Ep 192 Transcript

Our transcript for Ep 192 – Black BC Lives Matter

Ian Bushfield:  [00:01:25] Well, joining us now is Stephanie Allen. One of the founding members of the Hogan’s alley society and a member of the board of the Federation of Black Canadians, and I think you have many, many other hats. Stephanie, welcome to Politico. 

Stephanie Allen: [00:01:40] Thank you for having me. 

Ian Bushfield: [00:01:41] So there’s a lot we could talk with you about, but I think maybe just to start, how are you doing? Like, how are things going for you? 

Stephanie Allen: [00:01:52] Yeah, I think I’m probably doing the same as many people that are of African descent in the world and in countries where, you know, we face very similar systemic issues. You know, it’s not easy to talk about, personally. I’m much better at the systemic analysis, but, yeah, I think we’re all kind of coming to terms with some of the cold reality that the world we’d like to live in isn’t quite there yet. 

Scott de Lange Boom: [00:02:26] I think it’s been a tough week for a lot of people, but before we get into the recent events, why don’t we start off by a bit of a history about BC and black Canadians within Canada and British Columbia, starting with Hogan’s Alley, could you kind of give us a glimpse into the story behind that?

Stephanie Allen: [00:02:45] Sure. Yeah. You know, Hogan’s Alley was really just a nickname that was given to a black neighborhood. It was really a neighborhood that fit within the bigger neighborhood that came to be known as Strathcona. It was an area where people of African descent could find housing and could find a place to live in this part of the world.

A lot of black folks immigrated to British Columbia, to the territory that became British Columbia, in the mid-1800s. They came seeking refuge, most of them from the United States, to flee the racial violence and tensions that were happening there.

They ended up migrating, some to the Victoria region and then some to other parts in Canada. And, you know it’s interesting, the migration patterns to Canada over time by people of African descent, kind of post the abolishment of slavery in 1834 is not very well documented.

There of course were many people that, you know were here as a part of slavery, but then there were people that just moved here out of different [reasons], many of them refugees seeking a place to get away from white violence and terror. So the formation of the community in Vancouver was similar to that, to a lot of other settlements in Canada and started kind of forming in the late 1800s, and by about the 1940s or so kind of was at its peak. 

So it was a matter of people kind of clustering where they could live. This was a place with many of the same racial segregation laws and practices. So, yeah, it was a matter of Vancouver, this region, you know, having many of the same segregation practices that had been adopted elsewhere. There were very explicit racial covenants on land titles and home titles that prevented people from living in certain parts of this city. And then there was also the practice of discrimination. So people kind of were able to live in this area of town because that’s where the racialized people lived.

And at that time, you know, white people who were coming from non-British or French kind of countries or regions were also considered kind of ethnic whites, Italians, Greeks, and those kinds of things. So that was a neighborhood. And that’s how that community kind of formed amongst the other racialized communities. And it was a matter of kind of sheltering from some of the storm by clustering. That’s the way that ethnic enclaves evolved over times in cities. It was a matter of kind of banding together, having a social network where you could be interdependent, where you could kind of benefit from informal economic ties as well as to kind of shelter away from some of the harsher aspects of racism. 

Ian Bushfield: [00:06:09] So there’s lots of points I could jump off there. I mean, I was trying to do a bit more reading of some of the history as well. And you know, the BC Black History Awareness Society has a pretty good website and they talk about many of these stories and how Sir James Douglas, the first governor of the colony of Vancouver Island, who was half black, or born of Black and Scottish descent, he invited members of the San Francisco black community to BC in 1858, who formed this pioneer committee of 35 as kind of the first black immigrants, or some of the first black immigrants, to the colonies at the time. 

But what I really found interesting in what you were discussing there is kind of just how BC’s black history ties to the oppression that I think people might be a little bit more familiar with, specifically anti-Asian racism, which has been pretty prominent in British Columbia. Not to say they’re equivalent or the same, but maybe you could just kind of touch a little bit more on the interconnectedness of some of those histories, 

Stephanie Allen: [00:07:16] You know, it’s interesting. I did my master’s thesis on this and I didn’t find the very direct kind of connecting issues. What’s true about racism really is that it all stems from white supremacy. It all kind of comes out of that pot, whether it’s the land theft that indigenous peoples have faced and residential schools, or anti-Chinese racism that occurred for that community as they migrated here as well, or tried to, and their labor was extracted for various dangerous tasks, such as building the railroad. Anti-blackness was also kind of coming from that pot. 

And what’s interesting about Douglas’ invitation to black folks to the Vancouver Island colony is that it was really done as a geopolitical move. We see this  in Canadian history where black people have been kind of leveraged as a way to fight back or to take a stand against American interests. It was true here as well. There was a lot of interest from the Americans in this territory. There was a lot of Americans coming here during the gold rush. There was this kind of pressure that Douglas was facing and he thought that if he had invited a lot of black people to this part of the world, it would kind of push back on that encroachment of Americans. And so that was part of his invitation and the people who came, they were promised that they would be coming to a place that would be free of racial aggression.

And they immediately found out that that wasn’t the case, that the British were no less tolerant than the Americans when it came to black presence. Britain was a slave owning nation as was all the others and abolished it sooner, but didn’t necessarily transfer the way that black lives were regarded during emancipation, from chattel to human, it became criminal, it became unwanted. They became people that were seen as less than, and it was, it was enshrined in law. So it’s a very interesting kind of history that black folks have been used. The black loyalist being used in that military conflict, and then also in keeping Americans out of BC.

