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“Welfare day” in British Columbia

Today I’m releasing the results of an FOI request I submitted several years ago, before last provincial election in British Columbia. It provides insight into what the previous government knew about the harms of “cheque day,” also known as “welfare day,” or “welfare Wednesday.” This is the one day of the month in British Columbia when the vast majority of funds are distributed to individuals who qualify for income assistance and/or disability assistance.

This was my request:

All records related to Income Assistance and Disability Assistance cheque issue dates including but not limited to: government communications and policy decisions regarding cheque issue dates; internal discussions about the 2014 study from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS that links “cheque day” with increased illicit drug overdoses:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/cheque-day-linked-to-drug-overdose-risk-in-b-c-study-1.2021631

and any policy changes suggested around the new date schedule, any government communication with external groups about the study, and any previous or subsequent internal government research about this; any government communications, emails, memos, notes, etc, regarding the new research underway known as TASA Cheque Day:

http://www.cfenet.ubc.ca/research/urban-health-research-initiative/tasa-cheque-day-study/about

; all records associated with the change to public notification of cheque issue dates for the current year when prior to 2015, government made the past 5+ years of cheque issue dates available on its website. (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/2013 To 01/24/2016)

Here are the results of the above FOI request.

It is worth noting that ever since 2016, the British Columbia government only gives public notification of the Income Assistance and Disability cheque issue dates for the current year (presently, 2018).

However, prior to late 2015, the BC government always made at least five years of cheque issue dates available on its web site, as shown by the Wayback Machine internet archive. (If you follow the above link you may have to scroll down to see the actual cheque schedules.) I’ve included the last available five year schedule of the cheque dates below for anyone who is conducting research in this area:

Income Assistance and Disability Assistance Cheque Issue Dates

2015 Schedule
For the month of     ->     Cheque issue date
January 2015     ->     December 17, 2014
February 2015     ->     January 21, 2015
March 2015     ->      February 18, 2015
April 2015      ->      March 25, 2015
May 2015      ->      April 22, 2015
June 2015      ->      May 27, 2015
July 2015      ->      June 24, 2015
August 2015      ->      July 29, 2015
September 2015      ->      August 26, 2015
October 2015      ->      September 23, 2015
November 2015      ->      October 21, 2015
December 2015      ->      November 18, 2015
January 2016      ->      December 16, 2015

2014 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2014      ->      December 18, 2013
February 2014      ->      January 22, 2014
March 2014      ->      February 26, 2014
April 2014      ->      March 26, 2014
May 2014      ->      April 23, 2014
June 2014      ->      May 28, 2014
July 2014      ->      June 25, 2014
August 2014      ->      July 23, 2014
September 2014      ->      August 27, 2014
October 2014      ->      September 24, 2014
November 2014      ->      October 22, 2014
December 2014      ->      November 19, 2014
January 2015      ->      December 17, 2014

2013 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2013      ->      December 19, 2012
February 2013      ->      January 23, 2013
March 2013      ->      February 20, 2013
April 2013      ->      March 20, 2013
May 2013      ->      April 24, 2013
June 2013      ->      May 22, 2013
July 2013      ->      June 26, 2013
August 2013      ->      July 24, 2013
September 2013      ->      August 28, 2013
October 2013      ->      September 25, 2013
November 2013      ->      October 23, 2013
December 2013      ->      November 20, 2013
January 2014      ->      December 18, 2013

2012 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2012      ->      December 21, 2011
February 2012      ->      January 25, 2012
March 2012      ->      February 22, 2012
April 2012      ->      March 21, 2012
May 2012      ->      April 25, 2012
June 2012      ->      May 23, 2012
July 2012      ->      June 27, 2012
August 2012      ->      July 25, 2012
September 2012      ->      August 29, 2012
October 2012      ->      September 26, 2012
November 2012      ->      October 24, 2012
December 2012      ->      November 21, 2012
January 2013      ->      December 19, 2012

2011 Schedule
For the month of      ->      Cheque issue date
January 2011      ->      December 15, 2010
February 2011      ->      January 19, 2011
March 2011      ->      February 16, 2011
April 2011      ->      March 23, 2011
May 2011      ->      April 20, 2011
June 2011      ->      May 18, 2011
July 2011      ->      June 22, 2011
August 2011      ->      July 27, 2011
September 2011      ->      August 24, 2011
October 2011     ->      September 21, 2011
November 2011      ->      October 26, 2011
December 2011      ->      November 23, 2011
January 2012      ->      December 21, 2011

