Thursday, November 01, 2007

Child Sexual Abuse Treatment: BC Government Lies About Underfunding

Some lessons to heed from question period this week:

1. BC's neoLiberal party abuses Freedom of Information requests to make themselves look good and justify leaving abused children vulnerable.

2. BC's neoLiberal party has lied about the need for better funding for treating children who have suffered sexual abuse.

3. The installation of a Representative for Children and Youth last fall should be viewed in this new light.

4. The government should actually hold legislative sessions for public accountability.

5. Tom Christensen's offices are just gorgeous [see above] with their new renovations using money that could have paid for child sexual abuse counsellors.

It was a sick, sick Halloween when in question period, Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen tried to dance around being caught by the Times Colonist [see below] in redacting critical elements of a report, thus allowing the Ministry to deny providing poor service to child sexual abuse victims.

Christensen, with no sense of irony: "It's unfortunate that the opposition is choosing to politicize this issue."

Then NDP MLA Rob Flemming followed up the questioning, "Sadly, it isn't the first time they've tried to cover up failings when it comes to protecting children. Last fall the opposition revealed an FOI which was sent inadvertently to the opposition, complete with handwritten sticky-notes. That FOI about child protection in the Coroner's Service had a handwritten note from the Deputy Solicitor General asking for more severing because it 'contradicts what we've said to this point.' The FOI also showed the public affairs bureau has been given sign-off authority by this government."

Christensen's ass-covering reply: "I can tell you that the Ministry of Children and Family Development receives well over a thousand FOI requests each year. I have nothing to do with a single one of those, but in fact we have a piece of legislation that balances access to information with a number of other considerations."

So much for ministerial responsibility. I know he doesn't process FOI requests, but the minister is responsible for the ministry's actions. Further, the FOI legislation isn't designed for the government to sever information in FOIs that contradicts their public messaging to keep from appearing duplicitous.

Christensen, later: "I'm proud of what this government has accomplished for children and youth with mental health issues across this province — a child and youth mental health plan that is the envy of jurisdictions across Canada."

I wonder if those jurisdictions envy the BC neoLiberals' ability to redact documents to justify defunding child sexual abuse treatment programs.

And now I think back to last November when the government reluctantly decided to actually hold a legislative session to appoint a Representative for Children and Youth, a session that the NDP stretched out to a whopping 3 days. Knowing now that at that time the government was hiding the report that was critical of their funding of child sexual abuse treatment, maybe that helps explain why that Representative appointment was enough to justify actually holding a fall legislative session.

2006 report identified problems with B.C.'s child abuse programs
Lindsay Kines
Times Colonist
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The B.C. government has known for 18 months that its program to help sexually abused children is in trouble and needs help, documents obtained by the Times Colonist show.

Long before stories broke last spring about children waiting months for counselling, a review by the Ministry of Children and Family Development uncovered extensive problems with its Sexual Abuse Intervention Program (SAIP).

The April 2006 review concluded that the 47 agencies and societies helping abused children felt neglected, isolated and short-changed by government.

"Providers were unanimous in their view that program funding is insufficient to meet the needs for SAIP services," the 26-page review stated.

The report said the program was a "critical element" of services related to child and youth mental health and "deserving of a more explicit focus."

"There is a pervasive view among providers that the program has been neglected by government decision-makers over the past several years," the report stated

The ministry blanked out those comments from a copy of the review released under the province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

But the TC has obtained an unedited version of the report that shows many of the agencies complained about a lack of money for training, poor wages for counsellors, an inability to travel to provide services in remote geographic areas, isolation from decision-makers and deteriorating relationships over the past 10 years.

"A more intensive focus on sexual-abuse intervention programming should yield greater satisfaction among providers and improved access and quality of services for clients, resulting in a more consistent standard of care across the province," the report said.

The province's sexual abuse program made headlines last spring when Victoria's Mary Manning Centre was forced to issue layoff notices to three part-time therapists because of a lack of funding. The subsequent publicity prompted public donations totaling more than $130,000 that allowed the centre to re-hire therapists and eliminate a waitlist for sexually abused children.

A TC investigation at the time found that other agencies were also struggling, that sexually abused children were waiting up to six months for treatment in some regions, and that the program's budget had been frozen at $3 million for 17 years.

Children's Minister Tom Christensen expressed concern last May that the budget had been frozen for so long.

