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 since 2005, 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:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War in Afghanistan 2007 Week 44

If you depend on the Mainstream Media to tell you about NATO's mission to Afghanistan, you hear nothing but reports of failure, division and impending defeat.

That's strange.

We see signs of success everywhere, and never more than in the past week.

Just last Sunday U.S.-led coalition forces killed about 80 Taliban fighters near Musa Quala in Helmand province. It was the fifth major battle in the area since Sept. 1st. and the Taliban death toll tops 250 for Musa Quala alone.

The official report says a combined Afghan-coalition force was on a reconnaissance patrol when it was attacked by insurgents from a trench line with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. Over the next six hours the U.S. and Afghan troops manoeuvred to fix the enemy positions, then called in air strikes.

Four precision bombs decimated the enemy forces, killing about 80.

Find 'em, fix 'em, f-kill 'em (the f is silent). A time-honoured tactic that's been perfected by our forces. Final score: us, 80 and them, zero. Like a boxer who has discovered his opponent is a sucker for the old one-two.

Apart from perfecting technique, the significance of the battle is where it took place.

Insurgents seized Musa Qala and district in February and have held it ever since. They took over four months after British troops left as part of a highly controversial "peace agreement" that put local Afghan elders in charge of ensuring Taliban fighters didn't menace the people. Given unfettered access to the town Taliban forces used it as a safe haven, then, after a regional commander was killed in an air strike, they swept the elders aside and took control.

Residents from Musa Qala say the Taliban has spent the summer fortifying positions and digging trench llines and bunkers everywhere.

Local officials told AP (the phone lines to Musa Qala have not been cut off) that foreign fighters from Pakistan, Chechnya and central Asia operate suicide bomber training camps and build IED's which are used to kill Canadian troops in neighbouring Kandahar province.

General Dan McNeill, who succeeded the British General David Richards as the leader of Nato forces in Afghanistan, had called the peace agreement "an intellectual mistake and a strategic disaster".

His predecessor, however, said as late as Oct. 11 that such cease-fire deals are "...the right thing in principle."

In World War 2, Winston Churchill cashiered officers for lesser failures than Richards'.

In present day England, Gen. Richards will soon become the commander-in-chief of Britain's land forces.

McNeill, a no-nonsense American, has sent his Special Forces in to do what the British forces were reluctant to do. And it may be paying off bigtime.

Monday, the UK's Daily Telegraph reported that a highly influential Afghan tribal leader is talking with Afghan government officials about defecting from the Taliban insurgency and taking thousands of his tribesmen with him.

According to the Telegraph report, a majority of the fighters operating in Musa Qala are from one tribe, nearly all of whom are loyal to Mullah Abdul Salaam. They were aligned with the Taliban, but once word of the negotiations leaked out on the weekend, Taliban officials outside of Helmand province sent assassins to kill Salaam. The murder attempt failed and an agreement for Salaam to withdraw his forces from combat could be reached within days, says the Telegraph.

The MSM has missed this story because they're too focussed on the divisions within NATO over Afghanistan operations, and too ardently trying to promote a non-existent split between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and General Hillier.

The huge splits within the Taliban movement have gone unnoticed and unreported, starting with the decision by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyer ,who leads the insurgents in the north of Afghanistan, to opt out of the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive (TM The Black Rod).

Hekmatyer, no doubt inspired by the deaths of several high-level Taliban commanders in coalition air strikes, could see who was winning and who wasn't. Mullah Salaam can see the same thing.

After Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's chief military commander for the Feared Taliban Spring Offensive (TM The Black Rod), was killed, the Taliban's official leadership faced an unprecedented challenge. New Bucks like Jalaluddin Haqqani (okay, middle-aged bucks), whose power base is in eastern Afghanistan, want to wrest power from Mullah Omar, who they consider and old fogey.

The introduction of Al Qaeda tactics like suicide bombers has alienated many Afghans and caused a split in the insurgency between the local Taliban who just want to fight foreign troops and the Pakistan-based Taliban who want to cleanse the region of anyone that disagrees with them regardless of civilian casualties.

The United Nations rep to Afghanistan told the body in his official report this month that the Taliban has lost a large number of mid- level leaders who have been replaced by foreign ``elements.'' In some cases, that has not gone down well with the locals.'' This summer saw a literal civil war in Pakistan's lawless tribal region when local Taliban fighters drove out Uzbek fighters loyal to Al Qaeda at the expense of hundreds of dead, Taliban who wouldn't be coming to Afghanistant to fight NATO troops. But it only gets better.

Two weeks ago Asia Times carried a report quoting "a top Pakistani security official who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity," that Pakistan is planning an all-out battle against Islamic fundamentalists in the tribal region of North and South Waziristan.

Previous military operations, said the Asia Times story, had limite objectives. But Pakistan authorities have given the military the order to go for broke "to break the back of the Taliban and a-Qaeda in Pakistan and reclaim the entire area."


If true, the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are about to be destroyed. The insurgents who have been hiding there will be forced into Afghanistan, but guess who will be waiting for them? And this report came before Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan, before the terror attacks predicted by Waziristan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud when she arrived, and before she runs for office on a platform of driving the Taliban out.

Did we say there was good news or did we say there was good news?

The Taliban has accepted it cannot defeat NATO, US and even Afghan forces in battle. They have resorted to terror tactics instead. But even these are not as effective as they hoped.

The UN Security Council was informed two weeks ago there has been 133 suicide bomb attacks this year compared to 88 during the first nine months of 2006, roughly a 50 percent increase. There were 123 suicide attacks in total last year. The suicide bombings killed 183 Afghans during the first half of 2007, 121 of them civilians.

Afghan forces, particularly the police, have borne the brunt of the other casualties.Roadside bombings have increased about 30 percent to 606 by mid-October.

"The number of ISAF and coalition soldiers who have been killed by suicide bombers this year is a total of nine," said a U.S. military official at a recent briefing. "I am not implying that these losses are trivial ... but from a strategic standpoint it is not militarily significant," he said.

Here's a pathetic example of the Taliban's kamikaze forces:

Afghan suicide bomber kills own family 15.
October 2007, 12:29
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer

A mother who tried to stop her son from carrying out a suicide bomb attack triggered an explosion in the family's home in southern Afghanistan that killed the would-be bomber, his mother and three siblings, police said Monday. The would-be bomber had been studying at a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan, and when he returned to his home in Uruzgan province over the weekend announced that he planned to carry out a suicide attack, Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said.

The MSM loves to recite the total fatality figure for Afghanistan, which is running at about 5,200 so far. The majority of deaths , which the news agencies count as about 3,600 have been Taliban fighters. Civilian deaths top 1000.

Or do they?

NATO apparently possesses a trove of classified, video clandestine footage taken by UAV's and military aircraft. Two weeks ago, NATO's secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer made a pitch to declassify video surveillance footage shot by NATO forces to counter Taliban propaganda video posted on jihadist Internet sites.

