Tag: City of Regina

His Civil Worship

Another native German Heinrich, Heinrich Böll, a great writer, and I became friends even though we had once been corporals in opposing armies. I asked him once what he believed to be the basic flaw in the character of Germans, and he replied “obedience.” When I consider the ghastly orders obeyed by underlings of Columbus, or of Aztec priests supervising human sacrifices, or of senile Chinese bureaucrats wishing to silence unarmed, peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square only three years ago as I write, I have to wonder if obedience isn’t the basic flaw in most of humankind.

-Vonnegut, Sucker’s Portfolio, Episode Seven – The Last Tasmanian, p132

Hey Michael, I’m sorry that I spray painted your campaign sign in 2012. I mean, you still won. Twice even! I was young, angry. Now I’m slightly less young, still angry, but know better than to spray paint things on property that doesn’t belong to me, because I know you believe in the concept of property.

But, really, man, (I can call you man, right? We’re cool?) people who don’t believe in civil disobedience? They’re usually evil. Like dictator evil. Like Stalin evil. Either that, or they are so blinded by privilege that they couldn’t possibly understand that laws aren’t always fair. (I won’t get into the fact that laws themselves are made to uphold privilege for people who hold positions of power, like say, Mayor. We’ll get there in our relationship someday.)

And I don’t think you’re evil. Not yet, anyway.

But please don’t let my minor experimentation in vandalism sour you from civil disobedience altogether! It can be a fun act of friendship and community! Like setting up tents and having a fake campfire and making signs asking for donuts outside of the INAC building to try and help end a little thing called ‘genocide’ in Canada. Sure, Colonialism No More wasn’t illegal, but it didn’t stop your political counterparts from trying to come up with ways to make it so. I know you believe in the marvels of bureaucracy, but sometimes breaking the rules is the only way to get things done.

Civil disobedience is important. It can help people who have less rights, thanks to the laws passed in the Henry Baker Hall, to gain rights. You wouldn’t go as far to say that the segregation laws that Rosa Parks helped end for Blacks in America is illegitimate because she did it in an unlawful way, would you? Wait, so, you strictly opposed even the faintest suggestion that Regina Police Service might have issues with discrimination and racism? Well, then, maybe you wouldn’t like Rosa Parks.

I understand that as the Chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, you worry about people breaking the law. Because if regular citizens started breaking the law to stop injustice, then people like Constable Powers wouldn’t be able to break the law and get away with it too, and then, really, no one would be safe.

In a recent speech, Sylvia McAdam (you may have heard of her, but then again, maybe not), said to look up the legal connotations of the word ‘acquiescence‘. I’d heard the word before, but didn’t know what it meant.

Wikipedia: In law, acquiescence occurs when a person knowingly stands by without raising any objection to the infringement of their rights, while someone else unknowingly and without malice aforethought makes a claim on their rights.

In Sylvia’s case, sometimes ‘raising objection‘ means to actually lay on the road next to her land to stop forestry companies from logging and destroying the place where her people are buried. Because sometimes the lawmakers won’t listen, because the laws are made for the loggers. And if she didn’t stand up for her land rights, they would become someone elses’. If the place where your family was buried, or where your family played golf, or where your family played drums, was going to get torn up and ripped down, would you lay down in the road and stop them, or would you just write a letter to the Mayor?

Mr. Mayor, sometimes laws aren’t right, because sometimes (tough pill to swallow) lawmakers aren’t perfect. And sometimes, even with the aid of dollar-store posterboard and a megaphone right outside of your office on the 23rd (or whatever the hell) floor, you still can’t hear people.

So to say that you disagree with civil disobedience, means that you disagree with all the things that civil disobedience has accomplished. And if that’s the case, I worry for the state of our city, specifically for those who don’t benefit from the laws that you feel are so damn just.

Please reconsider.

Good People

I sat cross-legged in the cushioned armchair, scratching paint off my water bottle in the cozy, warmly coloured, obviously intentionally non-institutional office of my psychologist/psychotherapist/whatever.

Isn’t it enough to just be a good person and treat people well? she asked after a near hour-long discussion of how far one needs to go to make the world less of a festering shit hole, with me grinding myself into a hole trying to figure out how to do so.