So breaking down white supremacy, it really does create these hierarchies and these structures, but that’s where it comes from when you think about the ways that racism shows up for various communities. 

Scott de Lange Boom: [00:10:07] I mean a lot of this stuff I was never taught in school. I went to high school in British Columbia and we touched a bit on Sir James Douglas, but very little around the role that black Canadians had in the early days of BC as well as continuing on. It’s really unfortunate, I think. 

Stephanie Allen: [00:10:31] Yeah. I think it’s one of those, you know, I appreciate you saying that because it’s one of those things where if you don’t understand people’s contributions and you don’t know that they show up with this complexity and interesting kind of historical and present day context, it all helps to maintain this belief structure. I mean, not that racism is any kind of rational or logical ideology, but it does help maintain it, if you believe that people aren’t contributing anything, don’t have anything to offer. 

And that was a big part of the way that black life was regarded post emancipation. It went from we have the right to subjugate and torture and extract free labor and forced labor from these human beings to they’re not really human, they’re less than, they’re not very smart, they don’t have the capacity to hold equal status as white men at the time men were really the “people.” They don’t have the ability to hold the same status. So it was all a part of it and we live with that today. And that’s why, you know, our school systems, our social systems and our political systems, as well as economic, have not caught up fully to kind of shaking ourselves of this very, very horrible past. 

Ian Bushfield: [00:11:56] Yeah. I’ll give a shout out. Rob Fleming, the Education Minister announced this week that they are going to move to try to make sure black history is more incorporated in the curriculum. Of course, anytime there’s a commitment like that, it needs to be followed up with real action: resources, training for teachers, finances. So, devil be in the details there, but a good first possible move, hopefully. 

Stephanie Allen: [00:12:23] Yeah, and really a result of community, right. Communities put pressures on legislatures and on politicians to make changes. And community has been asking for a long time so that our kids are not showing up to school, not seeing themselves reflected, right and, and not seeing themselves outside of very narrow kind of depictions of what it is to be black and what it is to be of African descent. So it is a step forward.

And I know a lot of people in this province, a lot of people of African descent, that have worked for a really long time to see those changes happen. 

Ian Bushfield: [00:13:00] Well, let’s jump forward from sort of the 19th century into the mid 20th. There’s no Hogan’s Alley in Vancouver today as it was. Where it was, I believe, and you can correct me, is under what is now the Dunsmuir viaduct. 

Stephanie Allen: [00:13:19] Yeah, it was. The black community, according to the oral histories that were documented in opening doors, is this really rich kind of first person accounts of people that had lived in Strathcona around the sixties and seventies. They describe it as being from Main to Clark and from the railroad station to the water. If you wanted to see black people in Vancouver, that’s where you went. 

And so the area that is currently under the on ramp to the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts was kind of the high street, kind of the part off of main street where this alley may have may have existed, that everyone refers to as Park Lane that was really kind of the heart of the community there. So that that’s really where the heart of the community was. 

And there was a lot of different aspects of black folks that existed all throughout Chinatown and all throughout Strathcona, but that kind of was considered the heart of the community. It’s where Vie’s Chicken and Steaks were at Union and Main. The Fountain Chapel is at Jackson and Prior. That was the black church, the AME church that was founded in the early 1900s. 1919 was when that church was founded. And so those were some of the community assets that were there. Hard to tell now when you go there, but that’s where they were. 

Ian Bushfield: [00:14:53] I think it’s pretty easy to draw the line that the reason they’re not there, and the reason those viaducts were, was when the urban planners of the era decided that Vancouver needed this freeway extension from Highway 1 through downtown, that the easiest way, in their view, to do it was to go through the marginalized communities of Strathcona. 

Stephanie Allen: [00:15:17] Yeah. It’s one of those really interesting things. When you kind of start to cobble together the ways that urban renewal emerged in North America, like I said, there was this problem, not only about black life that now exists in societies that didn’t want them to exist on equal footing as white people, and they also are taking up space that white societies and urban areas didn’t want to have within their boundaries. And it was this very interesting challenge, I guess, that they saw themselves grappling with. You know, we have these people here, but we don’t want them here. We don’t want them to be where they are in space.

And Canada has this long history of these settlements of black people that have come in settled and then pushed out and Hogan’s Alley was no different. So as you see kind of the postwar, CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) efforts to support home ownership, to support home renovations, that were taking place in Canada, to economic stimulation that was going on, there’s some great Vancouver archive files for those who like to dig into those like I do. And you can kind of see this eventual move of these federal programs working with local government to help homeowners and then to kind of address the slum areas. 

You kind of see the language start to emerge in some of these correspondence and conversations and articles about what to do about the blight, what to do about these areas that have suffered neglect and disinvestment. You can see there’s this grappling of how to tie together what they saw as infrastructure development and economic stimulation, plus addressing the “problem” of these neighborhoods that people thought were, I mean, the language is quite something. It’s cancerous and tumors on the urban landscape. 

So there was this grappling of how to address it and then urban renewal, you know kind of hatched in the United States, became the way to do it, became the mechanism to accomplish several things. It was cleaning up and scrubbing up the urban core of the cities to facilitate and support commerce. It was the ways to kind of cut back or push back or get rid of what were called blighted conditions and then to build highway infrastructures that allowed white commuters, men who typically were coming into the city center for work and leaving back to go home.

