Taking A Seat At The Table

As featured in the February edition of The Sound STC: @TheSoundSTC or Facebook

“Remember who put you in office:
it wasn’t you, it was the people.”
– Debbie Zimmerman,
Niagara Regional Chair (1997-2003)

We live in a time and place where racism and misogyny are rampant and unchecked. Just ask Mohamad AlJumaily, who was accosted by another resident at Regional Council in December and accused of being a terrorist – simply for being a man of colour. What kind of values do we project to the rest of Canada, and the world, when we have a regional council who stands by while our Charter Rights are trampled on? From Andy Petrowski’s antics to the Press Freedom Fiasco, Niagara politics have become a national joke.

I recently attended a workshop at the St Catharines library entitled How You Can Build A Better Niagara: Running for Municipal Office. The event was put on by A Better Niagara, a local non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to bringing Accountability, Integrity, and Transparency, to politics throughout Niagara. I was tasked with reporting on this event for you, the good readers of the Sound, but as I wrote I realized I took more away from this workshop than political campaign knowhow: I left excited and truly believing we may be at the cusp of a great change in Niagara.


When asked what advice she’d have for candidates, former Niagara Regional Councillor Eleanor Lancaster was quick to state,

“If you are not at the table,
you are probably on the menu.”

That idea has stuck in my head; for far too long Niagara politics have not adequately reflected the community which it serves. Current Niagara Regional council features four women (one in eight councillors); of the six regional councillors who represent St Catharines, Debbie MacGregor is the only woman. At city council, St Catharines is represented by twelve councillors, two of who are women. Meanwhile, not a single person of colour represents the people. Not one. Anywhere.

How do we propose to attract, and retain, businesses and workers if they do not see themselves represented at the table?

There is hope; two thirds of the Running for Municipal Office event attendees were women and one out of every five attendees were people of colour. Local activist, and workshop attendee, Haley Bateman had this to say: The number of people ranging in ages and stages of their career was remarkable. It is inspiring to see so many people invested in making a better Niagara.

It is heartening to stand in solidarity with so many varied and diverse people as we try to shine a light on the darkness within our community. To witness the past, present, and the hopeful future, of Niagara politics working together regardless of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, socioeconomic background, or even party politics, left me in awe. I awoke optimistic that a better Niagara is not only possible, it is feasible. Women and people of colour are no longer the minority; we are empowering ourselves, and each other, to get off the menu and take our seats at the table.

The Running For Municipal Office series will continue in the months ahead- if you would like more information please reach out to A Better Niagara on your favourite social media platform or abetterniagara.com. While I am a member of A Better Niagara’s Communications Committee, the opinions featured herein are my own.


The NPCA: A Retrospective


In early 2016, people had some questions for the publicly-funded Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s (NPCA) board of directors; inside a year, the NPCA, and former CAO Carmen D’Angelo, had jointly filed a $100,000 defamation suit against St Catharines resident and retired Canadian Air Force Major Ed Smith.

How did we get to a place where a government agency felt entitled to sue a citizen instead of providing answers to the questions asked? The simple answer is the culture of impunity at the Niagara Region and the conservation authority (NPCA), whose 15 member board of directors features 11 duly elected Niagara regional councillors.

2015 to early 2016: the NPCA and the Lobbyist

The public became aware the conservation authority had hired lobbyists, with public funds, to advocate for the removal of provincial restrictions on the development of Thundering Waters Forest, a privately-owned and ecologically sensitive area, located in Niagara Falls, provided the existing Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSWs) are replaced through the creation of wetlands elsewhere in a concept known as biodiversity offsetting.

When the public began to question the board of the NPCA regarding Biodiversity Offsetting,  members denied having hired a lobbyist or having any specific sites in minds. As you can see by the below documents, we know that to be false.

Biodiversity TWF 001





To be clear: the board of directors of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), two thirds of whom are elected members of the Niagara Regional Council (or one third of council), used public funds to hire lobbyists to enable a private company to develop provincially protected, ecologically sensitive, lands (and lied about it).

Thus began our questions, their lies (or misinformation and manufactured controversy), the dubious spending of taxpayer dollars, and the Charter Rights violations which most recently resulted in the press freedom fiasco at Niagara regional council. That is not to say there were not issues predating biodiversity offsetting, rather, it was the catalyst for 0the events with which this summary is concerned.

