Saturday, August 6, 2022

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg in 2022 Part 7


Let's be clear from the start: Assaulting the police chief is unacceptable. If this was a protest, it was poorly thought out. Regardless, it was an attack and it seems inevitable that charges will go to court unless a mental health assessment determines otherwise. No matter what your thoughts on the police are, physically assaulting an officer is a crime. Danny Smyth should have been able to attend Folklorama as part of outreach. For many new people to Canada, the one consistent time to meet local, provincial and national officials is at cultural festivals. Is the goal to make sure that elected officials and public officials are only reached once they have been strip searched outside the fortress walls?

A civil discussion of police policy, labour issues, oversight, budgets, use of force and core services does not include a water fight or worse. Neither the police or citizens of the city should be forget this and resort to violence against each other.

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On another matter, the province took it on the chin in a legal decision of money from federal transfers to kids in foster care being redirected to the provincial treasury. Both the NDP and Tories did this and $334 million for kids was stolen from them. Pallister tried to create protection from courts for what his government did. It didn't work. The Stefanson government won't appeal but they don't seem to be in a rush to refund the money either. Thieves. And a good example of what happens sometimes when the Feds transfer money to the province for something. Pallister used it for a tax and service cut. Kids' money. Shame.

An example of how kids who need safety and security were robbed of it is foster care by NDP and Tories.

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The removal of Arlen Dumas from the leadership of Assembly of Manitoba Chief is quite a change from past times. The previous brush with this should have been a warning to do better. In the case of the executive, it was. For the leader, not so much. A third party investigation gave a clear assessment and the executive made a clear decision. AMC is not the only indigenous group that will need to do better. And they did a sight better than political parties who have also clammed up about harassment, violence and bullying. Historic wrongs should be confronted and reconciled. In a lot of cases, past behaviours do not reflect the person as they are today. However, some past offences are so egregious that they can't be ignored and legal and other recourse are needed. The thing that can and should be learned from AMC is the expectation that an organization can ignore continued bad behaviour is not happening. It will explode in their faces. Ask Hockey Canada what they have learned paying millions to protect rapists.

 As a general rule of thumb, try to be respectful. Everyone makes mistakes but if you think no one will make you own up to them, those days are over. Insincere efforts do better will earn you loss of job and maybe jail time.

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Lastly, the child on child crime this week with 13 years robbing and assaulting another 13 year old makes the heart sag. 

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So far in previous parts I have listed things the city and the province can do to help reduce crime and increase safety. That still leaves the federal government. Their contribution of Statistics Canada numbers on crime are a valuable tool that puts pressures on nearly everyone to focus on what is going wrong but also on what is going right. For example the latest numbers for Winnipeg indicate violent crime is up which comes as no surprise and property crime, traffic crime and other crimes are down. We'll look at those numbers a bit later.

Unlike the United States, homicide is solely in the domain of the federal government government. It isn't a state by state thing in Canada. The justice and punishment for this crime rests with the federal government. If the crime rises to a degree where the punishment is two years and over, most end up in Manitoba's Stony Mountain Institution. The inmates call it Murder Mountain. It is one of the oldest prisons in Canada. In 2014, an expansion of 96 cells for a maximum security wing made it a minimum/medium/maximum security prison. Statistics reveal that around 70% of inmates at Stony Mountain are indigenous. Gang warfare is rife and deaths there make the prison series Oz look like a resort. 

In terms of what the federal government does to help with crime and safety issues, here are some areas to look at.

- Reform the RCMP. Constables are being killed for lack of training, poor equipment and failed  management. While the present Commissioner is a woman, it has not been a good place for women for far too long. Harassment and assault can't be every day part of the job. We can no longer have 60 open RCMP jobs in Manitoba. While this hurts the north and rural municipalities a lot, never forget that RCMP Divisional HQ is in Winnipeg. It also took Winnipeg Police and RCMP working together to make arrests in the catalytic converter thefts. It was a city and country crime. It is up to federal government to deliver the best RCMP we can get for policing in Canada.

- Winnipeg and many other areas of North America are experiencing theft of catalytic converters for their valuable metals. The federal government should mandate all new car parts, especially the converters come with a VIN number. It is more effective for the Feds to work with car ad parts manufacturers to do this. Given how many cars in other parts of the country are stolen and shipped overseas, it would be helpful to be able to track them and immobilize them before they get aboard a ship. Confiscate a few ships as proceeds of crime and they will do a lot more to end this organized crime. Federal legislation could end the trade in stolen parts along with provincial regulations and good policing. When cars were being stolen all over North America, it took many approaches to deal with that. It is no different now.

- Housing. The government of Canada has a lot to say about housing through CMHC but their focus has been often on suburban housing that has been increasingly getting higher in price. The older population and housing stock requires new thinking. More affordable options, amenities and density with a focus on security is something the Feds can help with. Homelessness has been in entrenched because governments makes no allowance for single room occupancy or ultra low income residents. Think how many World War II vets, newcomers to the country, single or separated people have used small apartments as a lifesaver. We need Single Room Occupancy (SRO) and tiny houses and places with services to see people move off the streets.

- Safe to say that the past government of Stephen Harper would have never changed cannabis rules in Canada. Never. Conservatives might decry Trudeau then and now but a change in government will not reverse that change the Liberal government made. And why? The reason is legalizing cannabis and allowing provinces to regulate and tax it was safer than prohibition. Today's stores, warehouses, banking, distribution and growing of cannabis have been removed from the control of organized crime. Just like alcohol. While liquor stores were being ravaged by organized shoplifting swarms, cannabis stores operated with ID at door and product behind further locked doors with government oversight everywhere. In other words, well equipped for today's crime reduction world. Further movement on other drugs should be looked at. If not legalization, then decriminalization of small amounts and move things to a healthcare focus and let police concentrate on trafficking of large amounts across territorial borders. Prisons do not stop addiction or reduce criminal behaviour on drugs. Regulation and taxation do.

