Tag: Regina

Poem for the Camp

Three flags whip and crack 

over the Ledge like Canada Day celebrations 

or hangfire warning shots

 

It’s Deano’s 52nd 

we go to McDonalds after an hour 

deliberating where he wouldn’t get kicked out, if alone. We talk 

about Willie Nelson. He eats a BigMac, 

I finish his fries.

 

I used to come to the Ledge to rev the engine at rabbits 

padding along the asphalt

at cyclists

at things I didn’t really get

 

Deano and I talk 

about finding bikes in dumpsters. Later, alone, 

I stop at a grocery store alley

find an unopened pizza and wonder 

which of these dumpsters he might’ve been sleeping in 

the moment the trash was picked up

and the compactor closed.

 

One time with a girl

through a crack in the stairs 

I saw someone move in the Legislative basement 

like a dungeon 

keeper of secrets I had yet to learn

bigger than a limestone building

 

I sit in the cold, consider

what it would feel like to have my body valued 

like expired frozen pizza

or my blood used 

to restore the big copper dome. 

 

Toes and head numb, I add more wood to the illegal sacred fire 

and think about Willie Nelson.

 

-Regina SK, March 16, 2018

(Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp, Treaty 4)

This poem was first published in Tour Book #2.

 

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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.

Advocating for Alcohol Harm Reduction Policy in Regina, Saskatchewan

Advocating for Alcohol Harm Reduction Policy in Regina Saskatchewan
Understanding Chronic Addiction and Responsible Public Health Practices
Nicholas Olson – Housing Support Worker – Carmichael Outreach

Background

Severe alcohol dependence is common in individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Regina, Saskatchewan. For individuals who have experienced violent or psychological trauma, alcohol is often used as a way to cope with the mental and physical pain that comes when this trauma is left untreated. Aboriginal populations overrepresent those experiencing homelessness in Saskatchewan and Canada, and many of the traumas they have experienced are directly related to unstable family settings caused by the lasting effects of residential and public schools and other programs created under colonial policy. Homeless populations have a high rate of alcohol dependence and for this reason face significant barriers to stable and safe housing, and are often unable to access shelter systems. In Regina, the few housing support programs that are willing to work with individuals with severe alcohol dependence are finding that the Housing First model is not always enough to keep individuals housed, healthy, and stable. Alcohol harm reduction is the next clear step to support Regina’s most vulnerable.

What is Alcohol Harm Reduction?

Alcohol Harm Reduction aims to reduce the harms associated with the use of alcoholic substances in people that are unable or do not desire to stop (International Harm Reduction Association). Harm reduction functions under the idea that all individuals deserve the dignity and respect to be treated in a manner that best supports them as a whole person, not just as an addict, and to be treated medically in a way that is understanding, empowering, and compassionate to their specific needs as a person experiencing an alcohol addiction. For many, the traditional abstinence model is unrealistic and does not take into account the desires of the individual who may not want, or be able, to discontinue use. Alcohol Harm Reduction aims to support the individual to live a healthy life regardless of whether they intend to become abstinent. This may be done by assisting them to consume healthy forms and volumes of alcohol through different programs tailored to the individual, supporting them to be safe during and after consumption, and working with them to maintain good health and, if desired by the individual, to reduce their alcohol consumption overall.

Alcohol Treatment

The development of Alcohol Harm Reduction through a Managed Alcohol Program (MAP), Alcohol Swap Program, Beer Co-op, and/or Prescription Alcohol is the best practice in supporting the addictions of a marginalized population in Regina primarily between the ages of 30-55. Since individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness often have fixed or no incomes, beverage alcohol is unaffordable due to the high cost of controlled substances in Saskatchewan. This, coupled with the marginalization of individuals experiencing poverty, addiction, and mental health, has made beverage alcohol even more inaccessible because these individuals are often not permitted to enter establishments that sell beverage alcohol, and in many cases are unable to even access basic health and emergency services. Non-beverage alcohol (NBA) purchased in grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies including mouthwash, hand sanitizer, hairspray, and rubbing alcohol is being consumed in large quantities because of its potency and availability.

Non-beverage alcohol can be any form of alcohol that is not fit for human consumption. Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is found in beverage alcohol and is safe to consume in moderate amounts. Denatured ethanol, or alcohol denat, found in products such as mouthwash, hairspray, and some hand sanitizers, is ethanol with chemical product added to make the alcohol unfit for human consumption. The chemical additives also allow the producer to avoid the product being designated as a controlled substance. Methanol, or methyl alcohol is toxic and has caused death when consumed through hand sanitizer (CBC). Isopropyl alcohol, found in rubbing alcohol and some hand sanitizers, is toxic if ingested as well. While it is often stated that the extremely high alcohol content in non-beverage alcohol is the most toxic ingredient, with sustained use and high dosage, serious risks are present from the other toxic ingredients in each solution. Hairspray, for example, can have long term effects such as internal bleeding, kidney and liver damage, respiratory problems and death (CBC). Each receptacle of non-beverage alcohol clearly warns of the risks of consumption and strongly advises to contact poison control if consumed in any volume (Pauly 10).

Alcohol Contents and Types

Table1.1
(costs listed are based on saskliquor.com)
(approximate calculations were done at http://www.cleavebooks.co.uk/scol/ccalcoh4.htm and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice)
1 The LCBO is recalling four brands of sherry (LONDON XXX SHERRY INCLUDED) that tested positive for a potential carcinogen. “This is not like E. coli or botulism where you’re acutely affected. To be affected by something like this, you would have to consume it for a long time for many years, so there is no risk at all,” he said. “It’s very, extremely difficult for anyone to get cancer from this type of chemical, unless you’re consuming it on [a] daily basis and you’re drinking large amounts of it.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/lcbo-recalls-sherry-for-carcinogen-risk-1.619474)

Table1.2
(costs listed based on retail prices at given locations)
(approximate calculations were done at http://www.cleavebooks.co.uk/scol/ccalcoh4.htm and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice)
2 Medicinal Ingredients: Eucalyptol (Eucalyptus Clobulus-Leaf) 0.092%W/V, Menthol 0.042%W/V, Methyl Calicylate 0.060%W/V, Thymol 0,064%W/V
Notice: If more than used for rinsing is accidentally swallowed, get medical help or contact a poison control centre right away.
3 Ingredients: Aqua, Ethyl Alcohol, Denatonium Benzoate, Camphor
Notice: For External Use Only, Poison, Inflammable. If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Call a physician immediately. If patient is unconscious, give them air. Danger: Harmful or fatal if swallowed.
4 Ingredients: Alcohol denat, water (aqua), acrylates copolymer, aminomenthyl propanol, fragrance, octylacrylamide/acrylates/butylaminoethyl methacrylate copolymer, PEG-12 dimethicone, tritely citrate, hydrolyzed silk, hydrolyzed keratin. Alcohol content TBD but could be between 50-70%.
5 Medicinal Ingredient: 62% Ethyl Alcohol. Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Aqua, polysorbate 20, carbomer, aminomethyl propanol, glycerin, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E acetate), denatonium benzoate.
Warnings: For external use only, do not ingest. In case of accidental ingestion contact your physician or a Poison Control Centre.

Limiting availability of these products has proven to be an ineffective means of managing the consumption of the toxic forms of alcohol, as many or all of those accustomed to drinking non-beverage alcohol regularly travel to the suburban areas of the city to purchase from larger box stores and centres where they haven’t yet been banned. When individuals don’t have to spend their energy finding their next source of alcohol and managing their withdrawal symptoms, it allows them to begin to spend that energy on developing life skills, focusing on housing, setting goals, and working on improving their overall health.

The only responsible, healthy, and compassionate way to support those who consistently consume non-beverage alcohol is to understand that in these cases abstinence is potentially a dangerous, unhealthy, and unrealistic treatment, and that reducing the harm they are causing to themselves means assisting them with the consumption of safe forms of alcohol. This can be done with Managed Alcohol Programs where individuals are given a regulated amount of alcohol at regular intervals during the day to help them deal with withdrawal symptoms and feel normal and well, Alcohol Swap Programs where individuals not necessarily receiving comprehensive housing supports can swap out certain quantities of non-beverage alcohol for beverage alcohol, a Beer Co-op where individuals are trained in proper and safe ways to brew their own alcohol for safe consumption, and Prescription Alcohol, which like a MAP, would regulate volumes and quantities based on medical assessments and administered in similar harm reduction models such as methadone. These programs, specifically MAPs, have been implemented across Canada and the US to reduce both the harms inflicted upon alcohol-dependent individuals, and the subsequent costs upon the health and justice systems.

While other potential treatments for alcohol dependence include medications such as benzodiazepines, which include diazepam, or Valium, the lifestyle and the desires of the patient must be taken into account, and for many, discontinuing alcohol use is not desired and is not a possible solution. Using diazepam as a treatment for alcohol withdrawals does not respond to the fact that many individuals would rather not discontinue alcohol use, and even with regulated and prescribed diazepam treatment, many individuals will continue to drink different forms of alcohol when it is presented to them. This would lead to an increased risk of addiction to diazepam, and a “high risk of overdose, loss of consciousness, coma, and death.”(American Addiction Centers) Benzodiazepines are also used as a short term treatment option, with only 1-2 percent of adults continuing treatment for 12 months or longer, and carry substantially higher risks of dependence and misuse in populations with a history of substance abuse (Longo). When supporting an individual living in community, monitoring all the substances that enter the home is impossible, therefore it is best to prescribe that which reduces the most risk and harm to the individual.

The harm reduction framework aims to support individuals to make healthy choices and this begins with offering assistance in managing quantities of beverage alcohol, and accessing beverage alcohol in a cost-effective manner, while at the same time being careful not to perpetuate the stigma of using non-beverage alcohols that is often present in community supports and medical services. Many populations are stigmatized even within social circles for drinking non-beverage alcohol, and this stigma is magnified in many professional health settings. Following the harm reduction framework means focusing on the needs and desires of the individual, not reducing addictions to a moral or ethical choice, and understanding the barriers that have led to less-safe alcohol consumption. It is important that harm reduction treatments are in place and practiced by health professionals, as professional knowledge is needed to create public health policy that can be safely and confidently administered by community entities.

Understanding

Each individual receiving alcohol harm reduction support will consume a different variety, style, and amount of beverage and non-beverage alcohol each day. It is important to understand what the approximate quantities of non-beverage alcohol are to ensure that the proper volume of beverage alcohol is supplied to each individual. Having a set schedule of beverage alcohol consumption would ensure that a moderated amount of alcohol is consumed, which, ideally could be lessened over time based on the desires of the individual. Clinical medical advisement through a MAP or prescription may be required to ensure that the individual is getting a safe dosage, and that an understanding of the individual’s history with addiction and their personal and traumatic history is taken into consideration. In an evaluation of a MAP in Vancouver, BC, alcohol consumption did not necessarily decline in six months for all of the participants, however the consumption of non-beverage alcohol did decline, and most participants reported improvements in mental health, social connectedness, and general well-being, and consumed alcohol in a safer setting with less harms that come from drinking large quantities at one time (Stockwell 6,7).

Below are some comparisons of alcohol contents. Though it is clear that the ethanol present in beverage alcohol is different than the types of alcohol present in non-beverage alcohol (denatured alcohol/ethanol, isopropyl alcohol) and the “high” achieved through using non-beverage alcohol would therefore be different, the comparisons below are a guideline for quantities consumed knowing that the denatured alcohol and isopropyl alcohol have added chemicals that are toxic for human consumption.

For example, as shown in Table 2.1, one litre (1L) of Antiseptic Mouthwash has an alcohol content of 270mL, which is equivalent to 12.5 cans (4.4L), of strong percentage beer, or nearly two bottles of a strong sherry wine. Similarly, as shown in Table 2.2, it takes nearly 10 times as much strong beer to equal the same alcohol content of 449mL that is obtained through 725mL of Hand Sanitzer Gel. While the point of alcohol harm reduction isn’t necessarily to meet the alcohol content that an individual would consume drinking non-beverage alcohol, it is important for service providers and community supports to understand just how much beverage alcohol it takes to help cope with withdrawal symptoms.

 

Table2.1-2.2

Conclusions

It is clear both to the uneducated outsider and to the affected individual that the consumption of non-beverage alcohol is extremely damaging to one’s physical and mental health. By offering support to individuals in their addiction through alcohol harm reduction programs, the dignity of these individuals is upheld as they are receiving compassionate medical treatment that views them as a whole person. Through these programs, these individuals would be able to access supports that are often only accessible to less-stigmatized populations, including detoxification programs that in Regina are inaccessible to many with reduced mobility and high physical needs.

Access to inexpensive, clinically regulated and adequately strong forms of beverage alcohol is key to the physical and mental health and well-being of the individual. Regulated quantities of alcohol must be customized to each individual based on their own personal symptoms and histories. While having professional medical advice involved is clearly the best practice, disallowing access to safe forms of alcohol because of lack of confirmed policy is irresponsible and lacks the compassion necessary in the human services sector and in a responsible community.

Policy driven by the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, monitored and planned by medical professionals, delivered by community organizations, and tailored to the needs of the individual are imperative to the success of an alcohol harm reduction program, and the timely nature of its implementation is extremely important to ensure the safety, health, and survival of a large population of vulnerable people. A responsible community and health region would not allow the continued consumption of controlled poison when clear, simple, and practical alternatives exist.

Sources
International Harm Reduction Association, What is harm reduction?, http://www.ihra.net/what-is-harm-reduction
CBC News, Hand sanitizer ingestion linked to 2 Ontario deaths, Oct 25, 2013, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/hand-sanitizer-ingestion-linked-to-2-ontario-deaths-1.2252046)
CBC News, Hairspray abuse plagues northern town, Feb 16, 2001, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hairspray-abuse-plagues-northern-town-1.293513
Pauly, B., Stockwell, T., Chow, C., Gray, E., Krysowaty, B., Vallance, K., Zhao, J. & Perkin, K. (2013) Towards alcohol harm reduction: Preliminary results from an evaluation of a Canadian managed alcohol program. Victoria, BC: Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia.
Carnahan RM, Kutscher EC, Obritsch MD, Rasmussen LD. Acute ethanol
intoxication after consumption of hairspray. Pharmacotherapy. 2005 Nov;25(11):1646-50. PubMed PMID: 16232026.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16232026?report=docsum
American Addiction Centers, Dangers in Mixing Valium and Alcohol or Drugs, http://americanaddictioncenters.org/valium-treatment/dangers/
Longo LP, Johnson B., Addiction: Part I. Benzodiazepines–side effects, abuse risk and alternatives. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Apr 1;61(7):2121-8. Review.,
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2121.html
Stockwell, T., Pauly, B., Chow, C., Vallance, K., Perkin, K. (2013). Evaluation of a managed alcohol program in Vancouver, BC: Early findings and reflections on alcohol harm reduction. CARBC Bulletin #9, Victoria, British Columbia: University of Victoria
http://www.uvic.ca/research/centres/carbc/assets/docs/bulletin9-evaluation-managed-alcohol-program.pdf

Solitaire.

Brandees is a four-and-a-half-block walk from my bachelor apartment. My building, an 88-year-old three-storey brick structure called The Kenora, is equipped with bathrooms that make phantom popping sounds like peculiar lip movements of a large-mouthed old man. Plop poppop plop pup pop. And pipes that sound like a monkey is hitting them with a hammer in the basement. And pigeons that flutter and coo, waking me like the cocks of the city.

Brandees is a convenience store with a post office open until 11pm. A convenience store that at one time sold bannock in a brown paper bag. But most importantly, a convenience store that rents DVDs for $3, or two for $4.

My laptop died several weeks ago in the first month of death. My new laptop, replacing the creator of two books and countless jeering essays, is thinner than a pancake and has fewer orifices than a three-eyed human, excluding the hardware that reads any media that can be rented at Brandees.

My friend Mike once said that the only honest place left in Regina is Country Corner Donuts on the corner of Dewdney and Broad St. A sandwich as tall as a five-dollar-bill only costs four. Stan has his own corner called Stan’s Corner. It says it is open 24-hours but you get kicked out at 11pm. (Though that seems dishonest, it isn’t.) Brandees is one of those few honest places left in the city (except the one time they fined me $25 for not returning a movie that I did indeed return, but again, honesty is subjective). Brandees is a dry oasis in a city soaked in booze.

So now I count down the days until I can no longer watch Brandees DVDs on my work laptop because I will soon be fired for doing my job too well and by then I will have absolutely no way of watching movies rented from Brandees and I will probably die from irony and desperation and chest pain from losing at solitaire too many times because I can’t just double click on every card until something happens because I have to flip the cards by hand and look at a rubbermaid coffeetable instead of a screen.

Because without Brandees movies and without the internet and without the motivation to go to the library to steal the internet I have no distraction and with no distraction I have to remember that all my friends at work are dying because good people are scared at the backlash of ignorant people when those ignorant people find out that all people are actually being treated like ‘people’ and not like the ‘ideas’ that they see them to be.

I walk to Brandees instead of biking or driving or jogging. Because the four-block journey there and back, stepping over the same dead bird four times in a week, walking past the pub and through the Safeway parking lot is guaranteeably more enjoyable than the destination, especially when the destination is in the apartment listening to popploppupploping and accidentally watching a Woody Allen movie.

I guess there’s always the arcade.

 

Lyrics of the Month: November 2015 – Geoff Berner

My city has been in a housing crisis
For fifteen years or more,
Middle class families can’t afford to live here,
And there’s a ten thousand dollar fine
For being poor.
They said if we let them build all these condo towers,
The market would pull down the rent,
Now we’ve got the most expensive city
On the whole damn continent.
Our Mayor says he wants Eco Density,
And of course it’s a sin not to be Green,
But when Mayor Happy Planet says Eco Density
What does he really mean?

He means
Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday
Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos,
Saturday, for a change,
Condos.

What happened to a thousand culture buildings and counting?
They knocked them down to build some condos.
And the social housing on Little Mountain?
Get rid of it!
(We need more condos.)
The Ridge, Richards, the Capital,
That’s a special kind of condos—
The kind of condos that you call
After the thing that you knocked down to make the

Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday,
Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos Saturday, for a change,
Townhouse condominiums.

What’s the plan for the Georgia Viaduct?
Well, they’re gonna knock it down and build some condos,
And why’s the city four hundred million dollars on the hook? —–They’re fucked!
They paid some guys to build Olympic condos.

And what about the sacred burial site?
Not as sacred as condos,
Till the Musqueam Nation actually put up a fight,
And that’s how you stop the condos.

So what’s going to happen now, for God’s sake?
Are we just going to let them build more condos?
Or could there be a time when we finally put the brakes
On Vancouver’s mad sickness for

Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos,
Saturday, for a change,
Market artist live/work studios.

Geoff Berner, We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians, Condos

Counter Assault

We stood on the trail from the lake to our campsite, holding hands in fear of our premature deaths. What the fuck is that, I had wondered, an elk? It was a blondish brown patch of fur the size of a beach towel, stomping in the bush. It turned its body around for us to see enough of its shoulder to know that it wasn’t a charming, peaceful elk, but a medium-sized, overly curious grizzly. We backed our way down the path, jingled our keys and bear bells like distracted children at a Christmas pageant, trying to remember the advice from the Bear vs Human pamphlets. We spoke loudly, awkwardly. She recited poetry, I repeated it in booming baritone.

Not to lose the feel of the mountains
while still retaining the prairies
is a difficult thing. What’s lovely
is whatever makes the adrenalin run;
therefore I count terror and fear among
the greatest beauty. The greatest
beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing
although remembrance hurts
like a foolish act, is a foolish act.

-John Newlove, excerpt from The Double-Headed Snake, The Wascana Poetry Anthology

The fear of death brought the idea of practice into our minds. The more your practice it, the less you fear it. The next week, (although we saw no more quadrupedal omnivores on the trail) we felt stronger, more secure, more confident in grizzly country. But the pressurized can of capiscum in my back pocket, Counter Assault Bear Spray, may have been the source of that confidence. By the tenth time I see a bear, fear will be an afterthought and the Coghlin’s Brand Survival Horn that we bought for a sense of security will be even more of a prank.

After nearly two weeks surrounded by a Matt Goud/Tim Barry/Ken Freeman/Allison Weiss tour, you learn to fear not death, but inaction. Don’t be afraid of dying, be afraid not to live, Tim would say most nights. A wasted life is worse than death. Not in a danceclub/yolo/butt-touch kind of way, but in a I’ve-wasted-enough-time-on-all-the-bullshit kind of way. These mantras ring throughout the art that most closely resonates with me. But ‘wasting’ is what needs to be discovered. What is living?

The greatest
beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing

I’m reading books about writers. Fiction books. Bohemian authors of San Francisco or Toronto talk about the noble craft and its apparent sexual exploits. Dry literature, to me, but classic to many. It somehow puts the fear in me. Not the fear of death, but the fear of running out of things to say that are worth anything, the fear of writing about writing; writing about extramarital affairs, writing about ‘cultural eras’. So here I am, trying to scare the fear away the only way I know how. With practice.

I dream of quitting my day job to write. Drive across the country occasionally, wash dishes at the pizza place, sit in a grungy library facing a scuffed-up wall and do something as banal as ‘express myself’, being naive enough to think it might change someone’s perspective. But to me, not paying attention to your neighbour is a waste of both your life and theirs. Not living is comforts and distractions. Quitting to pursue a naive selfish dream of typing nonsense onto a dead tree or into a digital void, can seem like a waste. Is a waste.

But it may also be a waste to isolate, to work 11 hours a day even in the vague name of social justice, to sit in a stiflingly humid bachelor apartment overflowing with hats, broken bicycles, interprovincial beer. So which is it?

Not to lose the feel of the mountains
while still retaining the prairies
is a difficult thing…

It becomes a lot easier to fear not death, when it isn’t literally knocking on your fire escape window, asking your deteriorating body if you want a huff. To have the privilege to even make this choice is what eats me alive like a starved grizzly south of the Crow’s Nest Pass. And these words are my only Counter Assault.

The Five-Dot Eagle

The new year has already had me clean up several kinds of faeces, including human, off of the snow-covered ground. It has had me see the reproductive organs of two single, middle-aged, grey-haired males, both dropping their pants in places that would not be deemed appropriate by a court of law. The new year has seen me drag a half-conscious man from a snowbank into a building to escape from a -40 degree Celsius Saskatchewan windchill. Two thousand fifteen can’t come soon enough.

Seeing penises does not make me a better person. I have a rewarding job, people often tell me. If this is the reward, then you must have an odd sense of payoffs. Nice to be able to make a difference, others claim. If the difference is that I get paid to ensure people don’t freeze to death on the street, then I claim that every citizen should somehow participate in this difference.

Later in the same day that I dragged Leon into the coffee room, I was walking to the library in the early evening darkness. A plastic bag was fluttering in the wind, but caught under the packed snow of the street. I bent down to grab the bag to put it in the proper receptacle, and had a flash of my action earlier in the day; dragging a man, foaming from the mouth, into his proper receptacle, that being Carmichael, and shortly after that, a police cruiser. I fleetingly feel shame in comparing Leon to a plastic bag stuck under road snow, but then again, this is how the man is treated. His proper receptacle is one of three locations with a span of three blocks, Carmichael, detox, or cells. The system has made his proper receptacle sanitized State-run facilities of oppression. An extermination hidden behind poor State-run social programs. I despise dragging a man, normally on crutches, grabbing him from under his armpits, as though I am hauling a piece of meat in a slaughterhouse (I couldn’t decide if this or leaving him lay in a snowbank was more dehumanizing). I despise calling the the undertaker, his hearse a police cruiser, but it is, through much experience, the only thing I can do in the current system of care to make sure Leon doesn’t freeze to death in the outdoor cooler. Passed around from under the armpit until he eventually dies and the program of cultural genocide continues.

Heartbreaking. Tragic. After calling in on a single person fifteen times, after two penises, after several species of shit, it isn’t heartbreaking or tragic. It ensues rage. It ensues rage for the reason that those who dictate these people’s lives through policy, through programming the state and public mentalities, are uninformed. Those of them who are informed are often purposefully-distant, economically- and socially-conservative tools of the State. Leon, they see as an inevitability, a ‘well-we’ve-come-this-far’ colonial stepping-stone, as a financial burden. And only when Leon can be seen as less of a financial burden, by proving to them that their system of oppressive police systems, court systems, correctional systems costs more than treating Leon as if he weren’t a bag caught in a snowbank, but as a human, only then will they listen. Only then will they consider his humanity. And when he becomes a taxpayer and not a leech off of the system, then will he be truly rehabilitated, and the program of forced assimilation continues.

Those are the two outcomes, deliberate and purposeful.

But Leon will never rehabilitate. He will likely never sober up. He will likely die in a snowbank, as he told me he wanted to, while he laid in a snowbank. And at his funeral, if the State were to attend, they would eulogize him by absolving their responsibility to help such a person and say that they offered him supports but he just couldn’t sober up. Because his addiction was the reason he was homeless and unable to rehabilitate—not the fact that he was the victim of a multi-generational genocide planned and carried out by several levels of government, and assisted in the apathy of the general populace. No, he was always fond of drink, they’d say.

Conservatives are not heartless, and progressives aren’t flawless. But conservative politics are heartless, based on and committed to a market-driven capitalist system that leaves people who cannot help themselves out in the snow, whether their supporters know it or not. If they do know it, and feel that it is neither the role of government, nor their role as citizens is to bring justice to the marginalized, then, well, they are as selfish as their politics. An ideology where an accountability to the market trumps an accountability to a human being is frightening when one looks into the already dimming future. And progressive politics are utopian, equally as damaging when they are bred in a bleeding-heart ignorance. Selfishness and ignorance, we are bound by thee.