One video shown to NATO commanders recently shows an insurgent pulling a burka from a backpack and slipping it on, covering himself in the head-to-foot robe to disguise himself as a woman. He then opened fire with an AK-47 on western troops.

How would he be classified when his dead body was recovered?
Or this guy...

Foreign fighters of violent bent bolster Taliban
By David Rohde
Published: October 29, 2007
GARDEZ, Afghanistan:
Afghan police officers working a highway checkpoint near here noticed something odd recently about a passenger in a red pickup truck. Though covered head to toe in a burqa, the traditional veil worn by Afghan women, she was unusually tall. When the police asked her questions, she refused to answer.

When the veil was eventually removed, the police found not a woman at all, but Andre Vladimirovich Bataloff, a 27-year-old man from Siberia with a flowing red beard, pasty skin and piercing blue eyes. Inside the truck was 1,000 pounds of explosives.

Did you catch it? Siberia.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Taliban is hiring mercenaries from around the globe--Siberia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, several Arab countries, Turkey and western China.

The influx of seveal hundred foreign fighters this year is the largest foreign recruitment since 2001. It appears there's a shortage of cannon fodder at the local level.

By the end of the year the Taliban dead will number 4000 at least. Assume a ratio of one wounded to every dead that's another 4000 men who will live out their lives known as Limpy Muhammed in their home villages.

Add to last year's toll and you have 14 thousand dead and wounded, with nothing to show for it except more lost territory and a stronger Afghan and coalition army waiting for next year's Feared Taliban Spring Offensive (TM The Black Rod).


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Crips and Bloodz true cultural anchors of Winnipeg's aboriginal gangs

(Bebo tribute page to Aaron Nabess on the right, his handgun-toting friend on the left)
At least six murder victims in Winnipeg in the past year are linked to a network of thuglife, gangster rap-styled, mainly aboriginal street gangs calling themselves Crips and Bloods after the major black gangs of L.A.

The Black Rod has been monitoring these gangs for several months ever since discovering memorial tributes to victim Josh Prince on numerous pages on, a social networking website like Myspace and Facebook.

Josh Prince, a student of Kildonan East Collegiate, was stabbed to death the night of May 26 allegedly while breaking up a fight. His family said at the time he had once been associated with an unidentified gang, but had since broken away.

But the devotion to Prince on sites like Watt Street Bloodz and Kingk Notorious Bloodz (King-K-BLOODZ4Life) shows that at the time of his death he was still accepted as one of their own.

Our searches of Bebo have turned up another five gang-linked murder victims:

* Travis Campbell, 22, was shot to death Oct. 17, 2006, in his Watt Street apartment. Crips.

* Lester Gonzalez, 19, was stabbed to death outside after leaving the Empire Cabaret on Main Street bar in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve. Crips.

* Thomas Roy Phillips, shot to death March 26 in a car parked near a known crack house on Magnus Avenue. Crips.

* Aaron Nabess, 20, was fatally shot July 12 in front of a house on Magnus Avenue. Crips.
* Elliott Flett, 24, was found stabbed to death in a vacant house undergoing renovations on Pritchard Avenue. Bloodz

Each of these has been the subject of a memorial or tribute on a gang-related site, such as this multiple remembrance from Katiebabie

?]g'ee] shòútz `elmwòòd â?eâ * *??p tò thòse whò hâve fâll?ñ; shâggy-t?âv?s câmpbell-lester gòñzâles-jòsh p??ñce-dâm?eñ k??kñess-ââ?òñ ñâbess; gòñe bút ñeve? fò?gòtteñ

(More about these strange spellings, later.)

The Winnipeg Free Press found this message on the Bebo page of Andrew Nobess :
R.I.P. To My Homie Elliott Flett

But had they looked further they would have found these photos labelled Bloodz, including the emblem for the street gang Notorious Bloodz.

Aaron Nabess had his own Bebo page, although the irony is headshaking, now. His tag was Cap1 (John-Gotti187) and for hometown he posted " Murder capitol of Canada".

"i like to go clubing dancing having drinks. I play guitar a lot it broke my last relationship up cuzz she hated guitar but i love lol. I'm a amature Boxer at Alliance Boxing INC. and for GOJO GYM. i love going to the beach in the evening i'm on here to meet friends and new ppl. i'm 20 years brown hair green eyes and a gemini.Weekends are a bout gettin piss drunk lol yeah off DP.Gotta down asss girl thats here for me i love u Amanda"

His last profile comment:
<--EAST~SIDE--> Elmwood till i die, Tru blue CRIP till i die NiGGA
A poster promises to avenge Josh Prince.
Eastbeats2 (just a lil sumtin sumtin)

i once laughed at life or death whne people where out here smokin da meth people walkin up 2 me askin me 2 put it 2 da test all those guys all died liek da rest i had a homie names josh he was 1 of da mutha fuckers that r lost but not by doin chops no beat down by da cops but from a stabbin in da chest n fell 2 da dusk b/c he thought that he ahd sum1 trust lil pissy kid that stabbed him gonna get it like a pin couchin with my pist bruzin

A day spent roaming these pages uncovers a large contingent of Aboriginal youth who have adopted the trappings, the speech, the clothing, and the weaponry of the U.S. based gangs they emulate.

They post messages calling each other Nigga, photos of themselves and their "crew" making gang signs, holding guns, and professing lifelong love and dedication to the gang. Their local gangs take geographic names like Eastside Crips or Westside Bloodz or more colourful names like the Crazy Eights in Point Douglas.

They torture the English language, using a bizarre spelling that's a mix of Ebonics, rap and text messaging which is sometimes made even more unreadable through obscure and almost impenetrable fonts. It takes great patience to make out the messages and even then it's helpful to have a translator along.

They stake out turf...


u w.s.b. that territory belongs to the elmwood eastside crip wait till chris.s gets out
This Lil Pissy Bitch Again Hey U Want Tah Fuck With Us Bring Ur Bunk Blood Crew Down Bitch Point Side Ganxsta Up In Ur Ass Bitch Watt Street Killa Fuk Ur Bitch Ass Blood Hallet Iz Where I Be At Bring It
Bishop C-8'z
lol fuck kevin.. said he livin in point side...mang i be point side reppin right chere...i neva see dis fake ass crip bitch in da hood....laren..pplease mang...dis guy dont kno wut he talkin bout...catch him in da hood only place u gonna catch in in tha hood is hidin in his house i bet...neva see him on tha street to scared cuz he kno i be packin heat... Kevin mang i be on austin laren lisgare eculid...all of P.O.I.N.T.S.I.D.E...Bustin meh chopz... so quit frontin kevin...fuk da crip shit...

yo wat up homie fukkin shits wak wyit out u on da block bro wen u get out dawg we goin st8 on da grind takin this shit bak u been missin out on alotta gwap but shit its iight u a hustler u'll make that shit bak ona quikness stay up halla at ur boi wen u out dawg payce

They taunt each other...