Summer to end 2016 – the NPCA and the call for accountability

By June 2016, the questions were many and the peoples call for a forensic audit of the NPCA was gaining momentum despite a motion to the Region of Niagara for an audit of the NPCA being defeated. The public turned to the Freedom of Information Act for answers but none were forthcoming; requests for documents were denied and the public was left with more questions. In late October, public frustration and mistrust culminated in what documents were available, at the time, for consideration, and the questions they raised, being compiled into a report, A Call for Accountability at the NPCAFEWniagara/PDFs/A Call

This report quickly went public and, instead of simply answering the questions outlined in the report, the Board of the NPCA turned to attorneys and threats. Within 60 days of A Call for Accountability going public, the NPCA had a new Chairman of the Board of Directors (Councillor Annunziata replaced Councillor Timms) and the NPCA, and it’s CAO, had filed a defamation suit against Major Smith in civil court.

As Justice Ramsay wrote in his December 2017 decision of NPCA v. Smith:

Judge Ramsay 76 NPCA response

To be clear: the board of directors of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, two thirds of whom are elected members of the Niagara Regional Council (or one third of council), used public funds to sue a citizen, a veteran, for defamation of the Authority. 

With that blatant Charter of Rights violation, 2016 came to a roaring end; the call for an audit, still unheard by the Region, was making rumblings at the lower-tier municipalities; questions regarding biodiversity offsetting, the lobbyist, and A Call for Accountability, were unanswered; the NPCA was in active litigation with a citizen, a veteran who served our country proudly, in an attempt to intimidate us into silence.

We are able to see the culture of impunity truly begin to take form with Charter Rights violations, active deception of council(s) and the public, and the implementation of intimidation tactics.

January 2017 – the Ontario Auditor General

Further reading: Misinformation & Manufactured Controversy: the NPCA and the AG

2017 did not bring any new answers, rather, it brought more questions, and further controversy. With the June 2016 refusal of the Region to pass a motion for an audit of the NPCA, citizens took their concerns to the lower-tier municipalities and, by January 2017, most had passed a motion regarding an audit.

The 2017 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the NPCA Board of Directors was held January 18th and the board discussed whether the Auditor General (AG) had the capacity to conduct an audit of a conservation authority (despite having correspondence, which was read into the record by Vice Chair James Kaspersetz, from Mayor Fred Eisenberger of Hamilton stating he had spoken with the AG Lysek and, not only did she have the authority, she had a team ready to go). The offer had a short life as the 2017 schedule was about to be set and if the NPCA board did not invite the AG to conduct an audit in January, it wouldn’t happen in 2017.

Newly minted Chairman Sandy Annunziata insisted any motion for an audit should go before the audit committee for a recommendation in advance of the February board meeting. A conference call between Chair Annunziata, member Quirk, and the AG on January 24th reaffirmed this offer. However, Chair Annunziata can be heard to repeatedly state he can not act unilaterally without board approval, in spite of the motion passed on the 18th which stated the option of the Auditor General would be explored. Arguably, this suggests board approval is already implicit; if Chair Annunziata was unsure of how to proceed due to his inexperience, he had only taken over the role of Chair a few weeks earlier, should he not have called an emergency board meeting to discuss this, as opposed to simply delaying (or potentially derailing) the audit, for 2017?

The complete conversation transcript can be found:  Auditor General-NPCA transcript

And so it was, the established January deadline for Auditor General involvement passed and the new mantra of the NPCA, oft stated by new Chair Sandy Annunziata, became: the Auditor General does not have the purview to conduct an audit of the NPCA.

After months of public protest, political games and chicanery, the weather warmed as things got progressively frosty at the NPCA – for citizens, environmental advocates, and even dissenting board members. In April, the Board voted to repeal the January audit motion and replace it with one requesting the board and staff resume conversations with the Auditor General, citing interference in the process by Councillor Hodgson (who had put forth the original motion calling for an audit at the NPCA).

