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:

Monday, April 30, 2007

When Two Winnipegs Collide

How precious is that?

The Mayor (of South Winnipeg) Sam Katz is positively gushy about the Asper Museum for Human Rights in his monthly column in the Winnipeg Sun.

"This truly is one of the greatest visions, projects or events to occur in Winnipeg this century."

That said, how long will it be before Katz decides that $20 million of Winnipeg taxpayers' money isn't enough for this magnificence. What's it going to be? $40 million? $50 mil?

After all, swoons Katz, it's our "opportunity to showcase to the world our dedication as a city, our committment to breeding tolerance and acceptance, and our solidarity for the preservation and education of human rights. It gives Winnipeg the chance to offer hope to the world from right here at home."

Remember, he says, "Winnipeg's reputation as a rich centre for arts and culture, as a spirited community of humanitarianism and as a hub for fast-expanding economic opportunity doesn't always make national headlines."

Right, Sam. And do you know why?


Winnipeg's reputation throughout the country is as the Murder Capital of Canada, the Gang Capital of Canada, and the Car-theft Capital of Canada. Your failure to understand, or even acknowledge that, demonstrates the extreme disconnect between politicians and the public in this province. To suggest that anyone other than your network of well-to-do neighbours in South Winnipeg values a billionaire's vanity project over public safety is an insult.

Just ask Joan Pawlowski.

She came to Winnipeg to bury her younger brother.

Erin Pawlowski was beaten to death at a bus stop on Selkirk Avenue near Powers. He was coming home from work. He lived one block away from where he was attacked.

Maybe you heard about it, Sam. But you didn't care. Just like you didn't care when Thomas Roy Phillips was murdered in cold blood in broad daylight on Magnus Avenue in front of kids home on spring break.

These attacks happened in a different Winnipeg from yours.

We haven't heard a single word from you. No stirring declarations about "taking back the streets". No special task forces to patrol the area 24/7. Not like when a surgeon's son got killed in the West End. Then it only took you 15 days to create Operation Clean Sweep, use Chief Ewatski as a prop and get your mugs on television playing macho-men.

You declared you were "not going to sit around anymore and do nothing". Well, you did something after the murder on Magnus.You went on vacation. And you had your spokesman blow the citizens of Magnus off with a stirring claim of your commitment to their welfare.

He said YOU HAD A LIST. Yes, a real list of crack houses and sniff houses and booze cans that should be closed down. Sometime, when there's resources and money and... hell, have you folks heard about the Museum for Human Rights?

What do you think Joan Pawlowski is going to tell everyone she knows in B.C. about Winnipeg? Will she talk about some sad museum ?

Or about the street gangs that rampage through the city unimpeded ?

Here's a hint.

See how she described the killers of her brother...

"They're savages," she told a reporter. "I don't know why you don't have vigilantes on the street getting rid of them."

You better listen, Sam.
Because she spoke what everyone in Winnipeg is thinking.
And that's your legacy. You want to talk about human rights? Start with the right to live in a safe neighbourhood.

* The right to walk the streets without fear of being attacked.
* The right to come home after a day's work and not worry about being murdered in the street.
* The right to leave your wife or your mother and not be concerned of a home invasion.
* The right to see your kids play in the front yard without fear of a gang execution down the street.

That's what people will pay for.
That's what the residents of North Winnipeg and the West End and the East End want their property taxes to go for.
Not to see their money handed over to a "uplifting" pet project of millionaires.

You want to talk about "tolerance and acceptance"? How much crime do we have to tolerate? Must we accept street gangs as the price of living in a part of the city that the mayor ignores?

Exactly one year ago we were told that Operation Clean Sweep was to become permanent. In his 2007 State of the City address Sam Katz bragged:

We launched Operation Clean Sweep to crack down on street crime and violence in the areas of our city that need the most attention.We then made Operation Clean Sweep a permanent entity to ensure that it can be deployed anywhere in the city that Crime threatens the safety of our neighbourhoods.

But when, after the latest murder on Magnus, we began asking where the 40 officers of Operation Clean Sweep were, nobody could tell us. It had become permanent, and invisible. Then, last week we learned where they were.


What a coincidence. Obviously Tuxedo had become one of "the areas of our city that need the most attention." Who knew? Most residents of Winnipeg pray for a crime problem like Tuxedo's. But obviously, when you have the ear of the mayor, you get police. The rest of the city gets -- a list.

This week we saw one politician try to bridge the chasm between politicians and people in Winnipeg. At the funeral of Erin Pawlowski, New Democrat MP Judy Wacylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North) offered her condolences to Pawlowski's family.

"I don't go to every funeral that comes along, but this one grabbed me -- disturbed me. And I just had to show the family that the community is there for them. Lots of people are outraged by this. And lots of people are going to take a message from Erin's death and try to do something to change our society," she told the Winnipeg Sun.

You might cynically say she's trying to get a jump on the issue of crime ahead of a federal election, but at least Judy had the shame to show her face. Sam Katz has yet to show his on Selkirk Avenue, or Magnus. After all, what's going to say? "What do you expect me to do? I've already given you Crimestat."

You know, Crimestat, a.k.a. a map on the internet showing where crimes happened and a counter showing the crimes add up week by week.

Like the red dot at the corner of Selkirk and Powers.

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