Archive for the ‘canadian media’ Category

On Policing – a rambling exploration of violence

June 10, 2016

What is it like to be a police officer?  On the one hand, there is this letter by a police officer’s wife (heavily snipped):

Dear Officer,

I want you to know that I see you.  I see you choose the booth in the restaurant that allows you to have your back against the wall.  I see you walking to your next traffic stop while you hope that it isn’t your last. … I see your cause and I want you to know that I appreciate it.

I need you.  We need you.  America needs you.  I know that the world isn’t making it any easier for you to wake up with the same passion you had when you first started.  I know the world is making it extremely difficult for you to feel like anyone is on your side.  I know the world is making you feel like the only allies you have can only be found in each other.  I know that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to put your life on the line for a world that has seemingly turned their backs on you.

I wish I knew how to fix it.  The only thing I know how to do is support you.  I’m aware that there isn’t a magic solution that will make the world see you for who you are; the amazing men and women in blue.  I just want you to know that I see you. I need you to know that you are appreciated by a vast majority who is in your corner.  I need you to know that you aren’t alone.  I need you to feel the presence of those who love and support you.  We are rallied behind you and ready to defend your character at any given moment.  You are honorable.  You are courageous.  You are worthy of a nation’s support.

And on the other side, police officer tased teen into coma.

police violence

 

The letter is from the wife of a police officer.  I am the son, grandson and husband of police officers.  If my eyes were better, I might be one myself -or at least have applied. The two extremes posted above, plus the killing of Sammy Yatim by police officer James Forcillo in Toronto have made me unsure of where I stand.

Background on Yatim.  The mentally man stepped onboard a bus and threatened the other passengers with a knife.  They were evacuated, police arrived and Yatim was shot by Forcillo:

On August 19, 2013, James Forcillo was charged with second-degree murder. On July 30, 2014, he was also charged with attempted murder. On January 25, 2016, Forcillo was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, but guilty of attempted murder.

At issue in this case was how much of a threat Yatim was.  The passengers had been removed, but the man had a knife.  How far apart were Yatim and Forcillo? Did Forcillo need to approach Yatim at that time?  It appears he, and other officers, could have waited outside the bus.

I’ll return to this in a moment, but I wrote “unsure of where I stand”.  That is still unclear, even in what line or side I imagine exist to stand on or in.

There is one more bit of history to include. My own father was investigated for a shooting.  This was long ago and I do not know the details. Maybe it is better I don’t.  Maybe the question here is, ‘Am I brave enough to learn family history?’

What I think I recall is my father and other officers had a man in a car surrounded. I think he was an escaped convict or possibly a suspect in a violent crime.  It was suspected that he was armed.  In the course of events (how neutrally I phrase this), the man’s hand dipped out of sight and someone (this is not an evasion – I don’t think anyone knows who it was) fired.  At this point, every officer emptied his pistol.

One important point I can add for the education of any  readers. To fire less than every bullet in a revolver or automatic gun requires more control than firing two or three.  If a person thinks his/her life is at risk, there is no benefit to a halfway measure.  The dead don’t get any more dead so firing more shots than needed has no downside.  In any case of a killing by firearm, the fact of the killing is important and should be legally actionable, but the bullet count is not important.

This is a key difference between the Ontario Provincial Police (and probably police in all of North America) and at least one police group in South Korea.  Here in South Korea, officers are trained (how well, I cannot say) to wound, to aim for a leg or arm.

Back to my father.  The killing was ruled justified and aside from nightmares, my father and the other officers received no punishment.

Training now is far different for police officers.  in the 1960’s, my father was hired either right out of high school or soon afterwards.  Police today are often university degree holders and older hires, late twenties or so, are preferred.

Fifty years ago, a few members from every detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police were sent to Wasaga Beach for a long weekend holiday in May -known as the May two four weekend.  They weren’t there to relax but to rein in the motorcycle gangs that converged on the otherwise quiet village.  I am too young to recall, but my father would return home bleeding at night on occasion.  Who were these bikers to disrespect the law and who were these officers who did not have the confidence to stamp the problem out? For that matter, who were the general public that didn’t give enough support to the police to handle the matter safely for all concerned, especially the police that were wounded in such battle?

I imagine if a similar problem presented itself today, enough force would be found to charge all gang members at the location and people would accept the rationale for the arrests.

Today, police in Canada are armoured more by their badge than their vest or weapons. If a police officer is threatened, the public normally sides with the officer.

They didn’t side with Forcillo and his position was no defence at sentencing.

The mandatory minimum prison sentence for attempted murder with a restricted firearm was never intended to apply to police whose job is to protect the public, a lawyer for a Toronto officer found guilty in the shooting death of a troubled teen argued Thursday.