So it was a real kind of many birds with one stone approach to urban planning and while the earliest city plans kind of did these core zoning efforts, that this neighborhood was immediately zoned industrial, as soon as zoning became a thing. There was restrictions in areas of town that were more affluent with larger housing lots, which we continue to struggle with today as a problem to, a barrier to, making more inclusive neighborhoods. And so that’s how you kind of see these things start to converge. It was a matter of addressing it. 

These are low income communities. They don’t have the same political fight back. People aren’t considering them and they really were unwanted. It was like, you don’t got to go home, but you got to get out of here. Like people don’t didn’t want them a part of these communities. They wanted them gone. Where they went was not the concern. It was just, let’s get rid of them. 

Now, of course, Americans implemented really major concentrations of housing projects and Canada did their version. You’ve got Regent Park in Toronto and MacLean Park right here in Vancouver, which still stands today, and is an affordable housing project. And that was the intention, move people into these housing blocks. That will be the fix for their lives that, you know, are so dysfunctional and problematic. And we will clean up our cityscape. So it was a very specific and intentional removal of the city. And you can see in the archives, the various options of where they were going to route the roadways and it was very intentional to route it right over top of what they considered to be the most urgent blight removal area. Yeah. 

Scott de Lange Boom: [00:20:23] I could ask you a bunch of questions about the zoning stuff, but I do want to move on in the interest of time. So just one final question on this, is what happened to the people who called Hogan’s Alleyy home after the community got displaced.

Stephanie Allen: [00:20:38] Well, you know, I think at the time the black folks who had migrated here, you got to think about the kind of migration patterns. There was a lot who fled racial violence, wanting to not confront it and just kind of live their lives without having to interact with violent kind of opposition. The folks who didn’t remain in the South, right. You can kind of see how the civil rights movement birthed in the Southern United States because of that more explicit lynching and all of those types of racial terror.

A lot of the folks that fled North wanted just to put their head down and get away from it. And the folks that were in Vancouver, many speculate that instead of fighting, and we know that Chinatown rallied support and fought back against the freeway extension through Chinatown, the folks in Hogan’s Alley, many of them just disperse. They went to other areas in BC. Some of them took their chances returning back to the United States. Many of them preferring to go take their chances back where they had family members and other community bonds, really feeling the destruction of community here.

There’s stories of families that moved out to other parts of the city and by the time they got there, there were petitioned signs saying we don’t want black people living in these neighborhoods. There’s some descendants that remain in the area to this day. But really the community dispersed entirely. The displacement and the dispersal was entire.

Ian Bushfield: [00:22:13] Well from that depressing note, let’s move on to talk about the police, because you know, it’s been the big focus of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US is the police killings, but people I think we need to focus on Canada. 

Just today, Chantel Moore, of the, I’m going to screw this up, but I’ll try, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, she’s originally from the Island, but it was in Edmundston New Brunswick and was shot to death during a wellness check by a police officer who’d been called to her house. 

Dale Culver from the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations was killed; died after being pepper-sprayed by Prince George RCMP in 2017. The independent investigations office has just asked the crown to consider charges against five officers relating to that. 

Everett Patrick of the Lake Babine First Nation died in April of this year after being taken into custody by Prince George RCMP. 

I was looking up the stats on the BC government’s website on police use of force and the police firearms just charge one for 2007 to 2018 was the most eye opening for me. The only year where a police officer in BC hasn’t killed an individual with a firearm was 2008 and that was followed by 2009 when eight individuals were killed by police officers. There’s a chart on intermediate weapon use, so these are the weapons meant to not be lethal, and that use has been rising since 2013. At the same time, the crime stats have largely fallen consistently since 2009, I think it’s kind of levelled off since 2013. I don’t really have a question just, what do you think? What’s your view? 

Stephanie Allen: [00:24:04] Yeah, and we saw last weekend with Regis Korchinski-Paquet,  another wellness check, a mental health call out in Toronto. Her family is claiming that she ended up dead because police threw her over a balcony. They’re claiming she committed suicide and jumped. 

So, yeah, it’s a very important conversation for us to have now. I think there’s ways to frame this well. I think one of the things, it’s very intimidating and very scary for people to entertain the idea that we need to take a very hard look at the role of policing; the amount of money we spend on it and the kind of results we get. There’s some leading black and indigenous scholars who have talked about it, Robin Maynard in her book, Policing Black Lives has spoken about it. Black and indigenous people are disproportionately the victims of police lethal force.

In Vancouver, the indigenous population is 2%, 16% of street checks. The black population is 1%, 5% of street checks. We see an over-representation of black people in federal prisons at 300% and indigenous of 500%. One of the growing police populations are black and indigenous women. The stats that CBC did between 2000-2017 found that black people in that time study period were between 2.2-3.5% of the population and yet they were 9.3% of the police fatalities. Indigenous were more than a third of that. So, you know, we’re now starting to see a systemic pattern. And because of that systemic pattern, we’ve got to have a conversation about the effectiveness of policing to manage certain parts of society that we want to see safety and we want to see security. 

There’s a lot of work that’s being done. I’m doing this work in my own job when we talk about homeless populations and how to get people into housing safely, you know, the Oppenheimer decampment, which I worked a part of as a lead on that. We were able to move almost 300 people into housing opportunities and accommodations without the use of police force, without the use of any force. We use people with social working backgrounds and community connections. We used peers. We had cultural supports from indigenous communities. We worked with people who had extreme mental health and the team had background in that.

