The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Why is Manitoba A-G hard on Filmon, soft on aboriginal gangs?

We don't expect much from the Press Gallery at the Legislature, given their dismal performance at the last session, what with barely recognizing the Crocus Scandal, ignoring the doctor crisis in Brandon, and missing O'Learygate entirely.

And they rarely disappoint us by rising above the low standards we set for them. But we had hopes that a fresh face would change all that.

The Winnipeg Sun's new Legislature reporter Rochelle Squires got her feet wet with a story about the Tory gang strategy going into the next sitting of the Lege. In the interests of fairness, she also spoke with Manitoba Justice Minister Huff 'n Puff Gord Mackintosh.

" Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh plans to unveil his own strategy during next week's throne speech.

" "Every year we've brought in initiatives and we'll continue to strengthen the justice system," " said Mackintosh, noting many of the initiatives in the action plan have already been implemented.

He said the problem with today's gang violence stems from the 1990s when Gary Filmon was premier."

The fact that she didn't double over in derisive laughter when he trotted out the old "blame Filmon" gag disappoints us.

Surely there are some old goats at the Sun whose institutional memory goes way back - say to the 90's? - who could have given her the facts, starting with the fact the NDP have been the government for six years and as such are responsible for administering the law all that time.

Perhaps before the Legislature starts anew, Rochelle can bone up on the gang-fighting history of the recent past.

- January 1998: Winnipeg police, in the Filmon Tory days, shut down two motorcycyle gang clubhouses, the Redliners' and the Los Brovos'. The Redliners clubhouse was seized by the Manitoba Integrated Proceeds of Crime Unit.

- October 1998: 35 members and associates of the Manitoba Warriors street gang were arrested and sent to trial under the federal government's new anti-gang legislation.

- The government spend $3.5 million to convert a building into a special courthouse for the mega-trial.

- It was never used because the accused all pleaded guilty to charges to escape the harsh penalties that would have been imposed if they had been convicted as members of an organized crime organization.

The trial sent a message to gang members that the Tories were on their trail.

By contrast, under the NDP, gangs are in a resurgence.
- The Manitoba Warriors have reconstituted.
- The Hell's Angels set up shop in Winnipeg in 2000, under the NDP watch.
- The Bandidos moved in last year.
- Street gangs abound.

The only gang trials launched by Minister Huff 'n Puff ended in ignominious retreat as all charges were stayed, and the Hell's Angels members and their associates on trial were set free.

That, too, sent a message to the street.

Macintosh wants credit for the "tough" anti-gang laws the NDP has passed, like, say the one, um, I know, banning gang colours in bars. Oooh. That one hurt.

Then there's the safe neighborhoods legislation designed to shutter crack houses and other locales of iniquity. We all see how well that's worked at reducing the number of sniffers, crackheads and streetwalkers in Winnipeg.

What Huff n' Puff is not saying, and Rochelle isn't asking, is why the NDP has such a blind spot when it comes to some gangs in the province, particularly aboriginal gangs.

We saw this attitude during the Manitoba Warriors trial when NDP MLA Eric Robinson went to bat for the gang members, which included his half-brother.

"This trial won't better relations between aboriginal people and whites," Robinson said. He attacked the law and order attitude of the Tories. "They have more of a jail-first-ask-questions-later approach," he said . "It's one thing to be tough on crime, you're also responsible for what's happening on the street."

The NDP have had six years to develop their own policies to reduce the impact of gangs in the city. The result?

The first ever killing of a bystander in a crossfire by gang members.

(People shouldn't forget that this followed another wild shooting outside Junior's on Portage Avenue just a week or two before the West End fatality when only the grace of God saved bystanders from being hit.)

Both shootouts involved the latest gang to hit the headlines, the Mad Cowz.

The papers call it an African youth gang, but the founders are two natives.

Until they killed an innocent man, they flew under the NDP radar. Why?
Do aboriginal gangs have a pass in this city?

In Janurary, teenager Matthew Dumas was shot and killed by police after leading them on a chase. The police investigation exonerates the officer who fired the shot. But a little known detail raises fresh questions about the incidence, questions about possible gang involvement.

Police were looking for a suspect in an East Kildonan robbery, who was described as an aboriginal male wearing a blue touque. A taxi leaving the robbery site dropped off the suspect in the Dufferin area.

Police went there and found Dumas. He took off running. He wasn't wearing a blue touque, but he was wearing a blue "bandana.". Or was that a blue doo-rag, a headgear in the traditional colour of the Crips gang. "Tru to the Blue" as they say.

Will the coming inquest examine whether Dumas was a member of the Crips or another gang?

Or whether police going into the Dufferin area are entering known (aboriginal) gang territory like cops in East L.A.?

Maybe the inquest will have to look at whether the attitude expressed by Dumas' family,

" he didn't want to be in their custody. Who does? ",

even though they admit he was in breach of the conditions of his probation when apprehended, contributed to his death.


The Black Rod made it's presence felt on Parliament Hill this week, when Conservative health critic Stephen Fletcher used our research about federal wait list czar Dr. Brian Postl to force Ujjal Dosanjh to publically commit to the deadline to formulate benchmarks by December 31 as the Liberals promised in the last election campaign.

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.): "... We will have benchmarks by December 31. We do not have an option. Canadians will not give us an option to do otherwise."

We were the first to report how Postl said there was no way benchmarks could be created, and then Liberal arm-twisting resulted in his issuing a desparate clarification that was so clear, Ujj himself had to reclarify it in the House.


Speaking of being first to report, another Free Press exclusive, this one about the Canwest media centre project near Portage and Main, got splashy coverage from Martin Cash and the gang on Saturday.

Only 3 weeks after we broke news of the plan here.

It was the practice of following press releases verbatim, that was the trademark of Cash's outstanding *cough* coverage of the Crocus Fund debacle the last 4 years.

Note to editors: less following press releases, more breaking news please.

That's why we won't wait to tell our readers about the $100 million megaproject at a location near Polo Park, being announced on Monday by all your favorite elected leaders.

Welcome to the blogosphere.

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