Tag: Regina City Council

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.

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.