Spring and Summer 2017: Censure & Conflicts of Interest

In May 2017, board member, and regional councillor, Bill Hodgson is censured; why is still unclear. How did he interfere with the audit RFP process? We don’t know. Any documents relating to this alleged code of conduct violation are still not being released, despite repeated requests for what is essentially public information (even more disturbingly, Councillor Hodgson himself has ALSO been denied any documents / explanation from the Kafkaesque Authority).

As a result of this shady censure, member Hodgson chose to resign his seat from the NPCA board of directors, citing bullying and the resulting mental health drain. That’s right, not only was the NPCA maligning concerned and critical members of the public, but, by spring of 2017, they were harassing their own board members!

Following the new audit motion and Councillor Hodgson’s resignation from the NPCA, in spite of having passed a motion for conversations with the AG’s office, the NPCA continues to tell citizens and councils that it is not in the Auditors purview to conduct an audit of a conservation authority. The NPCA also continues to fail to mention the NPCA had turned down the January offer by the Auditor.

Let’s pause to fully appreciate the egregiousness of the situation, shall we?

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (the NPCA), a provincially legislated body, funded primarily through tax levies, and being responsible for the conservation and preservation of regional natural resources, has a board of directors made up of two thirds elected Niagara Regional Council members (one third of regional council), who have:

  • Spent taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist for biodiversity offsetting, lied about Thundering Waters Forest being put forth for this experiment;
  • Spent taxpayer dollars to file a lawsuit against a citizen, for asking questions, stating Retired RCAF Major Ed Smith was defaming the Authority; and
  • Lied to municipal councils about the Auditor General and her ability to conduct an audit.

It is important to note, in the larger context of the story, this line of thought, that the NPCA does not fall within existing accountability framework, is in direct contradiction with board members statements about the importance of elected officials on the board for accountability of public funds.

To have one third (1/3) of Niagara Regional Council, whose role it is to make development policies, make up two thirds (2/3) of the only board whose role it is to conserve our lands and be the stopgate for overdevelopment, is bad policy at best.

And so it was that the political skullduggery continued through the summer and into the fall of 2017:

  • Through a provincial motion, the NPCA and the Auditor General finally set a date for an audit;
  • In September, the 2018 NPCA Budget is passed by the board, promptly slashing the Restoration Department while simultaneously increasing the CAO’s budget.  The effect is the immediate loss of 8 long term workers while 2 new positions were created in the communications department.
    (this being despite having received funding for 2017 for those positions – why did the passing of the budget comencing in January 2018 result in September 2017 action? Perhaps the current AG audit will confirm the authors opinion: the NPCA had already spent their funding on the frivolous lawsuit against Ed Smith);
  • In September, the NPCA board is informed, through citizen emails, that the 10-years-old Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the NPCA and the Region is being investigated by staff for renegotiation. Citizens and board members were informed these conversations were only in regards to pricing and were not focused on the services themselves. That turned out to be false:

Finally, as the days again grew cold, we arrive at the defamation suit motions hearing, in front of Ontario Superior Court’s Justice Ramsay.

Fall 2017: NPCA vs Smith / Truth and Misinformation

Before the December 7th Press Freedom Fiasco at Niagara Region, there was the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) versus Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Major Ed Smith (retired).


On November 21, lawyers for the NPCA argued, in Ontario Superior Court, they are not a government entity, rather, they are a charity. That’s right, a legislated body with tax levying ability used said tax dollars to have attorneys assert in front of the judiciary it is not a government entity. Let that sink in for a moment… (and be grateful our parliamentary system is designed specifically to be a check and balance between legislation and the judiciary).

By day two, attorneys for the NPCA recognized the futility of their argument and changed pleas. Attorneys now suggested conservation authorities should be afforded the rights of a corporation as Canadian public interest is not served by allowing citizens to defame or question municipalities and/or government entities.

Arguing municipalities should be able to sue for defamation flies in the face of Canadian civil liberties and the democratic process; without a citizen’s rights to express their opinion and, by extension, the right to press freedom, we begin down a dark path whereby citizens are afraid to question the government, Charter Rights are meaningless, and we are left with a culture of impunity which leads to respected veteran reporters having their notes confiscated while being told to leave a public meeting under threat of police action.