"I'm asking my staff questions about that to see if it's something we need to be looking at more closely," he said.

The ministry's review a year earlier, however, had already identified key areas requiring attention, including "establishing appropriate funding."

"Providers maintain that funding has not kept pace with population growth, particularly in high-growth geographic areas, or inflation," the review said.

Christensen said in an interview this week that he did not know all the details of the review last spring, though he was aware his ministry had been looking at the sexual abuse program. The review was done about five months before he was appointed minister.

"Having said that, quite frankly my answers in the spring wouldn't have been any different," he said.

Christensen said it's no surprise that when the ministry surveys agencies to see if they have a shortage of cash, "you get the answer, 'Yes, there is.'"

He noted the review found little consistency among how agencies run sexual-abuse counselling programs across the province, and stressed the need to establish standards before dealing with money matters.

"That's the work that's been underway for the last number of months," Christensen said. Draft standards are ready for review, and the ministry recently held a training session on trauma counselling, he said.

"We are moving forward in terms of trying to ensure that this is an effective program and that the public can be assured of quality services, regardless of where they may access them in the province, and that there's some consistency of standards," he said.

Once that's done, he hinted at a possible budget boost for the program in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. "I didn't make any secret of it in the spring that I was surprised that the funding had been frozen, and I certainly am of the view that when people have suffered sexual abuse and we have effective counselling that can help them to deal with that, then we need to be working hard to make it available."

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Children of Poor Families in NDP Ridings are Worth Less than Children in neoLiberal Ridings

“The provincial distribution goals were met.” - Minister of State for Childcare, Linda Reid, October 24, 2007.

I’m sure the government isn’t lying when they say that 53% of the 2,000 booster seats handed out to poor families in BC went to people in NDP ridings.

“We achieved geographic reach across British Columbia.” - Linda Reid

The seats were handed out only by neoLiberal MLAs at their constituency offices where elegant photo ops took place.

Only 5 booster seats were distributed through all of north Vancouver Island and none in Haida Gwaii, despite government offices that could have distributed seats.

The premier’s Point Grey riding is not filled with the poor. It wasn’t on the government’s list for provincial distribution. Yet the NDP found he had a photo of himself handing out a booster seat on his website yesterday, until they pulled it.

Linda Reid said during question period today that she regrets the distribution method, but says their goals were met.

It is clear their goal was more than just handing out booster seats to the poor.

Even if 53% did go to children in poor families in NDP ridings, the neoLiberal MLAs took the photo ops instead of distributing the seats through government agencies.

When a person in Surrey phoned the BCAA to see if they could get a booster seat, they were asked if their MLA was a neoLiberal. No seat was available for them.

"We do not believe that constituency offices are partisan." - Linda Reid

While technically true that constituency offices represent all constituents regardless of who they voted for, when neoLiberal MLAs and the premier take pictures of themselves handing out booster seats, constituency offices are being politicized.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Some Simple Homelessness Arithmetic

BC's 2006-2007 Budget Surplus: $4.1 billion

Homeless people in Vancouver: 2,000

Homeless people in BC: 5,000

Cost of a home we could have purchased for each of BC's homeless people with last year's budget surplus: $820,000

Here are a few options.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Note to TransLink: Your Riders Are Not Customers

I went to the TransLink website just now to search for the word "customer". I found 376 references.

I also have noticed that in recent days a canned announcement pops onto Skytrains regularly asking "Skytrain customers" to not leave their lame faux-news free daily newspapers [Metro, 24] lying all over the trains cluttering them up and creating a slipping hazard for most everyone.

As part of the large trend to commodify all things public and common, riders are no longer riders, we are customers purchasing a service: mass transit. As customers we are told the class of our existence on what used to be public transit.

Now the new TransLink board is being appointed by a gang of mostly business-folk, a board not accountable to the token Council of Mayors who will be "consulted" on decisions. Public money spent by unaccountable directors appointed by mostly business interests.

If you resent being classed as a "public" transit customer instead of a co-owner of a commonly held public "public" transit system, you had better start paying more attention to the Campbell neoLiberal government's agenda to sell us [and everything held in common] down the river.

And it would help to read Naomi Klein's new book to get a primer on the last few decades of rationale behind the premier's manifestation of neoliberal cancer. And if you don't have time to read it all, you can get the 6 minute primer here.

