Friday, November 26, 2010

Tracy Bonds

I just finished watching video obtained by The Ottawa Citizen showing the manhandling of Tracy Bonds, the 27-year-old woman arrested in 2008 for 'public intoxication.' According to police, they stopped her for having an open bottle of alcohol, although that bottle has never been produced. After running her name through the computer and finding nothing, they told her to keep walking home. When Ms. Bonds, a black woman who perhaps suspected racial profiling, asked why she had been stopped in the first place, they arrested her for public intoxication.

The videotapes given to The Ottawa Citizen speak for themselves, showing her being physically abused by the booking officers at the station, and speak volumes about the way Canadians can be treated when they dare to question the powers that be.

While watching the videos, I couldn't help but think of the myriad instances of police abusing their powers during this past summer's G20 summit, and the fact that despite the plethora of evidence of police wrong-doing, the SIU recently concluded that there was no way to charge the offending officers, as they refused, as is their right, to speak to the SIU. In ways I don't understand, invoking their rights somehow has given them immunity from any prosecution.

Dalton McGuinty, while he stayed strangely silent and was, in my view, complicit in the G20 Charter rights violations, has ventured forth to comment on the Tracy Bonds case. Perhaps recognizing a political opportunity, he is on record as saying:

“I think I would ask . . . our police to remember (that) this is somebody’s daughter, this is somebody’s sister. For all they know this might have been somebody’s mother,” McGuinty said.

The Premier acknowledged that an incident like this “shakes our confidence” in police and added it is incumbent upon the provincial Attorney General’s office to review the case, including the conduct of the crown attorney in the case.

A shame he was hardly as forthright about the massive police wrongdoing at the Toronto Summit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Michael Ignatief's Problems

The Globe and Mail's online edition (the only one I will henceforth have access to, given my termination of our subscription) today has an article by Bruce Anderson entitled 'Michael Ignatief faces daunting enthusiasm gap' offering a variety of reasons that the Liberal leader has failed to 'catch fire' with perspective voters. In my humble view, none of them fully explains his failure as leader.

As I have written before, I am convinced that Ignatief's failure to convey any semblance of integrity, given his repeated practice of ensuring an insufficient number of Liberals in the House of Commons when key votes occur, votes with the potential of bringing down the Harper Government, are at the core of the Liberal Party's problems. I am of the view that, even worse than contending with a government whose views and policies may run counter to one's core values, is contending with a political party that ultimately stands for nothing but the acquisition of power for its own sake.

Even though the electorate may at times be befuddled, apathetic, even misguided, I am certain that they can spot insincerity and hypocrisy very adeptly, qualities that the Liberal leader has displayed in abundance since his ascension to the leadership.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We've Finally Cut the Cord

It is with some sadness that I announce the termination of our subscription to The Globe and Mail, a paper that we have subscribed to continuously since our return to Ontario in 1988. Prior to that, in the 70's my wife was a Globe reader.

This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, since we wanted to give every chance to the 'new and improved' Globe. Unfortunately, our vision of a good paper sharply diverges from John Stackhouse's, in that it has become obvious to us that the paper is trying to ensure its long-term viability by appealing to a younger and more politically conservative demographic. The most recent inkling of the latter came with the dismissal of long-time columnist Rick Salutin, who had a unique and original perspective on the people and events that make the news. With his dismissal came the elevation of Neil Reynolds, whose libertarian views seem tiresomely repetitive and predictable - he clearly lacks the wide-ranging intellect of Mr. Salutin.

In terms of the Arts and the Life section, the fact that most of the topics are of little interest to my wife and me seems to confirm the shift to a younger demographic. Personally, I think the Globe's strategy is a mistake, given that it is we baby boomers who have the most disposable income. It also ignores the fact that young people today tend to get most of their news from the Internet in general and social media in particular.

On a final note, I think we also recognize that as we get older, we inevitably have less and less influence on the world around us. That is, I suppose, the natural progression of things, and while I hardly begrudge younger generations the opportunity to exert their own influence on things, I wish, in the case of the new Globe and Mail, a better balance had been struck.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Changes at the Hamilton Market

One the one hand, I am reluctant to use this blog to address a local as opposed to a provincial or national issue. On the other hand, however, it is generally accepted that local government is the level that most directly affects citizens and should, at least in theory, be the most responsive to citizens' concerns. With that in mind, here is a piece I recently wrote on changes about to be implemented at the farmers' market in Hamilton, Ontario:

Much spirited discussion has taken place recently over the changes to be unveiled early in the new year at the Hamilton Market. Anna Bradford, the city’s director of culture, has been quoted in The Hamilton Spectator as wanting to 'change the dynamic' of the venerable institution in order to appeal to those seeking 'a trendy shopping experience', asserting that the marker needs to attract young families and hip urbanites in order to survive.

The consequence of that vision is the imminent ejection of many long-term stallholders because, owing to space constraints in this 'improved' facility, the number of stalls will be reduced from 172 to 146.

I find myself wondering if the bureaucrats setting this new direction have ever spent any time at the facility. If they had, I doubt that this rush to make it a more 'upscale', 'trendy' and 'hip' place to attract a new and improved clientele would hold much currency.

The notion of the market place spans thousands of years. The Greek agora, for example, was a place of assembly where people from various walks of life exchanged ideas and made purchases from a variety of stall holders, a community hub for a society that valued true democracy.

The Hamilton Market, an institution dating back to the 19th century, has, until now, held hard to that ideal. Thinking back to my own childhood, I remember an open-air facility where produce was in abundance but amenities were not. Little shelter was offered in inclement weather. A multitude of languages were spoken. And the people came.

It was a time when interactions with both the crowds and the vendors were key parts of the market experience. The destination functioned as a kind of social equalizer, a place where people from all walks of life and social stature, from the recent immigrant to the store merchant to the captain of industry, mingled within an environment where such distinctions were at least temporarily suspended. It was and up till now has been a world both dynamic and animated, much as I imagine the agora of long ago was.

Today, we come from outside the city every week for that experience, plus the opportunity to buy products that are not readily available elsewhere, from the fine apples of a local grower to the range of organic produce available at Dilly's, whose winter tomatoes rival those of summer but, unfortunately, will no longer be available because the vendor somehow failed to qualify for a place in the revamped facility.

In my view, most people who patronize markets are seeking neither an aesthetic nor an antiseptic experience. Nonetheless, I fear that is exactly what is in store for them thanks to the vision of bureaucrats that acknowledges neither the history of the Hamilton Market nor the special place it holds in the hearts of its long-time patrons. It will be everyone's loss.