Whut up Blood ay yo fuck dat CKrab he live in my city I dont see his ass around at all matter a fact I aint see no CKrabs bitch ass faggots always on da run when I did see em I fucked em up in a 5 on 4 , 5 CKrabz 4 BLOODz lmao we did em in hard homie shiet I got a video to prove it lmao Ill show you it if u ever come thru my town dat is da MURDA CAP lmao aka PEG city home bwoi but yee Im out ONe big B NOTORIOUS BLOODZ 4 LIFE B'C UP C'Z DOWN FUCK CKRABZ

LMFAO! point side? from point side r fuckin bitches compared to us north enders...and crazy eights?...wut da fuck is up wit that that a kids card pussies wit ur lil pussy ass gangsta wannabe shit....lmao...fuckin losers

They threaten each other...
Julien Nepton

LiVe BY tHe gUN dIe bY tHe gUn 1 week ago

They brag about their lifestyle:
Diezal Westside
MY OCCUPATION A FUKIN CITY WIDE DRUG DEALERSports I was a Boxer at Oroiles for 4 Years and played football and basketball for commmunity teams Scared Of being broke wen i do in my free time Makin money , while puffing on a blunt....holla at me XXX-XXX

Point-Side- Hustla Gender Male Age 17
Happy When... I Got Paper In My Pocket...Weed To Smoke...An Hypnotiq To Drink... Biggest Fear Livin A BrokeAss Life... Crazy Eights.... We Hustle...We Rap...We Party...An We Live Life To Tha Fullest...Crazy Eights...A Solid Krew...Always Down...This Is Us...From Sittin Back Always On My Ass Lettin Time Pass By, To Gettin On Tha Grind, Tha Money Keeps On Rollin, An Now I Got Got Tha Line, We Straight Soldiers Flippin Birds, Eight Hustla's Spittin Rhymes, Im A Hustla On Tha Block, An I Think Its Bout Time, When Me An Tha Homies Speak Whats On Our Minds, Hypnotiq An Blunts, Raps Hustlin An Crimes, We Learn To Trust Eachother, An Get Past All Tha Lies, I Open My Eyes An Realize Tha Life We Livin, An Tha Sizes We're Givin...................AN IM LUVIN IT!!!!!

KillaBishop C-8'z
Yo diz is fo' ya'll my boi be out on august 28th yeah meh homie be back from doin his time,yeah He'z A "G" yeah he'z a hustla so wut he down wit us crazy eightz

Brittany Palmer <-Qu33n-B33->
Im Not Gangster.. Im hood; ghetto. Got everything a thugg needs. Money,Drugs , Guns, Bros and Hoes. And most importantly; I have my respect. If you are going to cross my path, and get me to lose my respect or show none to me. Thats alright; But; Then let the lord be with both of us... Cause I know how me and my boys roll. i got street smarts, i hustle from time to time, i got madd love for my famz, n friends. they my life you fuck with em u fuck with me, im known to be a bitch but its who i am, once u get to know me, im pretty cool, im always down for drinking or parting cruising or w.e the case may be, dont get on my bad side.. for ur life will be fuckked, dont concider me some lil internet who cuz i aint.. i respect my body, n i dont do stupid shit with it, gots the bestest friends in the world.. cody iverson mary spade, katelyn guiboche, larissa p and Braden Jones, without u i would be incomplete
Brittany Palmer <-Qu33n-B33->


The women--or rather, girls--- brag about their children...
(Murda mammii is 16 years old.)

\m?zz murda mam?? c?a????«-
Kn0wn In Peg City as ChanTii. She Can H0ld Her 0wn, G0ts Respect 4 heRselF, Luv`s Br00klynn HeR Gorjaws BabyGrl?

(Heartless-Cutie is also 16, and says she's married.)
Happiest When Drinkin n Dancing, and of course when im with my daughter?,Sweet-Cheeks

Amber is 15 and expecting...

Me, Myself and I

ok well Im Mz Amber xxx and I gotz black hair and i looks sexy and i have sexy deep brown eyes im 5'2 lol im a lil shorty and im 15 years young and im havein a baby i cant wait and i grow ..

(M M is looking out for her son)

ill pick up tyrese tomorrow around 4:30 dont think im gonna let him go to cfs when your in jail you can call me at xxxxxxxx and talk to your boy i aint gonna keep you away from your boy whenever you get out of your vacation give me a call so you can see him peace out and take care dont get into trouble see ya later!

This shadow world of gangsta life ala Winnipeg provides some answers to some of the crimes of violence that have made the news this year.

* In April a teenaged rapper called Young Juve had his debut show at the Winnipeg Convention Centre cancelled when management bowed to threats by gangs. Young Juve's Bebo page concentrates purely on his music, but he's listed as a Friend on many other pages, some of which belong to members of the Crips. It's obvious now that those gangs that threatened him belong to the rival Bloodz.

* In September, a student at Sisler High School was stabbed with a butcher knife during a lunch break.

Dwight Letandre, the youth charged in the incident, posted this comment :

Dwight Letandre

shit yea, i cant fucken go to any high school in winnipeg cuz what i did at sisler. did my ex tell u what happened her name is (lil-cutie-pie82)

On his own page, here's his profile:

Dwight Letandre

sup my name is Dwight Letandre A.K.A The King Of Kingz and im 18 years old and from Berens River the fuckin rez where everybody fucken parties 24/7.Gender Male Age 18

* And just 3 days ago this appeared on a Crips page:

thats for lalo
matthew dumas rest in peace posted by C.G

Is this a late clue to why Dumas ran from the police that fateful day he was shot menacing a police officer?

Ron Evans, Grand Chief of the Manitoba Association of Chiefs, has recently announced he's become concerned about aboriginal street gangs. The number of native youths and young men charged with murder has skyrocketed and he's looking for solutions to the gang problem.

He thinks that if aboriginal youth return to the traditions of native life they will stay out of gangs.

It's like Lawrence Welk at Altamont.

He wants kids at powwows. They go to dance clubs.
He wants them to become native drummers. They lay down pounding beats in recording studios.
He wants them to learn native languages. They're creating a new language of their own.
He wants them exposed to sweetgrass ceremonies and sweat lodges. They puff blunts and frequent crack houses.

He wants them to listen and learn from native elders. They watch and learn from Scarface.

"You ged da mony, you ged da powa, den you ged da wimmen" said Tony Montana.

But more importantly...

"Say hello to my little friend."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Katz to critics... see you in 2010


Sam Katz dropped a bombshell Tuesday when he appeared as a guest on The Great Canadian Talk Show, 92.9 FM's drive-home talk radio program. He's running for mayor again in 2010.

And with that, he dropped the guantlet to his detractors who spent all of last week engaged in a drive-by smear against him.

The smear was the product of the usual suspects, the Winnipeg Free Press, joined this time by their new partners-in-the-gutter, the CBC. CJOB's Richard Cloutier did his part in stirring up a mob against the mayor---up until the moment Katz slapped him silly on air and left him whimpering 'It's my show. You can't say that. It's my show. It's my show.'