We were able to do all that work, many opportunities for escalation, many opportunities where it could have, gone a different way, and it didn’t, because we applied these kinds of practices. And I think it’s one of those things that we haven’t explored. We haven’t looked at how to divert some of the funding that we’ve put into police into those types of resources so that we don’t need to rely so heavily on an armed force that is trained with lethal force when there are people having mental health episodes, when there’s behavioral episodes, and when there’s other things that can be managed.

I see a lot of the rhetoric talking about, well what would you do in a case of an emergency or what would you do in the case of, you know, someone having committed murder? We can talk about what should be in place to deal with violent crime, with serious offenses and things that require that intervention, but what we’re talking about is, people not paying transit or survival crime to get enough to feed themselves or people who are trying to cope with addictions and don’t have access to safe supply.

There’s so many other things that can be explored and can work instead of having the types of tactics and strategies that we currently use, which actually don’t result in women being safer. We don’t see communities being safer. We don’t see a drop in car break-ins or home invasions because of police. The things that address those are our social supports, our economic development for underprivileged communities, are mental health support and those kinds of things are the things that address that not policing. 

Scott de Lange Boom: [00:29:00] Yeah. That’s definitely a topic that’s really come up quite a bit in the last few days and it’s been obviously an ongoing one for quite a while. And I do think it’s kind of been one of those situations where no, I don’t wanna say nobody set out to intent, but a lot of the role of police have kind of just evolved over time to fill in a lot of that frontline responsibility that I don’t think anyone consciously designed in the system necessarily would have set them out as the frontline mental health support or frontline mental health interactions that a lot of people have. There’s clearly a lot of room to adjust how we structure those. 

Stephanie Allen: [00:29:37] Yeah. And I think, you know, what’s interesting about that is that there’s a, the byproduct of civilian fatalities in these encounters and some of the harsh, you know, results of these situations, I think play to and speak to how a lot of these things were established.

[00:29:55] Right? Look at the RCMP history with indigenous communities and how they were leveraged to enact so many of the anti-indigenous, white supremacy, land clearing, residential school assimilation policies of the state. And so it’s hard to take an institution like that, that had that founding and then really change and reform it, when that’s kind of what it’s evolved with. And so I think the conversations around ‘how did we get here’ are important. And then it’s also about where do we want to go?

I was just saying to an acquaintance of mine, “If I ever die in police custody, you need to know I didn’t kill myself.” And it’s not something to be glib about, but it really is something that I think people of African descent are very aware of and indigenous people too.

[00:30:49] It’s like, if we get into these altercations and people say, we’ve died because we’ve killed ourselves. As you know, it is a threatening outcome. If people were going along their lives in other instances, and we see the ways that civilians are dying and the types of crimes that were in play, you know, not all of them were mass murders on a shooting rampage.

[00:31:15] These are people that could be having all kinds of distress that, you know, someone showing up with a gun is not, it’s not the answer for. So I think it’s such an important conversation. There’s, you know, people like Sandy Hudson who just published a really great article that lays out the argument for how we think about repurposing the funding that we give to police to community resources. And I think it actually makes police safer. You know, the people, the men and the women and nonbinary folks that are doing these jobs to serve community, it’s better for them if they’re not being put into situations where they’re, you know, I’m anticipating a fight and then fight as a result. People are triggered by policing people, they react to those uniforms.

[00:32:03] People, you know, they bring that through their lived experience. And so when they have these interactions with police, it can escalate. It’s a very different experience with social workers, you know, and social workers that were working in people with that background that were working in Oppenheimer Park, use those skills.

[00:32:23] They use the skill sets that they had to de-escalate and there were some pretty, you know, intimidating and predatory elements there. Absolutely. And for those elements, then we need a very strategic and focused approach to deal with them, but not to deal with just homeless people that don’t have a place to live or are struggling with, you know, mental health and addictions.

[00:32:45] Like that’s not, that’s not the answer. 

[00:32:49] Scott de Lange Boom: To kind of take this back, I guess, to almost a first principle, you know, the state has a monopoly on violence. I think we all agree that that is as imperfect as that is, that’s probably better than the alternatives. But that really does come with a huge responsibility for the people who are charged with carrying that out.

[00:33:11] And in terms of domestically, that’s the police. Internationally, it’s the armed forces. And I think we’ve very clearly seen that a lot of people charged with that haven’t necessarily, or aren’t necessarily acting with the degree of responsiveness and responsibility that needs to happen when they carry that responsibility.

[00:33:34] Now. To get to be the people who exercise that force on behalf of the state and how we go forward and resolve that. Well, it’s going to be quite an interesting discussion going forward. I think today there was a lot of back and forth on Twitter about abolishing police. And I think kind of the disagreements there was how to resolve that fundamental question. And I don’t really have an easy answer to that…

[00:34:02] Stephanie Allen: You know, I think a great example of that is this decision by Vancouver City Council right now, not to allow drinking in parks. That’s a really great example of time, resources and policing that needs to go in to upholding something.

[00:34:18] Is it making our communities safer? Are we safer? That and is it good resources in policing to say that people are prohibited from using alcohol in public? First of all, we know a lot of people do it. Second of all, I don’t do it because I’m too afraid. I’m a black person with my black family sitting in public, I already have a precarious relationship with public space based on my experience and my family’s experience. And I absolutely will not drink in public because I don’t want to attract that attention. When I see police on quads at Kits Beach, I feel nervous. I don’t feel comforted. It’s not, it’s not a small deal for me.