I thought it over. I pictured the tax-paying, maybe church-going, home-owning, child-rearing city councillor who occasionally shovels his neighbour’s sidewalk and might even give a few bucks in December to one of the organizations that sent Christmas mail-outs. His kids are in hockey. He loves his spouse.

No, I said. That’s a cop out. 

I wondered what she thought—-that I was attacking her personally—-or if she was clinically breaking down my obvious guilt that stems from years in conservative religion, my fear that comes from the insecurity issues of being the youngest child, my anger from decades of not expressing myself in healthy mediums, and my depression which is induced by the daily watching of my friends dying while my other friends are not even able to give a shit. She was likely doing neither, she is significantly smarter than I.

Because of constant deconstruction of social programs, the development of neighbourhoods that are exclusive in nature, and the importance financial-driven success, being a good person means keeping to one’s self. It means not being an evil person. Not being a murderer, rapist, tax-evader, alcoholic, street worker. Not beating your children or spouse. Not pouring toxic waste into a animal rescue facility. Not bothering your neighbour. Being a good person, by the standards of our colonial, patriarchal society, means staying in line. The fact that my day job exists entirely to remind people of their worth, that they aren’t bad people for needing a shot of morphine everyday by noon, that they aren’t bad people if they fall off the wagon, that they aren’t bad people for being on welfare, that they aren’t bad people for having a culture that precedes the current—-the fact that this day job even exists, shows that good people, in today’s standards, are those with privilege.

I drank a sip from my water bottle, an action steeped in anxiety, done to make me look more natural. After a near hour of discussing my rage, my mind became blurry. By the time we got around to ways I can improve upon myself, I didn’t have the energy to comprehend new ideas. I pretended to take another sip of water from the empty bottle and nodded along with my psychological professional.

Being a good person and treating people well wouldn’t be a cop out if it meant something else. If it means more than smiling in public and not using racial slurs, then it may be enough. Enough to make changes that matter, to staunch the wounds that pour blood into the alleys. But until it does, until the characteristics of being a ‘good person’ include understanding and standing up for those our system have methodically destroyed, being a good person is not enough.

It’s not the fault of the good people that they are good people under the current model of good. We have been gutted and replaced with slop from the machine of individualistic, selfish commercialism. Our jobs don’t allow us the time to give a shit. In order to stay sane, we bask in the glory of our beautiful families and don’t look out the window to the family being kicked to the curb by a police officer, because we legitimately don’t have time, because the Mayor has stricken that topic from discussion in council, because if we do, we’ll get depressed. Good people everywhere don’t know how to participate in a change they want to make, so they rely on posting on internet, or they don’t do anything. I am that kind of good person.

Tonight as I watched city council directly shut down citizen concerns, bully them by calling requests of accountability disrespectful, and promote gun violence as seen on their favourite television shows, I watched a room full of good people fighting for their definition of good. The uninformed relied on tokenism, touching stories, and fear tactics to justify their definition of good, that is, to justify the increase in funding for the organization that protects their privilege. The informed stood up and defended their idea of good, that is, they were willing to understand and stand up for the good people outside of the room who have been trampled by the uninformed, power-protecting policies of racial profiling and bad-person profiling. Everyone was working for their own idea of good. Some of them were just unfortunately, painfully, and dangerously uninformed. I left city hall with a renewed interest in changing our current definition of what makes a good person. How we go about doing that has never been my strength.

I left the psychologist’s office $160 poorer, one-hour later, one vague understanding of fear and guilt, with one empty water bottle. I’m going to have to book another appointment. Or two.


Roof-Ready Regina: Let’s Try One More Time

If you missed it last time, I will be presenting at City Council again this Monday, June 10. Below is what I will say to a a group of dead-eyed politicians. If you want to know more I enjoy discussing the topic, that is, if you enjoy buying me supper or beer. Or even otherwise, I guess.

It is evident that housing is a priority for city council. The Mayor’s Housing Summit was the necessary first step in presenting new ideas to include in conversations between government and the private and non-profit sectors. Now the conversations begin.