The week-long campaign was otherwise a coordinated effort by Free Press city hall reporter Bartley Kives and newby CBC reporter Sean Kavanagh, whose last claim to fame was his beer drinking capabilities demonstrated at
(8th photo down.)

The media mob pulled out all the stops to attack Sam Katz for a scandal that doesn't exist. It goes like this: the receiver for the defunct Crocus Investment Fund is suing the Winnipeg Goldeyes for interest on loans made in 1999 and 2000; Katz owns the controlling interest in the Goldeyes and is paid a healthy salary; in a court filing Katz said the Goldeyes were not making enough money to pay the interest; shouldn't Katz pay the interest out of his own salary, especially since he had his wife on the Goldeyes payroll as well as his nannies for awhile.The weakness of the alleged scandal was apparent from the start.

The only 'victim' in the initial piece turned out to be a young woman who sneered that Katz should pay her childcare expenses.

The next day's "reaction" piece turned out to be Bernie Bellan, who launched the class action lawsuit against Crocus, who said Katz shouldn't make money if he, Bellan, isn't getting his money back from Crocus.Desperate to put some backbone into the scandal, CBC tried smear by association.

The Goldeyes lent money to Maple Leaf Distillers, and got paid back. Maple Leaf, which had its own financial problems, was owned in part by Sam Katz's friend David Wolinsky.

Funny how CBC has still never interviewed Ross Rutherford, the former I-Team host who left to work for Protos International and had a ringside seat while Protos imploded despite multiple infusions of cash from the Crocus Investment Fund.

The Free Press, meanwhile, tried to resurrect it's tired old "conflict of interest" rigamarole, except that it lacks punch ever since the newspaper itself had to admit Katz is not and has never been in any conflict of interest for accepting a paycheque from the Goldeyes while serving as mayor of Winnipeg.

A CBC story about "political concerns" over the Crocus-Goldeyes-Katz lawsuit turned out to be interviews with Hugh McFadyen and Kevin Lamoureux, provincial MLA's who had nothing to say.

"All I can say is that it certainly gives rise to questions, and those questions deserve answers," said McFadyen, boldly.

And, of course, the news media couldn't resist calling in the usual media whores --Paul Thomas and Arthur Schafer. Schafer, the university ethics prof, phoned in his usual routine--sure, Katz has complied with every rule and every requirement by law, but he's still wrong.

Thomas, political science professor at the University of Manitoba, tried a new spin--it's for Sam's own good to pay the receiver.

Lost in the media storm, or rather deliberately hidden away, are something called the facts.

Such as:
* The public has no stake in the lawsuit. It's between two private companies--the Crocus Investment Fund, through its receiver, and the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

* The amount of the lawsuit is not newsworthy. The receiver is suing for $305,000 and change, which amounts to $9 per shareholder. That's not, repeat, not $9 a share. It's whopping $9 a share-holder.

* Since the Crocus Fund owns 15 percent of the Goldeyes, it would, presumably, be liable for 15 percent of the owed interest. If the receiver wins, Crocus shareholders will owe themselves $45,000, bringing their net gain to $7.70 per shareholder.

* James Umlah, the Crocus Fund's chief investment officer, agrees with everything Sam Katz says about the circumstances that have to be in place before the Goldeyes have to pay off the interest owed on the loans. So, in effect, to win, the receiver for the Crocus Fund has to undermine the evidence of the officer of the Crocus Fund who arranged the loans.

* The lawsuit is against the Winnipeg Goldeyes, not Sam Katz. Katz's salary and personal net wealth is not an issue. The economic health of the baseball team determines whether the interest on the loans is repaid, not the mayor's personal wealth.

To say otherwise is like saying Bob Silver, owner of the Free Press, also owns Western Glove, which in 2005, expected sales in the range of $90 million; he makes a tidy profit from Western Glove, so how can he say he can't afford to pay his Winnipeg employees instead of laying them all off to make even more money from making jeans overseas.

It's clear the only purpose of the Crocus-Goldeyes lawsuit story was as an excuse for using personal details from the Katz divorce to smear the mayor.

FP columnist Gordon Sinclair, who revels in his public antagonism towards Katz, admitted as much (not the smear part, that's self-evident.)

" But it was one outrageous statement in particular that ultimately allowed the lid to be lifted on boxes full of the couple's otherwise highly private affairs, " wrote Sinclair.

That "outrageous statement", of course, was in reference to the Goldeyes' finances. But by deftly confusing the baseball team's finances with Sam Katz's personal finances, the news media were able to get their hands dirty with the divorce file while claiming piously they were only doing it for the public good.

That was the intention all along.

That's so obvious, even PoliSci Prof. Paul Thomas sees it, as he told Canadian Press:
"For the average citizen, it will be about putting (his) wife on the payroll, about nannies' salaries and so on."

The charade was exposed the second the FP used Sinclair as their editorial surrogate on Thursday (Pay it back, Sam, A3, the first news page) and later condoning his allusion to Katz as Hitler ("...he came storming out of his bunker." Crocus deal shows mayor's bad side, Saturday, Oct. 20, P. A7)

Given the example of how Sinclair's own intimidating attitude to a woman brought the police to his doorstep (, he's about the last person to be giving the mayor advice on behaviour.

But it was Sinclair's Saturday column that showed how frustrated he, and the Free Press, were at failing to dent the popularity of Sam Katz. Sinclair dropped all pretense of civillity and and started calling names.

Deflecting, denying, being dismissive, he called Katz. "Playing us for fools. Instead it was Sam who looked the part."

Psychiatrists have a name for this.

It's called projection--the unconscious act of ascribing to others ones own ideas or impulses, as Webster's New World Dictionary defines it.

We recommend that everyone re-read The Black Rod from two years ago where we dissected the first Winnipeg Free Press smear of Sam Katz. Friday, October 07, 2005 How the Free Press built a smear campaign

You'll marvel at how the cast of characters hasn't changed a whit.

Except for Don Benham, who as a city councillor decided to take Sam Katz head on.

He's now picking up pocket change reviewing books for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Memo to Grand Chief: The 12 Steps

Oh, no. Here we go again.

Something about the news that Manitoba leads the nation in teenagers who kill sparked Ron Evans, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba First Nations, into action.

Maybe it's because he knows that a hefty proportion of the 43 youths awaiting trial for one homicide or another are, in common parlance, "aboriginal in appearance."

But for once, he was making sense.
"There seems to be a lot of initiatives out there, but the numbers are growing..." he said.

"We need to take a look and review what is working, what is not working. If it was working, the numbers would be reversing, right? But they're not," Evans told reporters.

And he faced head on allegations that the youth violence problem tracks back to First Nations.

"If we're the problem then work with us," he said. "We cannot do it by ourselves," he said. "It's going to take a collective effort."

But it wasn't long before Evans reverted to form. Aboriginal kids need to connect with their culture. Blah blah. Poverty is the root cause of crime. Blah blah. Tougher anti-gun, anti-gang, anti-crime laws aren't needed.