[00:34:58] And so, you know, I take your point that, you know, we’ve decided that we would use our democratic institutions to have the power to use lethal force, but  in my history and my ancestry, it has often times been too deadly and too dangerous and has been actually targeted at our lives and the containment and extraction of our life and our labour.

[00:35:27] So it’s a tough one for me to get my head around and to connect in with that sentiment in the same way that others might from their lived experience, because I only see and experience the very worst of it. And whether it’s law enforcement here or the use of military in countries that are, you know, primarily Black and Brown, I see a global system that actually has not been used for the betterment and the actual safety of people that look like me, but more so for our detriment. And so I take my posture to listen and learn from those who have spent more time on these topics to understand their arguments.

[00:36:18] And I think there’s something we have to engage here because it’s not working as is. I mean, this movement in response to George Floyd’s death is the largest movement ever in our human history. It’s the largest protest movement. You’ve got protests in every state of America. You’ve got it in hundreds of countries now that are joining forces.

[00:36:42] I saw a video today on Twitter of the American embassy in Greece on fire. I mean, there is a serious way that the rest of the world views the military industrial complex and American police state. And they’re reacting to it as well. They’re seeing the need to be in solidarity with people who are, you know, being victim to this stuff.

[00:37:04] But also I think they have their own relationship with American military action. So, it is a difficult conversation. I think it’s going to trigger much more defensiveness from political leadership and people who are more embedded with law enforcement than others. But I think it’s really important that we hear from the communities that are the most impacted about the way forward. 

[00:37:32] Ian Bushfield: And I mean, one of the things that struck me of the like political conversations of the previous year prior to the outbreak of these, this recent round prior to the murder of George Floyd was, you know, earlier in the year you had the City of Vancouver trying to figure out how to balance its budget.

[00:37:48] And they decided to do a 1% cut to the police budget. And the mayor claimed to be blindsided by this. And, you know, the fact that they could cut it by only that, the police budget is 21% of the City of Vancouver’s budget. It’s $314 million for just the city of Vancouver. Surrey by comparison has frozen it’s police hire staffing levels for a couple of years as they look to spend a bunch of money switching from RCMP to police.

[00:38:21] Which ironically poses a good opportunity, I would say, for those who want reform to see it, but the way it’s going about, I think we’re going to get none of it. Meanwhile, when that freeze was announced, the public safety minister, Mike Farnworth said, you know, he sided with the RCMP saying they need to be encouraged, they need their staffing levels up. And I think even the Alberta NDP. So it comes across from all sides of the political spectrum, this, you know, plea to public safety. Or I remember hearing about rural crime in Alberta, which are a lot of coded terms, I think for really just upping this police state level and, you know, responding to things that aren’t violent crime with armed officers, which is just not effective.

[00:39:12] It’s not proven effective. Our crime rates are dropping. We, why are we still throwing more money at this? 

[00:39:17] Stephanie Allen: Exactly. I think that’s one of the biggest questions that I grapple with. And I think it’s hardest to defend is that if we have crime rates dropping in Vancouver, why are we increasing spending on this, you know, militarized response?

[00:39:31] Why do we need a tank at car-free days? And armed, you know, like why is that the visual representation? Why is that the image that they want to project? Like, there’s a lot of questions and I think there’s a lot of good members. And, you know, when, like I said, when I was working through the Oppenheimer de-campment, and there was one situation that escalated, that eventually led to an arrest of someone, you know, there was that very specific and targeted response. And we had a great system that we had worked with. But we did not have, you know, police moving homeless people. It wasn’t necessary. And I don’t think we ever want to be in a position where we’re doing that, but we know it’s happened in other instances.

[00:40:18] And so you know, it really is going to be something that I think you’re talking about having a conversation with people to cut back on their jobs and cut back on their profession and the size of their industry. Nobody likes having that conversation, no matter who you are, much less something that is this protected and enshrined in our notion of public safety, but I don’t know how much more the public is safe and which public feels more safe. I think that’s why the conversation keeps coming back to white supremacy and the role of policing in upholding that. There are people for whom policing is somebody you call because you see a kid selling lemonade that you don’t want to see in your neighborhood.

[00:41:07]There’s a lot of ways that, and we see so many of these stories on social media, of people calling police for people doing the most benign, everyday things, but because they have a presence in public that some people feel threatened by, this is their go to response. And so unpacking that reveals the bigger issues of how police have been leveraged to subordinate and to suppress and sometimes to kill, um, Black and indigenous and Brown lives in this country.

[00:41:42] Scott de Lange Boom: I guess one final question here is, and something we maybe hinted out a bit, but haven’t really discussed directly is accountability. And one thing I’ve really been a bit shocked by watching, particularly what’s been coming out of the States has been the, I guess, lack of discipline and complete disregard that and just downright bullyish behavior that you’ve seen from the police at a lot of the protests.

[00:42:11] And I mean, for all the talk of militarizing the police force. They don’t seem to have been instilled with the same discipline and risk and internal accountability metrics that the actual armed forces have. What are your thoughts on, how do we reform a system where more accountability is given to police officers that don’t abide by what we should all expect to them?

[00:42:36] Stephanie Allen: [00:42:36] Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’ve often wondered, you know, in Canada when we see issues arise, like, you know, death and some of the recent deaths that we’ve seen, the lack of transparency in this country on even just the reporting, we get no details. We don’t know who’s involved. We don’t know names of officers.

