” 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.

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

  1. There’s no comments are on the NYT nor on the SI/CNN webzine where the Dave Zirin article appeared, unlike the Huff Post and other such sites…..or I’d have weighed in on the things Rich Coleman has to celebrate, which would include not being charged for meddling with police actions, legal proceedings and warrants re BVB, and shuffling information and lies around during the Maui Wowie affair…..and what else is it that he has gotten away with before being put in charge of (of all things) Housing and Social Services?

    Of COURSE they want the world to see anything BUT the Downtown Eastside, but they don’t have a willing led-by-the-nose press corps to deal with like they do locally. The real context of the DTES story is, of course, that the rising toll in human wreckage is the direct result of the policies and practices of the class warfare that the callous, immoral establishment who created and continue to back “Campbellism” – THAT is what the international media may yet discover; that in a way the DTES is only a symptom, and a symbol, of a province where wealth has run amuck and t here has been a vicious, and decidedly nasty, campaign against the poor and the workign poor (the working increasingly-poor….) and “the left”. They made this bed, and they know it…..they’ve had since, oh, 2001, to fix the problem, and since 2003 since the bid got approved, to change their social policies and maybe to get national drug policies changed, but instead they gave the IOC the roundabout tour around the area, and now wish they could put blinkers on the international media in the same way they did for IOC officials.

    Too late now. But the real beans, as some earnest international investigative type is bound to discover, is that East Hastings is not just emblematic of BC Liberal policy, and not just the direct result of it and its predecessor (Socredism) – it’s been deliberate in the context of being the “necessary toll on the human condition” of generating so much ridiculous exces wealth and locking it up in, as someone on The Tyee noted, in real estate. Don’t forget – the people who make thet most money on real estate as an industry, other than vendors and investors, are the real estate agents. and what’s the favourite occupationof BC Liberal candidates/ recruits? Real estate agent (well, when not laywers).

    The NYT also had an article from Paul Krugman a few days ago on the wonderful job the Canadian banks were doing of managing financial policy and how profitable they were . What he didn’t mention was that while the banks have been making more and more money off credit (i.e. off the backs of everyone else), nobody ELSE has been making money, and the context of the gross profits of the Canadian banks is a rise in homelessness and unemployment and a rise in the cost of living relative to a collapse of the standard of living (of everyone, that is, but the rich). The DTES, even without crystal meth and crack, would still be what it is just for that very reason; the disenfranchisement of a whole lot of the population outside the regular economy BECAUSE THE BANKS WANT IT THAT WAY. For their own staiblity and the “economic health of the country”. Bankers, lawyers, realtors – whoever let these people run the country anyway?

    More and more I wish there were politicians in this country who would embrace the Bhutanese governments concept of “Gross National Happiness”…….


  2. Hi Lailla,

    I don’t normally comment on a persons looks, but I just cannot resist this one.

    Rich Coleman actually looks the fat, gibbering, blubbering, gormless idiot that he is.

    There – I feel much better for having said it.

    Thanks for the chance to air my views.



  3. Another NYT article today – a short version of an apparently much longer version of an interview with Douglas Coupland, who turns out to be funnier than I thought he’d be:


  4. New LA Times article, with a rather emblematic image:


    Did you notice the G-7 meeting in Iqaluit? The coverage out here said nothing about it being held up there to avoid having protestors show up, but I’ll bet that’s 99% of the reason; we know they weren’t there to discuss global warming…..(and Pravda said Russia was p’d at not being invited….hmmmm).

    Inquiring minds want to know – did they try some seal blubber?


  5. I recently received an email announcement about the poverty olympics which is happening today in the DTES.

    I admire their humourous take on the mascots (Itchy the Bedbug, Creep the Cockroach, and Chewy the Rat) and events (Housing Hurdles, Hockey with the VANOC Predators, the Broken Promise Slalom, and Wrestling for our Community).

    The fact that we haven’t heard anything about their torch relay or their events in the television media sickens me. I wonder whether these events will be picked up by the international media …


    What we see on the nightly news and in the local daily papers isn’t journalism, it’s propoganda.


  6. Thanks for the links Skookum and the input . I have had a marked increase in international visits, which is why I wanted to post this update with the Chief Bill Wilson editorial- please everyone, if you haven’t read it, I recommend that you do.

    John, I normally don’t like to see commentary on people’s looks, which have nothing to do with who or what they are, but I would say that Rich has likely never had to want for anything in his life. Certainly not since his venture into politics…

    Genuine…. THAT is truly funny!

    Suzanne- the local paper here in Surrey has been covering it, ( the poverty run happened here as well) as well as the many violent incidents we’ve had here in the last couple of weeks, par the course for Surrey at least! One can’t expect anything but fluff and sports coverage from CTV, being an Olympic sponsor, Global I hear, has gotten a bit better with some stories,( I still don’t watch) and CBC, well to me, it seems hit and miss with them.

    And I would like to mention that I do really appreciate everyone taking the time to comment, and I apologize for my delay in reply- normally I answer as soon as possible, but I’ve been spending a lot of time working on a big story,and really needed a break yesterday, a mental break that is!
    Keep at it, I will reply as soon as I can.