And a few facts to make you wonder just what price we pay for a privatized, deregulated world.

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Unspinning the Bush Veto Spin

Not that Bush needs to veto much. He simply issues signing statements indicating the executive branch will not abide by this or that of the legislation he's signing. Soft Fascism 'R Us.

But now the folks at the radically right Media Research Center have spun coverage of this nasty veto thusly:

Again exploiting children and mothers to advance the goal of expanding federal spending and dependency, ABC's World News led Wednesday night by giving voice to the media-political establishment's astonishment that President Bush would veto a bill to provide health insurance "for children."

It's hard to reply to this other than to say that the very first clause has simply been spun backwards. Poor children cannot depend on private insurers, so they depend on the government to keep them from illness and death. Bastards, eh!

And black is white, war is peace...

So after 4 decades of socialized medicine in Canada, it turns out that all progressives do is look for excuses to increase government budgets, not the other way around.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

The NPA Union-Busters: an Open Letter to Vancouver City Council

If you agree with this posting, I strongly encourage you to email the Vancouver Mayor and City Council with a letter explaining just what you expect of them. Feel free to even copy this letter, sign it and send it to them at which will forward to each of them.

Dear Mayor and Council,

For those of you who have no interest in vindictively punishing your highly valued staff in your 3 unions, I commend you. I encourage you to continue to lobby the others of you, the NPA I assume (correct me if I'm wrong), to bargain fairly.

I don't know if you NPA union-busters are trying to save enough money from wages to pay off the Wilcox consultants or if you just like watching people suffer, but your refusal to meet your workers for more than 5 hours over THE LAST 6 DAYS is abhorrent and offensive to me.

I am ashamed that I live in this wonderful city when our "leaders" sink to this level of crass disrespect for the workers who support our social fabric, the workers you speak so highly of.

Your behaviour will not go unpunished in November 2008 when citizens wielding ballots all over the city will remember each one of you NPA social pariahs.

"Sam's Strike" can only exist with 5 NPA councillors continually supporting him.

17% over 5 years for workers in neighbouring municipalities is a fair settlement. As a citizen of Vancouver I would support those kind of numbers. Pay equity for library workers who suffer from gender discrimination IN THE 21ST CENTURY, IN CANADA, is due. We should be ashamed to delay it any longer.

This is the end of the NPA in Vancouver: your obvious desire to corrode our civil society is your undoing.

Your offense is obscene.

It is time to bargain a contract, not rewind our labour culture to the 19th century. Get to the table and do your job!

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Friday, August 03, 2007

The End of "Mayor" Sam Sullivan

Welcome Peter Ladner, NPA's next mayoral candidate.

Sam Sullivan has unofficially ended his term as mayor at 11:03AM today as CUPE announced a tentative settlement in North Vancouver. We have passed the tipping point in the regional dispute.

Sullivan's strategy has been absurd, ill-conceived and ill-informed at best, arrogant and destructive at worst. In fact, however, it is not a new strategy: it has a historic [and historically foolish] basis: Boulwarism.

It's all about rejecting bargaining entirely and starting "negotiating" with a final offer that won't budge from threats or strikes. It inherently opposes the rights of workers to negotiate with management.

In light of the Supreme Court of Canada's recent ruling that BC's Bill 29 is illegal and that collective bargaining is protected under the Charter, "Mayor" Sam's tactics are in the spirit of what the Supreme Court opposes, as are the abuses the HEU suffered earlier in the decade and BC teachers' loss of the right to bargain wages, working conditions and class sizes.

But "Mayor" Sam is always right. Until he is embarrassingly wrong. Here's how it looks today:

Richmond, Surrey, Delta, Burnaby and North Vancouver have got Vancouver surrounded with contracts that aren't punitively designed to punish labour because it is organized. Vancouver has had the strength to bargain unfairly with the GVRD's bargaining support, until now as the 5 largest municipalities around Vancouver have or will settle by tomorrow. Vancouver's bargaining strength is virtually gone. Richmond and Surrey, that do not use the GVRD bargaining stick, helped set a pattern that the other 3 cities have recognized, and in doing so have constrained the GVRD's scope to push Vancouver's agenda and support Vancouver's internal turmoil.