The public interest can never be well served by putting the interests of the government ahead of the interests of its citizens – particularly the right to free press, expression, opinion, and religion. To say that the government’s right to a good reputation supersedes the rights of citizens to speak out against the government is archaic and completely contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is not only our right to question, it is our fiduciary duty and the very fabric of our democracy.

 Judge Ramsay agreed; section 52 of the written decision to dismiss NPCA vs Smith:

Judge Ramsay 52 NPCA responseNPCA vs Smith, Justice Ramsay’s Decision PDFs/NPCA v Smith
NPCA vs Smith, Court Costs Decision PDFs/Court Costs

A clear victory for the people, the jubilation didn’t last; in apparent contempt for the ruling, NPCA board member Tony Quirk took to social media.

Quirk Twitter 1

One would think the NPCA would have the grace to admit they were wrong, the public would have accepted gladly some clarity and honesty, but to continue to misrepresent the truth through the use of truncated quotes from Judge Ramsay’s decision is, in the authors opinion, shockingly arrogant.

Curtailing the judge’s words to suit your own purpose is the definition of tendentious (biased) speech, or misinformation, through obfuscation of the complete content and context. Just as the term “fake news” has become inculcated in the vocabulary of our neighbours to the south, the term “misinformation” has become part of the daily lexicon of Niagara residents; no clarification or correction is offered.

The NPCA v Port Colborne and St Catharines councils

St Catharines Council NPCA presentation   Port Colborne Council NPCA presentation

The very same evening as NPCA spokesman Michael Reles told the St Catharines Standard “Quirk does not speak for the authority and is free to voice his opinion on the ruling”, NPCA representatives Chair Annunziata and CAO Mark Brickell appeared before Port Colborne council. It should be noted NPCA Corporate Services Director, David Barrick, a Regional Councillor for Port Colborne, was present though he spent much of the meeting looking like this:


Consider the hand-out NPCA representative gave Port Colborne council versus the complete text as evidence of the ongoing pattern of failed governance and deceitful statements, paying close attention to the last THREE (3) sentences of Judge Ramsay’s words in [64] as compared to the TWO (2) truncated quotes provided by the NPCA.NPCAhandout page 1 001


Following the attempt at trickery with abridged text from Judge Ramsay’s decision, Port Colborne council passed a motion for a provincial supervisor. With the release of transcripts from the January conversation between the Authority and the Auditor, St Catharines council chose to re-examine the evidence previously given them by the NPCA.

At an October presentation before St Catharines council, NPCA representatives made statements regarding the Auditor General and, in a move that would make Machiavelli proud, denied having turned down an offer from Ms Lysek’s (the AG) office. Following the victory in court, and at Port Colborne council, on December 19th, St Catharines reopened the issue and became the second municipality to pass a motion for a provincial supervisor at the NPCA.

How did we get to a place where respected St Catharines The Standard journalist Bill Sawchuk has his notes and laptop seized as he is removed from a public meeting?
We start with one third of council, as two thirds of the board of directors of the NPCA, who:

  • Spent taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist for biodiversity offsetting,
  • Lied about Thundering Waters Forest being put forth for this biodiversity offsetting experiment;
  • Spent taxpayer dollars to file a defamation lawsuit against Retired RCAF Major Ed Smith for defaming the Authority;
  • Lied to municipal councils about the Auditor General, her ability to conduct an audit, and turning down an offer in January 2017;
  • Lied to municipal councils about the courts findings in NPCA vs Smith by curtailing Judge Ramsays words to suit NPCA purposes.

This pattern of behaviour has not been corrected, if anything, it has become more stubbornly entrenched and has seemingly infected Niagara Regional Council; what began as questions about biodiversity offsetting at Thundering Waters Forest has insidiously become the culture we see now. There is a direct correlation between the NPCA suing a citizen for free speech and a member of the press being removed from Regional Council.


In December 2017, St Catharines council found NPCA Chair Sandy Annunziata, Regional Councillor for Fort Erie, had “provided misleading information” to council and asked Niagara Regional council and the board of the NPCA to address this issue. 