  7. Vancouver contains the largest aboriginal community in the province and yet there is no collective government for them, though many belong to First Nations bands scattered around the province, or from beyond; not that Indian Bands are a good thing but Chief Wilson points up a big problem – too many chiefs/organizations, despite more than enough Indians. Also, the First Nations governments many of these people are from, i.e. are members of, exist primarily to service the on-reserve populations and would probably oppose the formation of a band representing Vancouver’s urban native population since so many of that population are already part of their ranks. So there is no political cohesion to Vancouver’s native community – which is also spread through the Commercial/Grandview area (the term “Vancouver rancherie” I’ve heard applied to the triangle formed by the Grandview Cut, Broadway and Clark). I can see Wilson’s point in calling for a consolidation of all these groups, if that’s the word for it…..the Qayqayt First Nation, aka the New Westminster Indian Band, was recently re-constituted and is near-memberless and has no land base (though is trying to get Poplar Island as an IR, which once upon a time it was) but the idea behind it was as a band for people who have no other band to belong to….many of Vancouver’s First Nations people are in fact without status, or alienated or in exile from their “home governments”….I’m not FN and it’s none of my own business, but it seems something like a “Vancouver First Nation” might give a proper collective voice for them……

    The Chinese community, also, has more than one organization, but they all seem to work together much better (e.g. SUCCESS, the Chinatown Business Improvement Association etc); maybe there’s a model there that could be followed……


  8. looks like el richie has had a lot to celebrate,he should stop or he’s gonna explode,although I kinda miss him on the ledge channel,especially when he gasps,and adjusts his ill fitting dentures.(yes rich we know)


  9. after all the monies different govt.have thrown at that problem over the years,those streets should be paved in gold and for all the crap I have to hear on this subject is sickening instead of all those bottom feeders skimming money from those resources and use them for what it was meant for(the people of that area not you )this problem will persist ,sure keep diverting attention from the real issue (bottom feeding)and blame the dealers and pimps and hookers and thieves and addicts,and crazies its you the bottom feeders that have an interest in all those people,because my friends they are the materials in which your trade uses for building poverty in which you prosper.What a sad state of affairs we find ourselves in and you want us to celebrate sportsmanship and put on a face to the world !!!!!! SAME no double SHAME on us for letting it happen!!!!!!!!!!


  10. Genuine, may I invite you to post a version of that comment (adjusted for the content of the article/forum there and for Los Angeles readers) on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/08/vancouvers-poverty-olympi_n_453593.html and link back to Wilson’s article here?…….oh waitaminit you won’t be able to do that on the LA Times website, no links allowed – but it can go on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/08/vancouvers-poverty-olympi_n_453593.html . . . .


  11. Another story about Campbell

    Subject: FW: Customs in Canada

    A guy was traveling through the United States on vacation when, lo and behold, he lost his wallet and all identification. Cutting his trip short, he attempts to make his way home but is stopped by the Customs Agent at Niagara Falls.
    “May I see your identification, please?”, asks the agent.

    “I’m sorry, but I lost my wallet,” replies the guy.
    “Sure, buddy, I hear that every day. No ID, no crossing the border”, says the agent.

    “But I can prove that I’m a Canadian!” he says. I have a picture of Stephen Harper tattooed on one butt cheek and a picture of Michael Ignatieff on the other”.
    “This I gotta see”, replies the agent.

    With that, Joe drops his pants and bends over in front of the agent.
    “By golly, you’re right!” exclaims the agent. “Go on home to BC”.

    “Thanks!” he says. “But how did you know I was from BC?”
    The agent replies, “I recognize the guy in the middle. That’s Gordon Campbell!”


  12. Point is, not just my voice is needed in US blogs/forums….and the LA Times lately has blocked me once or twice, without saying why….


  13. Skookum, I tried to register and post a comment to no avail today, and it seemed as if the system just simply wouldn’t accept my registration. I’ll try again later when I have a moment. But thank you for the links and the information, because I think it is important that others read the opinions of people like yourself and all my readers.

    Sal, you’ve got it. I think Bill really did a brave thing in that editorial, telling it like it is, and what resonated with me was that was exactly what I felt after working in the non-profit industry – that while there are some amazing people doing some great things out there, the majority of the agencies and bottomfeeders in the industry are all working on insanely huge salaries and very little of the funding actually hits the front lines.

    I touched on this a bit in this post:


    Funny enough, I got a lot of hate mail on that one, but recently there was a news item about an agency getting paid for clients that they never actually saw – ” padding stats” as I’ve referred to it in the post. I’ve been guffawed over this many times, but it has always happened, and always will, so long as the government has no real way of monitoring the agencies that get this cash.

    Astro – I LUV that story… nice to see you again. I know I’ve been so neglectful of the blog as of late but I’m so into a really important investigation that even posting is a chore right now.

    One thing I would like to mention too, is the perception that all First nations people in BC are in great support of these games- from what I’ve heard, that is not the case, and that really only 4 bands stood to benefit from the games being here, although the premier talks often about how much the aboriginals have blessed this…. anyone hear more about that, or know more?


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