Friday, December 25, 2009

Recession Showed Up at Christmas Eve Dinner Hosted by BC Federation of Labour

Jim Sinclair, President of the BC Federation of Labour dished up turkey at the event.

The recession was evident at this year's 15th Annual Labour Community Christmas hosted by the BC Federation of Labour at the Maritime Labour Hall on Vancouver's east side.

The portions were smaller and they discouraged people from going back for seconds, although one man and woman told me they did sneak back. Organizers had planned for more people this year, but they had still underestimated how many would show up. Guests were lined up outside the door before the dinner opened. The wait to get in was about 40 minutes.

A woman said the turkey was cooked just right; it was tender. A man agreed, "The food was well prepared."

Union organizers gave everybody a ticket for a food hamper as a gift, but they ran out of those too, so some people with tickets left empty-handed.

There was no live band this year either.

Santa did show up as usual though. The children all got gifts.

The volunteer servers were all pleasant, as they are every year.

There was a free bus to the event and back, provided by the unions. The bus kept circling from the Downtown Eastside to the Maritime Hall, picking up people at the Dug Out Drop-In Centre and Carnegie Centre. When transporting the last load of passengers of the night, the bus driver went out of his way for a woman who didn't speak much English by giving her a ride to her destination at Kootenay Loop, after he dropped off his Downtown Eastside passengers.

Photographer with Zoom Lens Creates Discomfort at Christmas Day Dinner at Sally Ann

On Christmas Day, the Salvation Army, Harbour Light, on Cordova St. near Main in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside served their annual free Christmas Dinner to anyone who wanted it. The turkey dinner with all the trimmings was reportedly tasty, with pie for dessert.

A man volunteering as a server walked around squirting extra whipped cream on everyone's pie, exclaiming, "It's Christmas!"

Some people were uncomfortable with the newspaper photographer (above) with a long zoom lens.

The tension between the need of the Sally Ann for publicity and the need for the poor to have privacy is ongoing. A man in a wheelchair told me that at a previous Sally Ann Christmas dinner, he had put his hand over his face and asked a television camera man to stop taking his photo.

Friday, December 18, 2009

UBC President Stephen Toope Snubs Million Dollar Poor at Christmas

Photo: Christmas Party takes place in background at UBC Learning Exchange on Downtown Eastside while reception staff continue to work

If Stephen Toope drops into the Learning Exchange when there is no media around, does anybody hear?

Probably not. So why bother dropping in.

UBC President Stephen Toope didn't show up at the Christmas party yesterday for the poor at the UBC Learning Exchange on the Downtown Eastside. And neither did the Director of the Learning Exchange, Margo Fryer, whose office is upstairs from the lobby where the party was held. And neither did most of the other 20 people employed full time by the Learning Exchange, a UBC storefront set up on Main St. to grab a share of the lucrative poverty industry.

When journalists from the major newspapers are invited to a Learning Exchange event that could come to the attention of current and prospective funders, Toope and Fryer show up. Last year Toope, who collects $576,000 annually in salary and perks, showed up to give a speech to a sea of camera flashes at the Anniversary of the opening of the Learning Exchange. And last month Fryer was yet again featured in a Vancouver Sun article about this enterprise which has a $2 million annual budget, an enterprise about which she says, "I got drawn in. I couldn't walk away." Priceless.

The Christmas Party was held the day after Welfare Wednesday, a day when Fryer and her staff would, like all povertarians, be aware that most of the poor would be out spending their welfare cheques and wouldn't show up.

P.S. Thanks to Downtown Eastsiders who sent photos.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Whitty gets Elderly Man Barred from Carnegie after he gives her "Hitler Salute"

David Wong, a Chinese-Canadian man in his eighties who works his ass off as a bus boy in the Carnegie Cafeteria for eighty cents an hour in food vouchers, was barred from this City building for two days.

That was after he gave Director Ethel Whitty the "Hitler salute".

Presumably an Incident Report was entered into the City of Vancouver-Carnegie "Security"database or big black binder. Security Incident Reports are written up on Downtown Eastsiders guilty of assorted forms of freedom of expression in relation to Whitty, her security boss Skip Everall, or other staff. But often what is written in the binder is City staff's self-serving version of the event.

When I think of David Wong, the phrase "elder abuse" crosses my mind. A few weeks ago, Wong got into an argument with a woman in the Carnegie cafeteria and when she walked past him afterwards, she shoved him out of her way and he went flying. He flipped backwards in the air, landed on his ass and banged his head on the floor. He made such a thump that security staff from the first floor came running up to the second floor. The woman who had shoved him was barred. Wong emerged from the incident unharmed. Amazing, since just a few months ago he was in the hospital as his health was poor.

David Wong is not always easy to get along with, to be honest. He's not violent but sometimes he gets overzealous about taking people's dishes off their table, and if somebody says, "Hey, I haven't finished eating yet", he can get upset and give them a loud calling down. But he can also be charming, especially to some of the women. Because his English is poor, it's difficult to know whether he's senile. Lots of people like him though. And of course CUPE likes him because he slaves away for crumbs and keeps the cafeteria running smoothly.