Next Regional Council meeting is Thursday, January 18th.
Come out and let Regional Council, and Chair Alan Caslin, know what you think about the NPCA, Chair Annunziata’s “misleading information”, Councillor Petrowski’s 30 day pay fine for the porn email, and, of course, the Press Freedom Fiasco of 2017.

According to the Oxford Dictionary: 
Lie (n) – Used with reference to a situation involving deception or founded on a mistaken impression
Lied (v) – Present a false impression
Mislead (v) – Cause (someone) to have a wrong idea or impression
misleading (adv) – Giving the wrong idea or impression

Although a native English speaker, the Author is French educated and oft uses dictionaries to ensure accuracy. Any replacing of the term “provided misleading information to” with “lied to” is a result of the Authors opinion that they are synonymous, just as all views expressed are the opinions of the Author. Emily Spanton, January 16th, 2018, St Catharines Ontario.

Documents discussed can be found at:

A Call for Accountability at the NPCA Groups/FEW.Niagara/Files/PDFs/A Call
NPCA vs Smith, Justice Ramsay’s Decision Groups/FEW.Niagara/Files/PDFs/NPCA v Smith
NPCA vs Smith, Court Costs Decision Groups/FEW.Niagara/Files/PDFs/Court Costs
NPCA|Auditor Conversation Transcript Auditor General-NPCA transcript

Further reading:
When the Government Attacks (Canadian Democracy)
Misinformation & Manufactured Controversy
Misinformation & Manufactured Controversy: Isn’t It Ironic
or check out in-depth coverage at https://niagaraatlarge.com



Misinformation & Manufactured Controversy: Nothing Common About Sense

Let’s discuss Thursday’s “Incident” at the Niagara Region. I don’t think anyone is arguing this was not a blatant disregard for Charter Rights and that section 2b of the Charter (freedom of thought, belief, opinion, expression and press) is one of the tenants of Canadian democracy. I won’t argue that point; we all agree a free press if fundamental to a free society. I would, however, like to point out a few other points I thought were common sense… but, there is nothing common about sense, is there?

One of the reasons we were all present on Thursday was Councillor Andy Petrowski. Councillor Petrowski is free to believe and express anything he wants but that does not give him the right to be derogatory of others and their beliefs. Before using social media, ask yourself the following questions: does my message impinge on the rights of others? is my message positive or does it blame or shame someone for their own beliefs? Could my message be construed as hate speech? Councillor Petrowski should be sanctioned for his repeated conduct and a paid leave of absence is not acceptable to the people of Niagara.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn’t stop at Fundamental Freedoms, including free press, belief, and opinion; we also have rights. Sections 7 and 8 of the Charter state we have the right to life, liberty and security of person and the right to be secure from unreasonable seizures. Here’s where things get crazy hard to comprehend: any devices removed from council should have been immediately returned to their owner OR handed over to the police officers; if the officers do not have the authority to seize it, you probably don’t either. End of story.

Was it illegal to attempt to record an in-camera session of council?
Yes. Preston Haskell, who’s device was found to be recording the in-camera session, says there was no intent and one must take him at his word. (UPDATE: Niagara Regional Police say the investigation is ongoing.)

Was council right to contact the police to sort the matter out?
Yes. Councillors are not investigators and do not hold the power to seize property or expel someone from a public building.  (UPDATE: According to Councillors Annunziata and Barrick, councillors do have the power to see under hats, and Councillor Barrick believes its a conflict of interest for the media to ask questions.)

Did Regional staff break the law?
Yes; the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office has begun an investigation.

Did CAO Carmen D’Angelo direct staff to do so?
That remains to be seen.

Taking A Seat At The Table

When I wrote this back in February, I had no idea that, 5 months later, I would be seeking nomination for the West Lincoln Niagara Regional Council seat. Thank you to all the amazing women in politics in Niagara who have inspired me to take my seat at the table.

#Niagara #NiagaraRegion #ONPoli #WomenInPolitics

Emily Spanton: WhatDoesntKillU

As featured in the February edition of The Sound STC: @TheSoundSTC or Facebook

“Remember who put you in office:
it wasn’t you, it was the people.”
– Debbie Zimmerman,
Niagara Regional Chair (1997-2003)

We live in a time and place where racism and misogyny are rampant and unchecked. Just ask Mohamad AlJumaily, who was accosted by another resident at Regional Council in December and accused of being a terrorist – simply for being a man of colour. What kind of values do we project to the rest of Canada, and the world, when we have a regional council who stands by while our Charter Rights are trampled on? From Andy Petrowski’s antics to the Press Freedom Fiasco, Niagara politics have become a national joke.