- Parole. There will always be controversy on this but a parole board, parole officers and supports as well as transparency will continue to be required to ensure low risk to offend are released with monitoring and high risk offenders remain in place. Prisons are expensive places to keep people who society might have better options for.

- Hate laws and freedom of speech. This is primarily a federal area and within our Constitution. The rise in Jewish, Asian and Muslim hate crime has to be taken seriously. Attacking historic and cared for Jewish cemeteries and a beloved Asian store in Winnipeg is heartbreaking. The Jewish population of the city are our friends and neighbours. The Asian community has deep and caring roots and the Muslim community are a growing and diverse people living in peace. Whatever the world conflict, Winnipeg is where many people live together under pluralism. Feel free to express your opinion but if it comes with incitement to hatred, violence and terror know that order will be restored.

- Indigenous People. The Treaties are federal, the responsibility is federal but as provinces have learned, it is also their responsibility for all citizens in their jurisdiction to be cared for. The courts keep ruling in that area as we have seen with the foster care money decision. If you steal money from meant for children, it hurts the children. Stop using for tax cuts that a child doesn't need. There have been a few deals and settlements made which should see new business for First Nations and Metis. Here in Winnipeg, it will probably mean development begins in places like Kapyong and money paid to the city for same rate they world earn as taxes. From the public's perspective, it will probably look very much the same as any commercial/residential development. To make real world change, it is going to require more partnerships, higher education and economic growth to break the grinding poverty and true reconciliation can begin.

- Rural and northern crime. How to stop urban crime is to remember criminals commute. Drugs go back and forth, stolen parts and violent  offenders. The RCMP have said they will taskforce up and go after repeat offenders on an ad hoc basis. This means executing warrants, doing compliance checks and not putting up with individuals who will break the law till someone dies. Better to catch them violating the law than giving free passes. The police often know who the bad actors are. This ain't the good ol' boys. Safety will go up and crime will go down if the Feds give the RCMP and Band Constables the ability to act and deescalate offenders before they harm others.

- Cybercrime. Often now we are harmed by criminals outside our own areas. The federal government is best equipped for this as the crime can and has been about national security attacks by rogue nations that not only involves police but national defence.

- Canada is consistently rated in the top ten for safety among 163 countries according to the Global Peace Index. Other factors figure in the global rating but they point out that Canada has one third the crime rate of the U.S. which shows different government structure have significant differences even with similar cultural backgrounds. There may be a decline this year with the presence of the trucker convoy because that comes under political stability. Even now the convoy continues along Trans-Canada this week and at the Legislative grounds which seems to have a permanent presence on it of protest. Freedom of speech is our right. Overthrowing government is not by force. Use you word and your vote.

- Income supports. Make no mistake: Things like CPP, OAS, baby bonus checks and other supports can contribute to not losing your house, or child, or heath and keeps people safer and more secure. Prison is not the answer for poverty. Homelessness won't go away if homes are unaffordable. Crime won't go down if there is a permanent supply of dispossessed. 

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I have outlined a number of different ways the three levels of government can help with safety and bring crime down. Not all of them cost money. Many cost nothing except change of zoning, scheduling and reassigning staff. For councillors it might be answering your phones to be alerted to a back alley deteriorating in every way.

I'm not a politician, police officer, lawyer, healthcare provider or social worker. Those and others are tough jobs. They all have likely insight on what it is like out there. If anyone is listening. Journalists as well and the various media have an important role too but I'm no closer to knowing who to vote for in the city election. Candidates provide few details and media has not quite given me the profiles and policies to base a decision on. I have begun listening to podcasts but crave a website to compare and contrast.

I don't use any real social media except for business accounts. The pandemic, my parents suffering and passing away, a car collision where my car was written off and I was hurt, my own battle with being sick...twice in 2020 and having to go to hospital started off with a punch in the face leaving work. To add insult to injury, had to make a police reports of theft and fraud, bullet holes in the entrance to my place, break ins and so forth. I tried to stay in good spirits but I was scared to go out. 

In 2019, I was pretty fearless. Cautious but not worried. I was working very late nights at Jazz Fest, Country Fest, movie sets, galas all over downtown, through the city for one of businesses. All the while working my other business and assisting my parents in fixing and emptying their old home while helping them adjust to assisted living.

With all my businesses shut down, I got over my fear by walking the streets of the city. I love this town and posted pictures of my travels good and bad. I walked entire length of Portage Avenue. Both ways. All of Pembina. All of Main, every street of downtown. I needed it because my parents were in ICU with Covid 100 days with no visits. And I couldn't be scared.

Social media among friends is fine but has grown to be a fight in the larger world. It is a mistake to believe the majority of people on say, Twitter, represent the world view on any issue. Those on it can push a trend and can enjoy the engagement but I learned more walking in every part of Winnipeg to be fair. And as restrictions have lifted (I still wear my mask a lot and four times vaxxed), I am doing my part to get out there, stay positive, run a new business and serves thousands doing it. 

Ultimately, to make this city become safer and reduce crime we all defiantly have to inform people, create a community that looks out for each so we call live, work, get educated and seek recreation and not be scared.

In next and last part, I will describe what ordinary people can do to help make their community safer and reduce crime.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg in 2022 Part 6

From the provincial ledger, much can be done that is beyond the city to do. The levers of courts, social work, healthcare and oversight of policing is all at a provincial level. Housing and health are two main provincial responsibilities. The province has full authority here and both areas are important to a place like Winnipeg in crime and safety. The premier of Manitoba Heather Stefanson has recently weighed in on the side of the police union.


A provincial election is coming soon. Here is what might be needed for crime and safety moves, especially in Winnipeg:

- There is a strong chance that the present government will run a law and order campaign. Some of what they want to do also lies in federal jurisdiction but support for hiring more cops might be an election policy. At the moment, with 4% of RCMP jobs left unfilled in Manitoba, it should be a priority to fill them. And questions asked why those positions are unfilled.

