jong have to say about it all?Well, he blames it on the economic downturn…

What do the people who use these services have to say? Who knows, because  the Liberals don’t like to sully their kid shoes at street level talking to the average folk. Have you ever seen a Liberal out talking to real people when it doesn’t involve a photo-op? Nope, didn’t think so. But I’ll give you $50 if you can find one.

This is disgusting. Someone explain to me how it is that Gordon Campbell thinks it is totally fine to be paying for a bloody retractable roof on a facility that is likely going to be creating debt, rather than income,  and leave some of our most vulnerable people hanging without legal services?  And that roof isn’t even going to be keeping our taxpayers money in BC, because the major steel fabrication contract is going out of province.  Hey, to heck with keeping BC money in BC, let’s use all that property down there…. Always, always remember  Gordon Campbell’s roots as a real estate man and developer.

Speaking of the Liberals,where the heck is health minister,Kevin Falcon’s keeper?You know, those women with the black framed glasses the Liberals appear to buy in bulk,( glasses, not women!) who follow the ministers around and make sure they don’t say or do anything stupid? Seriously, this man needs to close his mouth. ” Close your mouth Kevin.”

 Just close it, and keep it closed, because every time you open it, you dig yourself, and the BC Liberals, an even bigger hole. First the Saskatchewan surgery ‘miscommunication’, now the back to work legislation you are trying to have passed to force the very hard-working BC Paramedics back into line with VANOC’s plan for the 2010 Olympics.

 It’s kind of laughable though- just read this excerpt from Hansard where the Falconator brings in this little bit of legislation:

Hon. K. Falcon: The Ambulance Services Collective Agreement Act is designed to bring an end to the current impasse between the Emergency and Health Services Commission and CUPE 873, the union representing ambulance paramedics and dispatchers in British Columbia.When B.C.’s paramedics began their job action on April 1, earlier this year, we sincerely hoped that a mutually agreeable settlement could be reached. Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts over the past seven months, the two sides have been unable to resolve their differences. The last offer made to the union was generous, given the difficult economic challenges we face as a province, and it is in keeping with what other public sector workers will receive in 2009-10. We value the work and services of B.C.’s 3,500 ambulance paramedics, and many of us have great relationships with individual paramedics across the province. However, we are concerned that the longer this dispute drags on, the higher the risk for patients, a risk we are no longer prepared to countenance. With the H1N1 pandemic impacting the acute care system and with the busy holiday season fast approaching, the public needs certainty that they’ll have the care they need in an emergency. It is time to move forward in the interests of all British Columbians. It is not a decision we have come to lightly.

Do you think anyone really believes this is about Swine flu?  Or the holiday season?

Does any one single British Columbian have a concern that the BC paramedics are going to leave them hanging when they call 911? Not a chance.

This is about the games, pure and simple. The pressure was on from VANOC, as evidenced by a letter released by the paramedics union Tuesday that says:

“If we are unable to obtain that guarantee (through either settlement of the strike or legislated ‘detente’ for the Games), then Vanoc will be required to initiate alternative contingency plans to avoid cancellation of the Games,”

We all know this is NOT about H1N1. This is not about tired management filling in, nor is it about damaged equipment. This is about forcing these men and women back to work to go along with the grand Olympic plan. Wouldn’t do to have all these paramedics walking around at the venues wearing the STRIKE signs, would it? Too inconvenient for you to answer all the questions from the international press about why this has been going on for so long. 

 There is no reason this should have happened, except the governments lack of concern for the fair treatment of these workers.  Carol James and the NDP will not be supporting this legislation and will vote no.

What it comes down to is this. Gordon Campbell and his team of fiberals have never been in touch with regular British Columbians. They have no clue what it means to choose between eating and paying your rent. They have no clue what it means to rely on resources in the community to make ends meet, or deal with issues affecting your life.  And they certainly have no clue as to what it means to be a paramedic, or to have to rely on one to save your life.