[00:42:59] We don’t know the circumstances, it is such a media blackout. We have so little information. How do you hold people accountable when you don’t know if investigations happen? By bodies that we don’t really know how they operate and who’s on them. And their findings are, are sometimes, you know, very clearly defined and published.

[00:43:26] And sometimes, you know, it’s hard to know. It is very tough in this country to see accountability. I think it’s less so than the United States because at least we get to find out who people are and what has happened. And you can kind of see the reporting and the access that even the press has. We don’t have that here.

[00:43:44] You know, we don’t know the names of the police officers that have taken the lives of civilians and what the results were and how that went down. And so I think there’s such a long way to go for us to feel a trust in the system and the use of lethal force and the investigation of the use of lethal force when it does happen.

[00:44:05] And you’re right. The one positive thing about this and there’s very few, but there’s a few, is that thankfully the media is on the ground and is recording these and people are recording with their cell phones, the complete and utter disregard for unarmed, peaceful protesters and the use of violence by police.

[00:44:32] It is one of the most important parts of this. That’s why the civil rights movement was successful, was because the world was being beamed with images of unarmed, peaceful, protesters being brutalized by police. And this is going to have the same impact. It’s going, and it is having, the same impact.

[00:44:51] You’re seeing the world rally around this conversation now, around the role of policing with peaceful, unarmed people. It defies logic where we are, but you know, when you’re talking about police brutality, you want to make a point about police brutality peacefully, and you’ve got police dragging people from, you know, dealing positions or very, very passive positions and taking them to arrest them. It is wild to imagine that this is going to be the answer to anything. It’s only going to continue to escalate. 

[00:45:35] And frankly, young people, you know, people younger than us, are, you know, I’ve seen a lot of the nineteens and the twenties, like that age group, is at the forefront of this. They are willing to risk a lot to express their frustration, to express how fed up they are. We’ve seen way too many police killings of black and indigenous people.

[00:45:59] And they’ve had enough and it’s been a bombardment over the last while and with the cell phone videos that are coming out. So, yeah, it’s a great aspect of this point, is that they’re not even embarrassed. They’re beating up media. You know, there’s the crew from Australia that were live on air and the police came in and aggressively shoved them off and pushed them over.

[00:46:25] I mean, it’s getting really hard to make an argument that this is not excessive when we’re seeing these images. 

[00:46:34] Scott de Lange Boom: I just want to add one point onto that is that you’ve also seen a lot of use of rubber bullets and other implements which are mischaracterized as nonlethal weapons, when in reality, there’s no such thing as a non lethal weapon, there’s just weapons that are less likely to be lethal.

[00:46:53] We don’t have phasers with the stun setting on them at all. And those should absolutely only be used when absolutely necessary. And you just haven’t seen that respect for the use of force.

[00:47:04] Stephanie Allen: [00:47:04] Yeah, no. And the rubber bullets. Um, I think there’s been a lot of cases I’ve seen on social media of people with fractured skulls, with extreme injuries from the rubber bullets, or like, I don’t know what you would describe the size of it, I don’t know if you’ve seen the pictures.

[00:47:23] Yeah. They’re pretty big. It’s almost like a mouse, like a computer mouse. But it’s like a pretty big thing and it’s hitting people and you can see that, like, there is a kid who filmed themself from his hospital bed with ’em. You know, have bright brain hemorrhage from being hit with rubber, but there’s an image of a police officer, you know, aiming a gun with rubber bullets at a man with a baby on his shoulders.

[00:47:47] I mean, at a certain point, these images,we can’t make arguments and recognize Tiananmen Square and some of these major, you know, the Hong Kong protests and talk about the fight for freedom and liberation, when right here we’re seeing a liberation, but a struggle be completely suppressed with violence.

[00:48:08] Ian Bushfield: [00:48:08] Definitely agree. You know, lots more we could talk about, but I think we’ll turn to close here. I’ll throw links in the show notes to Hogan’s Alley Society, the BC Black History Awareness Association, Black Lives Matter Vancouver, the book Opening Doors, you mentioned, Sandy Hudson’s article, a bunch of other articles and reports we referenced and some we didn’t linking to lots of different instances of police brutality in Canada. Your Twitter profile @builtjustice, which everyone should be following. Stephanie, is there anything else we should make sure listeners know or anything else you just wanted to close on? 

[00:48:48] Stephanie Allen: Yeah, thanks so much. And you know, I appreciate you bringing me on to talk about these things.

[00:48:52] It is a difficult time, but I really want folks to be impressed with the fact that police brutality or the conversation around policing and racialized communities does not live in isolation. It is one piece of a larger puzzle of white supremacy and racism. Some of it is interpersonal. Some of it is systemic and some of it’s institutional, but you know, the police brutality police violence, the killings of innocent unarmed people for minor infractions is one part of a larger picture. When we talk about racism and systemic white supremacy, it’s not all KKK and it’s not all Nazis. A lot of it is the lack of representation in all of our economic, political and social systems. It is about the fact that we have education systems that don’t reflect the contributions of nonwhite people adequately.

[00:49:53] It is exclusion from the formal economy, from people who are seeking to survive and then have to go back into survival economics. It is the denial of people’s personhood in all factions of life and that the fully human ways that we show up in our workplaces. It is boards of nonprofits, it is elected officials, it is boards of government agencies that lack representation, that lack these other perspectives and it’s policies and programs that continue to deny opportunity to some and provide unearned advantage to others. And so we have to really put these things all together.