Keith Baldrey wrote in the Coquitlam Now on July 25, 2007, “the BC economy has undergone significant changes (forestry, while still big, is not the huge industry it once was) and the power of organized labour has diminished in the past two decades. …The economy is doing well, and employees consider themselves deserving of a bigger portion of that richer economic pie.”

The truth is broader though. Sure, the better economy means the workers ought to share in it. But the truth is that even when the economy was not so good in recent decades, corporate profits and management salaries have done well, often at the expense of workers, whose purchasing power today is close to half of what it was 30 years ago.

People often complain—especially during civic strikes like now--that union workers are lazy whiners who seek opportunities to strike while “real” workers in the private sector don’t have job security or finite hours of work or good working conditions. Their goal seems to be to make unionized workers have to suck it up and suffer the same kind of crappy jobs, wages, working conditions, hours of work and lack of protections that non-union workers are forced to endure.

Unions have spent the better part of two centuries agitating for change: weekends, a 40 hour work week [hopefully to decline further for quality of life concerns and higher meaningful employment rates], no children working 12-hour 7-day weeks in coal mines [except in BC now, thanks to Campbell’s neoLiberal regime, children as young as 12 can get their asses to work], overtime pay, holidays, vacations, health and safety provisions, etc. So many of these benefits have become so valued that society as a whole has adopted them into legislation: the Labour Code, minimum wages, collective bargaining rights to support democracy in the workplace. And now the Supreme Court has joined our side.

So while many non-union workers think unionized workers get too much, my question to them is don’t you deserve as much too? Why try to stop others from being treated with dignity at work because you aren’t. Should we all have a labour race to the bottom so we’re all back in sweatshops? Stop the insanity.

And as Baldry writes that the power of unions has declined, it is because unionization, particularly private sector unionization, has declined. Instead of trying to drag other workers down to lower levels of treatment, it’s time increase the level and breadth of unionization, particularly in the private sectors. Why aren’t bank workers unionized? They are often treated like moronic cogs on a product-shilling wheel while the big banks in Canada regularly post quarterly profits [not revenues!] in the billions?

Sam Sullivan doesn’t get it. Actually, he does get it. It’s just that he rejects it while claiming in his inaugural address to support it:

“Vancouver is blessed with highly skilled staff who maintain our status as the most liveable city in the world. Tightening labour markets will present challenges over the next five years to attract, retain and develop our work force. All of us should be grateful for the front line workers who serve us so well. Our recruitment theme ‘Powered by Innovation’ should be more than a slogan as we provide interesting and rewarding careers."

Intelligent city councils surrounding Vancouver get it too and they don’t reject it. CUPE workers get it because they know they deserve to be treated with respect…as do all other workers, despite what our arrogant, anti-social premier and mayor believe.

So thanks for the memories, "Mayor" Sam Sullivan. Let your lame duck mayoralty begin.

And, Peter Ladner, the tide is turning. Remember that as you build your NPA leadership campaign.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The Minority World Getting More Exclusive...

The UN Population Fund knows a little bit about humans. This week they released their annual State of the World Population report. You should read it.

I think First World, Third World, Developing and Developed Countries are unfortunate terms. The end of the Cold War made the first two obsolete. The last two are overly economistic. So, I prefer Minority and Majority World in an intentionally economistic context to describe the rich and powerful [those of us in the OECD oases of economic health] minority of humans versus the impoverished majority.

One of the most disturbing elements is in a table on page 90, "Democratic and Social Indicators."

6.62 billion: world population 2007
9.08 billion: world population 2050 [projected, duh]
1.22 billion: more developed regions 2007
1.24 billion: more developed regions 2050 [projected]

This is remarkable. As the population is expected to increase by almost 50% in the next 43 years, the proportion expected to live in the wealth of the current minority world is expected to increase by just over 1%.

Now, the minority world makes up about 18.4%. It is expected to be only 13.8%. So much for having much faith in the world leading to more economic equality if things continue the way they are!

It's online here as a .pdf, "Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth":

A multimedia online or downloadable introductory piece is here:

There is also a supplementary piece on the duality of Vancouver's urban climate, focusing on the downtown eastside:
"Vancouver: Prosperity and poverty make for uneasy bedfellows in world’s most ‘liveable’ city"

And some work on "Top Misconceptions about Urban Growth":

In all, the Press Kit & Resources section has good supplementary work:

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