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Posts from the ‘Victoria’ Category

CHEK News – Insensitive and Gratuitous

Most journalists work in their profession for noble reasons. Most of them intend to do the right thing. But sometimes – just like some police officers – they become jaded and numb to what they see on a regular basis. Media outlets are uniquely positioned in terms of their ability to inform millions of people. A gratuitous and insensitive decision by a journalist can lead to more grief and trauma, and foster a more cynical society.

The following has been submitted to the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council in relation to a CHEK News segment that was broadcast on September 11, 2017:

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

I am writing to express my concern and disappointment regarding the decision by CHEK News to broadcast security camera footage of a fatal motorcycle collision.

The news clip even included a close up / enhanced replay showing [graphic description of collision removed].

The clip was broadcast on the 5pm news. No viewer advisory was shown before the clip. The clip currently remains on the CHEK News web site: [link removed]

Following the CHEK News broadcast, the police department investigating the collision took the rare and unusual step of publicly criticizing CHEK News by posting the following message on Twitter:

@Saanich Police: “Can’t believe you obtained the video & then aired the death of someone on your newscast. Insensitive to the #yyj family, friends & coworkers”

I wish to echo the concerns expressed by the Saanich Police Department.  It is one thing to show the aftermath of a collision, it is another matter entirely to broadcast the serious injury or death of a motorcyclist on the air.

I note that in a decision released earlier this year, the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council determined that a violent sci-fi show should be broadcast at 9pm instead of 8pm. The CBSC also determined that the show required viewer advisories. I would respectfully suggest that the same criteria – at a minimum – should apply to a community television station that wishes to broadcast the death of a real person who lived in that very same community.

I believe that CHEK News violated the following provisions of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Violence Code (1993):

6.1 Broadcasters shall use appropriate editorial judgment in the reporting of, and the pictorial representation of violence, aggression or destruction within their news and public affairs programming.

6.2 Caution shall be used in the selection of, and repetition of, video which depicts violence.

6.3 Broadcasters shall advise viewers in advance of showing scenes of extra-ordinary violence, or graphic reporting on delicate subject matter such as sexual assault or court action related to sexual crimes, particularly during afternoon or early evening newscasts and updates when children could be viewing.

Please note that I am submitting this complaint as a concerned citizen. These are my own personal views and they do not represent the official views of any organization or employer.

Thank you,

David Bratzer

Open Letter to the Mayor of Victoria

I saw this in the newspaper yesterday. It’s an open letter to the Mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps, from a group of almost fifty residents of Lower Burnside-Gorge. Please note that I didn’t write this and I’m not involved with this group. The letter was published as a paid advertisement in the Times-Colonist:

Open Letter to the Mayor of Victoria

OPEN LETTER TO THE MAYOR OF VICTORIA

From a collective of 49 Lower Burnside-Gorge Residents

Submitted to the Mayor on June 12th, 2017

Dear Mayor Lisa Helps:

Victoria is growing fast, and with that growth comes homelessness, despair and higher on-the-street drug use. In response, Rock Bay Landing, the Super 8, the facility on Queens, the Tally Ho, et cetera – within the Lower Burnside-Gorge area – have been re-purposed to deal with the homelessness problem. Is it the city’s intent to tacitly agree to have the Lower Burnside-Gorge area serve as a de facto ghetto in order to insulate other neighbourhoods from issues that arise from this homelessness – similar to what has happened in Vancouver with the notorious Downtown Eastside? If not, then now is the time to take action.

With the concentration of facilities to house the homeless building up around the Lower Burnside-Gorge, a ghetto-scenario is being created. Investors are unlikely to choose to invest in this neighbourhood if such a ghetto-scenario occurs. The Douglas Corridor will miss out on condos as envisioned in the new Neighbourhood Plan and the creation of a vibrant core of restaurants, retail and grocery stores will be curtailed.

If the city does not believe that the Lower Burnside-Gorge is becoming the de facto concentration area for homelessness, poverty, open-air drug trade, mental illness, sex work and ultimately, crime, then we ask that the city’s planning department conduct a mapping exercise showing the capacity and location of all facilities being developed to address homelessness. We would like to see the data for ourselves, to determine if an even distribution is being deployed.

BC Housing indicated at a public meeting that they are cognizant of the saturation point of social housing in a community. So we ask: when will the Lower Burnside-Gorge be at this point of saturation? We believe Lower Burnside-Gorge has already reached this point.

The operations of Rock Bay Landing by the Cool Aid Society clearly shows that such social housing, if inadequately managed or used over capacity, overflows onto the streets surrounding the facility causing disruptions and leaving behind garbage and used needles.