But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.

“It’s not a licence to kill,” Justice Edward Then said of police-issued guns. “Police officers are entrusted with the use of a gun for a particular purpose. In this case the jury has found that it wasn’t to serve and protect but it was with the purpose of attempting to kill.”

I feel Forcillo’s profession, and it is a profession now, unlike in my father’s day – does earn him special consideration when on trial for actions done while on duty.  I am definitely not talking specifically about Forcillo, as I know only some of the details available to the public. Here is my reasoning.  In the past, and probably still, killing a police officer who had identified himself as such, was a greater crime than killing someone who wasn’t a police officer.  I feel this is fair because police are required to approach danger while others are welcome, even encouraged, to move away from danger.  Making the killing of a police officer a more serious crime was a way to protect people who worked to protect us.  In the same way, giving the police some greater leeway when they use force seems fair.  They aren’t supposed to retreat from danger the way I, for example, am.

I don’t feel the police should get a free ride, should be able to murder with no consequences.  But I do feel reduced consequences are reasonable.

Hmmm. I do feel I cleared up at least one point in my own mind. “But the judge who will decide Const. James Forcillo’s sentence for attempted murder said he saw no reason why police officers should be exempt from the minimum of five years behind bars.” He definitely should not be exempt. But the possibility of a lower sentence should be open.  If the standard sentence is five to ten years, I feel Forcillo should be looking at three to ten years.  He should not be exempt from a long sentence, but his position as a person who could not run away should mean something.

Now, in reading Boingboing, one might come to the conclusion that police already are free of many legal restrictions and punishments we civilians are bound by. That link is to posts tagged with ‘police’ and a few are not relevant but most are.  I can only hope they are American poli… Not, I don’t want any police officer or department to be so poorly overseen. For the police to be protected, the public has to have faith in them.  I have faith but not quite as much as the wife that wrote the letter excerpted above.

I will finish with this thought.    My father was a patient man with me but also an angry man in general.  Kind-hearted, generous and friendly, but so often angry.  I know what it is like to be a police officer’s son and we heard from the wife of a police officer.  I wonder if police themselves are able to talk about such things.  How do they stay professional – or what makes their professionalism break down?

swearing in a foreign language is fun!

September 6, 2013

I really expected to find more research on this subject, or at least more content discussing it.  I found nothing on the specific subject described below.  If my readers find anything relating to my post, please let me know in the comments.

The first four paragraphs of this post are lead up to my main point – this is a case of the introduction likely being longer than the intended thesis of the post.

I lived in South Korea for more than thirteen years and cursing or ‘bad words’ in Korean or English was a common subject for discussion.  For my fellow foreigners “shibbal Seggi” was a meaningless string of sounds and the translation we heard, given quickly and shyly also meant little (“Dog baby”).  To be more specific, it means you are so vile you likely did not have human parents and are part dog or other dirty, stupid animal.

“Fuck” is similarly difficult to explain and much time is needed to describe how it is to be used and why it is offensive.  “It means ‘sexual intercourse’?  That sounds great!”

Perhaps four times in my eleven years of teaching at Korean universities I needed to take a student aside and tell them to never wear that shirt in my class again -in each case the shirt had writing that included the word “fuck”.

Such words in foreign languages do not have an easy translation and are often used ironically or for shock value by non-native speakers.

Swearing on the web: Wikipedia, University of New Haven.

—-

All this has been a build up to a partial defense of the student president and orientation facilitators at St Mary’s University in Halifax.

From the Globe and Mail:

For the nearly 400 Saint Mary’s University students participating in a chant about rape during their orientation week, it was more about the rhyme than the words, according to the student union president.

Jared Perry told reporters Thursday that he knows now repeating the chant – celebrating non-consensual sex with underage girls – was wrong.

I learned of the building outrage while listening to CBC radio.  Among the people interviewed was a St Mary’s student who had been raped and for whom the chant caused her to relive those horrific times.

Another interviewed student tried to explain how the chant had been repeated every year since at least 2009 and, as best I recall, noted that the words had no real or visceral meaning for the young students to relate to.  I find this explanation simultaneously sadly weak and reasonable.  I started this post with the use of strong language that meant nothing to the speaker due to ignorance and a lack of living in the language.  Can this argument also defend native speakers?

I hope so for I have been a part of similar chants in my not-so-youth.  On a sports team I was part of, we occasionally sang a cheer that included, “We’re going to kill, rape, pillage and burn”.  I think that if we had been asked why we used those words, we would have said they simply were a more explicit form of “We will destroy the other team” which is an entirely acceptable turn of phrase.  Looking back, from the distance middle age gives me, I hope I would stop such a chant and suggest others, but at  the time I recall no concern over the words.  I would like to think that the fact we were clearly there to race gave us a little more slack in concern over word choice than a group of young adults who were clearly there to drink and try to score, but I may simply be offering weak rationalizations in my own defense.

