"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photos from Sunday's Walk for Memories

As I wrote earlier, Sunday's Investors Group Walk for Memories in aid of the Alzheimer Society of BC was a great success, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to be the Master of Ceremonies for another year. Congrats to everyone who walked, organized, and volunteered. And a special tip of the hat to Connor and Dawn, without whose leadership the event would not have flourished.
Photos courtesy of 'Photos by Cheryl'

The 'freeman' phones it in

Going "off the [electrical] grid" is one thing. But taking a headlong, flying leap off the entire governmental-legal-societal grid is another thing entirely. So what am I referring to? It's a loose organization called the "freeman of the land" movement. And one of its adherents made his presence known this morning in Coquitlam Council Chambers, where the regular bylaw adjudication hearings are held.
First, a bit about this "freeman" thing. Here's a good article from the U.S. point view. And here's a link to one of their sites. I first stumbled upon this movement 10 or 15 years ago, when I was invited to speak at one of their events. I had no idea what I was getting into--arguments about how a freeman isn't a legal person, about how the only real law is contract law, about how a government is a corporation and, if a person hasn't signed a legal contract with that governmental corporation, he wasn't bound by its rules or regulations.
All fascinating stuff in a nerdy, law-student, over-a-couple-of-beers kind of way. But it simply doesn't hold water. And every time someone tries to employ the philosophy's circuitous logic to get out of paying fines or taxes, the courts smack him down but good. Just ask actor Wesley Snipes (pictured above), who fell for the "freeman" baloney and ended up in the slammer for three years. This story gives details of his case without getting into Snipes's freeman ideology. This story, though, gives more of that background.
The scheduled appearance of "Peter of the Family Moore" at 10:30 a.m. this morning caused a bit of a buzz around the bylaw-enforcement and legal-services offices of City Hall because he had already spoken to a screening officer and explained his bizarre defence against a $75 parking ticket. Essentially, it boiled down to his declarations that he did not believe our governments have the power to make laws and, further, that a person is ruled only by common or contract law.
Coincidentally, Councillor Craig Hodge and I had decided to attend the hearings this morning in order to better acquaint ourselves with the workings of the city government. We witnessed an interesting morning of appeals, primarily against parking tickets, but one also involving a grow-op that the defendants said was legally licenced, but which the evidence showed was not.
The icing on the cake of a most interesting morning was the Moore adjudication. He didn't attend in person, as is his right, so the hearing was conducted by conference call and speaker phone under the auspices of provincial adjudicator, Mr. Wise (Wyse?).
"Peter of the Family Moore" proved to be a full-blown "freeman," contesting every aspect of the case. He didn't agree that the piece of paper that had been affixed to the car in question should be called a ticket. He was evasive about the car's ownership. He didn't agree that the government had the power to issue tickets. He didn't agree that the government had the power to compel him to pay the ticket. He didn't even believe in the government. And on and on.
The adjudicator kept his composure throughout the hearing, but in the end signalled he had had enough and rejected the appeal. Not surprisingly, the man known as "Peter of the Family Moore" gave every indication he would ignore the finding.

Photo of actor Wesley Snipes from people.com.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A special award for a special woman

Last night's 11th annual Business Excellence Awards, staged by the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, was (as expected) highlighted by an award. But it wasn't to a business or a business leader. Rather, it was to an inspiring woman.

First, though, there definitely was some excitement and pleasure surrounding the awarding of several prizes to local businesses and business leaders for their outstanding accomplishments--not only for their financial successes but also for their community involvement. You'll likely read about them in upcoming editions of the Now and the News, but here's the scoop now:

Douglas College Foundation, winner of the Non-Profit of the Year.
Sandpiper Signs & Decals Inc., Small Business of the Year.
Jim Irwin: Westwood Honda, Business Leader of the Year.
Mr. Mike's Steakhouse & Bar, Business of the Year.

Other award winners, announced previously, were Fred Soofi, Member of the Year; and the late Betty Fox, Legacy Award. Betty's daughter and granddaughter accepted the award on behalf of the Fox family, and were deeply touched.

