The Patient, The Protester, The Physician and The Press… Have We Learned Enough to Handle a Second Wave?
“Anyone arguing that 1% or 2% of the population dying isn’t a big deal and is concerned about their freedom to get back to normal needs to identify one or two family members or close friends they are willing to offer up to death to save the economy and regain freedom. Name them! Say them aloud with the same ease you offer up and dismiss someone else’s friend or family member!”
A protestor: “Dr Bonny Henry is a Nazi”
A month and a half ago this is what people were saying online whenever they heard about, read about or saw people protesting or if they felt that the soft halted voice of the little blonde woman on TV was the voice of an oppressor.
Most wouldn’t go as far with shock messaging as those people above did but they did not hold back from expressing their extreme concern and fears of an outbreak or the results of the societal shutdown. Some did not give these protesters a platform out of genuine fear for the rest of the population.
Some Canadians were oblivious to it all, they still had their jobs nothing had changed in their lives other than more hand washing, they hadn’t gotten sick and they hadn’t lost anything financially, there was nothing to gripe about…they were “essential workers”. More than a few doctors appreciated the concerns of the population who protested, though still they expressed caution.
While this was happening, Canadians’ attention shifted as 22 people died in Nova Scotia, shot and killed. An online memorial was held for the nation. Maybe you watched, perhaps it was too hard to watch.
From cheering front line workers to mourning the tragic loss of life by way of the gun. And then there was the knee, the video, the 8 minutes and 46 seconds of what some absolutely hope will remain the most important documented evidence of racism the world will ever see. Or will it just be another Tulsa…do you know what happened in Tulsa?
What a year…for me personally it all really started in my mind with the sudden loss of Kobé Bryant. As a father of 2 daughters myself, I kept replaying in my head what I felt might’ve been those final moments he had with his daughter, how he felt, how she felt and how he would’ve given everything not to have her be in the helicopter with him.
So here we are, we’ve just crossed the midway point, with phase 2 in full effect, Black Lives Matter protesters have impacted a great deal of North America, hundreds of thousands across the continent and beyond that in many parts of the world have marched in solidarity, and close proximity with those of us humans with the darkest of skin colors.
Which brings me to why this article feels so difficult to write. Because I don’t know how many more articles, whether they are printed here in Surrey604.com or the New York Times, it will take for humans, my fellow humans, to take note of the time frame we are living in.
I mean history continues to happen in massive leaps and steps every week, Elon Musk has fired up the exploration of space all over again and by 2022 we will most likely be on Mars. Are we running away and is that what we need to do? What is Greta feeling now? Where is her voice? Little Greta…
Did I mention Kenny Rogers?
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…
Well, he also passed away March 20th, 2020. And the truth behind his lyrics might very well be the ace card we all need to keep. This brings me to the interviews of three individuals I conducted between March and May. Each interview I had hoped to write a solitary article in support of each video and audio rendering.
But as we started to post lead material on social media about each subject, it felt like the odds of someone who opposed said viewpoint would not only fail to hear the point of view of another but would go out of their way to shun even the platforms publishing views of the ones they disagreed with.
Protestors often wondered why YouTube or Facebook seemingly was going out of its way to sensor and remove postings each platform claimed were inappropriate. We couldn’t help wonder if those opposed to a view point weren’t aggressively reporting on each other fuelling the fire.
But with a relentless Black Lives Matter movement, producing huge crowds and little pockets of outbreaks being reported on at Walmart’s or at factories or with sports teams. One just has to wonder… Why were we or are we still afraid and should we continue to be? How will it be possible to really know how to defeat COVID-19 when so few have gotten it in Canada in comparison to other places throughout the world.
I met Pervez, funnily enough last summer. She had been slated to work a wedding with me as the videographer, I the photographer. The couple getting married were very unique in their circle of friends and drew people to them with interesting journeys. Pervez was immediately intriguing to me. She was abrupt and to the point, yet a very understanding, even apologetic person.
She wasn’t able to make it however due to unexpected circumstances but somehow I felt I would hear from her again. We friended each other on Facebook and as one does, kind of forgot about it.
Till that is, COVID-19, and her announcing that she had been diagnosed with presumptive COVID-19. She updated her Facebook friends and in a way, well pretty much indirectly asked for prayers. She was really sick. That was evident in how she articulated her messages…but even more so after I reached out to her and spoke with her over the phone and suggested an interview.
At first Pervez though very much a person to speak up when and if ever being pushed around, refused and even evaded interviews. She was then approached by CBC, and a discovery interview proceeded but a follow up never materialized. And so she decided to speak with me. Only over the phone and I had an hour window, anything more, she just couldn’t handle it.
WATCH: Full first interview with Dr. Summer Pervez, Presumptive COVID-19 Patient
Pervez laboured through the interview, and I winced at every breath she took while relating to me her experience from diagnosis to several interactions with paramedics to a troubling hands off and dismissive visit to VGH.
But I should state that Pervez’s experience caused me some discomfort at the time of the interview in March and later in May. A key takeaway was that she had been met by paramedics who were nervous to deal with her and by an empty ER that essentially sent her home without shoes on a rainy Vancouver night, all the while sick and exhibiting symptoms of the Coronavirus.
I subsequently made trips past the ER at night and found waiting ambulances and a very quiet VGH, as is normal during the pandemic, though I can’t fully speak for every night.
Now of course, this doesn’t mean that deep inside the hospital people weren’t affected or dying, but the fact has long since been established that B.C. and certainly the lower mainland had much lower numbers of people in hospitals and were operating at times at lower staff capacities than usual. So her observations definitely now would appear to be consistent. But at first, they were shocking.
So the strategy was to keep people isolated to stop the spread? That was more safe than putting people affected into quarantine areas so they could be treated and observed and the virus could be confronted? What if you lived alone? Several stories came out over the last couple months where people living alone would quarantine and quickly die alone.
With everyone clapping at 7pm for healthcare workers this strategy initially felt like cowardice.
I want to vocalize that, not to spurn any negative thoughts or unbalanced hateful comments towards health workers but to speak to those, who frankly in a time of war, albeit against a nearly invisible insurgent, need heros, such as our doctors and nurses in cool blue uniforms and white coats, not to show fear, but to willingly put themselves in between us, and the demons attacking our immune systems.
WATCH: Full follow-up interview with Dr. Summer Pervez, Presumptive COVID-19 Patient
I was shook by the interview. I did pray for her. I couldn’t listen to 7pm anymore. It didn’t bring comfort. It still doesn’t. I had to reflect on what I had been hearing and seeing in the media and how it was reported. In certain times in history more often than not, the free press plays a very real role of being the voice not always of the people and it’s own court but the directive and will of the government.
Before getting carried away with conspiracy and conjecture, please note, I didn’t say that this is always a bad thing, although yes it can be. Sometimes the need to let a nation know about imminent threats, about major changes and so forth cannot be simply done by a parliament TV channel…let’s face it, nobody would tune in. No, you need the popular press, the jester to catch people’s attention in the din of potential chaos.
So, impending pandemic, invoke CBC, CTV, Global…you name it.
But the side effect can sometimes show itself in the intoxication of media whose stakeholders can point to ratings and say in later publicity ads, “we reported it first, we are the trusted source to hear from doctors and politicians”. Yes it’s journalism, there is some genuine truth to the code of impartial and unbiased ethical reporting, in fact it’s considered a staple of democracy…but it is vital to remember it is part of the big tent, it is still show business…and the show must go on.
After my interview with Pervez, I felt I needed to follow up with a face to face interview, but before that could happen, protests in Vancouver, some of the first in North America commenced. They were protesting the lockdown (or heavily suggested restrictions) and vaccines, the fear of rushing to a vaccine in months or a year rather than years, as the world rushes towards a vaccine for COVID-19.
Well, how could I sit by now and not at least cover and document this uprising. The hate towards protestors on the street as I mentioned at the outset of this article was and has been visceral. My journey of discovery started in Chilliwack BC May 4th and ended in Vancouver BC, sometime in June.
It was while covering these protests that I was introduced to Susan Stanfield-Spooner, a human rights activist. Like Bonnie Henry, she’s a little blonde lady, but with a voice that carries blocks. Though that fits in the midst of a protest I hoped it wouldn’t be the same in a FaceTime interview. Sure enough it wasn’t.
So much caution was expressed to me from friends who knew I was going to do the interview, the encouragement was to not let “them” have a platform to build on, it could really hurt us.
As a journalist, and in my personal time as a philanthropist (through donation of time rather than funds mind you) I feel strongly in the right and power of free speech. Absolutely, I do believe that even free speech has decency as it’s boundary, but ultimately I can keep that to myself and uphold the rights of free speech at all times. If I don’t like something for whatever reason I feel that I am perfectly able to keep that to myself if I wish or speak up if it is the right thing.
So for those of you who’ve stated your case and spoken up to me, thank you, and those of you who may watch the interview, I only ask you to do the piece at least one favour, attempt to see if you can identify the intent. The intent of each person I speak to, in my estimation, is of key importance to being able to hear, accept or dismiss with peacekeeping in mind, the thoughts, statements and recounting by each interviewee.
WATCH: Full interview with Susan Sanfield-Spooner, Activist and Civil Rights Movement Leader
Finally, Dr Lawrence Loh. I had actually tried to get a hold of someone from the health ministry, someone from Fraser Valley health to speak to us in regards to contact tracing and vaccines and their effectiveness and so forth. But I was very quickly told that no one was available. To be honest I find that a little bit troublesome. Granted I don’t have all the facts as to why nobody was available, but I really was sort of disappointed that I couldn’t speak to anyone in BC.
Dr Lawrence Loh happens to be a friend of a friend by the name of Dr. Yvette Lu. We had interviewed Lu previously in March and it is a point of Surrey604.com when possible to forward her practical suggestions to our readers. Questions on masks, transmissions and so forth.
When I put out the word that I was interested in speaking to someone about contact tracing, Dr. Loh who is the acting health minister for the Peel Region of Ontario let me know if I couldn’t find anybody he’d be willing to speak with me. So we will have to call it a team effort from Health Canada. Thank you Lawrence…
WATCH: Full interview with Dr. Lawrence Loh, Health Minister of Peel Region, Ontario
This was a really cool interview with Dr. Loh. He really has a relaxed way about him, yet he’s precise and he gave me clear answers. You know, we really want healthcare personnel to be like him and at that particular point I was losing some faith I had concerns. I think a lot of people have gone through the ups and downs of whether to believe COVID-19 is as bad as predicted or did we jump the gun?
Yes, we’ve been at home suffering depression, solitude, anxiousness over how we would make our daily bread, over how we’d grow our families. We’ve seen the movies, we watched Armageddon, we watched Contagion over and over on Netflix…we are an educated movie going bunch of humans in the age of documentaries.
The quality of misinformation media and the self professed or publicly acclaimed quality of critical thinking presented in any given media platform and that which has been curated by big media conglomerates such as the CBC and so on, from doctors, physicians, who aren’t discredited, who are held with high regard now is very marginal.
This tool of the Internet, the ease and convenience of technology to record and pen our thoughts and feelings and our suspicions and our conspiracies has never been so pervasive…it’s the ultimate deep fake.
When you watch the interview with Dr. Loh he discusses how he’s worked hard to train investigators to better complete the job of contact tracing and to go after the disease. It does feel like, although some would argue while breaching our freedoms rightfully so, like at least one method of attack to head out and find and face the Demon.
Again, as you watch the interview I ask you to reflect upon what you see or hear as the intent of the interviewee.
What I heard from every single one of them was truth, deep belief in what they were saying. An interest in making sure our world is better and that our neighbours can learn from the things they’ve experienced.
As a second wave looms upon us whether you believe it to be real part of a greater conspiracy or you are indifferent but still wishing to be cautious, it is apparent, in my mind, maybe in yours, we need to find a way to make a true change in the system with which we, at least in North America, have become accustomed to.
We need to find out why after so much loss of life in the last century and it’s continuation now, why we are still so shocked and afraid at the loss of life now.
Why do we cling to eternity yet live only for the moment? Are we asking the big questions? And have we found out answers that provide us with calmness and peace?
What happens to us when we die?
Why do we die?
Why if we are all human can we not get along?
What is the purpose of life?
Perhaps if anything the overwhelming sea of information can give all of us, the impetus to ask and maybe truly find for ourselves these answers…to these big questions.
Or else, what was it all worth?
It’s Time To Break The Chains That Bind Sex Workers
Alex Sangha with Velvet Steele
When will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reform Canada’s sex trade laws? How can sex workers carry out their business legitimately? In layman’s terms, the current law states that it is “legal” to be a sex worker, but it is “illegal” for a client to hire a sex worker?
The current law very clearly drives the sex trade deeper underground and makes the working conditions of sex workers dangerous and unsafe. Sex work is work and it is about time the Canadian government recognized this fact and set a precedent for other countries and jurisdictions to follow.
Those in the sex trade are providing a valuable service. They are fulfilling a natural, human need. So, why is this a bad thing? Why is it a crime for sex workers to be paid for their labour, earn a living? This is, essentially the definition of “work.” Folks need to understand, there is a demand for the services of sex workers. Sex Workers know that and are providing that service. Like any therapist, Sex Workers are not volunteering their time. They appreciate their clients, and although they may not be sexually attracted to their clients, they may also, not enjoy having sex all the time. Traits found common in any other job on the planet.
While this may be true in some instances, it is not the primary reason most sex workers enter the profession. They are interested in earning a living, having a roof over their heads, food on the table, clothes on their backs, enjoying leisure activities, supporting families, and paying their bills like everyone else. Schooling for example.
Furthermore, it is true not all people in society can find a regular sexual partner, but should they be deprived of having a fulfilled sex life? Regardless of the range of factors?
Shame on the people that pass judgment and look down upon sex workers and/or their clients. What gives those people the right to force their morals, values, beliefs, and personal ethics onto adults who are engaged in mutual, consensual, sexual activity? It is a violation of their personal rights, liberty, and freedoms, basic human rights. Value judgments that have led to the stigmatization and neglect of sex workers by those with influence and power in society. Judgments from false claims, ideologies, and studies suited for their own selfish wants.
Sex workers literally have no labour rights, no union, or a professional association. Many would say no agency. If they get injured on the job, they do not qualify for any worker’s compensation, disability, or employment insurance benefits. They were also excluded from any CERB or COVID recovery benefits. For truly how would all the levels of government explain supporting sex workers during this time, human beings during this pandemic?
If we can effectively regulate alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and most recently marijuana then why not the sex trade? But…sex trade is not a product, it’s a service. Lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and many other serviceable professions all have their own colleges, associations, and unions. Professions that have the power to decide for themselves how they want to forge their destiny and set their own regulatory standards.
Sex workers should be afforded the same right and to have their voices heard. As a result, those “anti-zealots” have effectively silenced their voices. Bullying those they purport to help while bellowing the rhetoric “we’ll handle this we’ve got your back”. In actuality they know nothing about the industry, manipulating facts to suit hidden agendas. Sex Workers have been left with little to no “self-determination” as to how their ‘own” profession should evolve.
I have worked as a social worker in Metro Vancouver for over twenty years and run a growing non-profit which supports LGBTQ+ people. One of the social coordinators of my non-profit, January Marie Lapuz, was tragically and brutally stabbed to death 18 times in New Westminster in 2012. The killer stated they had an argument over the cost of a sexual encounter and got a slap on the wrist.
I am convinced that the health and safety of sex workers would improve if the industry was above board and self-governed, led by, and for sex workers. We already know sex workers share insight and knowledge they have in regards to human trafficking and child sexual exploitation with law enforcement and governments. Only, their voices, knowledge, and insight are again silenced by those zealots. Sex workers have already developed a violent client registry, and in some cases, apps to protect each other. A professional association free to ensure the health and safety of those in the industry.
Sex work has a vibrant periphery of offshoot businesses, but the current legislation also makes it illegal for those involved in that periphery to earn an income or benefit from this vibrant occupation.
I understand the sex trade can do harm to some people. However, I feel the status quo does more harm! A decriminalized sex trade profession would provide sex workers with a mechanism to put forward grievances to their governing body and seek remedies and resolution. A mechanism to stop stigmatizing and discriminating against those who see themselves as a “social grease for society”.
Time to stop thinking of sex as dirty, getting minds out of the ethical gutter of those who believe they know what’s best. To stop associating sex workers as living a “high-risk lifestyle” associated with drugs and alcohol; the media rhetoric continually being force-fed to the gluttonous masses.
It’s time to break the chains that bind sex workers and bring them into the modern era with the dignity, respect, and humanity that all people working for a living deserve.
AUTHOR BIOS | Alex Sangha is a Registered Clinical Social Worker and Registered Clinical Counsellor in BC. He is the Founder of Sher Vancouver and an award-winning documentary film producer. He is the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada. For more information check out: alexsangha.com
Velvet Steele defines herself as “woman with a transsexual medical history”. She is a fetish service provider of 25 plus years, known for her appearance on the wildly popular documentary series KINK filmed here in Vancouver. She is an advocate and activist for transsexual and transgender rights, within, and outside the sex worker community. She is a sensitivity facilitator, contracted with the City of Vancouver and the VPD. For more information check out velvetsteele.com
Will you take the COVID-19 Vaccine?
There are two types of people in the world (well 17 personality types and those are broken down into 32 subcategories but for the purpose of this, we will confine ourselves to two).
There are risk-takers and risk adverse. Those who see life through the fear-based lens and those who see life through an acceptable-risk based lens or even crave riskier behaviours.
Those who are risk-adverse tend to be more organized, suffer more from anxiety and depression and more likely to use homeopathic medicine instead of traditional pharmaceutical medication.
Those who are risk-takers tend to be more impulsive, can also suffer from mental health issues but seem to bounce back more quickly. They are more likely to use fast acting pharmaceutical medication and even more likely to try illegal street drugs.
It is not scientifically proven but it is believed that risk adverse persons tend to be leery of vaccines and many are even anti-vaxxers while risk takers are more likely to get the vaccine. While this doesn’t prove causation, this does appear to be the trend we see.
Those who are more cautious about their health also tend to believe that the body is an amazing machine which, given the right tools (healthy eating, moderate exercise etc.) will be able to withstand bacterial disease and viruses. They also tend to believe that various homeopathic additions to their diet will further enhance the body’s ability to fight infection and viral attacks. So, they use health products like Oil of Oregano, Cold FX and take multi-vitamins all in an attempt to give the body all the tools it needs to create the antibodies it needs to survive.
Risk takers tend to think their body is an amazing machine and it is capable of withstanding some level of abuse and rough and tumble. They also take vitamins and work out, but they are more comfortable with synthetic chemicals and will reach for pain medication more quickly.
Neither approach to life is right or wrong. For most, it is a learned response to their formative years, and it seems to be deeply engrained by their parent’s viewpoint of life.
(For me, there is an irony in the idea that we won’t try a vaccine until we know it is “safe” which then flies in the face of taking virtually unregulated homeopathic medication which has only been tested for negative response, never tested for efficacy and completely unregulated in terms of anti-contaminants or safety. I find that part of this complexing)
I have worked in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical production. In Canada, homeopathic medicine is made in “labs” that have never been inspected by Health Canada, stored under conditions that have never been tested and it is not required to prove anything except that the product uses ingredients approved for use in Canada. They do not have to prove it works although they are not allowed to make any claims on their packaging which has not been proven. The packaging in Canada contains very little information, instead you are referred to a website which is usually serviced somewhere else in the world where they can make any claims they like.
A pharmaceutical product, on the other hand, has to go through many levels of testing before it is released to the public. The lab that produces the active ingredient is inspected regularly and has to keep detailed records of the temperature, humidity, health of personnel, and conditions of storage to name just a few.
The lab that makes the final product is inspected regularly and has to keep records of swab testing for contaminants, temperature, humidity, batch control, storage control, health of personnel and inventory control among many other controls like security and the advanced education of staff.
The product in each batch is inspected three times before being released for public consumption. If any of those lab tests show any discrepancy or contaminant in that product, the entire batch has to be destroyed.
It was my job to keep those records so I am very familiar with the testing portion of pharma and nutra production.
Vaccines have their own set of very stringent requirements and check points. From the active ingredient testing to the transportation to the storage to the final delivery, there are checks all along the way. Once a vaccine reaches its final destination, there are still reports that are followed up on and generated to determine any adverse reactions. They can trace the vaccine back every single step of its journey from raw active culture to final destination.
This is something you could not do with any nutraceutical health product. I am not against health products. I take health products. I believe some of them work for me but let’s be clear. Vaccines are tested and retested and retested, Oil of Oregano is not.
So, does that mean a vaccine is 100% safe. No.
Going back to the idea that giving your body the tools it needs, it will develop the antibodies to fight disease and that many pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products stimulate the body to do just that, vaccine are another tool in that list.
A vaccine is simply a small protein from the virus and some proven immune enhancers and some filler. It is introduced to the body in a very small active (or in some vaccines inactive) dose and your body does all the rest.
Your body fights the protein and builds antibodies which can then fight the live virus should you be infected.
It works the same way that Vitamin C builds up your immune system or Vitamin D assists with helping the body retain Vitamin B. It works the same way we would like to believe Oil of Oregano or any other immune stimulant works.
What we don’t know is how it will work in your unique body. Everybody has a different body make up. Some of it is genetic and some of it is acquired depending on the choices you have made in your life. No medicine or vaccine or health product can accurately predict how your personal body will react. Some people have allergies, some people have auto-immune disorders (the vaccine is not being offered to them yet), some people have an overactive immune system. This vaccine will act differently on each of these people and all the testing in the world won’t reveal how your body will react.
Can it kill you. Doubtful. There is nothing in the ingredients used at this strength in this form that has been known to kill. Can it harm you? Again, doubtful but unproven. 10 years of SARS vaccines have shown no serious long term affects.
We don’t know the exact recipe for the vaccine because that is proprietary but a basic understanding of how vaccines work can tell us that the vaccine is most likely going to be an almost exact copy of the SARS vaccine with a different protein. Why reinvent the wheel when we know this works. What pharma company would start from scratch when a completely tested and viable vaccine base is already available. I would be shocked if this doesn’t reveal itself to be SARS vaccine with a new protein twist.
Can the new protein kill you? Yes. COVID can kill you. In most people it will not, they will build the antibodies they need, and they will recover. An active infection of COVID is substantially riskier than a dormant protein in a vaccine. You take the risk of catching an active infection every time you step outside of your house. But you are scared to take a vaccine?
Can the new protein in the vaccine kill you? Unlikely. As the dose either active or inactive would be too small.
Can it make you sick? Unknown. Possibly. The side effects will likely include many of the symptoms of COVID but in a much lighter form. I get every side effect of every medication on the planet so I will let you know.
The vaccine has been rigorously tested in the same manner as all pharmaceuticals are tested.
The testing that is missing in this vaccine is the long-term trials.
Those have been waived by Health Canada and the companies have released the vaccine on the understanding that they are free from prosecution for the lack of long-term testing.
From the research I have been able to do, it appears the belief is that the SARS vaccine has been tested for over 10 years and in multiple populations without any significant adverse reactions, so Health Canada feels that this vaccine is safe enough to bypass the risk. They feel that the risk of the live protein killing, or injuring people is a higher risk and therefore they have waived the long-term trials. That doesn’t mean long-term trials aren’t happening. They are. It means that they don’t have to complete the usual 5-year trial before public availability.
At any point during the long-term trial, should they see a problem, they have the ability to shut the whole process down or to isolate the problem to the batch and have the batch disposed.
Have harmful things been approved by government in the past? Yes. Many pharmaceutical products and some homeopathic products have been approved and then had that approval rescinded. Through this process both by Health Canada and the FDA have learned more about the types of testing that need to be done and put more precautions in place to avoid ever having another serious adverse reaction to a newly approved product.
We have come a long way from the way things were done in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. This vaccine is not approved for pregnant women because they now know that a different kind of testing needs to be done before we know the effect on a developing fetus.
So, is it safe? I can’t tell you that anything you put in your body is 100% safe for you. Nobody can.
What I can tell you is that the virus has proven itself to be a killer. I think my odds are a lot better with a vaccine especially when I know what tests the vaccine went through to get to market. With my experience in pharma production, I am more likely to trust the science and doctors what I have worked with than I will trust some obscure website making silly claims with no proof or some couch potato opinion.
I am a science based believer with trust issues, but I am also more of a risk taker and I will take the vaccine. What will you do?
Open Letter to the Mayor of Surrey From Pauline Greaves
VIDEO: Interview with Langara Professor Pauline Greaves who sent a open letter to Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum about why he’s been very silent about a call to action from his constituents regarding the likely systematic discrimination and lack of diverse representation within Surrey’s city hall.
I have been reflecting for the last few of weeks on the worldwide demonstrations in reaction to the death of George Floyd. We are witnessing the veil being lifted on structural racism in our public and private institutions. The demonstrations have caused many countries, cities, and communities to reconsider the laws and policies that uphold the structural racism used in governance.
I am a person of colour. One reason for my involvement in local governance is the application and enforcement of policies with regards to minorities and ethic groups. It is evident that many municipal policies and regulations have been designed to discriminate against some in our society. This is reflected in who is elected to our local governments and who is hired to write and enforce local by-laws
So, it is with interest that I read an article on CBC’s Metro Matters that highlights the extent to which Metro Vancouver cities recognize diversity. The article highlights that, “every Mayor, 90 per cent of councillors, 90 percent of city managers, and all city planners are Caucasian”, and given that 49 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s population, based on the 2016 census are identified as persons of colour, this is sending a very disturbing message on our perception of equity and social justice.
There is clear evidence that there are individuals, be they elected or appointed, that do not recognize that structural racism exists. Consequently, they fail to recognize the need for strong policies and equity across all aspects of city governance. This recent information has made me realized that nothing has changed over the last 50+ years of my life.
In Canada we still fail to acknowledged that racism is not a only USA problem, but a problem that exist in our own backyard, it runs deep, and it is a silence that destroys cohesion, unity, equity, and social justice.
My message to you, Mr. Mayor, and to your City Councillors is that as leaders, you cannot remain silent when it comes to issues of social justice and equity. You have a responsibility to drive public dialogue. You have a responsibility to remedy the discrepancies in the management and enforcement of public policy. This responsibility includes addressing issues around diversity.
It is my opinion that this current Surrey Council does not care about the diverse voices of our citizens beyond tokenism. That this current Council does not care if diversity is reflected in City staffing, policies, or council representation.
Now is the moment for you, Mr. Mayor, to reinstate the Diversity Advisory Committee that you disbanded upon becoming Mayor. Now is the moment to provide this committee with a strong mandate to advise council and staff on issues relating to diversity, to remedy policies that are discriminatory and to ensure that procedures and strategies meet the needs of a truly diverse city.
Now is the time that this Diversity Advisory Committee be a fully integrated resource for the newly announced Surrey Police Board. Mr. Mayor, repeat after me, Black Lives Matter. You and your Council must represent all Surrey residents, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, or colour and must be included. This is a time of monumental change and the City of Surrey must not stand still.
Pauline Greaves, PhD
Experiencing Christmas as a Non Christian
“Jingle Bell Vibes” can not be ignored in North America
If you live in North America it’s difficult to ignore Christmas- the mall decorations, Christmas carols, events, gift buying and many more. But being a person from a different culture, where Christmas is never celebrated, this festive season seems full of excitement and happiness. The tradition of decorating trees and homes, family gatherings and exchanging gifts looks very overwhelming. But what exactly is the meaning of Christmas rather than decorations and celebrations for a person with no Christmas background? So, the answer is love and happiness.
Everyone from western culture eagerly waits for Christmas and during this particular period people can be observed as more giving, cheerful, caring and kind. The Christmas vibes are full of joy even the thought of Christmas celebrations seems beautiful- the candles, the presents under trees, cozy fireplaces, the sparkly decorations, the home cooked food, the gathering of people, and the festive ambiance itself. Hence, nobody can stay away from all these jingle bell vibes.
Christmas is big- very big. This can be explained as huge craziness over Black Friday Sales that can be seen among people of every age- kids, teens, adults and seniors. Everybody in the family starts making lists and creating a budget. However, feeling of Christmas shopping seems full of excitement and stressful at the same time. The pressure of buying according to the budget saddens the joyous feeling to some extent but there’s a lot more stuff to do rather than just shopping.
For people who have never celebrated Christmas, Christmas seems like a festival of spending time with loved ones and exchanging presents in the spirit of giving. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, fundamentally. And for many people, Christmas is a ritualistic time to feel connected with others, which I think is valuable. That’s why other cultures have started celebrating Christmas. All this begins with traditional family dinner on Christmas ewe, baking cookies for Santa and of course eagerly waiting for Santa. And, finally opening the presents and thanking each other.
For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. Many are not able to afford gifts for their family and friends. But apart from money, there are cultural reasons as well for not being a part of Christmas celebrations. For instance, in Sikh culture, from December 21-28, these seven days are known as the days of sacrifice. These are the holiest days in Sikh history. They are full of unparalleled sacrifice.
The four Sahibzade (sons) of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of Sikhs, were martyred during these days before the age of 19. During this period, Sikh people celebrates nothing but sorrow. Thus, belonging to Sikh religion, Christmas holds no meaning. It seems nothing but just fascinating decorations. Moreover, roots being attached to Sikh religion and living in Western countries like Canada, it’s complicated to decide whether it’s a good idea to involve into Christmas spirit or not.
Yet, Christmas is a season of great joy and people should feel free to celebrate in their own way and do whatever makes them happy.
Being gay and brown and middle-aged!
It is not easy being gay and brown and middle-aged! I still feel like an outsider, and relatively marginalized from the mainstream queer community. This is especially the case if I am at a party or club in Vancouver and there are groups of people socializing. The white gay men, who society seems to think is the cream of the crop of desirability, usually, hang out together.
I remember one of my friends asked me why are most of my friends’ people of colour? I said it’s because they’re the only ones who want to be friends with me and who like me. I have tried to hang out with people of all backgrounds, but the ones that stick around are usually those that I have something in common with and that includes our shared cultural upbringing, heritage, and skin colour.
I have experienced oppression in subtle ways. I met a cute Italian guy when I was 30 and doing my post-graduate in England. Let’s call him Frederico. He was from Rome. We ended up dating for a few months. Of course, I had to ask him out. It’s been rare in my life to be actually asked out by a good looking white guy.
He said to me “you’re quite handsome for an Indian guy.” I did not know if I should take this as a compliment? Nonetheless, I didn’t feel comfortable being the token person of colour in his social circle and soon we ended our relationship. At the end of the day, most people want to feel like they fit in.
I arrived at my student housing at the London School of Economics which is probably one of the most ethnically diverse schools in the world. To my surprise, the students made friends and even sat in the cafeteria based largely on nationality and ethnicity. The Latinos sat together, the Europeans sat together, and the Asians sat together.
As a gay male with family history from India and born in England and raised in Canada, I didn’t know who to sit with. Fortunately, I made some friends from Canada and the USA and with a few closeted gay students.
I even experienced explicit ageism in the gay world while in London. I went to a gay bar, as I turned 30 in the city, and an older white Englishman asked me about my age. When I told him, he stated “your past the expiry date.”
Now I am 47 years old. My life is getting better in some ways. I have a nice house and car, I have a successful business, and I have good friends and family. On the downside, I am not as toned, getting bald, with grey hair. I have joint pain. I can still swim for an hour virtually non-stop which I am proud of, nonetheless. I wonder sometimes, am I still desirable enough for the gay world? The gay world is still so obsessed with youth and beauty.
I grew up with media images of white, smooth, muscular young men and “twinks”, both of which I look nothing alike. I am currently focused on self-care and supporting and making a difference in the lives of others who are struggling especially queer youth.
In my counselling practice, I have helped many young brown men who have internalized racism and internalized homophobia. This means they do not like themselves for being brown or gay. Can you imagine? They have to come out and accept their ethnicity and sexuality. Talk about trying to deal with double the societal oppression and self-esteem and self-identity issues.
I am writing this article to let the next generation of queer youth, especially queer brown and queer people of colour, know that there is hope. You can love yourself. You can be loved. You can find your place in our queer family.
If you are youth between 16 and 30 demonstrating involvement, commitment and leadership in the queer community feel free to apply for the Sher Vancouver January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award which has cash prizes of $1000, $600, $400, and $200. For more information check out: shervancouver.com/youth-award.html
Alex Sangha is the Founder of Sher Vancouver and a Recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada. You can contact Alex at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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