I recently attended a workshop at the St Catharines library entitled How You Can Build A Better Niagara: Running for Municipal Office. The event was…

View original post 419 more words

OPIOIDS: We Can’t Stop Here. This is Bat Country

As published in The Sound @TheSoundStC


I felt sweet, swinging bliss, like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled. I thought I was going to die the very next moment. But I didn’t die…”  

– Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Before we talk about solutions, we need to understand the problem. There are several theories, or schools of thought, on drugs; chemical use, abuse, and/or addiction, as a disease of the spirit, or a moral weakness, is as old as chemical use while philosophizing. It’s the model on which the Temperance movement and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are based and… it doesn’t work.

Early twentieth century temperance movements were focused on alcohol consumption – and despite short periods of prohibition, it’s known addictiveness, and morbidity and mortality rates alcohol is still widely consumed and accepted.

Alcohol is legal because the majority enjoy it, the economics of banning alcohol is prohibitive, and criminalization led to tainted homemade product and sky-rocketing death rates.

(Sound familiar?)

In short, regulation saves lives and builds government coffers through taxation while those who over imbibe, abuse and/or are addicted to, alcohol, are seen as having an illness and treated medically.

Just as AIDS would be a “gay issue” and crack cocaine would be a “Black issue”, the issue of opiate usage was seen as a race and poverty problem – best dealt with by locking people away. But, addiction is indiscriminate… even when society is not. Racialized, criminalized, stigmatized; enter the Age of Jazz, white children of counter-culture movements, and drug use in the twentieth century becomes a War on Drugs.

You can jail a Revolutionary,
but you can’t jail a revolution.

– Dr Huey P. Newton

Hemingway was fond of saying he drank to make other people more interesting… people forget alcohol is a drug and has the same use. Drug and alcohol use by intellectuals, artists, and those seeking to expand their reality, will always take place. Not everyone uses drugs and alcohol to mask pain, just as not all of those who use will become addicted; people do not fit in boxes.

Generations of this shit and we are no more evolved in our treatment of drug use and addiction than we were a century ago. We continue to lock people up for drug use despite it having no consequence to the user, even withdrawal isn’t assured – 5 people overdosed in 1 day last month at Niagara Detention Centre, while Hamilton-Hentworth Detention Centre saw 10 overdoses in 9 people in 6 days. Let that math sink in.

We continue to treat addiction like a moral fault with little regard for the biopsychosocial aspects of drug use. Those who do seek help for addiction, are faced with long waitlists for 21 day inpatient treatment, the current OHIP covered standard, which is basically supervised withdrawal and no better than prison.

Detoxing alone does not address the underlying issues: why did someone begin using in the first place? what has their use done to their relationships? how is their self-image?

In order to successfully maintain sobriety, people need a comprehensive approach including ongoing counselling, not groups or relapse prevention but actual psychotherapy, integrated life skills, employment programs, stable housing, and, if they choose, pharmacotherapies.

Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.
Only those who can leave behind everything
they have ever believed in can hope to escape.

–  William S. Burroughs

People who are street-involved, as many addicts are, are one of the most elusive and difficult populations to reach having been burnt, repeatedly, by the system. These are often the people with multiple problems, who shun offers of assistance, and are frequently loners.

People who isolate and avoid contact with others. People who live alone, use alone, die alone. It takes patience, consistency, and, honesty, to build trust; in a world where addicts have few choices, when we only offer limited services, at limited locations, we limit the persons ability to access help.

People are dying and whether you believe addiction is a weakness of the soul or a medical illness, we need to be discussing other strategies; we must do more than make token band-aid gestures.

Supervised injection sites are but one harm reduction strategy and, in a region as vast as Niagara, aren’t expected to have the efficacy we see in denser urban areas. One solution, being used in BC, is supervision of injection opioid use via webcam – you don’t get the immediate CPR help but you do get EMS immediately dispatched.