Regarding the award, the Chamber's program notes said it beautifully: "Betty Fox was the mother of an icon who became an icon herself. She was our national mother, our national hero, an inspiration we have always watched with awe...In carrying on her son's legacy, Betty Fox created a legacy of her own."

Betty Fox died on June 17 of last year, and she, like her son Terry, is greatly missed.

Photo from salt-spring-island.org

Monday, January 23, 2012

What to do with Coquitlam's land holdings?

One of the more fascinating bits of information made public today during our first day of listening to budget presentations is that the City of Coquitlam owns about a quarter-of-a-billion dollars worth of real estate within city boundaries, the majority on Burke Mountain in areas that are to be developed.
Citizens might see this figure and immediately think the City should sell off the land in today's hot market, and then use the proceeds (including the interest) to keep taxes low for years to come. Extra revenue would also be gained from the collection of property taxes on the land, which would be owned by private interests and, therefore, taxable.
As explained in public today, the city's policy is basically to bank this land, to buy and sell judiciously as the need arises, and also to set aside reserves to replace capital assets in the future. Furthermore, it was explained that controlling a large parcel of land on Burke Mountain gives the City more say over how it should be developed.
Readers with long memories will recall that the Province of British Columbia had an opposite approach to land sales when it came to the Expo Lands, which, controversially, were sold as one large, undeveloped parcel to Li Ka-shing after Expo '86. Most observers said the Province got nowhere near as much money for the land as it should have received--and would have, if it had held onto the land, serviced it, and sold it parcel by parcel.
At the other end of the spectrum, the City of Surrey is now actively working as a developer in its own right--and this is controversial, as well.
I'll be studying the matter further in the coming weeks. But, in the final analysis, it may come down to a matter of one's opinions about the proper role of government and about one's philosophy regarding budget processes.
One way or the other, though, it's a good problem to have.
Photo from bestofcoquitlambc.com

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Supporting the Nordic model

As noted in yesterday's entry, I attended an event in downtown Vancouver yesterday morning, at which 60 Social Justice 12 students from Dr. Charles Best Secondary, led by teacher Ken Ipe, were collecting signatures for a petition asking the federal government to toughen the laws against prostitution and pimping.
Significantly, the "Nordic model" they support treats prostitutes as victims of oppression. It does not seek to normalize prostitution and, in fact, embraces a philosophy that is the opposite of what the mainstream media are calling for these days -- legalization of prostitution in order to make the practice safer for women.
From my perspective, the Nordic model is by far the better approach. It does have one flaw, however, and that's that, by defining the prostitute only as a victim, it relieves the prostitute herself of any responsibility for her actions. I am a fierce believer in individual responsibility; we are all individual actors in the moral universe and have the power to make up our own minds.
Nevertheless, I understand that the abuse and addiction that often precede a woman's entry into prostitution can seriously undermine her ability to make responsible decisions--and that is why I signed the petition.
Above are photographs from yesterday's event. I took all but the group photo and the photo showing me with some of the students; these were taken by Mr. Ipe.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Students take aim at prostitution

I'll be braving the snow today to travel downtown to support students from Dr. Charles Best Secondary who, as part of their Social Justice 12 class, are setting up a display table and collecting signatures on a petition that would have the federal government toughen Canadian law against prostitution. I think it's significant that their approach represents a complete rejection of the misguided "sex-trade worker" line of thinking that is favoured by many "progressives."

Here's the text of a note I received from teacher Ken Ipe explaining the project:

For your information, my Social Justice 12 classes (60 students) have chosen to pursue a federal government petition campaign on Saturday, January 14th, from 9:00am-12:00 pm next to the Vancouver Art Gallery. The goal is to gain signatures to change the current criminal code in relation to prostitution. Please see below for the Petition specifics. Since this is a time when Canada is wrestling with such laws, this is a timely event chosen by the students for their final exam.
We continue to appreciate your support in the activism that this course generates.

Petition to the House of Commons

January 9th, 2012


1. Prostitution is by its nature a form of male violence against women.

2. Countries that have legalized or fully decriminalized prostitution such as New Zealand, Netherlands, and Australia have seen a significant increase in human trafficking, illegal brothels, and increased organized crime activity. For example in New Zealand, organized crime has now controlled 80% of the prostitution of which only 20% are legal. For example, the organized crime in the Netherlands has forced the government to close down 1/3 of the Red Light District.