The City of Regina has come up with plans to improve the rental market housing issue in Regina. Positive steps such as ‘capital incentives which focus on larger projects with a minimum unit number for eligibility for private developers, with no minimum for non-profits,’ (page 19, Appendix A, Comprehensive Housing Strategy Implementation Plan) have been taken. The lack of rental market housing is an evident problem in our city, however the City of Regina does not adequately address rental housing, in that truly affordable rental housing is not given priority. Properly addressing homelessness on a municipal level would include taking the aforementioned plan of capital incentives on larger projects one step further, and requiring developers to include affordable rental housing in medium and large projects as well, as has been done in Montreal. This is a municipal initiative that ensures an adequate percentage of affordable rental housing is produced. Instead of offering incentives to developers, who will build regardless in such times of prosperity, we must take advantage of these times to ensure that affordable rental housing is a part of the plan, thus ensuring that those who need help the most get it.

Offering incentives to developers for truly affordable housing makes sense. However, offering incentives to developers based on the Plan’s current definition, that is, “at or below market rates”, is not an immediate cure for the lack of affordable housing in the city. The “trickle-down” effect, best-case scenario, would take years to properly represent what CMHC would consider affordable rental housing, that is, “the cost of adequate shelter not exceeding 30% of a person’s income.” Affordable housing is a necessary tool in the transitionary Housing First model, which is briefly mentioned in the Implementation Plan of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy (page 65, Appendix A, Comprehensive Housing Strategy Implementation Plan), and recommended by several presenters at the Housing Summit. Other cities have taken multi-year pledges to eliminate homelessness on a municipal level, taking the lead by advocating strongly to the provincial and federal governments, as well as implementing strategies similar to those that have been previously shared through the Roof-Ready Regina Document, and other community-based initiatives. With the current Implementation Strategy the City of Regina is taking steps to improve the rental housing market, but is effectively doing nothing to eliminate homelessness.

Please, as you move forward with the Implementation Plan of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy, consider the importance of affordable housing in a healthy community and economy, and take every possible step a municipal government can to address these issues. Homelessness is not just a provincial or federal issue. If homelessness is to be ended, municipal governments must also take significant steps. Let us use what we learned from our counterparts in Calgary and Vancouver and take a proactive step in ending homelessness, starting with a proper plan to include affordable housing.

Nothing Worse

“Nothing worse than not getting enough sleep, eh?” The bearded bus driver said in response to his sidekick, the exact moment I stepped on the bus. He looked a lot like Kenny Rogers. It seems that more than half of the bus drivers in Regina have a co-pilot that accompanies them on those long, cold, lonely morning drives, like they had enough to fill a conversation for more than ten minutes straight. Nothing worse, I wondered? Nothing you can think of could be worse than getting five hours of sleep in your pillow-top mattress in your heated home beside your wife who also resembles Kenny Rogers? Congratulations, my commute-directing friend, you have officially reached enlightenment.

My second stint at university lasted no more than one three-hour class. You drop out once, you’re a drop out forever, they seemed to want to tell me.

The night before, I was stressing out about textbooks. About the prices, and if it was really necessary to buy a ninety-dollar textbook for a Creative Writing class, and in arrogant fashion, I decided that it was not. In my previous English class I didn’t even open my textbook, and this class was even more open than English 100. But through the advice of a friend, I decided that if I was going to do it, I might as well do it right. Study and learn as much as I can, and to think not that I am greater than the class or the textbook or the students. But it was too late. The next day my negativity from the night before cancelled out any chance I had of learning and practicing the trade. Karma got me and I couldn’t say I blamed it.

So for ten minutes after learning that I was no longer able to take a single class, I reacted as if there was nothing worse in the world than getting fucked over by a university. Nothing worse than not getting enough sleep? Yeah right, Kenny Rogers is a dickhead. I kicked at the dry snow, careful not to slip and find out that something worse would be a broken coccyx. I put on loud music and walked the pathway back home wishing that I could say that my dreams were crushed, and that I would never write a book now, and that I wanted to cry, thanks to being twelve hours late to a deadline that I didn’t know existed (apparently one must apply to school before registering, and the professor’s consent means little more than me saying that I have an Arts Degree). Spitting and fuming I looked up from my feet and saw a man, skinny, and not at all like the Kenny Rogers bus driver, riding his bicycle in the snow with a wide grin on his face. Behind his large glasses his eyes instantly suggested that although I may never become a famous playwright, or may never get formal training on how to hook a reader with well-developed characters, or may never know exactly what the verb ‘to workshop’ means, that I will be fine and likely able to ride a bicycle through to old age. And for that possibility I am grateful.

There is nothing worse than being the person that thinks there is nothing worse, when there is in fact a catalogue of things that could be much worse.