David Wong will no doubt survive into the new year to be barred yet again. And the Whitty-Everall barring projects that fill up their big black binder will survive well financed now that the City is imposing an increase in the head tax ...excuse me, property tax.

Carnegie Claws Back WiFi from Poor

The poor accessing wifi at Carnegie Centre have been cut off.

It used to be that low income people at Carnegie would sit and wait an hour for their turn on a public-access desktop computer to surf the net, until they got hold of laptops and began accessing wifi. Over the past year and a half low income people with lap tops have gotten into the habit of sitting in the big empty room on the third floor of Carnegie in the evenings and surfing the net. Wifi was available there, outside the offices of Carnegie management and the Learning Centre. And it was available in the Carnegie cafeteria on the second floor too, outside the office of CCAP, a project funded by VanCity and run by anti-poverty czar Jean Swanson to lobby for housing for the poor.

Carnegie has put an end to this access. Wifi has been secured so that it cannot be accessed by the poor, only by union members and Carnegie and management.

There is wifi access in the small branch of the Vancouver Public Library on the first floor of Carnegie, but it is painfully slow. Yesterday, six people were huddled around one plug-in at the back of the library, all finding the wifi access too slow.

The rumour is that wifi access was terminated for legal reasons. But the raison d'etre of CCAP and Carnegie is supposed to be to help the poor.

Carnegie has a history of hostility toward the poor eager for internet access. Just look at where they situated the Computer Room. Despite a huge empty space with tables and chairs on the third floor (referred to as the gallery), the computer room which is the service attracting poor people to the third floor in the evenings, is a miniature room tucked in the back beside the washrooms. This was planned, when renovations were occurring years ago. You can literally hear people using the toilet when you're in the computer room. It is such a narrow room that when people walk to the computer they've signed up for, it is impossible to avoid bumping the chairs of other people sitting at computers. This leads to conflict. And the guards get called and people get written up on the "Security" database for causing trouble.

Wifi access for the poor at the UBC Learning Exchange two blocks from Carnegie is, I'm told by two people who use it, also from CCAP. The people who use the Learning Exchange are the same people who use Carnegie. (The Learning Exchange operates weekdays until 5 p.m., unlike Carnegie which is open until 11 p.m. seven days a week.) Doubtful that CCAP will turf the poor off wifi at UBC though; I would bet that CCAP is given money by UBC in exchange for that access. The poverty industry is of course all about money.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Arrests made in Tyson Edwards Murder

Early this year, the DTES Enquirer ran a post about Jim, a Carnegie regular who picks bottles and cans in the bar district on weekends, being upset at coming across Tyson Edwards lying in the curb by Richards on Richards nightclub. Edwards had been stabbed in front of friends and later died in hospital. Jim talked about the incident for weeks afterward because he was under the impression that Edwards could have been saved if emergency response times had been quicker.

Today, I heard on the radio that police made three arrests in the murder. Two men were arrested in Calgary and one in Moncton, N.B. All have been charged with manslaughter and returned to Vancouver. The police said these three men, if not exactly gang members, were involved in gang-type activity. Edwards was not.

Jim says that while picking bottles in the bar district over the years he has seen lots of dangerous stuff, like gun fire in an alley, that never gets reported in the newspapers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Last Man Standing" Walks

Many Downtown Eastsiders remember the night in 2005 when there was a shoot-out between drug dealers in the New Wings Hotel across from Oppenheimer Park. There were cops walking around with sub-machine guns. Of the three drug dealers involved, two died that night from gun shot wounds. The third, Dennis Knibbs, took off running but was later picked up by police.

Knibbs was acquitted yesterday in the shooting death of Trumaine "Ekoh" Habib, a 21-year old with dreadlocks who enjoyed smoking pot, and sold it too. Habib had ended up with a bullet hole the size of a "silver dollar" in the middle of his chest, according to a paramedic who had arrived at the scene.

Knibbs' supporters clapped loudly from the public gallery after the not guilty verdict was announced.

Some of those were the same supporters who had been in the gallery in 2007 when a a jury found Knibbs guilty of the second degree murder of Habib. The 31 year old Knibbs got an automatic 25 year sentence, but Judge Arne Silverman granted him eligibility for parole in 10 years.

Knibbs appealed.

The BC Court of Appeal, referring to Knibbs as "the last man standing", overturned his conviction. They determined that Judge Silverman had erred in his instructions to the jury on provocation.

The second time around, Knibbs didn't opt for a jury trial. Supreme Court Justice Ronald McKinnon decided his fate.

Habib's mother left comments on this blog during the first trial. She believed the second degree murder conviction by a jury advised by Judge Silverman to use their "common sense" was the right one, and left the following comment on May 16, 2007:

"Common Sence (sic), was used in the deciding factor in this case. They can appeal all they want and HOPEFULLY, the JUDGES USE THEIR COMMON SENCE and don't disregard the JURY'S DECISION... I already knew, that it wasn't completly OVER YET, but as I said, I HOPE that the appeal judges use "COMMON SENCE" AND DON'T RELEASE A BRUTLE MURDERER BACK OUT INTO SOCIETY,THAT WOULD BE "UNCONSCIONABLE"...

YES, Justice was DONE and I Thank GOD for that...

Lanre Habib & Family...