3. Prostitution normalizes sexual exploitation. Prostitution is systemic violence against women and a major deterrent to equality.

4. Prostitution is not a choice but rather a lack of choice and opportunity. The vast majority of prostitutes starts as young as 13 years old and is denied true choice and opportunity.

5. Women are not to be bought and sold as commodities.

We call upon the government of Canada to

· view prostitution in its essence as violence against women.
· amend the Criminal Code by rewriting our prostitution laws in a way that criminalizes the sex buyers and pimps and decriminalizes the person being sold. We ask to use the Nordic model of Prostitution Law. This is called the Nordic Model (and abolitionist perspective) as seen is such countries as Sweden, Norway, and Iceland which has seen a dramatic reduction in prostitution and an increase in the stigma of buying and selling women.
· close all brothels and bawdy houses such as massages parlors where such prostitution occurs and pimps control.
· to not allow men to avoid court involvement by offering john school, anger management classes, etc… instead of court.
· provide prostituted women with immediate access to women-only detox, counseling, and longer term recovery beds.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A small step forward

The big announcement re gaming funds for the arts and culture sector wasn't as big as I was hoping. Basically, some last-minute money that was put into the system last year has now become permanent. And some important sectors have had their eligibility restored.

Although it wasn't part of the announcement, I learned that funding to community foundations, which was cut off a few years ago, would not be reinstated.

Nevertheless, the extra money being put into the budget is a step in the right direction, although nowhere near the 33% of gaming revenues that was the original provincial target many years ago.

Here's the text of the government news release:

B.C. acting on commitment to support community groups
VANCOUVER - Changes to the way community gaming grants are awarded will help ensure non-profit organizations have greater certainty and support in the vital work they do, announced Premier Christy Clark today.

"Through an open public engagement process, we heard from more than 1,700 British Columbians about what we can do to improve our gaming grant system," said Premier Clark. "We listened and we're taking action. Community gaming grants will be made available to more groups so they can focus on what they do best - delivering essential services to B.C. families."

In July, Premier Clark appointed Skip Triplett - former Kwantlen Polytechnic University president - to lead the Community Gaming Grant Review. The primary goal of the independent review was to get advice on how to improve the governance and funding formula for community gaming grants.

In response to Mr. Triplett's report on the review, which provides 16 options for consideration, the Province will reinstate funding eligibility for adult arts and sports organizations, environmental groups and animal welfare agencies. The Province will also increase support for other organizations that have experienced funding reductions in the past three years, including those responsible for fairs, festivals, youth arts and culture, community service, the B.C. Senior Games and community education organizations.

In addition, government will continue to work on streamlining the application process for grants, including exploring options for introducing multi-year funding in the coming years.

"Non-profits do tremendous work for British Columbians. In some smaller communities, they are the sole service providers, ensuring B.C. families have access to important resources that improve their quality of life," said Ida Chong, Minister of ommunity, Sport and Cultural Development. "By investing more in our non-profits, we're investing in stronger communities, healthier families and a more culturally diverse British Columbia."

"I applaud the work of Skip Triplett, Chair of the Community Grant Review, and thank Premier Christy Clark and Minister Ida Chong for this very timely policy decision," said Norman Armour, executive director, PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. "Reinstating adult arts within the eligible criteria for Provincial Gaming support recognizes the important role that the arts play in the lives of British Columbians. The social profit arts in B.C. are a remarkably vibrant and resourceful sector; the news of this investment will have a profoundly positive and lasting

To apply online for community gaming grants, go to:

Triplett's independent report has been released in full and can be found at: www.communitygaminggrantreview.gov.bc.ca

A backgrounder follows.