The words are important and the university students need to know what is acceptable behavior and what is not.  I don’t know if ‘sensitivity training’ will work or simply bore the students into shutting out other important lessons.  I think I cannot hold the students to blame but the president and facilitators clearly have some lessons to learn.

Spring: a reason for the demise of print media in the North

March 31, 2013

Here in Penetanguishene, we get a free paper or two every week.  Further, we subscribe to the Toronto Star so there’s another paper a day on or near our doorstep.  My mom seems to enjoy reading the local papers and picks up the ones in our driveway. Either the neighbors are less excited by the paper or are too slow and the plow has buried it.

 

I am not shaming my neighbors here; the snow just melted so these were hidden and the street apparently spotless just a day or two ago.  I am not even blaming the newspaper companies.  They want the papers in our hands and no one benefits from a buried paper.

I follow the news from a variety of sources.  For Korean news, I chiefly depend on blogs.  Here, I follow Twitter feeds from environmental organizations and science enthusiasts and catch most local news on TV.  I like to read a paper and enjoy the comics more in paper form but feel no strong desire to collect or throw them away.

demise print media

A lesson from Springwater Provincial Park for Arrowhead

March 20, 2013

Thank you very much, Emily Mckiernan for your corrections and advice regarding a year-long all-parks day pass for Ontario Provincial Parks.  Summer and year-long passes can be found here.  Thanks also to Lisa Fleming who linked to my previous article about Springwater Park on the Facebook Save Our Springwater  page.

I hope their work goes rewarded although, as I’ve previously noted, I have not been in the area long enough to be greatly invested in the park.

I need to correct a mistake I made in my previous post. I wrote that I had been to Springwater two times but I have since learned that my parents took me there many times when I was a young child.  I don’t remember this at all.

A new article in the Barrie Examiner suggests that the work to close the park is continuing.  The article describes plans for the animals currently in the park to be moved to new locations.  Ah, the article describes the animals as ‘wildlife’, and the animals mostly fit that definition but these are animals:

“… that have been injured in the wild, or are unable for a variety of reasons, unable to survive in the wild. This makes it [Springwater] unique among parks and an especially valuable treasure: one of a kind. It is a legacy for future generations,” Miller said.

They are not removing every squirrel or free wild animal.  That would be a little creepy.

Also in the article:

Springwater is the only provincial park with an animal sanctuary,…[and has] 29 animals, including Monty the bobcat, a black bear, a timber wolf, two foxes (one red and one silver), two raccoons (one of them albino), two wild turkeys, a turkey vulture, a great horned owl, a peregrine falcon, a rough-legged hawk, a trumpeter swan, two mute swans, three Canada geese, four white tailed deer, two lynx, two bald eagles and two skunks

Finally

Two groups are leading the charge to keep the park operational.

They include the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition at www.SpringwaterParkcc.org and the Friends of Springwater Provincial Park at www.friendsofspringwaterpark.ca.

 

I think other Provincial parks need to take heed.  Algonquin, in my opinion, will always be here.  It is giant, famous and historic and just close enough to Toronto to be a daytrip.  Parks that I like and think are lesser known are Awenda and Arrowhead.  Arrowhead, get a Friends Of… group, get a real website, a Facebook page and more.  If you already have these things, I need to tell you that a Google search didn’t find them on the first page.  I did find this wordpress blog that looks like it is updated annually and dryly informative.  It does have a facebook page that looks well used.  Awenda could use one; this page needs work.

 

These are suggestions only.  I wonder how saturated people are with wilderness-based advertising.   Algonquin Outfitter’s Facebook page is updated nearly hourly. as is Pure Muskoka.  Well, even if the Facebook pages or other online content doesn’t attract many new visitors, it does a good job of maintaining the enthusiasm of longtime patrons.

What is RTO7 –Ontario Ministry of Tourism’s designation for the area (Regional Tourism Organization 7) doing to help Springwater – or Awenda?  And RTO12 for Arrowhead?

 

I am too newly returned to help Springwater in the way I would like, but I will do my best to post a Provincial Park image every day.

The closing of Springwater Park

March 19, 2013

On Saturday, my son and I visited Springwater Provincial Park. along with a few hundred others, to show support for the continued existence of the park which is slated to lose its status at the end of the month.  It is a great little park and everyone there had fun.

Springwater links:  Facebook, Barrie Examiner.

