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Posts tagged ‘Lisa Helps’

Frank Elsner, Lisa Helps and Barb Desjardins

On August 24, 2015 at 9:30 am, Frank Elsner was scheduled to testify at the BC Human Rights Tribunal in the matter of Bratzer v. Victoria Police Department. I was the complainant.  I had alleged eight instances of discrimination by my employer, all based on the protected ground of political belief.

Frank Elsner’s testimony was not voluntary on his part. I had obtained an “Order to Attend” from the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Central to Elsner’s testimony would have been questions from me about the acceptable boundaries of conduct by a police officer, including social media use.

I also wanted to know why he never modified or withdrew a restrictive set of orders issued by the previous police chief. These orders significantly curtailed my ability to use social media including Twitter. They also limited other off-duty activities such as publicly speaking about the need to reform cannabis laws in Canada. Finally, I wanted to ask him what the police board had done, if anything, to investigate my complaints of discrimination at VicPD.

On August 17, 2015, the human rights hearing began.

On August 19, 2015, Mayor Lisa Helps and Mayor Barb Desjardins learned about the Twitter exchanges and concerns that Elsner may have had an inappropriate relationship with the wife of one of his subordinates. (The source for this date is Chief Elsner’s own petition that he filed with the BC Supreme Court.)

On August 21, the two mayors notified the Police Complaints Commissioner via their lawyer and they asked to proceed with an internal discipline investigation. It appears that their intent was to proceed with a confidential investigation conducted by a lawyer (presumably with client-solicitor privilege) rather than an external public trust investigation.

On August 23, a new testimony date of August 27 at the human rights hearing was confirmed for Frank Elsner by the lawyer for VicPD.

August 28, 2015 was the last day in which new evidence was heard at the human rights hearing. In the end I decided not to call Chief Elsner to testify. Not knowing what had happened behind closed doors, instead I made the difficult choice to place a higher priority on other witnesses.

On September 8, 2015, one day before closing arguments in the human rights hearing, the Police Complaints Commissioner agreed to a less formal, internal discipline investigation of Elsner’s conduct. This decision was based, in part, on discussion Chief Elsner had that same day with the husband under his command. We now know that Chief Elsner deliberately misled this officer, as noted by Retired Judge Carol Baird Ellan in her finding of discreditable conduct:

The husband left the meeting under a false impression as to the nature of the conduct that was the subject of the investigation, and then informed the co-chairs, based on that, that he did not want an investigation. The investigation proceeded internally, in part because of the position taken by the husband.

On September 9, 2015, closing arguments were heard by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

I can say with certainty that had there been no coverup, and had Elsner instead been suspended pending an external public trust investigation, it would have led to a more truthful and just hearing at the BCHRT. It would have changed the questions I asked of witnesses, some of whom were executive-level police officers at VicPD. I certainly would have required Chief Elsner to testify. And it would have strengthened and clarified my closing argument. One can imagine how difficult it would have been for the Department lawyer to justify why my off-duty use of Twitter needed to be restricted or prohibited, had the chief constable himself been suspended at that time regarding allegations about his own use of Twitter.

Ultimately, five of the eight allegations were upheld by the BC Human Rights Tribunal, resulting in the largest “injury to dignity” award for political belief discrimination in Canadian history.

Fast forward several years. I still do not know whether the police board ever assigned someone to investigate my concerns of discrimination when the complaint was first filed back in early 2013. (If an investigator was assigned, they certainly never contacted me for an interview or to ask clarifying questions.) And to this day, neither Mayor Lisa Helps, Mayor Barb Desjardins or any other member of the police board has ever spoken to me about the discrimination that I endured.

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


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 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.”