- If additional police are hired for Winnipeg with support from province, the real question is where? Patrol cars, beat cops, major crimes, CCTV? Not even sure the police administration or the union have made a case for where they need more boots on the ground. And to be sure there will be resistance from parts of the public not happy with today's policing.

- The present government seems not to know what to do with the drug and alcohol problem. They are unsuccessfully trying to use law and order measures without doing enough on the health and addictions part of the equation. There was an attempt during the pandemic to do more on mental health and that is progress. But everyone seems to push addiction on the streets which contributes to a growing number of people without housing. Safety and crime follow. More resources from the province on addictions and treatments along with support housing are needed. Restoration of single resident occupancy is only way to end homelessness.

- It is hard to know what the policy on provincial jails is in Manitoba. By all accounts some of the youth detention centres are closing as they are underutilized. At least in southwest Manitoba, specifically the Agassiz Youth Centre in Portage la Prairie. The RCMP reported 24% decrease in overall crime. We'll see how this looks in the next year but on the face of it, the stats were in line with what was happening even before the pandemic. In the north, there was an increase across the board for crime and the province is redirecting resources there. Bad as I feel for Portage, the province is right to do so. The north is under policed and needs more court and detention attention from the province. The overall provincial jail system is a tough place overall but it is probably no where near what is happening at Murder Mountain (Stony Mountain). That federal prison might be the worst in Canada. More on that in federal section of this post. However, back to provincial side of the jail system, there is capacity to hold youth offenders in remand detention and adults in both remand and jails if they pose a threat to society. There is no excuse for some people to be released on an undertaking when they are likely to repeat offences without an intervention.

- Parole and probation services can do better. We need a provincial parole board here in Manitoba. The province leaves it to the Feds but not every inmate is in federal custody. We need better assessment and tracking. We need parole officers and probation. We need halfway houses. We need social workers, training, job placement, heath supports, addiction supports. If this sounds expensive you know what is even more expensive? Prison time.

- Provincial housing is the worst housing in Manitoba and the province is the poorest landlord. This has been true under multiple government of both the major parties of NDP and PCs. Ending homelessness and making a dent in addictions means more focus in this area. Income supports, rules on major housing complexes having a variety of house sizes, ending renovictions and renovating older housing stock are all needed. Safety comes from people having a place of their own and crime reduction comes from support in jobs, training and basic needs.

- The perception of safety comes in part from action of the Crown Prosecutor. In Manitoba, the Crown provide no feedback about why they don't pursue charges. No comment. And in recent years have dropped cases and even seemed to undermine their cases. Other provinces do things differently and are more forthcoming and transparent about briefing the public. Transparency about the justice system is essential in terms of crime and safety. It is hard not to think we have not been let down by this office far too many times.
-In terms of crime and safety, mental health and addiction services or that lack of can beget both safety and crime issues. If someone asks for help and can't get it in a timely way or not at all, it is not surprising to see poor outcomes. Much more is needed in the area of health. The provinces have asked for more federal financing in health but they have cut service and taxes when given more funding. A lack of trust prevents serious work being done. The provinces want no strings money. It is pretty brazen especially since they will still blame federal government for failure even as they re-allocate the money elsewhere including checks to citizens. This needs to stop and measurable improvements health recorded or funding should be clawed back.

- Reconciliation. The province under Pallister had a combative relationship with indigenous people and went to court in various fights and lost on several fronts. There has been an improvement in tone from Stefanson but still a long way to go on substance. Manitoba has the worst record on apprehending children and First Nations and Metis have paid the steepest price. The broken families continues a cycle of safety and crime as kids age of out of care and have no supports as they are jettisoned onto the streets. This has to stop or the suffering continues. Putting kids in hotels as past governments have done or in poorly funded, culturally removed and improperly vetted foster care all contribute to a lack of safety for kids and families. Does the government truly want children to bounce around foster care till they end up homeless, mentally defeated, addicted and victims of or perpetrators of crime? Do better.

- The Forks is not just a city park or a national park. It is even fully a park. It is a multi-purpose space for the entire community. The province is one of three partners there. Yet another attack has taken place there. And no, it isn't because media is focused on it. It is because it is happening with such regularity that it is impossible to ignore.  What is the province to do? The latest firearm charges were released on an undertaking of a promise to appear. The province needs to clamp down on failure to appear and the various writs, warrants and subpoenas need enforcement to stop the revolving door. Want to prevent some murders? Stop letting people out and then letting the crime spree continue. And for those who get out, monitor and provide support. As for The Forks, the duty of the province to take care of it can't be brushed off. They own it and should act like it.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg in 2022 Part 5

The problems cannot be solved by running around in police cars responding though with no plan, no training and no objective measurement. Not to mention creating bottlenecks in remand, court dates, provincial and federal prisons, parole, mental health assessments, halfway houses and social work. It is so slow turning the policy ship around. Sadly, one of the least powerful of the government bodies in making change is municipal governments. A mayor and council lack sufficient legal, budgetary and regulatory resources to do the work asked of them. But they can do something. On the local side, the police are a powerful tool but can be a blunt one. As we near a city election, here is what some politicians should commit to.

- Daily in-person police briefings carried out on city website and social media. If crime is a crisis then treat it like one and keep the public informed seven days a week. The question of whether enough information about attacks on women on public trails last year still stings. This includes news releases and briefings.

- Commit to bodycams for police and a policy for their release in investigations and for public transparency. Likewise, all patrol cars should be equipped as well. For those that say cameras have no effect on anything, they are wrong. Be prompt about release. Nothing is more corrosive than holding back footage or editing it to dissemble to the public.

- Support a CCTV camera program. Ensure that a consultation phase takes place, that it applies to public places where there may be a pressing need, have rules in place on privacy, have signage to indicate public security and who is watching and how long data is retained. Independent audit and evaluation.