"How is a tough crime bill going to help people to change?" said Evans. "Many of our people are caught in the cycle. They're stuck."

And to prove how stuck he is in his own go-nowhere cycle, he announced he wants to convene a roundtable on youth violence with representatives from all three levels of government.

Yep, that's what's needed. Another meeting. Followed by a task force to collect more information.

Then some follow-up meetings. And an intermediate report.

To be followed by a final report. With recommendations. Lots of recommendations.

Oh, and funding. At every step of the way. Lots of funding.

Christmas is coming, you know, and those per diems will only go so far.

On Friday Manitoba Grand Chief Ron Evans had a pre-roundtable mini-meeting with Winnipeg Grand Chief Sam Katz. Right on script, they came out smiling for the television photo-op. They had, they said, agreed that youth crime was a problem and needed to be addressed.

Wow, it's amazing what insight a meeting can achieve.

Ron Evans doesn't need a roundtable. Neither do Gary Doer, Stephen Harper, or Sam Katz. Neither do the citizens of Manitoba.

But if he's serious about addressing what's not working, then this is the right place to start.

The Black Rod's Roundtable won't cost the taxpayer a cent. Somebody call Ron Evans.

Let's cut to the chase, to what we call The 12 Steps.

1. Stop Making Excuses.

As with every recovery program, the first step is admitting you have a problem. So, no more poverty, no more residential schools, no more colonialism, no more racism, no more FASD, no more (fill in the blank). No more excuses. Period. As long as you have an excuse at the ready you don't have to change your behaviour. It's always somebody else's problem that you've failed.

When you replace blame with personal responsibility, then the world shifts on its axis. Now 'poverty' becomes "do you have a job?" "Do you have the education to get a job?" "Do you have personality problems that keep you from getting a job?" "Do you have an addiction that keeps you out of the workforce?" Each and every question has a solution.

But unless you're willing to take step one, Ron, then realize you're condemning another generation of native children to the same life that you're complaining about or worse.

Thirty years ago, Manitoba saw an influx of what was then known as "boat people." Vietnamese refugees. You want to talk poverty? You want to talk culture? Here were thousands of peasants brought from a tropical rain forest to the coldest city of its size on the planet. Ripped from their cultural roots, living in poverty worse than any Indian reserve, what happened to them?

Well, last time we looked, they were hard working taxpayers, often running sweaty corner stores or getting up early to go to their factory jobs to raise their families and watch their children collect university degrees rather than criminal records.

Twenty-five years ago we saw a new batch of immigrants, what we then called East Indians to differentiate them from the local variety. Talk about racism. With their beards and turbans they attracted the evil attention of every lunatic in the country. Where are they now?

Well, they eventually bought the taxi company that gave them their first jobs in this country. We see them in Parliament and in the hospitals. We never heard police ask for help finding a suspect "Sikh in appearance."

And the native people who were here when the Vietnamese arrived. Still whining about their lost culture. And the aboriginal people who saw the Indians arrive? Still whining about how they're all in jail because of racism. And still on welfare or begging for money downtown.

No excuses. That's the start line.

2. Stop breeding like rabbits.

When you have exactly as many children as you can afford to feed, clothe, shelter and school you will be amazed how quickly poverty rates will fall.

Popping out 8, 9, 10, 11 children is a sure way to consign them all to a life of want. Starting to breed when you're a teenager solidifies the cycle.

Ron, there are dozens of programs engaged in "family-planning." You can quickly determine which ones work and which don't by comparing the number of births next year with the number this year. It's not rocket science.

3. Go to school.

Not you personally, Ron. You've got a job as a professional Indian.

But when you're talking about breaking the cycle of youth violence, here's the crossroad. Everybody, and we mean everybody, acknowledges that without the necessary education qualifications aboriginal youth are doomed to a marginal existence.

This may come as a surprise, Ron, but education in Canada is FREE up to Grade 12. All you have to do is show up.

Okay, Ron, take a breath here and review Step One.

We keep hearing how hard it is for native children to complete their education because of their disfunctional home lives. Here's a radical suggestion---residential schools. They live in safe, comfortable surroundings and go to school. Simple.

Manitoba Chiefs wanted control of education on their reserves. How's that working? There's no room for political interference in schools. Is there a high turnover of teachers? Then you've got a problem. Is the Chief the problem? Teachers abused and scared off reserves? Unacceptable. (Review Step One again.) To repeat--unacceptable. Under any circumstances.

Consider education the life's blood of aboriginal children and remove any threat to it instantly. Direct every available cent to the school system -- even at the expense of spending on health, travel, lawyers, Governance Houses, and roundtables.

Treat teachers like gods -- for they control the future of your children.

4. Stop defending criminals and other low-life.

Matthew Dumas has become the poster boy of Inner City native youth. A convicted criminal on probation runs from police then threatens a police officer with the favoured tool of car thieves and you elevate him to the status of saint. What's wrong with this picture?

Ron, you yourself eulogized Tannis Bird, a 22-year-old youth worker killed as a passenger in a car containing two gang members she had been partying with, one of whom left behind his gun when he ran from the scene. You couldn't gloss over the gang connection fast enough in April.

How are we to take your sudden conversion to gang-fighter?

We've seen a horrible string of unsolved murders involving aboriginal prostitutes. And almost every time the dead woman's family insists we focus on her (always) angelic life and not her lifestyle. If you find it embarassing that your daughters go out every night to spread their legs for strange men in back alleys, then maybe you should do something to get them out of the life before they're dead.

When your first reaction is a knee-jerk defence of the very people the rest of society doesn't want in their neighbourhoods, then don't blame the public for lumping you in with the trash they want out. Cull the criminals from the herd. Make it clear that that sort of behaviour will not be tolerated. If they need a hug, call their mommas.

Reward the right behaviour and punish the bad. Even amoebas can learn that way.

5. Buy a mirror.

What kind of a message is the so-called leadership of First Nations in Manitoba sending to their young?

When the band constable at Paungassi admits he's the local bootlegger, we wonder why he isn't fired immediately? Why does the chief and council on the allegedly dry reserve turn a blind eye? The expectation is that the local authorities would immediately hire a law officer who obeys the band regulations, even if that person comes off-reserve. Instead the youth learn that rules are irrelevant.

A judge revealed how Grand Chief Ron Evans ran a dictatorial regime on his home reserve to the extent of cutting a councillor's pay to the bare minimum allowed by law to punish him for disagreeing with the Chief and council.

The judge said Evans essentially tried to blackmail the councillor into becoming a team player. Evans now sits as Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs as an example of how far you can get by being a law unto yourself on Manitoba Indian reserves.

He's still doing better than Margaret Swan, the former Grand Chief of the Southern Chiefs Organization. She stole $35,000 from her own band. After a lengthy period of denying the charges, she pleaded guilty and was given a one-year suspended sentence.

Chief Louis Stevenson of the Peguis First Nation, was considered an honorable spokesman for native issues until he was arrested for firing a handgun in the washroom of the Stock Exchange Hotel.