 Watch this video and find out why the paramedics are striking. We have to stand behind these men and women as British Columbians,  so head on over to http://www.saveourparamedics.com/index.php to find out what you can do, and how you can help.

Also in that Hansard transcript, is the exchange between Carol James, Minister of Community and Rural Development,Bill Bennett and Forests Minister,  Pat Bill, in which Carol asks them what the Liberal government plans to do to help the people of Kitimat, where some 500+ workers will be left in the cold as Eurocan closes its mill.

 Here is a breakdown of the questions that were asked and the answers that were given:

  • Will the B.C. Liberal government give Kitimat $2 million dollars in transitional funding as was done before the election for Fort St. James and Mackenzie? No.
  • Will the B.C. Liberal government reopen the Community Development Trust in order to give workers access to early retirement options? No.
  • Why has the B.C. Liberal government refused to put together a provincial strategy to protect forest jobs in the wake of more than 50 mill closures and 25,000 jobs lost? No answer.

I’ll tell you why the liberals don’t want to help the people of Kitimat, and why they won’t. I supect it has a lot to do with their plans with Enbridge, and those bloody oil-tankers they plan to traipse up and down our coast, and to China: http://lailayuile.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/support-divided-for-enbridge-northern-pipeline-and-the-resulting-oil-tanker-traffic-along-sensitive-bc-coastlines/

Funny how despite ” Tough economic times”, the Liberals can come up with a half a BILLION dollars for a fancy new roof on BC Place in just a few weeks, yet they keep making cuts to everything else.. In the interest of saving the Libs some money, I thought I would come up with a new slogan for them.Here it is:

Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals.

We like to say ” Tough economic times” – a lot.

 Now, in a totally random addition to this post, last night I discovered a little piece of my personal history is up for sale on the internet.
Tucked away in an area south-west of Prince George,  Finger Lake resort has been in business since I was a kid,and although the site is more developed now, it appears to have still retained the majority of its rustic flavour strictly by its relatively remote location.
 Those were the days… Growing up in Prince George, we were ‘gone fishing’,or exploring the wilderness pretty much every single weekend, and on long weekends we would pack up the trailer and truck, load the boat, and often head out to Finger Lake.
Back then, getting into the resort was an adventure in itself, because there was no real road other than the one cut into the bush by the old owners. Basically we had to off-road the truck,trailer and boat through the bush,trying to avoid hanging up one of the three on a stump. Once we were in though, the rest was easy.
The only time we spent in the trailer at the campsite was spent sleeping. We cooked outside on a grate over the fire, we fished before dawn and ate pan-fried rainbow trout  and fried potatoes for breakfast, along with the obligatory slabs of bacon. I’ll never forget it. The fishing was always great, the scenery unbelievable and sometimes a little dangerous.
 I remember one year one of the local grizzlies investigated out campsite every night after we went to bed, leaving tracks in the dust around the fire… which made going to the outhouse a group activity! Remember too, that this was back in the days of catch and eat, not catch and release! Conservation wasn’t exactly the name of the game on our camping trips. We would eat as many as we could and take the rest of our limit home for freezing or smoking. ( mmmmm smoked rainbow trout!)
Ah well, it’s been years since I’ve been there, but I have several photo albums to remember all the fun times by. And I guess that it is places and experiences like this that make me love B.C. so much. There really is no place else like it. Pristine lakes, beautiful rivers and untouched wilderness. Which is why we must protect,at any cost, what is left.
 It is, all we have. 
 Anyways, if you are looking for a lake resort to buy, check out this place. If I had $525,ooo.oo I would buy it in a heartbeat, just for the memories- ok. for the trout too!! http://www.fingerlakeresort.com/
Last but not least, scroll down and read the short posts from yesterday, concerning the RCMP member who is suing CBC for their coverage of the death of Robert Dziekanski. This is the fellow who actually deployed his taser, and who is now claiming extreme embarrassment and distress… uh huh…!