- More police on the beat.  The patrol car responding to crimes as they happen or after they happen will always be required. But true prevention is probably only going to occur with a cop who knows every business in his area, knows the kids, knows the schools and builds trust and by his mere presence is able to prevent things from happening.

- More community patrols and supports for them. Bear Clan Patrol and other community patrols are needed and wanted. They should have community offices to store patrol equipment such as flashlights, communications, orange vests, water, first aid kits, disposals for sharps. It is very hard to commit crimes when 10 to 30 people in orange vests walk down the street. Moreover, it is a lot easier to accept help when a group like this comes by to offer food or water.

- Hire more crime analysts. Good data means more safety, security and policing. Today's property crime is not just pawn shops but social media platforms where stolen good are sold. Crimes taking place on the Internet require expertise there. Breaking encryption, GPS tracking, analyzing numbers in where, when, what and how crimes are taking place can determining the who and why of crime. For example: if a whole bunch of crimes take place with bear spray, the analysts find out how this crime takes place. Where is it coming from? This can lead to who.

- Safety audits to determine parts of city that could use more police presence, better lighting, mirrors, panic buttons, safety walks or any other assistance.

- Safety also means looking for fire hazards, needles and neglect that can lead to crime or safety issues. Not every matter a city deals with is a police issue. Illegal dumping, fire threats and buildings left to rot all lie within city domain. Not the province or the feds.

- Lastly, zoning. Single room occupancy used to support 1,000 people in Winnipeg. The city zoned it out, drove it out and now we have 1,500 homeless people. An aggressive plan to approve SRO needs to take place. Much like the cannabis industry, it is better to legalize, zone and regulate. The closure of all the downtown Main Street hotels has led to rampant homelessness. While the hotels are never coming back, the housing lost needs to be replaced. There are some fine examples of former hotels converted to SRO along Main. If we had 30 more hotels converted like the Occidental, the burden on homelessness would be far less. 

It might seem overwhelming but the city has to get away from the crisis of police and fire rushing all over the city in war mode with sirens blazing. If it is truly a war then every city employee should be out on the streets emptying out garbage, taking control of boarded up houses and buildings, cleaning up needles, assisting every single person in a transit shelter to get housing this year. Right now. Not later. See above on SRO. That is how a crisis is handled. Treat it like forest fire and act like in an emergency if that is what gets the job done. 

A reporter recently said that candidates in the election were making promises that had no basis in reality because they were never fully costed or assessed as being possible. In fairness, many on council don't even get good budget numbers as they seem reserved only for the mayor and executive policy committee. How decisions get made sometimes doesn't even get to the mayor's office. 

Still, the above should be achievable through zoning and management of fire and police. The city doesn't have to build thousands of units of housing on their own. It can come through zoning. Extraordinary spending is not needed. Just stop driving the lowest cost of housing to extinction thinking you are cleaning up the city. This power lies within the city and with council to do this.

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg 2022 Part 4

 


So what will work in short term, medium term and long term to make Winnipeg safer and have less crime? In the past, short term solutions have been to look at patterns of crime and for the police to pour resources into them. In the 1990s when things were very bad, the police and fire departments set up an arson task force. It was slow to set up, took a while to get going but eventually offenders were caught and arsons went down. Likewise, a car theft task force was set and repeat car thieves were caught and it went down as those who would not stop took on longer and longer sentences.

These things don't happen in a vacuum though. Before manufactured ignition locks people in Winnipeg used steering wheel locks, got alarms and along with the police task force, car thefts went down. From a police perspective good intelligence is needed to stay vigilant. The issues of stolen goods and pawn shops in the 1970s and 1980s saw various rules and laws put in place to root out the worst fronts for organized crime. Various studies have shown that a lot of the decline in property crime from the 1990s on was the result of it being harder to steal to cars or break into buildings.

Today, valuable car parts and printable guns could use an assist from provincial and federal levels by marking them for ID or making them illegal. Inspections of metal yards to determine providence. Record keeping and the ability to track down sales and customers. And consequences for stolen goods such as forfeiture of business. If someone has catalytic converters and there is no providence of how the parts came to be at a the shop, arrests and forfeiture of business should result. Likewise, bike parts, copper and car parts at a metal shop should al be traceable. The province of Manitoba has a private members bill to put serial numbers on converters only for the government to vote it down and re-introduce it. It is an intolerable waste of time and shows a lack of urgency.

A renewed effort is needed to make it harder to steal cars, break into cars and carjack cars. Serial numbers on parts, engine immobilizers, GPS emergency tracking, automatic door locks and alarms should be standard features. Metal recyclers need video record keeping and paperwork to prove providence of material and regular police or inspector visits. This would help with copper and bike thefts as well for metal sales. The above would certainly help police. For example, a carjacked car might be able to be shut down safely and police could apprehend suspects. Or a metal shop with a whole bunch of unaccounted for catalytic converters gets shut down and breaks the chain for people who steal them not having a market to sell them.

It should not be assumed that punishment is more effective than prevention. Punishment is not needed if the crime was prevented from happening in the first place! Federal and provincial governments can certainly assist in some of the above mention measures. Better border, port and postal inspections would help. It seems our federal Public Safety Ministers have been tied up with RCMP issues for years whether it is treatment of women, poor training, and a host of other things. Of particular concern is that that the RCMP has a job vacancy rate of over 4% and Manitoba has one of the worst job placements in Canada. It can be frustrating going from one crisis to another underpowered.

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg 2022 Part 3

 

One area of crime that has hit hard these last years is property crime. You only need to have to your car, home or business struck by theft once to feel vulnerable and violated. Some people have had car windows smashed repeatedly or parts stolen, business windows smashed, break and enters and burglaries and it feels like it is endless and unsolvable. Worse, it isn't one area of town. It is everywhere. Plywood signs up all over windows and doors feel apocryphal. More on what helped reduce property crime in the past.