2010 Schedule
For the month of Cheque issue date
January 2010      ->      December 16, 2009
February 2010      ->      January 20, 2010
March 2010      ->      February 17, 2010
April 2010      ->      March 24, 2010
May 2010      ->      April 21, 2010
June 2010      ->      May 19, 2010
July 2010      ->      June 23, 2010
August 2010      ->      July 21, 2010
September 2010      ->      August 25, 2010
October 2010      ->      September 22, 2010
November 2010      ->      October 27, 2010
December 2010      ->      November 24, 2010
January 2011      ->      December 15, 2010

Having five years of welfare cheque dates makes it a lot easier for researchers who are interested in tracking overdose deaths, police calls for service, medical emergencies, hospital admissions and so on.  However, despite my request for “all records associated with the change to public notification of cheque issue dates for the current year when prior to 2015, government made the past 5+ years of cheque issue dates available on its website,” no positive results came back when I got the Freedom of Information results. And so it appears there are no records whatsoever that document the decision of the previous provincial government to reduce the list of publicly available cheque dates from five years to only one year. This, in turn, limited the ability of researchers to analyze the potential harms of “cheque day.”

IIO BC announces plan to release concluded IIO files back to the police departments they are tasked with investigating

Imagine you are falsely suspected of having committed a criminal offence at your workplace. A law enforcement agency diligently looks into the matter for six months (or longer).  During this time a shadow hangs over your professional reputation. At the conclusion of the investigation, you are cleared of any wrongdoing. But then, for “training purposes” and “self-improvement,” the constable decides to give your employer a copy of the police investigation.

It sounds like a lawsuit in the making, doesn’t it? Yet this is what the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia is now promising to do:

Surrey – The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO) today announces that it accepts the jury’s recommendations in the B.C. Coroner Service’s inquest into the officer-involved shooting death of Phuong Na (Tony) Du in Vancouver, on November 22, 2014.

The first recommendation is that the IIO should automatically release its files to the involved police service agency at the conclusion of the IIO investigation. This will help the police agency determine whether any of its existing practices, procedures, or policies should be changed or improved.

The IIO’s Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald is committed to releasing IIO investigative files to the appropriate agency at the conclusion of each matter, subject to potential privacy and other related issues.

The word trust gets thrown around a lot these days. But I do wonder if this new approach has the potential to undermine public trust in the IIO BC:

  1. What is the likelihood that some witnesses will refuse to talk to the IIO, knowing that the IIO investigation is going to be handed over to the police?
  2. Will a police officer still be candid and honest in an interview with the IIO, knowing that his boss is going to get a copy of the IIO’s investigation?
  3. How does the IIO ever hope to pursue criminal charges in old cases that develop fresh evidence, when they have already handed their investigative materials over to the police agency they were investigating?
  4. Who actually gets a copy of the IIO BC investigation? The police board? The police chief?  Professional standards?  The subject officer’s direct supervisor?  The subject officer? The witness officers?
  5. What kind of obligations does this place on the receiving police agency? Once the IIO investigation is handed over to the police agency, will they be subject to FIPPA requests? What about the discovery of documents in civil lawsuits? What about McNeil disclosure?
  6. Why is the IIO planning to reveal its investigative techniques to the police agencies that it investigates?
  7. Why does the IIO believe it is ok to criminally investigate someone for their actions and then hand a copy of the investigation to their employer?
  8. Given the above, will police agencies have the option of refusing to accept delivery of investigative files from the IIO?

This is new territory. Perhaps there is a way to make it work. Stay tuned for further developments.

An open letter to Marci Ien about racial profiling

This is an open letter to CTV’s award-winning broadcaster and talkshow host Marci Ien. It was written in response to her misleading claim that she was racially profiled by police. I’m not the author. It was posted to Craigslist Toronto yesterday and signed by Richard Huggins. This document is the first I’ve seen that truly conveys how much hurt and damage has been caused by Ms. Ien’s allegations.  Here is an excerpt:

Dear Marci Ien,

As a police officer who is mixed with Caribbean and European ancestry I’m curious to know what your opinion is on a “person of colour” (as you put it), who is also a police officer. Reading your account of what I considered to be a routine and frankly quite boring traffic stop (though having a door open on a car I was approaching may cause my heart to skip a beat); I was baffled as to how you were able to build this up into an issue of racism.