Ron Fontaine, former chief of the Sagkeeng First Nation (aka Fort Alexander reserve), had a quick answer when authorities started answering questions about the fraud, kickbacks and wide misuse of funding to the Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation. He blamed the controversy on a "white media agenda." No reporter asked his opinion when the charges started flying and people started going to jail.

And, of course, let's not forget Hollow Water. Why bother with courts to settle issues when extortion and threats go a lot farther. The gangs -- that Evans says he's concerned about?-- the gangs couldn't get away with this stuff.

Society at large has a long list of politicians gone bad. The Libranos, anyone? But we don't make excuses for them. We purge them as fast as we can and expect long apologies, or jail sentences at least, before they can come back in any fashion.

Here's a suggestion. Start with an aggressive, independent press to hold officials accountable. And show some backbone as an organization or even as individuals in forcing the incompetent and criminal to resign. Weeding out the bad is not a sign of weakness.

6. Face Facts

There's no denying that native people seem to be more susceptible to becoming addicted to alcohol and maybe other intoxicants. Maybe its genetic. And yet we never hear the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs calling for research into the addictions gene, if that is what it is. But in the meantime, there's one thing that Evans and his crew can do to address the addictions problem--- send a clear message: Addiction to anything will not be treated as an excuse. If you need help, we'll find it for you. But WE WILL NOT ENABLE YOU to destroy your life.

Thunderbird House is the sad example of where a refusal to face facts has lead the aboriginal people of Manitoba. When it opened, it was touted as a building that was going to be a shining reflection of native culture. In a sense, it's all that.

The flock of brain-addled, slobbering solvent sniffers that hung around the bus shack south of the Bell Hotel has crawled across the street to hang around Thunderbird House. They have to share the space with the passed out drunks and homeless vagrants planted face first in the grass until the soup kitchen at the Salvation Army opens up.

Any attempt to help these unfortunates out of their zombie lifestyle is seen as an attack on native culture. To that extent, the native community has adopted sniffers and drunks as a normal extension of their culture. Does this give youth a shining example of their heritage?

And let's not forget about the excuse du jour--FASD. Its a huge problem that you refuse to address. That's right. We said refuse.

The solution is simple. And its not pamphlets. If women insist of drinking while pregnant, they have to be incarcerated until they deliver. That and only that will break the cycle.

We have the right to lock up tuberculosis carriers if they're a threat to spread the disease. What about the disease of mental disorder?

Are you prepared to do something about the FASD epidemic? Or do you want a ready-made excuse handy?

7. Buy a calender.

It's 2007. In a few months it will be 2008. We're in the 21st Century.

Whenever you laud a return to traditional ways and what your elders say, ask the simple question, does any this apply to the 21st Century?

What do your elders know about Facebook and Bebo and Xbox and Tupac Shakur and crack?

What part of that traditional life in the bush covers gangster rap and Al Pacino as Scarface?

Is there a chapter on stealing canoes that can be applied to stealing cars?

Life is a thousand times faster than life was when the youngest of the elders was born. There's no going back.

8. Get a tattoo, or maybe a t-shirt, that reads Work is Hard.

That's right. Work is hard. Ask anyone who works.

Getting up at 7 a.m. to get to work on time is hard, especially in winter. Working with idiot bosses is hard. Working on beautiful sunny days is hard. Working until closing time when you're tired and hungry is hard. Working when you would rather be at the beach is hard. Working when you'd rather sleep is hard. Working after you've said goodbye to your children is hard. Going to work by car or bus is hard. Coming home after a hard days work isn't any easier. Shoehorning errands into a word day is hard. But we do it.

We do it because we get a paycheque. And that lets us buy things. And lets us improve our lives. And lets us take trips. And lets us send out children to university to get better jobs than we've got so they don't' have work as hard. Except they will, only it will be hard in a different way. Because, you know, work is hard.

Gang members don't want to work.
They want to sleep till after noon, party all night, and spend as little time as possible selling drugs for cash.

Where do you think they get the idea that they don't have to work for a living?

You can start with the get-rich-quick-schemes that the various Chiefs trot out regularly.

Today it's gambling.
Get somebody else to build you a casino, get suckers to give you their money, and sit back and count your money without having to work.

Tomorrow it's Hydro.
Get somebody else, like the government,to pay for half a power plant which they give to you, get the sucker taxpayers to pay you for nothing, and sit back and count your money without having to work.

Or, better yet, get Hydro to string transmission lines over your land, get the government to give you ownership of the lines, get the utility to pay you for using the air, and sit back and count your money without having to work.

Do you detect a pattern?

9. Jump at every opportunity.

There are 17,000 jobs unfilled in Manitoba. How can that be when the First Nations bleat endlessly about unemployment? The Assembly of First Nations can be proactive. Every fall dozens of jobs open up as summer students go back to work. There must be a hundred alleged native employment projects in existence. Do they prepare aboriginal youths to take these jobs? There shouldn't be a single minimum wage job open in Manitoba.

What's a minimum wage job? Something that can be done by a reasonably intelligent, clean looking person with a desire to work. Is there part of that sentence that native people can't meet?

The Assembly of First Nations can make it clear that if you get pregnant at 15 you can't use a lack of child care as an excuse why you can't hold a job. And if you tattoo your neck, you can't say people are prejudiced. And if you dress and talk like a gang member you can't say people you haven't got a job because of poverty.

That was your choice. It's not because of racism, it's not because your daddy went to a residential school, and it's not because you're poor. It's because you're stupid.

Help the youth who want jobs to get them. Target the job in the summer and be ready to get it in the fall. If an employment initiative can't place a dozen students every September, it's a failure. Multiply that by the dozens of employment initiatives and you have a solution to youth unemployment.

Simple if you really want to find a solution to youth unemployment.

10. Stop wasting money.

We've heard it a million times. 'The arena burned down because the fire engine wasn't working because there wasn't enough money to keep it ready.' Baloney.

Reserves receive a set amount of money each year specifically to keep their fire equipment in working order (it used to be $85,000 a year but that was in the Jurassic Age, so the amount must top $100,000 today).

Politicians and journalists never ask, where did the money go? That would be politically incorrect. Especially since everyone knows where the money went. It was spent. How? Don't ask. You're a racist if you want to know.

First Nations, especially in Manitoba, have a suspiciously hard time managing money. Which may be why the records are destroyed when the band offices catch fire so many times.

Yet there never seems to be a shortage of money for lawyers. Or travel. Or houses in Winnipeg for Chiefs of reserves which don't exactly border Winnipeg.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is prepared to fight tooth and nail to prevent audits of reserve spending. Why? Here's a wild idea. Don't cry poverty when you have money to waste. Or at the very least, account for every penny with the assurance you spent it wisely.

11. Organize a search party to look for the lost men.

The surest way to be poor and stay poor is to be an unwed mother. And that just about defines aboriginal life in Manitoba.