The pandemic, mental health issues, addictions, poverty and an indigenous community still hurting have contributed to the most recent painful period. Even before the pandemic, murder was up big time and amphetamine abuse skyrocketed leading to gang related crime, stabbings and the like. The five year data just released this week reflects that. There are some that blame the present Trudeau government for the rise in crime here. Critics are free to make that argument but their solutions if they solely lay in incarceration might not work if prison time seems more favourable than where they are now in terms of hunger, homelessness, mental health and addictions. 

A safe city is one where you live, work, get educated and seek recreation. If all four of those things are achievable in your community, it is likely to be safer and have less crime. The pandemic and the changes to work patterns for many of operating at home even now has had impacts we are still now coping with it. Some say fall of 2022 will mark a new accelerated return to work and school which will see more people on the streets of communities. Many businesses which closed may now have the customer base to re-open. Many new apartments have also been built including in the downtown area. As a general rule of thumb more people in an area and businesses open can generally create less ideal conditions for property crime or violence. It isn't a complete shield against crime but things are more likely to be reported and faster. The anonymous nature of property crime has to be taken away and that only happens when more people are out and about and report what they see.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg 2022 Part 2

The head of the police union has been calling the police chief's recent news conference an insufficient response. Criminologists and some councillors have been saying cameras and more police boots on the ground will not work. That is a pretty wide spectrum there at least in terms of policing. The spectrum widens even further for those who wish to defund the police or end policing altogether. It is worth noting that a 2020 study by the Washington Post on 60 years of data in the U.S. showed no correlation up or down for crime on per capita spending.


And Winnipeg does spend a lot. Nearly 2.000 work in policing in Winnipeg and they and emergency services are run off their feet as the city consistently has some of the most violence and crime in the nation. As a line item in the city budget, the ratio of police spending goes up every year above inflation while other spending fails to keep pace. The argument that 50 or 200 police additional officers hired can help bring crime down might not bear fruit, especially if other services are left to whither like streets and transportation and parks and recreation. 

A rising misery index could very well push a flight pattern of people outside city limits. Many police themselves live outside the city. How many? The city doesn't track but when they did, it was a lot. Consider the rules of the past where an officer had to live in his jurisdiction and be able to walk to the station if transportation was down due to storm. The police counter is that we have had mayors who live outside of the country and still are mayor. They have a point.

We see a lot of commuter workers in Winnipeg now. Heads of hospitals and Crowns who head home to B.C. and Quebec every weekend. Heads of companies, professionals, teachers and all manner of folk commute from the exurbs into the city. But what does this do for the city itself? It has a tendency to stretch out the city, hollow it out and in a lot of cases remove the very people who contribute to the health of the city overall. For example, a weekend fundraiser for a major hospital is probably going to be a more successful event if the CEO is present and not calling it in from Quebec. And even if they attend these sometime events, it is the day in and day out being present in the community that is helpful. How do you even really know the city that is paying your salary if you are not present? More to the point, why would you even care?

Crime and Safety in Winnipeg in 2022 Part 1

Crime in Winnipeg in the post pandemic period has been raising concern for many people. It would be a mistake to say it is solely media driven. Despite a news conference from Chief Danny Smyth from the Winnipeg Police Service set to reassure people, many in the city are anything but. Being randomly attacked or being a victim of crime are probably first and foremost of concern for citizens. Simply telling people they are statistically unlikely to be a victim of crime does not change the perception of safety.

One of the reasons why The Forks has generally defied perceptions that downtown is dangerous in the past is because the area is clean, looks cared for and has activities associated with tourism and recreation. The presence of a lot of people and that the area is secure has served The Forks well. The pandemic emptying out nearly all downtown and protests originating or ending up at The Forks has changed the dynamic. Instead of being an area of gathering for trade and celebration, it has become a seat of power to express dissatisfaction. 

Freedom of speech is the hallmark of our society. However, the polarized nature and confrontational style of protest has turned The Forks into a sometime hot spot. It is a kind of messy situation because unauthorized political gatherings are probably not exactly what The Forks had in mind when hosting cultural and musical events.

Why is this important? It is important because while it may not be a crime to gather to protest the government, it may make people wonder about their security. If your intent is to go for dinner at The Forks, go for a walk and browse the stores, a large and vocal government protest might seem something to avoid. The peaceful gathering of many people is what the strength of The Forks is. If people think their safety is at issue, they make different choices. It is why crime and safety blur. Perception that The Forks is safe and that crime is rare cannot only be about words but deeds. More on that later.

As for violent crime, it might be rare but it can't be ignored. The Forks is not the only place in the city experiencing it. Polo Park has had a number of incidents too. It is something that the largest shopping mall in the province has to deal with or risk looking more business to Seasons of Tuxedo. For the first time, it appears that there are no vacancies in the Tuxedo mall. Can Polo Park say the same? With one of the largest property managers in the land as owner of the mall, those that run afoul and cause a disturbance can be banned from the premises. 

Still, multiple bans still can't protect people when they are outside. Grant Park Mall is not a place one would associate with violent crime and yet a carjacking took place there in broad daylight. And then a few days later three people stabbed near the mall in a reported attempted break in. None of the victims knew their attacker. There have been a few of those lately. A stabbing took place at a Charleswood bush party same weekend as the carjacking. Those have been going on for decades and suddenly one turns into a near homicide. And the police shot someone in Osborne Village. It really does seem the summer of discontent. The randomness makes anyone say: Are we safe anywhere?

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Manitoba Esports Presents - Activate Series X

On the weekend of June 24 to June 26, the largest Esports convention in Manitoba history will be held downtown at the Radisson Hotel. Manitoba Esports Association will present Activate Series X across the entire 11th floor of the hotel. This will be the first time the organization has been able to hold any in-person events since 2019. Throughout the pandemic, online tournaments were the only way to continue operation via Twitch broadcasting.