I was born in Toronto, and though life has pulled me away, my family still lives in Toronto and it will always be home. You’ve mentioned the “Black Community”, and I’m curious to know who exactly that community consists of. Does it include people with mixed ancestries? Blacks who are police officers? Is your Black community restricted to the confines of the Greater Toronto Area, or does it stretch coast to coast? If it includes all of these, I would like to know what your thoughts are on the many police officers “of colour” working in our diverse police agencies across the country. I can assure you, you do not speak for us, nor do you have the right to imply that you represent us. Police officers aside, I have spoken with many other people of colour who share the belief that you do not speak for them. So please stop. openmind_heather_mallick

I’m concerned about the possible damage your story has had on the youth and new immigrants to our country (who may be fleeing violence from police in their own countries), if your opinionated story is read as fact. Your position as a well-known journalist seems to have allowed your opinion to be taken as fact by many people. Your recent article presents a story through only one lens, and that is one of racism. As you are a journalist in this country I would argue you have a greater responsibility to present facts from multiple lenses. But perhaps journalism has changed in this country and it’s no longer required to thoroughly investigate a situation. Don’t get me wrong you are able to express your opinion, but as a journalist your delivery can play a crucial role on how it is received (as fact or opinion).

Some people think that because someone is the loudest, they must be correct. This is simply not true and can also lead to social injustices when people are judged too early without facts being uncovered. There are several “loud” people who are simply uneducated. Yet people seem to hear them more often because of how loud they shout their opinion. If you hear an uncontested opinion long enough it begins to sound like fact.

If your only tool is a hammer, it’s likely that you will view all your problems as nails. This is similar to looking at a situation through a “racism lens”. If you’re looking at a situation from the belief that it is stemmed by racism, then the result will be that you connect all your experiences in that situation to racism.

If you choose to educate yourself on policing in this country you’d find that the racism problem, which is so loudly spoken of, is not what you think. I’m hoping that this letter gives you, or anyone else who feels like reading it, a better understanding of your interaction.

Based on your article, it is clear to me that you are not educated on the roles and actions of police officers. This does not mean you yourself are not educated, but that your experience in situations like these is minimal or has been misunderstood because of the lens you are viewing it through. I don’t blame you for your lack of education in situations like these. I think many people have similar fears and misunderstandings around police operations. I know I did before I was a police officer. It came from a lack of education. Perhaps nobody is to blame for this or perhaps everyone is to blame. One could argue that our society takes minimal efforts to educate people on interacting with police. Others could argue that there is nothing stopping individuals from educating themselves on specific topics. I think it’s a mixture of both.

When I was briefly a School Liaison Officer, I developed a short program to deliver to high school students. I explained the various roles police had in a Canadian society and ways to interact with police so that the interaction was smooth for both parties. It was no surprise to me that a lot of the misconceptions students had around police came from movies, television shows and American news agencies. I can not stress enough that most movies and television shows depict an inaccurate account of policing.

We also do not have the same culture as the United States, but students would often quote American terminology or American stories for recent examples of police conflict. Again, it’s hard to fault the students for these beliefs. When lacking experience, many people seem to resort to what they’ve seen on television, when forming their beliefs. If we’re flooding our brains with Hollywood movies or the problems of another culture, it’s easy to get confused.

I would like to give some insight as to what may be going through a police officer’s head. Remember I cannot speak for all police officers. Each police officer is different with their own experiences, styles, strengths and weaknesses, but this may help with a broader view.

The most dangerous situation for a police officer to be in is while conducting a traffic stop. Most police calls involve someone giving the officers information on what they’re being called to, and who’s involved. This is often not the case for a traffic stop. Most of the time the license plates will match the vehicle and the driver will have a valid driver’s license and are able to provide their correct information (Routine Stop). However there are times when none of these add up and the officer is in danger. The officer does not know the stop is routine for certain until the interaction is finished.

Let’s look at your interaction…

Please follow this link to view the remainder of Richard Huggins’ letter. It is worth reading every word. One can only hope that Shree Paradkar, Heather Mallick, Scott Laurie and others who have condoned Ms. Ien’s attention-seeking behaviour will take the time to do so.

Was Marci Ien wearing her seatbelt when she ran a flashing red light?

Discussion continues about CTV journalist Marci Ien. She got pulled over for running a flashing red light near a school. She responded with an opinion piece in the Globe & Mail that accused the Toronto Police Service of racial profiling. Her essay painted police across Canada as racist, although she has since admitted that she’s a lousy driver:

“So I’m a bad driver, does that mean I should be profiled?” she said. “I was scared in my driveway … and that’s okay because I’m a bad driver?”

One point she made in her original essay was, “That I have lived in the neighbourhood for 13 years didn’t matter.”  Marci seemed to be suggesting less traffic enforcement for neighbourhood residents, especially if they have lived there a long time. And yet this contradicts the interview she did for Canada AM on August 7, 2008:

IEN: You travelled the world, talking to driving experts, traffic engineers. What surprised you most?