[00:50:45] They’re completely linked, anti-indigenous racism and unceded territories that we live on is connected, right? Anti-Chinese hate crimes. These things are all linked and it’s really critical that we start unpacking how they’re linked and how we can solve this. And we absolutely need white folks to come to the table with the commitment to do the very difficult and very uncomfortable work of disempowering the white supremacy structure that we’re living under.

[00:51:20] It does take away some power from some folks, and it is going to give up privileges that people have been afforded. And it’s the only way forward. It’s the only way forward when we see such gross inequities in our society. So I just wanted to leave folks with that thought, because again, these things are not isolated.

[00:51:39] They’re not living on their own. It is part and parcel of bigger conversations we’ve got to have.

[00:51:45] Scott de Lange Boom: Stephanie Allen, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 

[00:51:49] Stephanie Allen: I really appreciate the conversation. 

[00:51:50] Ian Bushfield: Thank you so much. I know you had a lot of people, you know, wanting to hear from you and, you know, that you said yes to us…

[00:51:59] Thank you. This was good. I’m glad we were able to have this chat. 

[00:52:02] Stephanie Allen: [00:52:02] Yeah, I appreciate it, Ian. And for the interest too, with your podcast here, because it’s something I know you’ve been a committed supporter for a while and really have always tried to amplify the work that we’re doing.

[00:52:17] And I think it’s the time that we’re, you know, you’re the type of folks that I’m happy to give some attention to, because there’s a lot of folks that are just, you know, have not been at the table and now want to start having conversations. And it’s harder to give those kinds of folks time because we’re in a, you know, a year ago or two, two years ago, or four years ago. And so I’m glad that they’re finally showing up, but they’ve got some work to do before they can come in and talk to us about our stories or what we feel comfortable sharing our stories. So I do appreciate it. 

[00:52:49] Ian Bushfield: [00:52:49] Alright, have a good night. 

[00:52:50] Stephanie Allen: [00:52:50] Alright. Take care. 

Quick Takes

[00:52:52] Scott de Lange Boom: [00:52:52] Launching into quick takes, the fundraising numbers are out for the first quarter of the year.

[00:52:59] The BC NDP pulled in the most at 679,000, followed up with the BC Liberals at 638,000 and the Greens trailing way behind at 105,000. 

[00:53:13] Ian Bushfield: Yeah, the NDP had 6,800 donors, the Liberals about 5,000, the BC Greens about 3,500. The NDP continues to raise its money mostly from donors who give less than $250.

[00:53:28] The BC Liberals mostly from those who give over and the BC Greens are kind of more evenly spread. There’s not a lot of news that can be drawn. These numbers are good for the Liberals. I think they’re up from where they were having a bit of, I think, difficulties last year, but that may just be that they got the people who are always going to give them money to do it in the first quarter.

[00:53:54] I guess we just kind of have to wait and see how they’re doing later in the year. 

[00:53:58] Scott de Lange Boom: [00:53:58] Yeah. The first quarter is where you’ll get a lot of people putting in their big yearly chapter. If their maximum donors, that’s not surprising. And just kind of a little curious how this compares to last year, to Q1 fundraising numbers, because with coronavirus and everything, there’s going to be probably a drop.

[00:54:18] Ian Bushfield: I think I was trying to look into that. The Greens have done a lot better. They have a lot more donors. This 3,500 donors they have here is actually a pretty good number. They’re in the same range as there as the big boys, as it were, except they’re just not getting as much money per donor. So the Greens really need to hit those people again and again. Maybe they’re all on monthly donations and it’ll add up over time. It looks like over last year the Liberals are up in total donors. The NDP is slightly down in the number of donors. There’s not huge changes though, but overall I think that leaves the NDP still in a overall better position.

[00:55:01] We’ve talked in the past on fundraising numbers, how the Liberals suffered a bit particularly right after the last election. Whereas the NDP just kept ramping up and with the new fundraising rules, the Liberal struggled very initially to keep up. And so there is a bit of an advantage for the NDP, particularly being government.

[00:55:22] And, I don’t know if in history we’ve ever had a situation where the NDP has more money than its competitors going into an election. 

[00:55:30] Scott de Lange Boom: Money in politics does tend to follow success. It’s not a surprise that they’re doing better than the opposition party. 

[00:55:37] Ian Bushfield: Yeah. Each of the parties are also getting their per vote subsidy, which helps pad their contribution amounts that will slowly be phased out.

[00:55:46] But, you know, that’s what helps keep people employed. Uh, there’s been controversy federally and in Alberta at least. About political parties accepting the wage subsidy to make sure that they can keep people employed. I don’t think there’s been any news about any provincial parties here in BC accepting that yet, but none of them have closed the door to it because, you know, money. [Correction: The BC Liberals are receiving the CEWS]

[00:56:11] Scott de Lange Boom: People like to make a big deal about that.

[00:56:13] I know pretty much any party that could take the money got a bunch of bad press. But if we’re going to follow the basic logic of the program that, you know, you want to keep the employer-employee relationship together, there’s no reason why people who work for a political party shouldn’t have the same thing apply to them.

[00:56:32] Ian Bushfield: Absolutely. And you know, political party staff or staff people too, but let’s move from funding political parties to tenancy. The BC rental supplement numbers are out. This was the $500 that the provincial government announced that landlords can get to ensure that their residential tenants can still cover their rent.

