Saturday, October 22, 2022

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


The murder of RCMP officer Shaelyn Yang, (immediately following the Province wide municipal elections where the number 1 issue was the out of control crime and stranger attacks by drugged out homeless people) couldn't have made the point any clearer that it's way past time to do something meaningful about this out of control situation. The bleeding heart woke crowd, who can't seem to acknowledge that everything they have tried to do up until now has only made things worse, need to step aside and let the rest of us, who believe in law & order and civil society, take charge. Reality has to take over and harsh measures are needed to get things back to some semblance of normality.

The tent cities, drug dealing, and stolen goods markets that have taken over the sidewalks of the downtown eastside are so beyond the pale that no sane person could imagine people living like they do. Photos of the area are now becoming postcards and the area is a tourist attraction for those foolhardy enough to think it will add a little colour to their vacation in otherwise beautiful Vancouver. The filth, squalor, and crime these people wallow in is only possible because they are hopelessly addicted to powerful drugs that bare no resemblance to any sort of recreational high you might get from smoking a joint or even dropping a hit of LSD.

It's no exaggeration to say that all these people living in the downtown eastside have a severe mental problem, and at one time we had a place for these people to live and get treatment for their mental illness. Located in Coquitlam, Riverview Hospital originally opened in 1913 with room for 480 patients but by the end of the year there were 919 living there. The population continued to grow until by 1956 the facility had more than 4,000 patients. The facility had a nursery, botanical garden and even a farm (Colony Farm) that produced over 700 tons of crops and 20,000 gallons of milk every year using patient labour. It also had an Industrial Therapy Building that had shops for teaching cabinet making, upholstery, furniture finishing, metal work, printing, electronics, tailoring, shoemaking etc. to the patients so they could have a vocation when they resumed life after being discharged from the hospital.

Sadly all of that is gone now and the remaining buildings are now only used as film locations by the film industry. Starting in the 1960's the government started downsizing Riverview with promises to build smaller, more regional facilities elsewhere in a phased in approach. By 2002 Riverview was down to only 800 beds and then in 2012 it was completely closed and the promised regional facilities were never built. The provincial government at the time said that institutionalization was not the solution to homelessness or drug addiction and it was gaps in the community health care system needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, the gaps were never addressed and the patients were left to their own devices with most of them moving to the downtown eastside.

Almost immediately governments at every level realized this was a mistake and in 2015 the government promised to replace the obsolete buildings with new mental health facilities but, as of 2022, no new construction has started. In the meantime we have to endure the lawlessness taking over the downtown business area and creeping into every other neighbourhood. But there is a solution, and all that's required is rounding up these people and housing them in a secure, temporary facility with work camp style trailers. Once they are locked up they can undergo addiction and mental health treatment and then when that has been completed they can work on their vocational training before they are released. For those who can't make it on their own in society we need to put them in a permanent care facility, and this is something the government should be building with all speed.

Over the years there have been many advances in psychiatric care, and modern hospitals don't bear any resemblance to the old lunatic asylums of the past. We need to start building a new Riverview right away and, in the meantime, we shouldn't be dragging our feet on getting treatment for those who need it, regardless if they think differently. It's time to clean up the streets once and for all, return the parks to the use they were intended, and quit kidding ourselves that the problem will just go away if we give everyone free drugs and handouts. Tough love is what's required. We once had good facilities, now we have nothing which is bad, and it's only going to get uglier if we don't make some radical changes.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Give Thanks


Once again it's that time of year when Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Unlike the Americans, whose celebration marks the day of when they started their campaign of Indigenous genocide, ours is a time of giving thanks for a good harvest and celebrating being able to survive for another year. This year the wheat harvest in particular is set to be a record breaker which is good news for the farmers and even better for those in the rest of the world who depend on the harvest for their own diet. 

Meanwhile in the Horn of Africa they are experiencing their worst drought and famine in 60 years and between 12-18 million people are facing varying degrees of malnutrition and starvation. Contrast this with people living in North America who have an obesity rate of over 60% and climbing. A lifestyle of junk food, large portions, and too much sugar has brought on an epidemic of diabetes and tooth decay while at the same time ignoring the plight of those with nothing to eat.

But it's not just food that we have too much of an abundance. We have too much stuff in general; too many clothes, too many things in our home, too many toys, and too many distractions. We've created a consumer culture that's a complicated mixture of competitive consumption, advertising, built-in obsolescence, and influencer trends that have become essential to keeping the economy running. But while consumer spending accounts for 60% of the economy it also accounts for an ever increasing level of household debt that now stands at $1.86 worth of credit for every $1.00 of disposable income.

And all this consumption generates a tremendous amount of garbage and packaging waste that ends up in our landfills, or worse, gets sent off to some impoverished country for them to dispose of. In fact, when you talk about waste, few Canadians realize that 58% of all food produced in this country is lost or wasted and yet 4 million Canadians, including 1.4 million children, struggle to access healthy food. The more you look at our lifestyle the more you realize we don't just have a culture of consumption we have a culture of gluttony.

Perhaps we could put up with all this waste if everyone on this planet had a somewhat equal standard of living but the reality is quite different. Global inequality is something people are just starting to get their heads around and when they do there will probably be a revolution. How can we put up with the fact that 10% of the population owns 76% of the wealth and 52% of all the income while the bottom 50% have only 2% of the wealth and 8% of all the income. Even in Canada the top 20% have more than 67% of all the wealth while the bottom 40% have less than 3% of the wealth.

Maybe Thanksgiving should be time of thinking how we can make the world a more equitable place to live by finding ways of sharing the wealth. Wealth taxes for the rich are the most obvious but ideas like a guaranteed income or sharing the profits of natural resources, since they are owned by all, also come to mind. Since the poor are often the least educated, free education could also be offered as a way to lift people out of poverty. There are many possibilities and ideas if our business and government leaders really wanted to solve the problem before it's too late.

It feels good to share and at this time of year there's nothing more satisfying than sharing a Thanksgiving meal with friends and/or family. Perhaps it's that spirit of sharing that will inspire us to find a way to make the changes necessary so that everyone in the world can give thanks.