The Portland Hotel Society (PHS) has shown that a facility can be managed well and so far the Super 8 has not had the high number of incidents seen elsewhere. That being said, the PHS was announced to the public through the Times Colonist and – without any public consultation, was renovated and occupied. It currently does not have the proper zoning and it is operating in violation of the zoning bylaw. Only after it was well established did the residents get a briefing at a community meeting on its progress. At this meeting the residents asked for regular community meetings to get updates. At the update meeting we heard that BC housing is suggesting that the former liquor store at the Super 8 be turned into a shelter.

BC Housing has now made known to the public through the Times Colonist that the Tally Ho is going to be a housing facility operated by the Cool Aid Society. Cool Aid does not have a very good reputation of managing facilities and if past history is any indication, it is likely that this social housing project will cause problems for neighbours. Many residents have made lifetime investments only to see the city put the drug and homeless problem directly into the centre of the community without consultation or input. Rock Bay Shelter, PHS’s Douglas Community, Cool Aid’s Tally Ho and the Queen Street facility are all within a few blocks of each other and unless proper planning is done, residential streets and back alleys will become travel corridors and injection sites creating a security nightmare for residents.

We need the backend of the Tally-Ho to be blocked off, forcing traffic to enter and exit through Douglas Street. If not the back alley directly across from the Tally Ho will become an ad-hoc injection site for the facility’s resident “guests”… both wanted and unwanted. The fastest point between the Rock Bay Shelter and the Tally Ho will be through the residential community if a barrier is not created behind the Tally Ho. Residents MUST have input into the development of the Tally Ho before any permits are issued and before it is renovated and occupied.

The city’s consultation record for the Lower Burnside-Gorge has been bleak. For example our park was taken to build the Rock Bay Shelter with ‘fait accompli’ consultation.

It is our expectation that the city responds to the questions directly and implicitly stated in this letter, namely:

  1. What steps is the city taking to stop the Lower Burnside-Gorge area from turning into a de facto ghetto?
  2. Will the city’s planning department conduct a mapping exercise showing the capacity and location of all facilities being developed to address homelessness within the city and make this data publicly available?
  3. When will the Lower Burnside-Gorge be at a point of saturation, where the city will stop further social housing developments?
  4. How is the city addressing overcapacity, garbage and overflow onto the streets surrounding the Rock Bay shelter?
  5. Why does the city allow a facility to move forward without proper zoning?
  6. Will the city allow approve another shelter if BC Housing requests to have the former liquor store at the Super 8 turned into a shelter?
  7. Will the city force the Cool Aid Society to consult with the neighbourhood on how the backend of the Tally-Ho will be designed before the project can move forward?

Yours truly,

Residents of the Lower Burnside-Gorge

Don’t donate property in the City of Victoria

Reeson Park is a mess. Every night, the park is filled with a mixture of vagabonds and criminals, activists and agitators.  Every morning, scarce police resources are expended to ensure the tents come down. Tensions with neighbours are rising.

This public disorder can be traced to the dissolution of the Provincial Capital Commission by the BC Liberal government. Say what you will about the PCC, but they had clear signage prohibiting anyone from being in the park at night. Let alone tents.

This latest disaster reminds us of the words of the Honourable Mr. Justice R. D. Wilson.  In Provincial Capital Commission v. Johnston et al, 2005 BCSC 1397, he wrote:

[14] If I understand the speakers correctly, the notion of “tent cities” has entered the lexicon of social discourse. It is a phenomenon for political lobbying.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Look at the February 2014 media release from the BC government:

The four inner harbour properties given to the City are key to inner harbour revitalization and advancing a planned 5 km harbour pathway from Rock Bay to Ogden Point.

Three years has passed since this press release came out. Is this what the provincial government intended when it transferred Reeson Park to the City of Victoria? Is this what “revitalization” looks like?

The status quo dishonours the memory of Gordon Reeson, a person who built hundreds of rental units within the City of Victoria. Here are excerpts from his obituary in the November 17, 2002 edition of the Times-Colonist newspaper:

Gordon Stanley Reeson, a major figure in Victoria’s development industry in the 1960s and 1970s, has died in Arizona.

Born in Winnipeg in 1923, Reeson was a developer in Regina before moving to the West Coast in the 1960s.

His friend, former mayor Peter Pollen, said Reeson retired here from the Prairies, but within three months was busy again with building projects.

With partner Harvey Pinch, he built Fernwood Manor on Begbie Street with 210 apartments. On opening day in the late 1960s, it was the largest apartment building on Vancouver Island.

They put up other major rental projects in city neighbourhoods, including some in James Bay.

Pollen described him as a quiet businessman with tremendous drive who stayed out of the political backrooms and got things done.

 *snip*

Reeson was part of a generation of developers in Victoria’s building boom in those decades, said Denford, who was also starting to put up apartments then.

“They were on a much bigger scale than me,” Denford said.