The Canadian Championship Series will feature two teams in the finals for Valorant. It will be broadcast on Twitch and later show on Shaw Spotlight. Online media sponsorship is from Access Winnipeg so be sure to check out their contest tickets.
There will be a gaming lounge as well as a table top game area. Red Bull has a featured lounge for those wanting a drink and to watch the championship.
As always with Manitoba's big cultural festivals such as Comic Con and Aikon, the volunteers make it possible. Manitoba Esports Association is a non-profit and a lot of time and effort went into prepping for this after pandemic cancellations. Many festivals have reduced their size this year such as Folklorama because organizations are still recovering. In the case of Manitoba Esports Activate Series X, it will be the largest event they've ever done. 
Kids under the age of 12 are free with a guardian so the hope is this will be a family friendly environment. Artists, collectible and toy vendors and charities will be among the many vendors selling in the marketplace.

Parking is free on the streets after 5:30 PM and all day Sunday. On major bus routes along Portage Avenue and loading zone out front for drop offs for Activate Series X.

Access Winnipeg, proud online media sponsor will having a draw for contest tickets. Ticket' can also be bought online at manitobaesports.com as well as at the door for one day or three day passes.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Northwest Airlines Memorabilia 1989

In August of 1989, I went to live in Japan and work for the Japanese government. At the time, the Japanese Consulate was on Garry Street in Winnipeg and the Consul House was a Japanese styled house on Wellington Crescent near Kingsway.

I have detailed some of that experience elsewhere in the blog.

There were about 30 of us from Manitoba and Saskatchewan who made the trip to Japan to begin one year contracts with the Jet Program. One week orientation in Tokyo and then by planes, trains and automobiles (and a few ferries for some) to their homes where they would teach.

The flight route for the Manitoba and Saskatchewan JET participants was Winnipeg to Minneapolis for a little more than a one hour fight in business class about a 727 which was fairly noisy compared to many aircraft today. 
There was to be a layover planned for around three hours in the Twin Cities while our luggage (which was three full suitcases and carryon for everyone) was transferred to our Minneapolis-Seattle-Tokyo leg aboard one of the Northwest's new 747s. Travel was to be business-class all the way.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International is a lovely airport. It was from there first international flight within North America took place with a trip to Winnipeg in 1928. The route has never stopped since although Northwest Airlines is lost to the mists of times as is Delta Airlines now.
As business-class travellers, passengers had the private first and business-class lounge to layover at as their connecting flight was receiving baggage transfers and then passengers. The WorldClubs lounge was pretty posh and a revelation that they served alcohol at 8 AM in the morning.
Once in the WorldClubs lounge, we barely had a chance to even look around when a Northwest attendant came by and said that business class on chosen 747 flight had been double booked and that there was space on another 747 leaving within the hour in first class!

I don't think my arm shot up faster to volunteer for those seven spots. Better yet, the three hour layover was no longer in the offing for our original 747 flights. We were boarding now! Luckily, I was aboard with two new dear friends Shelly and Nicole along with four other from the Manitoba/Saskatchewan group.

I've never been first to board a plane till that time and once we were on board, it took 75 minutes to pack everyone else and their luggage in. For those of us in First Class though, the drinks and snacks began the moment we sat down.

It was a four hour flight to Seattle where we would deplane, have a two hour layover and take on more JET participants. During that Minneapolis to Seattle flight, I had a brunch of quiche to die for. And food and drink never stopped. In the landing at Seattle we noticed on the ground the Concorde which has been in Washington for some sort of airshow on July 31, the day before. It was spectacular.

In Seattle, we deplaned but left everything in the seats we were assigned as we would be back. We just had time to go to the Duty Free store to pick up some additional omiyage (gifts) for our schools of employment. Once that was picked up, we got called back again for First Class Boarding call. 

There were 14 seats in the nose of the 747-400. The curtain was pulled but we could hear additional rows of first class to row 14 followed by business and economy classes being filled behind us. There were also 22 first class seats above us in the second deck behind the cockpit. For the next hour as we enjoyed snacks and drinks. Soon we were taking off and having one long last look the Concorde on the ground and for me, my last look at North American soil for the next 18 months.

It wasn't far into our flight that the main course of in flight meal was ordered. I had the Cornish Game Hen. However, there was a lot of sharing and I ate from fellow JET program people  like Shelly and Nicole who ordered Jumbo Shrimp and Makunouchi. This was elite level chef created meals and we ate for three hours when economy was done in thirty minutes.

Sad to say but I couldn't sleep. Even with the space, I was too excited and as spacious as it was, and with more legroom and recline in the seats, best I could do was watch movies and listen to the variety of stuff on the 18 channel stations. There were no seatback TVs back then. A big projector took up the nose of the aircraft.

Around five or six hours in, I went for the first of a few walks through the plane. It widened immediately out of the nose of the plane but got considerably more crowded two aisles and stretching way back where 500 people were seated. It was quite the aircraft.

Upon return to my window seat in Row 4, I saw another Delta 747 below ands away some distance but same course. I could only assume it might have been the other originating flight from Minneapolis with the rest of the Manitoba/Saskatchewan JETS aboard. It was blue skies and very few clouds and the expansive Pacific Ocean below went on forever. The 920 kilometer speed meant we stayed just ahead of the sun. We eventually crossed the dateline and it became Monday.

At 10 hours we began out descent. From my window there has been some evidence of coastline as we approached Japan. It was still bright out but as we got lower there was evidence of streakiness and cloud. Rain. Still far off. The green of Japan was very evident and shipping activity below was more evident.

Attendants started clearing stuff away as we crossed over land and over Chiba prefecture. It was remarkable green and well ordered. Rice fields, cities and towns. Lower over Chiba till we were on final approach to Narita International Airport and their very long runway.