Chris Olsen
Press Secretary
Office of the Premier
604 220-1640

Jeff Rud
Director of Communications
Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
250 953-3677

For Immediate Release

Jan. 11, 2012
Office of the Premier
Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development

Outcomes of the Community Gaming Grant Review

* The Province has increased gaming grants in its annual base budget to a total of $135 million, beginning this fiscal year.
* That will mean $15 million more in gaming grants than originally budgeted for 2011/12.
* This funding will reach right across the province with a large part going outside of the Lower Mainland to more than 2,000 organizations in hundreds of communities.
* Groups focusing on adult arts and sports, animal welfare and environmental concerns will be eligible for community gaming grants.
* These reinstated groups will receive a total of $8 million. The Province will conduct a special intake of applications from Jan. 16 to Feb. 13 to ensure these groups are eligible for funding this fiscal year. Interested organizations will be required to apply online.
* Of this $8 million, $6 million will be allocated for adult arts, culture and sport organizations, while environmental organizations will be allocated $2 million.
* This funding will benefit non-profit organizations that deliver key community services such as animal shelter organizations, fish and wildlife associations, lake and stream stewardship societies, district arts councils, museum societies, and theatres.
* The remaining $7 million will be used to increase funding to groups that have experienced reductions during the past three years, including those responsible for fairs, festivals, youth arts and culture, community service, the B.C. Senior Games and community education organizations.
* Funding will benefit community-focused organizations such as Kiwanis and Lions Club, heritage and folk music societies, non-profit child development societies, youth music schools and pipe bands.
* The Province is also exploring options for introducing multi-year funding in the coming years for groups that have achieved earned independence through sound fiscal practices.


Chris Olsen
Press Secretary
Office of the Premier
604 220-1640

Jeff Rud
Director of Communications
Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development
250 953-3677

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect

Transition to nowhere

A major development in the winding down of the HST: the BC government has reached an agreement with the feds on the orderly repayment of that $1.6-billion signing bonus. Full text of press release, below. Now, if only Victoria can provide a firm date on when the HST will actually end.

Jan. 11, 2012

Ministry of Finance

Terms agreed for repayment of B.C. HST transition funding
VICTORIA - The Province has concluded an agreement with the Government of Canada for the orderly repayment of the $1.6 billion in transition funding it received when B.C. moved to the Harmonized Sales Tax, Minister of Finance Kevin Falcon announced today.

Under the new agreement, the Province will have five years to repay in full the transition funding, and Canada has agreed to waive any interest charges over this period. While the Province has always acknowledged its responsibility for the repayment of the federal transition funding, the actual timing of when that repayment was to occur remained something for B.C. and Canada to further discuss.

The extended repayment schedule will save the Province debt interest costs that would otherwise have been incurred had the Province had to pay back the full amount right away-money that can instead go toward protecting core B.C. services.

The full cost of the $1.6-billion repayment will still be booked in the provincial's government's 2011-12 fiscal year, but the Province will instead be able to flow the cash over the coming five years.

Falcon will be available to comment to media at 11:15 a.m. at the Premier's Vancouver Office (999 Canada Place).

Monday, January 9, 2012

A memorable afternoon

Mary and I really enjoyed--and, moreover, were deeply moved by--the Tzu Chi "Thanksgiving & Blessing Ceremony" yesterday in Richmond. It was a real eye-opener for me to learn how this Buddhist organization has transformed the lives, not only of its grateful adherents, but also of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people around the world, from drought victims to tsunami survivors, who have been beneficiaries of Tzu Chi's "Buddhism in action" philanthropic efforts. The afternoon featured a few speeches, including a touching one by our mayor, Richard Stewart. But the highlights were songs and carefully choreographed dances that acted out Tzu Chi principles, which centre on reflection, repentance, compassion and service.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mess on the Mountain

Over the holidays, some alert citizens on Burke Mountain alerted City Hall to yet another instance of what is a continuing problem in the rapidly developing neighbourhoods of that area of Coquitlam -- messy, litter-strewn constructions sites and the overflow of that mess onto sidewalks, streets and environmentally sensitive areas.
Council was told that a particularly bad area was just to the east of the intersection of Harper Road and Coast Meridian, close to the top of Burke Mountain. I drove up there one afternoon; it didn't take me long to confirm the problem.
Thankfully, city staff are well aware of the problem and, in fact, the day Mayor Stewart took his own personal tour of the area, bylaw enforcement officers were on patrol too.
Let's hope the new year ushers in some more-responsible behaviour on the part of the mess-makers.
The above photos some of the mess that I witnessed in an area that is a sensitive fish habitat.