I will be sad to see the park go but I can’t claim to be heavily invested in it.  It is a great local park for Barrie but I have only visited it twice.  I guess I won’t be visiting it again as it will become a ‘non-operational’ park the beginning of April.  I think that means the cross country hiking or ski trails will continue to be open but the animal sanctuary, the unique part of the park, will be no more.

Animal sanctuaries are my thing.  I love seeing local wildlife close up and even as a young adult would call strangers walking down the street to see some raccoon or snake I had found.  The Robertcats (I convinced my son that it was too informal to call them ‘bobcats’) and lynx were the first I had seen ever. I even loved the “site vacant” signs with their explanation that the park did not buy or collect animals but only provide a home for those unable to return to the wild. This kind of viewing opportunity needs to be preserved.


The thing is, from a numbers standpoint, the park really should be shut down.  I said that several hundred people attended the Saturday gathering, but that is probably the same number as visited the park in two or three months last year.  This is a local secret that people only seem to learn about from word of mouth.

I hope Springwater stays open but I also hope other people and parks are taking a second look at marketing and public awareness.  I’ve been out of the country for thirteen years so perhaps my ability, or lack of, to name parks is no indicator of the average Ontarians’.  I looked at the Ontario Provincial Parks website and was happily surprised to see how many there are, and how many I didn’t know about in my neighbourhood.  Well, I might be a little upset, too.

Why aren’t these parks better known?  Springwater is a great park that I suspect no one knew about three months ago.  I only recently learned that Springwater has cross country ski trails.  Wish I’d known that in early February.

As I’ve repeatedly written, I’ve been away.  I am not sure what the responsibilities of a park are compared to the responsibilities of the “Friends of…”  Who is involved in marketing?  How professional are these groups.  Back in the nineties, I had thought “Friends of Algonquin Park” was a volunteer organization of enthusiasts.

The thing I want is for those responsible for Awenda Prov Park and Arrowhead Prov Park to be sure they are keeping their parks in the public’s eye.  These are two great places that I know about that don’t get much attention. I know nothing about Bass Lake, McCrae or Mara Provincial Parks even though I drive within 50kms of them twice or more a month.  Explorer’s Edge, are these parks are in your region of responsibility?

What advice can I give to the marketers?  Well, I have a few ideas.

First, when you make a website, Facebook page, Google+ or Twitter account, Keep Adding Content!  The Wye Marsh, a great place that also needs to be aware of its marketing, offers both a good and bad example.  The Facebook page Wye Marsh has four friends and five photos (all mine!).  It has been in operation for two years with no apparent support from Marsh management.  The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, another Facebook page, is full of what appears to be daily content.  Attention seems to attract attention.  Next to actual Wye Marsh generated content is more content made and prepared by the public.  Win-win.

Second, make sure you have accounts with the three media above (and more) and your own website.  Link between them.  Really, these two steps are all that is needed for basic Search Engine Optimization.

Third, plan some events and write about them now!  Don’t wait until news comes that your park will soon be shut down. Do it now.

A rant about rants

February 13, 2013

While in Korea, I listened to a lot of CBC radio and TVO audio news.  Here in Canada, I have been too lazy to search for the local CBC station.  The strongest, clearest station that I don’t mind is 95.7FM from Barrie.  On it is segment called “the Cheap Seats” in which a man rants about various a new thing every day.

This sounds like a  tough gig.  Each day, he has to be angry or upset about something.  Actually, now and then, he goes out of his way to applaud someone’s actions and I admire that although that too would become boring after a few repetitions.

Gosh, I feel like a bad man for admitting that.  I want to hear good things about people every day but I expect I would have to work at it to keep listening after the first week.

Anyway, finding five things to be angry about every week is a tough job.  Rick Mercer does a good job of it, and is usually very funny in the process, but he only does it once a week.

At The Cheap Seats, some recent rants were about Canada Is Cold and Tough, and Cars Don’t Have Cool Shapes Anymore and both bugged me.  Ah, these weren’t consecutive releases, so I am open to the charge of nitpicking.

“Canada is Cold and Tough” discussed how well our country functions with snow while the southern US and other locations are paralyzed by dustings of snow.  This is likely true.  My recent home cities of Busan and Sokcho (both in South Korea) suffered greatly by snowfalls that I found comforting.  On the other hand, they have managed very well with typhoons and moderate water shortages that would terrify and infuriate Canadians respectively.

“Cars Don’t Have Cool Shapes Anymore” was a rant about the boring sameness of cars these days.  He seems uncaring about gas mileage or economy and unaware of the current variety available to buyers.  From Smart Cars to Nissan Cubes to trucks and SUVs, I think there is similar variety to the heyday of the El Camino.

finding things to complain wittily about is tough.  Good luck to The Cheap Seats and pick up your game, man.