We had arrived August 1, 1989 Tuesday around 6 PM. As we taxied in, the sun was starting to dip and the clouds began to close in and light mists have way to spitting rain. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Dominion News Closed

In 2024 Dominion News would have been 100 years old. Alas, Covid 19 robbed it of customers over two years to the point that it just couldn't last any longer. It was an old school store with no website and totally reliant on pedestrian traffic. While people are slowly trickling back, the result for restaurant and retail business has been awful. 

The store was till the end the seller of everything from out of town newspapers to 100 different porn magazines as well as a peep show. Despite its reputation the store lasted many decades. Cigarette sales in recent years were affected by contraband tobacco and dollar store prices made it hard to compete with other products. Likewise, the legalization of cannabis meant stores that sold marijuana paraphernalia were in every neighbourhood. No need to tramp downtown when cannabis stores are on every street in the city.

Despite all travails, the store still might have survived had Covid not emptied Portage and Main. The last of the restrictions might have been dropped but workers will not fully be back for months yet. And apartments that have been going up in large numbers are only now being leased. Too hard to wait for when the pandemic has lasted two years.
Dominion News was the longest operating store downtown and survived when Woolworth's, Eaton's and The Bay all closed before. It is not known which store has the honour of longest running downtown store anymore. There are very few candidates left since Covid wreaked havoc on so many businesses. Perhaps O Calcutta on Portage Avenue which started in 1976 or Toad Hall Toys on Arthur which started in 1977. There might be others so give me a shout.
Dominion News used to have two stores on either side of Portage. Not to mention a number of mall locations over 40 years ago. The old owner ran Circus Circus pinball on north Portage Avenue but alas, most of the pinball places on Portage did not survive the expropriation of Portage Place.

The lack of a subway or train system in Winnipeg means the city has not the news stands that can be seen in places like Toronto with Gateway News. The move to digital in all things has meant people no longer need or want a print newspaper for commutes even when it is free. What they want is highspeed WIFI everywhere.  However, not too long ago, the free Metro newspapers were available, at many bus stops in news boxes and at every convenience store.

Likewise, Free Press and Sun boxes were much more prolific than they are now. In fact, at a busy intersection, it was possible to see Free Press, Sun, Globe and Mail and National Post boxes all side by side along with free newspapers. During the 1980s through 90s, USA Today boxes were in the city in many places and it was possible to buy the weekend Toronto Star at 7/11. They also had USA Today for many years at the convenience store. At McNally or Chapters, it was possible to pick up many out of town newspapers.

Surprisingly, while newspapers in print form are far harder to find in delivery, news boxes or bookstores, there remains as aisle or more of magazines in convenience, grocery and bookstores. It proves there is still a market for such material and that digital is not eliminating paper everywhere.

There are a number of empty store fronts such as where Dominion News once stood that could be an opportunity as people return to work downtown and ever growing number of apartments are built. It will be interesting to see what ends up in there and other places.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Manitoba's Response to Ukrainian Refugees

 Above, Biden addressing the G7 about response to Russian invasion of Ukraine. White House Photo

The invasion Of Ukraine by Russia continues and refugees are now fleeing across the borders to Europe. Canada has evacuated its embassy in Kyiv and moved our 200 troops out of the country. There hundreds more Canadian military forces being deployed troops to bolster the nearly 500 in Latvia as well thousands more on standby. 

Vladimir Putin seems intent on taking more than the eastern part of Ukraine and Crimea with attacks are in every part of the country. Watching women and children cross the border into Europe as their husbands, fathers and brothers are required to stay and fight is heartbreaking. Many never believed it would come to this.

Ukraine has 40 million or so people and some will not likely be able to return safely or freely to their country. Among the population are probably Canadian passport holders. Our ability to help them in a war zone will be impossible and there only hope is to flee. How long the conflict goes on is unknown but as point of reference, the battle in the east has lasted eight years.

Canada’s response seems wholly inadequate. The only thing we can is to act as a refuge as we have done many times in the past. In 2016, Canada took in 25,000 refugees from Syria with little to no problem other than making sure the supports were in place.  In the 1990s, Canada took in over 50,000 from the former Yugoslavia fleeing the conflict. From 1975 and onward ten years, Canada received 120,000 Vietnamese from refugee camps all over southeast Asia.

In 2006 when conflict flared in Lebanon, Canada began sea and airlift for thousands of the 50,000 Canadian passport holders. We can move with purpose when we have to.

And right now we have to. Refugees move faster than governments. As we enter the weekend, decisions by governments in times of crisis can’t be kicked down the road for a few days later. Canada should be a refuge for the Ukrainian people who are feeling the conflict as it closes in on them on three sides.

Canada has the largest population of Ukrainians outside of the Ukraine. If there is any nation well equipped to receive citizens from there, it is Canada. Moreover, Manitoba has one of the largest concentrations of Ukrainians of any province. We also have the capacity insofar as jobs. Despite Covid 19 or rather because of it, we have shortages of workers in many areas because immigrants are the lifeblood of the economy. Canada has led G7 in population growth while maintaining low unemployment.

There are 150 Canadian military in Poland right now to assist refugees. Canada needs to do all it can to speed up the process so that there are not camps of suffering all over Europe. Manitoba should be at the forefront of that effort.

We can do more and we should do more. Sanctions or support for Ukrainians to fight back won’t help those who are displaced now. Manitoba could really assist people presently and benefit from offering safety and jobs to those in desperate need. Maybe Manitoba end the fear and despair and bring in thousands where they can live in peace in a society that welcomes them.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

1990 Yatsugatake Jazz Festival

I attended more jazz events in Japan that at any time previous from 1989 to 1992. Jazz clubs, restaurants and festivals abounded. The Yatsugatake Jazz Festival was in the mountains on the way to Kofu in Yamanashi prefecture. Just shy of two hours outside of Tokyo by slower trains. About one hour from my place. 

The big names for jazz were reserved for the Mt. Fuji Jazz festival which I attended twice. The picnic like atmosphere of Yatsugatake was amazing and the crowd relaxed and had fun.