Reeson is remembered here for Reeson Park, a half-acre on the Victoria waterfront at the bottom of Yates Street. Pollen and Reeson bought the property and donated it for a park in 1980.

 *snip*

I avoided quoting too much of the article as a nod to fair use. But the parts I snipped reflected well on Mr. Reeson’s character. He was generous.  His colleagues and employees liked him. He helped build this city.

The bottom line? Reeson Park is a pocket park in the heart of Victoria. It should have been excluded from the Victoria’s overnight camping bylaw on the same day the property was transferred.  To me it’s a no-brainer. And until that happens, I’m adding a new rule:

  1. Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria.
  2. Don’t donate property in the City of Victoria.

Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria

Mayor Lisa Helps and Councillor Chris Coleman are putting the following motion before the Committee of the Whole on April 6th. It’s Item #16 on the agenda:

Recommendation: That Council amend the Streets and Traffic Bylaw to add Section 84(3) as follows: Section 84(3) An exemption to the provisions of this section shall occur when the CMHC vacancy rate for Victoria is at• 3% or lower. When the exemption is in place, people sleeping in their vehicles must not park their vehicles on any street for the purposes of sleeping before 7pm and must not remain parked on any street for the purposes of sleeping after 7am.

Want to know what this will look like?  Take all the derelict boats from the Gorge waterway, multiply by 100 and put them in Fairfield, Rockland, James Bay, North Park, Oaklands, Vic West and downtown. In a city still healing from the crime and violence of tent city, it is incredible that a proposal would be put forward to enable camping on Burdett Avenue and other city streets. These campers will be even closer to houses and apartment buildings than tent city.

What are the dangers? Disposal of human feces, for starters. Noise complaints. Fire hazards (open flame) from candles and portable stoves. Vehicle engines left running all night. Use of loud generators in residential neighbourhoods. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Consumption of alcohol and drugs inside cars. Care and control of a vehicle while impaired. Drug trafficking in and around vehicles. Fatal drug overdoses.  Hoarders and other people with serious mental health problems living inside cars. Car cities – the new “tent city” – popping up throughout Victoria. CarBnB. Extra wake-ups for bylaw and police. A national incentive for every predatory criminal with a vehicle to travel here.  Those are a few concerns off the top of my head. But none of these issues are mentioned in the report from Mayor Helps and Councillor Coleman.

The proposal is based on a Facebook poll with eight responses.  Look at the response from “male 05”:

Oh yeah- my buddy [name removed] was sleeping in his truck-camper (the carry-along kind in the box of the truck), in the parking lot of [name removed] after hosting the Thursday night jam they have there. He was woken up by the cops at 1am as well and told that he had to move along- difficult to do when you’ve been hosting a jam for free beer essentially. He had to go into the hotel lobby with the cops to confirm that he had been working there, and that they knew he was sleeping in the parking lot and were ok with it. He was informed by the cops that if they found him there again he would be ticketed and possibly towed for ‘drinking and driving’ Again, in spite of the fact that the hotel was ok with him being there

Taking this third-hand account at face value, a drunk musician parked overnight on private property.  Police used discretion, issued a warning, and did not investigate him for care and control of a vehicle while impaired by alcohol. Is this truly a good reason to allow anyone to live in cars on public streets?

This proposal reinforces the uncertainty that has been felt by residents and businesses for a long time. No one in Victoria knows what will happen to the streets, parks and schools in their neighbourhoods. It is completely unpredictable.  Not just on a five year timeline, or a one year timeline, but even on a month-to-month basis.

And this is why I always say to anyone who asks: “Don’t buy property in the City of Victoria.”

Seeking pro bono legal assistance

For several years now, I have been experiencing significant problems at work regarding my off-duty volunteer advocacy with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). I tried to resolve these problems in a number of ways but I was not successful in these efforts. Unfortunately, the situation became so bad that I felt I had no choice but to submit a complaint to the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The complaint alleges discrimination in the area of employment on the ground of political belief, contrary to Section 13 of the BC Human Rights Code.

Yesterday, the BCHRT released its first decision about the case. It is a preliminary decision, focused on the issue of timeliness. The decision itself can be read here. The Vancouver Sun also has a writeup.  Because this matter is before the Tribunal, I will refrain from commenting publicly on the actual details of my complaint. The BCHRT is a quasi-judicial body and it is really important for me to respect the legal process underway.

I am seeking pro bono legal assistance. If you have experience in BC human rights law, and you feel the principles raised in this case are important, please contact me. I am not necessarily looking for someone to take over the whole case as that would be a huge commitment. That said, there are a couple of specific areas where I could use some help as the case moves forward.

A big “thank you” to the friends, family and colleagues who are supporting me during a very difficult time in my life. I am also grateful for past and current support from LEAP, Stop the Violence BC and the BC Civil Liberties Association.