Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shutting down NYC, with help from the OBJ

As I mention often, I like to read small local and community papers, both for-profit and not-for-profit. The business community is no exception, with the Ottawa Business Journal and its offshoots frequently finding themselves in my stack of papers-to-read.

And I read them for gems like this edition. Meeting in the Capital, which is found alongside the Ottawa Business Journal, has an issue on conventions in Ottawa, including coverage of the upcoming construction on the new Congress Centre, with a nice representation of the pedestrian plaza on the Colonel By frontage. One particular article, "Protest THIS!" gives meeting planners tips on "how not to deal with" demonstrations, with a view to understanding the protesters.

The article relies heavily on the advice of Ken Fairchild, who is described as a "veteran in dealing with protests and demonstrations."

Fairchild recognizes that "many large organizations are invested in things that provoke controversy," and that "demonstrations are designed to attract attention." (Duh on both counts, IMO). He warns that protests might have unintended consequences; for example, unionized convention centre workers might not cross a union picket line. That would explain this clever deal with the trade union council to avoid worker strikes during the Congress Centre's construction.

Fairchild offers a few suggestions on neutralizing the threat of protesters. This includes the basic, like telling reclusive CEOs not to confront demonstrators, and the more counterintuitive, such as sending out refreshments to demonstrators to avoid provocation.

The biggest strategy Fairchild suggests is to establish a dialogue with protesters beforehand to learn what actions they plan to take, and to set up separate areas for demonstrations that keep them out of sight and out of mind of meeting attendees. That pedestrian plaza right outside the front door would make a great Free Speech Zone!

Advance notice is common for most Ottawa protests, including the one mentioned in my most-popular blog post, In Ottawa, Democracy is across the street, where I lamented the restrictions contained in a protest permit.

But not all protests have a preplanned route. As I was leaving Boushey's Fruit Market with my lunch on April 10, I saw a protest go by, chanting "So- so- so-, Solidarité!"

As you can see, there were only about 30 or 40 protesters here. What struck me was the large number of police officers. What you can't see in this picture is the seven marked and unmarked police vehicles following the group, all with their lights flashing. This included vans and armoured paddy-wagons. I was amused, as I usually am, at the ironic fact that these police vehicles were taking up more space on the road than the protesters were!

I later discovered that the protest was so thin and the police so thick because it was actually over. It had originally gone from the Human Rights monument to the Congress Centre, among other places, with no advance plans on where it would go. This last leg was apparently an encore presentation to the police station in response to one protester being unjustly arrested by the police.

The Associated Press reports on an upcoming protest in which these tips from the Ottawa Business Journal's magazine might come in handy. In response to the acquittal of the New York City police officers who shot an unarmed black man fifty times on his wedding day, Al Sharpton has vowed to shut down NYC with protests against this blatant miscarriage of justice.

Finally, a good reason to visit New York!

- RG>

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Two good quotes

Two very good quotes (quips, if you will) were brought to my attention recently, and I just thought it a splendid idea to share them. I believe they speak for themselves:

"The world is a comedy to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel" -- Horace Walpole

"Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them." -- Paul Valery

- RG>

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Solving Ottawa's drug problem...

...once and for all.

It really isn't very hard, just nobody has the guts to say what they think.

This time, another plea from Ottawa Chief Medical Officer of Health, David Salisbury, is being shot down by anti-drug dogmatists, as reported in this Citizen article.

They say that it is useless to distribute needles to drug addicts without a treatment program in place to get them off their addictions. Since that facility doesn't appear to be coming anytime soon, and Council doesn't want to pay for it, I would say that harm reduction programs aren't useless at all. They prevent addictions from turning into infections and diseases that cost taxpayers a whole lot more, until the person's earlier death.

I was rather disgusted by a recent article in a Centretown newspaper by Somerset Community Police Officer Nathan Hoedeman that asked the community to help the police deal with the drug problem. Drugs are first and foremost a health problem. It is only by criminalizing them that they become a police issue, and the only "solution" in the police tool box--punishment--is anything but. If we stopped trying to end drug addiction by throwing money at police, we could focus on addressing the factors that drive people to drug addiction, and we wouldn't be aggravating the problem as much by hiding it under the rug.

Of course, this isn't a real solution. Any suburban and rural councillor would lose their "tough on crime" merit badge by voting for a holistic solution. Besides, it's not their fault, it's the province's fault for not building a treatment facility, right?

Why should those foul, criminal drug addicts have access to drug paraphernalia while communities have to pay whopping amounts of nickels (about five per resident per year, according to Salisbury) to clean up their mess? If they can't be responsible enough to hold onto their needles to exchange them for a new one, then they obviously deserve to get HIV and die.

It's clearly obvious, when you hear people like Orléans councillor Bob Monette talk about the drug plans, that they don't value drug addicts' lives--at least, not as much as the people who vote for him. It's right under the surface of his words. So let's just get it on the table, shan't we?

Councillors should take away all the harm-reduction schemes (um... even though the needle exchange is mandated by the province, and the crack pipe program is funded entirely by the province) and set a target for the number of drug addicts who have to die before they'll get off their arses and give a shit.

Seventeen? No, that would be too convenient. Seventeen fewer punk lowlifes to suck up valuable resources of real citizens, but enough left to blame for society's problems.

Twenty-six? Well, now we're getting someplace. Let twenty-six people die and maybe you can build a smaller treatment facility. Though nobody's really shed a tear for twenty-six dead homeless scum.

We'll have to let about fifty-eight of them writhe to death, isolated in an agonizing feeling of pain and meaninglessness. Hell, once you get that many off the streets, you can just lock the rest up in the slammer and forget about them. Then they're no longer dead drug addicts or dead homeless, they're dead criminals. Hey, and you don't have to worry about building that treatment facility!

Do all anti-harm-reduction people think this way? No. Community residents are mostly thinking about themselves and their children, and politicians are mostly thinking about buying votes. They both see that by removing stopgap measures, things will get a lot worse, but it simply doesn't concern them that a long-term solution is nowhere to be seen. That's somebody else's problem--and fault.

But don't ascribe it all to egocentrism and ignorance. Racism and classism are not foreign to our town: check the reader comments in the Ottawa articles on, and you'll be shocked to see how quick people are to blame everything on immigrants.

So ask your councillor, how many dead drug addicts do they think is enough?

- RG>