Friday, February 18, 2022

War in Ukraine - Refugees to Canada?

Map from the Nations Project Online. 

Canada has evacuated its embassy in Kiev and moved our 200 troops out of the country. Other countries have moved their people out as well and airlines are starting to cancel flights. Over 130,000 Russian troops are poised at the border. They already occupy Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. 

Can it be de-escalated? It seems that Vladimir Putin is the only one who can answer that. Oil and gas pipelines have Europe timid. The nuclear arsenal of the Russians have the U.S. cautious. Ukrainians are overmatched if it comes to fighting. They will resist and might mete out punishment but the numbers are so great. Ukraine stands alone against a three-sided attack. There are European countries to the west but none with cross over the border to help. Moreover, it is very likely that much of the 40 million population of Ukraine might be seeking refuge and headed west to Europe. 

How many Canadians are among the population? Not sure anyone knows. Perhaps not even government. It is only when a crisis happens that we learn just how many Canadian passport holders are out there. In 2006, when warfare was afoot in Lebanon with the usual parties, nearly 50,000 Canadian passport holders registered with the embassy and begged to be evacuated. Thousands did. Presumably, when things settled a bit, they returned. You never know though. Beirut continues to suffer from the explosion and Lebanon as beautiful as it is, struggles.

In an actual war, it will not be easy for any countries to extract their people, let alone Canada. Does a list of citizens present in Ukraine registered with the embassy been collected? And does it even matter when the embassy is closed and Canadian troops out of the country? For days Canada and other nations have warned their people to get out and get now.

Canadian passport holders might be the least of our concern. If Russia invades this week, the 40 million citizens of Ukraine will be on the move whether they are fighting or not. And the only way to go is west. And a lot of Europe is going to say: "No vacancy." No one wants to think about a refugee problem in Europe. There are already many people migrating into Europe and within Europe. 

In the 1990s, Canada took in many migrants from the Balkans as the former Yugoslavia broke up. Nearly 50,000 moved to Canada in that period. Years later, Canada took in migrants from Iraq and Syria conflicts.  Canada received 25,000 alone from Syria by 2016. In ten tears from 1975 on, Canada received 120,000 Vietnamese "boat people" migrants.

Largely, Canada has done very well by taking in those who are fleeing instability in the world. We don't always move fast though but immigration and refugees are Canada's lifeblood. In the most recent years, Canada has had the highest growth rate in the G7 due largely to immigration.

Immigrants have started businesses in Winnipeg and in the province or filled professional jobs where there was desperate need whether in manufacturing, transportation, services or health. They did not steal jobs from other Canadians. The low unemployment has remained consistent even as our population grew. Immigrants and refugees work as soon as they have a safe place to do so. 

As Russia looks to invade, we in Manitoba should be first to take in refugees from Ukraine. Rather than being caught with our fingers in our mouths, we should be taking in thousands. The tragedy is that things move so slow when people fleeing move so fast. If there is no plan for this somewhere in Canadian policy books, there should be. Heaven forbid an invasion happens on the weekend when our governments puts up the "gone fishing" sign.

We do have a new immigration task force set up in Manitoba. They should be in contact with the the federal government the moment the need arises. If, it arises. It doesn't look good. The response from Canada and the world seems not enough to stop what is coming.

People will suffer and likely die refugee in camps if we slow walk this. Where else might Ukrainians might feel comfortable to go if they can't go home? Manitoba. And all over the province, mind you. There are populations of Ukrainian Canadians spread out over the region. Amongst the refugees are people who can hit the ground running as professionals, students and contributors to our society rather than waste away in a camp with medical, driver, mechanics, academic and everything in between experience. There will be many vulnerable people that we do have the means to be supportive of in time of need.

We can do our part if need be if others can't or won't. It is unknown what will happen with Ukraine. But we should be ready and not caught off guard. This province has been a haven for many people. And it might have to be again. It is the least we can do.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Camp Manitou Manitoba 1971

This is the program guide for Camp Manitou in 1971 just outside Winnipeg. The Y and several other service groups in Manitoba started the camp in 1930. It was a partnership of Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg, Kiwanis Club of Winnipeg, Optimist Club of Winnipeg and the YMCA. In 1949, it incorporated as a non-profit charity. By 1953, the Lion's club of Winnipeg joined the group and for decades camping took place along the Assiniboine River.
In 1971, Winnipeg was not yet unified as Unicity. Camp Manitou was just across in Headingley but it was fairly rural even in the western part of St. James. By the time you arrived at the turn for Camp Manitou, it was farm country till you got close to the river. And then it gave way to river forests.

The Y ran day camps for kids and the buses travelled all over town. My stop was Carpathia Street with mom or dad taking all three of us for the pick-up and drop-off. We would walk although our family had graduated from Volkswagen Bug to Plymouth Suburban station wagon.
We went three years as we generally went camping every year till high school. I was in Odako according the age grouping. Still remember all the camp songs for bus trips and at camp.
The Y had CITs or Counsellors in Training, usually high school and university students who ran the programs. Canoeing, archery, swimming. The pool there was the coldest.

The Camp Manitou song went something like this:

High above the silvery river
Gleaming through the trees
Lies the banner of Camp Manitou
Floating in the breeze
rah, rah, rah

Here we learn to live together
Work and play and swim
Camp Manitou we will always
Learn to win!

Hey, with a beebo, with a bibo
With a beebo, bibo, bum

Johnny and the ratchup
Bigger than the ketchup
(repeat)

Rago, rago sis boom bah
Manitou, Manitou
Rah, rah, rah!

For Odako:

We are the best
We are louder than the rest
We are so glad
We'ee from Odako

Councillors are great
And the kids they really rate
We are so glad
We're from Odako

Oh, Oh Oh Dee Eh
Eh, Eh, Ay Kau Oh
Oh Dee Eh Ah Kay Oh
Oooodako!