If we really want to prevent overdose deaths, we need to invest in providing drug purity testing kits with Naloxone. We need to offer the option of supervised injectable opioid agonist treatment (siOAT), a prescription hydromorphone, outside hospital settings as an alternative to methadone or suboxone treatments.

What we have been doing, for over a century, does not work. The economics of our failed system need to be addressed through decriminalization of drug use, to be replaced by long term treatment options.

In a region that is known for its wine, and it’s soaring overdose death rates, we need to be asking why we aren’t treating drugs like we treat alcohol – taxable, regulated, and most importantly, readily available for those who wish to consume it.


If misogyny was a factor, is Toronto rampage a terrorist act against women?

If misogyny was a factor, is Toronto rampage a terrorist act against women?

File 20180426 175044 1vs6170.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A group of women pay their respects at a memorial wall dedicated to the victims of the Toronto van attack.
esday, April 25, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Heidi Matthews, York University, Canada

In the days following the horrific van attack in Toronto that left 10 people dead and many injured, police and politicians were careful to avoid describing it as a terrorist act.

But as more details emerge about the possible motives of the accused killer, particularly his alleged connection to the misogynist movement known as incel, could he face charges under Canadian law for gender-based terrorism?

“Terrorism” is considered different from ordinary crimes because it endangers national security. As stated in the report on the Air India incident, “terrorism is an existential threat to Canadian society in a way that murder, assault, robbery and other crimes are not.”

In other words, terrorist acts challenge the shape, content and boundaries of the social order. This is why both Canadian and international law treat terrorism with particular severity.

Changes after 9/11

The phenomenon of terrorism is far from new, but there were major reforms to terrorism laws around the world during the first years of the 21st century.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and inspired by amendments to British terrorism legislation enacted the previous year, Canada passed its own Anti-Terrorism Act. Responding to the United Nations Security Council’s call for all states to criminalize terrorist activities, the act amended Canada’s Criminal Code, adding a new chapter on terrorism.

These amendments were mainly designed to prevent terrorist acts by expanding the investigatory tools for law enforcement in suspected terrorism cases and adding a set of offences criminalizing elements of the preparatory stages of attacks.

Terrorism, as such, is not a criminal offence in Canada. But participating in the activity of a terrorist group, or facilitating terrorist acts and promoting the commission of terrorist acts, are crimes.

The new Criminal Code provisions also extend to the dissemination of terrorist propaganda; they allow a court to order the removal of speech from the internet.

Ordinary crimes like murder or theft can become terrorist offences when they are committed in connection with terrorist groups or activities. That means that under certain circumstances, “terrorism” is overlaid on top of these charges to increase their severity.

With respect to sentencing, designating ordinary crimes as terrorism is considered an aggravating factor. Significantly, the maximum available sentence for terrorism crimes has been increased to life imprisonment.

Political, religious or ideological motive

In Canada, the definition of “terrorist activity” includes acts or omissions committed with two key intentional elements.

First, the accused must have acted with “a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.” Second, he must have intended to intimidate the “public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security” or to compel a government or organization “to do or to refrain from doing any act.”

The activity in question must also have violently caused death or serious injury, endangered life or caused a serious risk to public safety (including a segment of the public). Causing serious property damage or interference with, or disruption of, an essential service can also constitute terrorist activity if intended to cause these harms.

The legal approaches to terrorism by different countries diverge on whether a political, religious or ideological — and sometimes racial — motive is required for an offence to be characterized as terrorism.

Canada is joined by the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in including this “motive clause” in its law.

Importantly, the U.S. Patriot Act leaves out a motive requirement, defining terrorism that occurs on American soil as any crime intended to either intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence government policy by means of intimidation or coercion or influence government conduct by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

Toronto van attack: Terrorism?

The arrest of accused van driver Alek Minassian means the Canadian government must decide whether to pursue a terrorism case.

The alleged connection of the Toronto van suspect to “incel” comes in the midst of the #MeToo era, so it’s unsurprising we’re seeing calls to address this case as one of terrorism.

A group of women pay their respects at a memorial wall dedicated to the victims of Monday’s van attack as a portion of Toronto’s Yonge Street re-opens on April 25, 2018.