Where are the men. Where are the fathers?

It's not our responsibility to raise your children. Does the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs have a deadbeat dads databank? Start one.

And start suing each and every one regardless of age for back child support. Show them you will hound them forever until they live up to their obligations.

The first step to curing a dysfunctional system is to repair the dysfunction. Inserting fathers who support their children into the equation is a big step in the equation.

They can't pay because they're in jail? Good.
Support the federal legislation calling for more mandatory jail sentences.

Sending these guys to prison for long terms keeps them from impregnating more girls and reduces the unwed, unsupported mother numbers.

12. Stop Living in Fantasyland

Credibility is something you have to work hard to get and work harder to keep. Once you lose it, you never get all of it back.

Take the myth of The 500 "missing or murdered." We exposed the truth of that fantasy in The Black Rod Flogging it further just exposes it for what it is-a money grab.

Then there's the demand for-we're not kidding--$2 billion for native languages. We're not sure which of the myriad of native organizations floated that Hindenberg. But lets face it (#6), Indian languages are deader than Latin and less useful than hieroglyphics.

When we read that native students lost a month of classes because their reserve took that long to pay the school division its share of education costs, we feel sorry for the kids who have to work doubly hard to catch up.

But when we then read that native "leaders" want to waste money teaching their children a useless language, we wonder how much damage smoking sweetgrass does to the brain.

How many times have you heard that aboriginal youth join gangs to find the family they don't have at home. Awwww. It sure sounded good when some sociology prof spun it the first time.

If aboriginal youth want a family, they should join the army. Nothing builds bonds tighter than being in combat with your bro's. And you get a paid education if you stick around long enough.

Now, return to Step 1 and repeat until results appear.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The 29 victims of Marion Jones

After seven years of lying through her teeth, U.S. sprinter Marion Jones has confessed to using steroids leading up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 where she won five medals.

The International Olympic Committee is now preparing to strip Jones of those medals-- gold in the 100 metre dash, gold in the 200 metres, gold in the 1600 metre relay, bronze in the long jump and bronze in the 400 metre relay.

The impact of that act will be felt by 29 women---the 29 victims of Marion Jones.

Six--Jones' relay partners--will lose the medals they thought they won. 23 others will get medals they were cheated out of at Sydney.

But that's cold comfort for the damage done to them by Jones. She stole their rightful place in the spotlight at the Sydney Olympics. She robbed them of the joy of standing on the winners' podium to the cheers of their countrymen. She cheated them of irreplaceable memories--photos of their getting their medals in the Olympic Stadium, welcome-home rallies at airports, newspaper clippings of them beaming as they hold up their trophies, being introduced at public and private functions as a gold medal winner, a silver medal winner, an Olympic medal winner.

Marion Jones feasted on their disappointments for seven years. Who, then, are her victims?

The results of the Women's 100 metres were:
1. Marion Jones, Los Angeles, 10.75.
2. Ekaterini Thanou, Greece, 11.12.
3. Tanya Lawrence, Jamaica, 11.18.
4. Merlene Ottey, Jamaica, 11.19.

Thanou will get the gold. Lawrence the silver. And Jamaica's Merlene Ottey becomes an Olympic medal winner with the bronze.

The results of the 200 metre race were:
1. Marion Jones, Los Angeles, 21.84.
2. Pauline Davis-Thompson, Bahamas, 22.27.
3. Susanthika Jayasinghe, Sri Lanka, 22.28.
4. Beverly McDonald, Jamaica, 22.35.

Davis-Thompson will get the gold medal. Jayasinghe the silver. And Jamaica earns a second medal at the Games with a bronze for Beverly McDonald.

The results of the 1600 relay were:

1. United States (Jearl Miles-Clark, Gainesville, Fla.; Monique Hennagan, Columbia, S.C.; Marion Jones, Los Angeles; La Tasha Colander-Richardson, Portsmouth, Va.), 3:22.62.
2. Jamaica (Sandie Richards; Catherine Scott-Pomales; Deon Hemmings; Lorraine Graham), 3:23.25.
3. Russia (Yulia Sotnikova; Svetlana Gontcharenko; Olga Kotlyarova; Irina Privalova), 3:23.46.
4. Nigeria (Olabisi Afolabi; Charity Opara; Rosemary Okafor; Falilat Ogunkoya), 3:23.80.

Jamaica will get the gold. Russia the silver. And Nigeria the bronze.

Marion Jones' teammates will lose their medals.
For LaTasha Colander, it means she will lose the only Olympics medal she's ever won.
Monique Hennagan can comfort herself with the gold medal she won at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Jearl Miles-Clark has a silver from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and a gold from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

The final results in the Long jump were:
1. Heike Drechsler, Germany, (6.99), 22-11 1-4.
2. Fiona May, Italy, (6.92), 22-8 1-2.
3. Marion Jones, Los Angeles, (6.92), 22-8 1-2.
4. Tatiana Kotova, Russia, (6.83), 22-5.

Kotova of Russia will become the bronze medal winner.

The results of the 400 metre relay were:
1. Bahamas (Sevatheda Fynes; Chandra Sturrup; Pauline Davis-Thompson; Debbie Ferguson), 41.95.
2. Jamaica (Tanya Lawrence; Veronica Campbell; Beverly McDonald; Merlene Ottey), 42.13.
3. United States (Chryste Gaines, San Leandro, Calif.; Torri Edwards, Los Angeles; Nanceen Perry, Fairfield, Texas; Marion Jones, Los Angeles), 42.20.
4. France (Linda Ferga; Muriel Hurtis; Fabe Dia; Christine Arron), 42.42.

France moves up to take the bronze medal.

As for Marion Jones' teammates, Nanceen Perry and Torri Edwards will lose their only Olympic medals. Chryste Gaines will keep her Gold from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

But if anything, the disgrace of Marion Jones only serves to stir up the muck at the bottom of the Olympics talent pool as it reminds us that even some of the victims of Jones' deception have been exposed as cheats in their own right.

Ready to receive the gold medal in the 100 metres is Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou.

Remember that she and a male runner on the Greek team were themselves suspected of using steroids at the 2004 Athens Olympics. They both failed to show up for mandatory drug tests, claiming they had been in a motorcycle accident. Both of them were eventually suspended for two years.

Relay runner Torri Edwards tested positive for the banned stimulant nikethamide in 2004. She was banned from competition for two years and missed the Athens Olympics.

And Chryste Gaines received a two year ban in 2005 for using performance-enhancing drugs.
She also figured prominently in the same BALCO steroids scandal that brought Marion Jones down.

Tim Montgomery, the world's fastest man and Marion Jones' boyfriend, told a grand jury that the supplier of steroids had to get Chryste Gaines' okay before he would agree to help Jones.

"... So Chryste, from my understanding, had told Mr. Conte that: 'Whatever you charge her, if you give me a cut of it, then I don't mind,' '' a transcript of his grand jury testimony reads. "So, I don't know how much the check was for, I don't know if she ever got her cut, but that's how the agreement came for him to work with Marion."