[00:56:58] And I think there was an initial budget that they set out that they would make sure that if every one of the 600,000 tenants in British Columbia would need this money, they could get it. But really only 15% of British Colombian renters did apply for it.

[00:57:18] Scott de Lange Boom: This took a lot of people by surprise, I think, that the numbers were so low.

[00:57:22] Ian Bushfield: Yeah. It was about 87,500 applications, some of whom were deemed ineligible, but significantly less than I think people were expecting. 

[00:57:31] Scott de Lange Boom: Yeah. I mean, the big concern when it was first announced that there was going to be oversubscription to it and there wouldn’t be enough money set aside to go around.

[00:57:40] Ian Bushfield: I think part of the problem ended up being that this program rolled out with a number of criteria that possibly made it, if not harder to get, at least perceptually harder to get. You had to, it was based on your 2019 income, you had to show a drop in revenue. There was an income cutoff I believe.

[00:58:00] And just a little bit, you know, that barrier versus the CERB where you just basically said, I need it, give it to me and we’ll figure it out later. 

[00:58:09] Scott de Lange Boom: The other news on the rent support and regulations is that, BC’s banning commercial evictions for landlords that don’t apply for the benefits. 

[00:58:20] Ian Bushfield: Yeah. So there’s a federal program that was announced, the emergency commercial rent assistance program. It gives commercial landlords a non repayable loan, just basically free money, for up to 50% of their monthly costs, if they agree to cut the rent for a tenant by 75% and promise not to evict them. The small business tenant then has to pay 25%. And they have to pay less than $50,000 a month in rent and have their revenues declined by 70% or more. Basically, BC’s move is an encouragement to make sure that commercial landlords are actually using this and not just sticking it to small businesses who are often at the tightest end of the financial crunch in this situation right now.

[00:59:05] Scott de Lange Boom: Another organization or group of organizations that feel a lot of financial crunch is municipalities who’ve had their revenues dry up and we’ve been talking for a couple of weeks now about how other levels of government would support them. And the federal government’s answer announced, last Friday was, we have about $2.2 billion in gas tax money that’s due to  come your way anyway but we’re trying to cut your cheque in June, rather than waiting for it to be dispersed normally.

[00:59:38] Ian Bushfield: We will give you the money we were going to give you anyway, just a little quicker. 

[00:59:46] Scott de Lange Boom: And it’s for capital works. So it doesn’t really cover the operational problems and covering the operational funding that municipalities are really struggling with right now. And we talked a couple weeks ago when the provincial government allowed municipalities to borrow against their capital funds to cover operational costs. Basically the approach both levels of government are taking of, well, we’ll help you a bit on the capital stuff, but none of it really covers off the real operational needs and just kind of disappointed that big municipal financing problem isn’t getting solved, particularly because the municipalities do have to lay off staff a cut back hours. Well, that’s going to cause further economic problems and you’d hope we would have learned the lesson from 2008 recession where lower levels of government are having to cut staff because revenues dried up made the situation worse, but clearly we haven’t. 

[01:00:46] Ian Bushfield: Yeah. The Federation of Canadian municipalities has said municipalities need immediately $10 to $15 billion of short term funding to stay afloat. Like the City of Vancouver’s looking at a $300 million shortfall. Burnaby is looking at million dollars a month, millions of dollars a month that they’re losing. Trudeau has said more announcements are coming, but you know, each day that there isn’t an announcement is a day that these cities are losing money and having to lay people off and make other deep cuts. 

[01:01:18] Scott de Lange Boom: One follow up from our discussion last week on Hauwei is that Bell has announced earlier this week that they have chosen to go with Erickson to build their 5G network, as well as Telus has also announced that they won’t be proceeded with Huawei, which basically means none of the major telecoms are going with Huawei. So I guess that helps Trudeau avoid having to make a very obvious decision that he’s been dragging his feet on. 

[01:01:47] Ian Bushfield: Yeah. I don’t know if Rogers has made an announcement. I think that’s the last major…

[01:01:53] Scott de Lange Boom: I think they had already announced they were doing differently.

[01:01:55] Ian Bushfield: Okay. But yeah, this is definitely an easy way for Trudeau to get out of having to make the decision. I think there’s still a lot of pressure from the army, and military allies and the international or the security, to still make the call. But yeah, we’ll see. 

[01:02:13] Scott de Lange Boom: So it really is like such an obvious thing that you don’t want at the very least unfriendly country in a lot of ways to have a role in our critical infrastructure. 

[01:02:24] Ian Bushfield: And finally, the province of British Columbia’s budget 2021 consultation is open. The link will be in the show notes. If you want to submit your views on what the BC’s budget should look like, both in terms of what priorities they should take, and you get to do the fun thing where you take a dollar and divide it up between all the different programs.

[01:02:47] And I always struggle to do while I know healthcare takes up about, I believe it’s 40% of our budget and education’s another 30%. And now how do I divide up these last 30 cents between all the other things that I also think are important, but you know, you can mess around with it and say health care gets zero or education gets 2c. Play around, give your thoughts and opinions to it. I will actually be presenting to the finance committee on Monday afternoon for work. I get to do a five minute presentation via Zoom, and I believe that will be live streamed on the government’s website at 4:50 PM. If you want to watch that. 

[01:03:25] Scott de Lange Boom: And we’ll put a link in the show notes to the consultation page.

Liked the show? Support PolitCoast on Patreon!
About the Author
Background in physics, works in non-profit, an excess of opinions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *