Observations about Calgary

I was born in Calgary. I lived her up until I was about 18 when I left to do Katimavik. I came back when I was about 22 and went to school. I was away for a year at Queen’s doing my Master of Arts degree. I finally left again when I was 34 for Vancouver. I have never looked back since. I love living in Metro Vancouver.[1] All of the things I disliked about Calgary seem to be so much more magnified 13 years later:

  • I find Calgary very American. Not a big surprise as it is built by oil. This city has grown so much and it really seems to be expansion for the sake of expansion. It is Manifest Destiny run amok. There are so many new ‘communities’ everywhere and very little infrastructure. Almost every strip mall is packed all the time. The traffic situation is out of control from what I can see.
  • Consumption is so much more visible here than in Metro Vancouver. The trucks are bigger and louder. With no Air Care[2], I have seen so many vehicles spewing toxic sludge. The one thing I have noticed is that there are certainly fewer dump trucks, which does make me happy.
  • Believe it or not, drivers here are more aggressive in Calgary than Vancouver. I commute 45 minutes each way for work so I spent a lot of time on the highway. And while we have our fair share of assholes, it is nothing like what I have seen here.
  • I am very surprised at the lack of health care infrastructure here. It seems like the system here cannot keep up with demand. I am not sure if it is mismanagement or a true lack of resources flowing in. Given the amount of money brought in by the tar sands you would think the government could at least afford a decent health care system. My mother is always complaining about being able to access doctors and other health services.
  • I was reminded how much I hate how they name the streets in developments. We used to live in Oakridge and every street was Oak something. It makes it really hard to find addresses. Along with this goes the penchant for everything looking the same. My mother lives in an area where you can’t even plant flowers if you want to because all the landscaping has to look the same. She can’t even have a fence put up for the dog.

I get that Calgary is not all bad. Some of my most favourite people live here. However, there is zero chance that I will ever move back here.

[1] Given that I found my biological parents in Vancouver just this year, I wonder how powerful the call of geography can be. From the time I learned about Vancouver, I always wanted to live there.

[2] I am not an Air Care fan but it does keep some of the worst polluting vehicles off the road.

Stanley Cup Riot Accused

I get that the Vancouver Game 7 Stanley Cup Riot perpetrators need to be punished. They terrorized innocent people, wantonly destroyed other peoples’ property, and assaulted people including police. They need to be arrested and charged. They must have their day in court. They must be judged. However, I am getting quite concerned about the vengeance expressed by some politicians and officials.

First off we have the premier of BC Christy Clark pushing to have television cameras in the courtrooms. I am not sure what she is trying to accomplish. If she thinks that we as the public need to see that the accused are being punished I think she wrong. I have not heard a loud outcry from the public thinking that they are going to be punished. In the same breath she is advocating cameras in the courtroom, she is saying we need to speed up the justice system. On this point she is correct. The justice system in this province is immovable just look at the slow pace at which people are being charged with riot related charges. Trying to televise the proceedings will only serve to slow down our already taxed system.

I am also concerned about the talk of minimum sentences for convicted riots. Apparently, when crimes take place during a riot they are viewed as more serious as the acts contribute to the riot itself. I believe the convicted rioters need to be punished. In cases where there is a history of this kind of anti-social behavior perhaps jail time would be warranted. I think the vast majority of the accused will be young people, fueled by drugs and or alcohol, who got caught up in the riot. This does not excuse their behavior but if they have otherwise clean records why would want to send them to jail where they will only learn how to become more criminal. They will be saddled with a criminal record and if Clark has her way, their pictures will be saved on the internet in perpetuity.

Instead I believe those who do not have a criminal record should be consigned to community service, a written apology and restitution. I am not talking about a little community service. Perhaps a group of victims could have some input into the number of hours the convicted rioters would need to serve.  Restitution should take the convicted a long time to complete.

Really what needs to happen is the convicted rioters need to have the epiphany that they actually did something wrong. They will not come to this realization in jail. Instead they will become angry and bitter. They need to give back to society. They need to invest themselves in society and their communities so that they can then become productive, civic-minded citizens.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘saner heads are prevailing’ edition

  • It seems like the judge presiding over the City of Vancouver’s application for an injunction to end the Occupy Vancouver protest. Addressing the City’s safety concerns while still maintaining the protestors right to protest.
  • We are still under plumbing construction. The driveway is still a mess. We are waiting for the engineer apparently.
  • I am in way too much pain to write much more today. Catch you all tomorrow!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘is there a funny movie out there?’ edition

  • I love Steve Carrel. However, I seem unable to find a funny movie he is in except for Little Miss Sunshine. Seriously, I have rented several of his movies lately and none of them have been remotely funny. What is up with this? Does anyone have a recommendation for a funny movie that does not rely on misogyny or toilet humour?
  • The death of Occupier Ashley yesterday at Occupy Vancouver is very sad. However, I think it is disingenuous of the City to now say the encampment must go. Drug overdoses and fatalities as they go are normal for Vancouver. Ashley died in a tent rather than a back alley. What the Occupy Vancouver movement must do is set up a supervised drug using area to minimize the risks of drug use. Trying to force the protestors out is going to result in violence.
  • I have often wondered what it is about Vancouver that causes everything to be taken to an extreme. There are Occupy encampments in countless cities yet the only one (that I am aware of) to have a death is Vancouver. It seems that the most bizarre things happen in Vancouver.

Our little Vancouver Adventure & Anniversary Celebrations

We have been in Vancouver since Monday when I had my marathon 3.5-hour specialist appointment. Given that today is our 8th wedding anniversary[1] and that I have to be at an early training session tomorrow morning. We found a reasonably priced hotel[2]. We are staying at the Sheraton Wall Centre. Here is what we have done in some particular order:

  • Got lost trying to find the ‘Rapid Access Clinic’[3] in St. Paul’s hospital. WE went to the Thurlow building when we needed to be in the Burrard building. For those of you who have ever spent time at St. Paul’s what is it about the elevators? Some of them only seem to run every 10-15 minutes. It was bizarre. Also everyone seems to be running there plus there were tons of people.
  • We had dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was very good. I had the ever-reliable tenderloin steak, which was outstanding. Deb had a salad and a vegetarian panini. There were zero vegetarian options on the menu and she had to ask what they could do for her. It seems strange in a city like Vancouver that there would such a dearth of vegetarian options.
  • We went swimming last night at the hotel. It was great. I swam several lengths[4] and then chilled in the hot tub. I was trying to teach Deb how to sit and balance on a flutter board under water. I am nowhere near as graceful doing that as I once was. It was very relaxing. We were starving when we came back to the room and ordered nachos.
  • I got up early and went to work early. I had a lot to do and I was able to get it done today. Work is feeling really good these days so I am a happy camper.
  • Deb sent me a huge bouquet of flowers today at work. It is so nice to get flowers at work!
  • Deb picked me at work and we went out for dinner. We had Japanese food!! It has been years, literally, since I have eaten Japanese. We had tempura vegetables and prawns. I had agedashi tofu[5], and miso soup. It was divine.
  • Now we are back at the hotel watching Dancing with the Stars.
  • Don’t forget to check out Derek Miller’s blog excerpts in this month’s Reader’s Digest.

Perry parry

[1] Squee!!! I cannot believe we have been married that long! It seems like just last year we achieved marriage equality. Although same-sex marriage has only been in legislation since 2005 (thank you Paul Martin and the Liberal Party of Canada) it seems much more recent. We did marry in the period between the court decision and the approval of the legislation.

[2] Not a boutique hotel.

[3] Considering I waited more than 6 months for my appointment I would challenge the ‘rapid’ part of that name!

[4] Go me!

[5] Deb even tried some!

Vancouver Canucks and Civic Responsibility

So the Canucks played a game last night and guess what? There wasn’t a riot! Go figure! I am completely appalled at the silence of the Vancouver Canucks with regard to the riot. They have said absolutely nothing. I am not sure how they think it is ok to take people’s money and not bear any responsibility for the behaviour of their fans. They participate in ramping up the expectations and the ‘hype’. However, there needs to be some responsibility on their part.

Civic participation should be a major part of any professional sports team. The Canucks could have done several things to show their fans what they think of riots. They could have helped clean up after the riot; this would have shown that they see themselves as part of the fabric of the city. What about putting up some reward money to bring the rioters to justice? They most certainly could have put up some money towards the businesses subjected to destruction. Imagine what an inspiring message it would have sent if any member of the Vancouver Canucks had shown up.

This really opens up a larger question about what responsibility, if any, professional teams have towards their fan bases and the cities that host them? The teams do not pay any of the attached policing costs from the games. Why should they get a free ride? I really do not understand why no one is demanding more from the Vancouver Canucks. I don’t understand how people can continue to support a team who feels no loyalty to us. It is a travesty.

How not to plan a riot

The reports are coming in and still no one is really taking responsibility for the riot. Not the people who authorized and set up the big screen TVs in so-called ‘Fan Zones’ nor the people who should have been monitoring the number of people in downtown. The Mayor, Gregor Robertson, has nothing to say but that isn’t new. He ducks responsibility every chance he gets.[1] Chief Jim Chiu is not saying he had anything to do with it. So that really leaves the average citizen wondering how the hell things could go so wrong and no one took notice. I mean it is not like Game 7 Stanley Cup riots are new to Vancouver. It was apparent probably by the end of the 1st period of that game that things were not going to end well for the Canucks and their legions of fans; many of who were already on the ground in downtown Vancouver and inebriated. The only things everyone can agree on so far are that there was too much alcohol and Translink did a really good job of bringing people downtown.

So for free, Dispatches from the Swamp, will provide a report on how not to plan a riot. So here we go:

  1. Know whom you are inviting into the city – Canucks fans are mostly straight, white men between 15-50 years old.[2] Of those fans, a subset of younger fans, particularly in the 18-30 year range who will show up for a party at a fan zone. Anybody with half a brain cell knows that when you add alcohol and disappointment to this group of people and the mob mentality takes over you will have trouble. It is not that they set out to riot but they were all ramped up by all the media attention the game was getting. There was so my hype I wanted to hurl on a regular basis.
  2. We know that Vancouver downtown is surrounded by water on most sides. This makes it very difficult for people who want to get out of the city quickly. If 150,000+ people descend on a cramped space it is virtually impossible to move them all out in a reasonable amount of time. If there are ever fan zones set up again, they should be done in a secured area where access can be controlled and people can easily exit. People can be searched for alcohol and denied entry if they are intoxicated.
  3. We all know that people come from all over the lower mainland to celebrate hockey. There must be a coordinated police force made up of officers from all jurisdictions to ensure public safety. Then set up a fan zone in a big field somewhere like a large concert and emphasize security.
  4. Maybe even having an altered fan zone is not really appropriate for a do or die situation like Game 7 of the Stanley cup. Vancouver experienced another riot in the same circumstances. Why anyone thought this would not end badly is beyond me.

My last question is: Where are the Canucks in all of this? Wouldn’t you think that as a professional sports organization they could say something to their fans? I think they have a civic responsibility to encourage their fans to behave more appropriately while they are playing. If the Canucks do not do anything about this riot, I think they should be fined to help offset clean up costs for the city.

The provincial government also bears responsibility. The City of Vancouver asked for some financial help with the Stanley Cup playoffs policing efforts and the province did not assist. This clearly was a regional event rather than just a City of Vancouver event and as such the province should have done something.

Unless the various levels of government, the VPD and the Canucks get their shit together we may well have a ‘threepeat’ next year. Everyone must look at their roles in this completely predictable and avoidable event and ensure it does not happen again.


[1] For example the Pandora fires that killed 3 homeless men just before Christmas is a shining example of Gregor at his finest.

[2] I know I am generalizing and not every fan is a white straight man.

Disgraceful Behaviour

The riot after last night’s Canucks came was predictable. All of the frenetic energy of the last several weeks of hockey playoffs had to go somewhere. You cannot combine over $100,000 people, many who had been drinking, with all that energy and not expect something bad could happen. There is something about Vancouver that is different from most other cities; Vancouver embraces its west coast anti-authoritarian attitude proudly. This evident in many ways and I think it has its roots in the ‘hippie’ culture that developed in Vancouver. From Wrecked beach to not buying dog licenses, many Vancouverites do not think they need to acquiesce to authority.

Vancouver has a history of rioting over losses at hockey games. To blame the beginning of these riots on anarchists is completely wrong. While they may have played a role, it was apparent that the largest group was young, white males. I saw one picture of a white male setting a police car on fire by putting cloth in the gas tank and lighting it on fire. As the live coverage continued yesterday evening, there were only a few people in masks. As the riot escalated into breaking windows of stores and then going in and looting, again the main participants were white, young men.

One thing I noticed about this Stanley Cup run was the over the top in hype. The fan zones set up downtown all of the publicity on radio plus the sports bars all helped to fuel the riot. Clearly someone was asleep at the switch in the mayor’s office. Given that there is a history of rioting over hockey games in Vancouver. It certainly occurred to me that this was a seriously bad idea.

The VPD claimed they had a plan. However, it was apparent that they did not. They are claiming the riot quickly got out of control. I was watching the live coverage shortly after the riot started and 2.5 hours later the reinforcements from other municipalities were just arriving. It seems strange to me that the VPD didn’t ring the alarm bells at the end of the second period when it was apparent that the Canucks were not going to win. Why did it take so long for reinforcements to arrive

The province played a role here too. Citing the increased policing costs of the Stanley Cup run and pointing out that a high number of the fans downtown for every game were not from Vancouver, they had asked the province for additional funds to pay for policing. Christy Clark was very quick to state that policing is a municipal responsibility and they would not get involved. Maybe it is time to revisit the idea of one police for Metro Vancouver rather than the mixture of RCMP detachments and municipal forces

Social media also played a role in this riot. The allure of getting one’s picture up on Facebook posing in front of a burning car was just too much to resist for these idiots. The fact that so many of them did nothing to hide their faces while committing crimes is bizarre. Social media though can be a double-edged sword. While it may have fuelled the riot in the beginning stages, all those pictures and videos will assist police in identifying and prosecuting the hooligans.

I am sure a report will be commissioned to look at all of the factors that contributed to the riot. Most likely, the VPD will do nothing with it. A report was done for the 1994 riot and most of the recommendations were not adopted. Now that there has been a second riot over hockey, I hope they will do things to make it safer for everyone.



Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘we ought to be ashamed’ edition

  • It is February and it is winter in Vancouver. Apparently, with the wind-chill tonight it is going down to -17 degrees Celsius. Now, you would think that city planners know the weather is going to cold and there will be a need to help people keep warm on the streets. When the temperature dips below zero here it is a brutal because it is so damp. Factor in the wind that has been ravaging us and this is literally killing weather for people on our streets. The police have said they are not going to force people into shelters – that is big of them. So as the CBC was announcing that authorities were asking for people to donate warm clothing and blankets for the homeless. Perhaps we should read that again: The City of Vancouver wants donations of warm clothing for people living on the streets. What is wrong with this situation? Where to begin? It begins with the off-loading of responsibilities by the federal government to the provinces. The provinces, in turn, have off-loaded on to the municipalities. Now the municipalities are off-loading on to us – the lowly tax payer, who, ironically funds all the levels of government. What exactly is it that our taxes pay for if not to ensure there are adequate supplies for the homeless? All of the shelters should be stocked with these items. Police cruisers should have emergency supplies like blankets, hats, scarves etc. Why can we not do this as a country? I am so ashamed.
  • Today I decided to try to manage my anxiety without medication. I was successful. I did not have a full on attack as I used some cognitive management skills. However, as soon as I got home my right shoulder muscle went into spasm and is killing me. So, while I can manage in this situation without help, the bottom line is my anxiety is rooted in reality and I need the assistance medication offers – at least in the short-term. I am hopeful this stress level will reduce.
  • Today my defensive and slightly paranoid driving style paid off. I am almost always aware of who is where around me. So today when a Sutton real estate sign became airborne as a result of the winds we are having, I was able to maneuver out of its path. It most definitely would have taken out my windshield.