Ugh. It makes you want to take a shower.

The medal shuffle won't have much of an effect on the final country standings. Jamaica is the big winner, adding two (bronze) medals bringing its medal total to 9, tying with Switzerland.

The loss of five medals takes the U.S. total to 92 and narrows its lead over Russia's 89 medals.

Regardless of how quickly the IOC acts to strip Jones of her medals, there's one thing they can do to mitigate the scandal.

They can award the proper medals at the coming 2008 Beijing Olympics with all the pomp and circumstance of a true medal ceremony.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The 500: Genesis of a myth

Imagine turning on the TV to watch the supper hour news only to see a reporter refer to the discovery of the Golden Fleece by a team of adventurers.

You might say, "Hey, waitaminit. That's a myth. How did Jason and the Argonauts come to be considered news?"

Well, the same way that the modern mythology of 500 missing and murdered aborginal women has become an unchallenged fact incorporated in newscasts across the country.

This Thursday, 30 vigils were held throughout Canada to bring attention to what Canadian Press calls "an epidemic of violence against aboriginal women." And you can bet every news story about every vigil repeated the figure of 'The 500.' Even an experienced reporter like Winnipeg CTV's Kelly Dehn parroted the figure without question.

Apparently it's bad form (though good journalism) to ask "Where does that number come from?"

There's nothing that spoils a good story quicker than the facts. That's apparently why no reporter actually wants an answer to that question. 500 missing or murdered women from one community is good copy. Reporting on how that figure was pulled from thin air is not.

At The Black Rod we don't care what's politically correct. We follow the truth of a story.

So here's the truth of how the myth of The 500 came to be.

The story starts in December, 1994, when the Globe and Mail reported that RCMP in Saskatoon had compiled a list of 470 aboriginal women who had disappeared across Western Canada over the previous 2 years.

Saskatoon RCMP drew up the list to help identify three bodies discovered outside the city limits in an area where a missing 36-year-old native woman was found dead in October.

But within a day, the RCMP issued a correction. The 470 women on the list were not all aboriginal. 227 were white women and 243 non-white. Of the non-whites, only 102 were aboriginial and another 10 were Metis or Inuit.

RCMP Cpl. Gilles Moreau, media relations officer for headquarters in Ottawa, said that on any given day there was an average of about 100 aboriginal women missing in Western Canada. They had been missing anywhere from a few days to years, and the list included runaways, people who don't want to be found, parental abuctions and, of course, people who disappeared under suspicious circumstances.

The story of almost 500 native women who disappeared across the West was a bust. But it was not dead, although it took another six years to be revived.

2001 saw the publication of a book titled ' Just Another Indian, A Serial Killer and Canada's Indifference ' by Warren Goulding, who covered police and courts for The Saskatoon Star Phoenix in 1994. Reviews of the book mentioned that Goulding wrote of at least 450 aboriginal women who had been reported missing in Western Canada between 1990 and 1994, and police were doing little to find them.

While Just Another Indian is not in the Black Rod library, we suspected Goulding took his information from the initial, and wrong, stories based on the RCMP list.

We found confirmation of our supposition in an article in Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture which describes itself as "an innovative culture studies journal dedicated to fostering an intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience, granting them all the opportunity and ability to share thoughts and opinions on the most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary studies."

An essay in the journal (Vol. 7, No. 1, 2007) cited Goulding's book where he stated

"whether it was one hundred or five hundred [missing Aboriginal women], it was clear that something like an epidemic was raging virtually undetected in Western Canada".

The book was widely reviewed in native publications and websites, without mention of the RCMP's correction of the stats for missing native women.

Then came the arrest of Robert Picton in B.C. in February, 2002. Pickton was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of at least 26 women, most of whom were Vancouver prostitutes and many of which were aboriginal.

The arrest resurrected The 500 for good.

This Toronto Star story was typical:

500 missing native women
Aboriginal Canadians take fight for justice for `invisible' victims to U.N.
`How many more of our sisters have to die before this matters??'

Diebel wrote:

"The RCMP tracks missing women, but not specifically aboriginal. There are 2,039 missing females in Canada, 1,279 white and 760 non-white. And Statistics Canada keeps records of murdered women but doesn't break them down further. Over 15 years to 2001, 3,093 females were murdered in Canada. But nobody disputes that 500 native women are missing and/or murdered. And authorities maintain they're doing the best they can."

The Native Women's Association of Canada, an aggregate of organizations representing First Nations and Métis women in Canada, seized The 500 as their own, even if they did make the statistic a moving target.

(From various published sources)

April 18, 2003
"Over 15 years we've counted about 500 women who have gone missing," said. Terry Brown, president of the Canadian Native Women's Association

March 2004
March 2004 also marks the beginning of the Sisters in Spirit Campaign by the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC). The campaign that calls us to reflect and take action on the very serious issue of missing Aboriginal women in Canada. In October 2003, NWAC President Terri Brown spoke of the staggering reality. Over the past 20 years, approximately 500 Aboriginal women have gone missing, disappeared, or been murdered in communities across Canada.

October 16, 2004
Kukdookaa Terri Brown, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada states "We estimate that over the past 30 years approximately 500 Indigenous women have gone missing across Canada."

News reporters rarely tried to bridge the gap between "counted" and "estimated", although the truth sometimes bubbled up in interviews.

No one knows exactly how many women have disappeared or died, according to Beverley Jacobs, Mohawk, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, in November, 2004.

That figure (500) is an estimate based on preliminary research and anecdotal evidence, she told Canadian Press in July, 2005.

So loosey-goosey anecdotes mixed with newspaper clippings morphed into a figure that conforms to a discredited story from 1994 has now become an iron-clad statistic to be regurgitated by gullible reporters.

But it served one purpose -- and we're not talking here about the laudable goal of raising awareness of violence against native women.

In May, 2004, the Native Women's Association of Canada got a $20,000 grant from the Status of Women minister in Ottawa "to develop a strategic plan for the Sisters in Spirit campaign, an approach that will leverage public and private sector funding to increase public awareness and education levels about violence against Aboriginal women in Canada. In addition, it would document the circumstances around the disappearance of the estimated 500 missing or murdered Aboriginal women, create a national registry and a toll-free hotline."

The leverage sure worked.

In August 2004, NWAC submitted a proposal to Ottawa for $10 million over two years, to fund its Sisters in Spirit campaign.

In February, 2005, Ottawa agreed to half that---$5 million---over five years.

Halfway through the campaign NWAC has spent the money on a staff of 10 who, in their bureaucratic language, are "involved in research and policy development and education and communications the strategy is to gather information to compile a data base with the names of aboriginal women who are missing as well as documented unresolved murder cases and analyze the impact of resolved murder cases involving aboriginal women."

But note that five years after Picton's arrest, The Iconic 500 have neither grown nor shrunk despite all those years of research, travel, vigils, and anecdotes.

Maybe it is the story of the Golden Fleece after all.