I’m tired of penises and I’m tired of calling the police on people whose only crime is nearly dying outside. I’m tired of participating in a system of oppression. I’m also tired of my ignorance that leaves me helpless in offering change to a system so badly flawed. And if I got an education, I would be tired of dealing with politicians with track-blinders on, and a Social Services system designed for the likeable, sober, employable, white homeless man you saw as a kid in the PeeWee Herman movie—designed for the eradication of a culture that represents the opposite of a consumption-based existence. And if I got an education and participated in the reform of the system, I’d likely be tired of something else. Probably tired of living in the dregs of socialism.

The next day, over a bowl of chilli, Leon and I compared tattoos. He stuck his hand up my t-shirt sleeve to get a better look at mine, then he pulled up his leather jacket sleeve to show me his—four of five dots on his forearm that he did himself before the tattoo gun broke and he couldn’t continue. It was an eagle, he said, flying free in the sky. He gave a toothless grin, took his chilli and crutched his way to the north coffee room of his community-run receptacle.

Cold Weather Strategy

“Do you prefer summer, or shit weather like this?” the Brazilian man asked me on McIntyre Street with his eyes peeping out from a burly knit scarf.
I told him, and he coughed a laugh and called me a liar.

“Then what do most Canadians prefer, do you think, summer, or this minus-forty stuff?”
“Most Canadians likely prefer summer. Most of my friends left—”
“And went elsewhere. Yeah,” he interrupted me. He and I, likely making up one-third of the city’s total pedestrians of the day, stopped on the street and talked about mutual misery, or at least that is what he thought we would be talking about. I told him that I loved it. I just finished a bike ride to the outdoor rink where I played hockey on the only three-metre by three-metre patch of ice that didn’t still have grass growing through it. He told me that he liked the weather in Brazil, “one-thousand percent more than this,” and I don’t blame him.

One of my few optimisms is in that which causes everyone else’s negativity. I heard on the radio that this is a sign of sociopathy. One way or another I have become a person that instinctively finds the actions of the majority as absurd, whether or not this feeling is justified. I like the winter, but I like it more because it causes misery to a large percentage of the population. Though it merits conversation because of its indomitable power, it is not worth the endless crying chatter, the talk of thriving in a different province, the several trips to shitty resorts in developing countries. It is not worth the complaining. Nothing is. Peoples’ inability to deal with a climate that they have lived in for their entire lives is a side effect of having everything they’ve ever wanted since they were old enough to slurp on a nipple. It is unattractive. These are the people with homes and vehicles with command-start and $1000 jackets filled with the plume of geese and the ability to go inside a mall without getting kicked out. They truly, without a doubt in my mind, have nothing to complain about.

The winter does not threaten my survival—I don’t make a living where I could die, and I don’t have a living situation or addiction that may cause me to end up freezing to death outside. But those who do with whom I interact go about their daily business without much fuss. Because dwelling on it makes it significantly worse. And because it makes my days worse listening to it.

My friend from Brazil and all migrant companions have grounds for disapproval of the weather. They are here putting up with frostbite and chaffing thighs potentially for people elsewhere. They weren’t born into it. And though being born into a climate is not enough reason to love it, it is enough experience to know how to get through it without whining like the moronic family dog.

While biking to work in December, I waited at a stop light in the middle of the lane. A black Dodge Neon slid to a halt six inches from my right handlebar. The man fumed, rolled down his window, and yelled at me for holding him up for one block. I proceeded to call him a degenerate asshole. He asked me,
“So why are you even riding your goddamn bike in the winter?” to which I answered by stating my masculine supremecy over him and his teenage-girl car. But the question bewildered me in its ignorance and raw stupidity. If you are going to hate anything about this place, anything at all, please don’t pick on the mother nature, who we have abused and mistreated to the point of her trying to exterminate us with extreme weather. Please take note of the general small-town mindnedness of the general populace who surround us. This is something worth griping over, because somehow, in someway, it might be able to be changed.

See you on the ice-covered, snow-packed, gravel-sprinkled, 50-centimeter-rutted road, you annoying, lazy, degenerate prick.

I love winter.

Safe drives.

Carmichael Community Bike Rally

IMG_3280 IMG_3247 IMG_3224 IMG_3205 IMG_3222 IMG_3276 Carmichael Community Bike Rally

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.