VANDERBILT: Oh jeez, everything. But the one thing that sticks with me is that most of us think we’re better than average drivers. If you do surveys, 90 percent of people will say “I’m a better than average driver”, which is mathematically impossible. And there’s just so much we don’t know about driving. We take it for granted that it’s very easy, but it’s just one of the most complex things we do.

IEN: You know, here are some of the things I found interesting. Most car accidents happen close to home. Usually the day is sunny, bright, one of those days that you wouldn’t think that an accident would happen.

VANDERBILT: Exactly. And some of that is because that’s just the most driving we do. We do most of our driving close to home. Most days are actually clear, and we drive more during the day.

But there’s another thing going on there that I think has been called “risk compensation”: we think it’s safe so we kind of let our guard down a little bit.

IEN: That’s right.

VANDERBILT: And studies have even shown that we pay less attention to traffic signs in our own neighbourhood then when we’re in a new place. So, we become a little bit too familiar, I think.

IEN: It makes sense, we’re cautious as we drive through new places. And how many of us really start to take off our seatbelts before we even drive into our driveway?

VANDERBILT: Exactly.

IEN: That kind of thing. Most people are killed legally crossing at crosswalks. More so than jaywalking. I was surprised by that.

Racial profiling: Does Marci Ien at CTV News have any credibility?

Marci Ien recently wrote an essay in the Globe & Mail, claiming she had been racially profiled during a traffic stop by the Toronto Police. Her key allegations are:

  • It was Sunday evening and she was driving home
  • A police officer pulled her over just as she arrived at her house
  • She got out of her car to approach the officer and ask what he was doing
  • He told her to get back in her car (twice)
  • The officer approached her vehicle and she opened her door
  • He told her to close the door and roll down the window
  • The police officer told her she was being recorded
  • The police officer told her she had rolled through a flashing red light
  • The officer went back to his cruiser with her driver’s license & registration
  • She felt powerless and frustrated
  • When the officer returned he gave her a warning
  • She demanded he take specific enforcement action: “If I’ve done something wrong give me the ticket. I’m prepared to pay it.”
  • She told him this was the third time she had been pulled over in eight months
  • She attempted to engage him in conversation about racial profiling
  • The police officer politely bid her goodnight and left.

What Marci fails to disclose is that she has a history of manipulative behaviour, road rage, poor driving, speeding and getting pulled over. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Marci Ien. It was published by the Globe & Mail on December 29, 2005:

Ien confesses she likes speed sometimes. She has been stopped by police a few times, but nailed only once. Her secret: “I flash them a smile. I don’t know if it’s the Marci Ien thing, but it’s like, ‘Did you know you were going . . .?’ Yes, I did. I won’t do it again. ‘Okay, that’s fine.’

“My husband always makes fun of me because he goes, ‘I can’t get away with that. Guys don’t get away with that!’ But women, you know, sometimes you have to do what you have to do,” she says, flashing her trademark pearly whites.

After Blaize was born, Ien temporarily adopted a new driving style.

“I was travelling with my little girl and she was in her car seat and I was coming out of a strip mall and waiting to make a left turn. There was a car behind me and I was being extra cautious. I had a newborn in the car. Traffic was heavy and I was probably waiting a good two minutes.

“The person behind me started to get upset, thinking I should have gone a long time ago so they started to honk. I was so upset. I literally turned off the ignition, holding the keys in a rage, I went up to her and then told her off. ” ‘I have a newborn in the car so I’m being a little extra cautious, if you don’t mind!’ ” she says, the tone of her voice escalating. “The poor woman looked so scared. And then she said to me, ‘I’m so sorry, of course you should.’ And then said, ‘Aren’t you Marci Ien? I watch you every morning.’

“It was awful. I was so upset. It was really embarrassing,”

Marci was 36 years old when this interview was published. Old enough to know better. She is now 48 years old. As an award-winning journalist with CTV News, Marci Ien wields a national megaphone. This week she used that megaphone to make serious accusations of racial profiling against the Toronto Police Service.

There is a credibility gap between her claims in the Globe & Mail this week, and the insights she provided into her temperament and behaviour in the same newspaper twelve years ago. The woman who accosted another driver in a rage is now surprised that a police officer, witnessing similar behaviour, would direct her back into her vehicle. The woman who boasted about speeding now claims she doesn’t understand why she keeps getting pulled over.  The journalist who bragged about using her looks to get out of traffic tickets now claims that not getting a ticket is a sign of racism.

I feel awful for the Toronto police officer who has been victimized by her attention-seeking behaviour.

UPDATE – Toronto Police Staff Superintendent Mario Di Tommaso has now publicly contradicted Marci Ien’s misleading claims:

Note: The opinions expressed on this blog are my own, and do not represent the views of my employer or any other organization.