These calls have a two-pronged logic.

First, they reiterate the undeniable correlation between misogyny and acts of mass public violence, drawing on a spectrum of ideologies ranging from racism to radical Islam.

Read more:
Most mass killers are men who have also attacked family

Second, they contend that violence against women is itself a form of terrorism, constituting nothing less than a daily war against women.

If national laws have been updated to include acts of peacetime terrorism, then surely, the argument goes, these laws should cover mass violence motivated by misogyny.

On its face, a good legal case could be made for construing the charges against the Toronto suspect as terrorist offences if it turns out he was inspired by or acted on behalf of a movement that promotes violence against women. There is nothing in Canadian law limiting terrorism to acts inspired only, for example, by radical religious ideologies.

In fact, in a 2017 report on terrorism, the government explicitly recognized the increased threat of right-wing extremism.

Serious practical considerations

Many facts are still unclear in the Toronto van case, but Facebook has confirmed that moments before the alleged attack, Minassian posted about the “Incel Rebellion” and lauded Elliot Rodger, who was responsible in 2014 for killing six people in California in the name of a “war on women.”

If the suspect was indeed motivated by this misogyny, and the prosecution can prove other elements of “terrorist activity,” it’s plausible that the charges already laid could be construed as constituting terrorist acts. Minassian is facing 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

But there are serious practical considerations limiting the feasibility and added value of such an approach.

Under Canadian law, first-degree murder, defined as planned and deliberate, carries a mandatory life sentence. Any killings that occur during the commission of terror-related acts are elevated to first-degree murder. But Minassian is already charged with first-degree murder and will be sentenced to life if convicted.

Arguing terrorism would also significantly add to the prosecution burden, requiring all the elements of terrorism to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Those calling for this case to be treated as terrorism would likely argue that the optics and symbolism of denouncing Minassian’s alleged crimes as terrorism justify this additional evidentiary burden.

But there are serious policy considerations that go against expanding the legal scope of terrorism as a way to combat the very real and disturbing threats posed by dark online movements like incel.

The idea that we should turn to the language of terrorism and the institutions of the criminal law to address misogyny is part of the general punitive approach that has permeated much of the #MeToo discourse.

The ConversationI worry that the logic of #MeToo is likely to result in socially and sexually conservative policy proposals. The punitive urge to talk about the Toronto van attack suspect as a terrorist could be one such dangerous invitation.

Heidi Matthews, Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Canada

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Niagara’s Regional Chair Should Have No Business Calling Shots In CAO Hiring Probe

In the interest of openness and transparency, and freedom from any party that may have a conflict of interest, Caslin should not be requesting anything with respect to this matter except for Carmen D’Angelo’s resignation. @NiagaraAtLarge #Niagara #NiagaraRegion

Niagara At Large

Investigation In To Alleged Irregularities Around Hiring Of CAO Carmen D’Angelo Must Be As Independent As Possible

A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted April 11th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Okay, let me try to put what  I am about to say as bluntly as I can without restoring  any of the seven words George Carlin once warned against ever  using on television.

Niagara regional chair Al Caslin should keep his nose out of the CAO hiring contrsoversy

That’s my pledge to keep my language as clean as possible. So with that and three deep breaths, here I go –

There is no damn way in a fair and just world that Niagara regional chair Al Caslin or anyone else who had anything directly to do with the selection of candidates for the Region’s top staff position of Chief Administrative…

View original post 1,132 more words

NOTL: Not A Bee City

How many committees does it take to advise Niagara-on-the-Lake Council whether or not to declare itself, the Heart of Fruitland Ontario, a Bee City?

Two… Council referred the conversation about pollinators to both the Agriculture and In Blooms Committees.

Is NOTL so anti-pollinator that they must defer a motion to support pollinators to two committees ? The crowd heckled the Bee City presentation; it’s the twenty-first-century and I’m looking around for pitchforks and torches like we’ve been accused of witchcraft.

(A farm rich community one would think promoting pollinators would be a no brainer… but, alas, that doesn’t take into account the love of vinyards, soft flesh fruit, and golf courses – all known users of  pesticides).




Apparently, Not All Canadians Are Polite

Niagara-On-The-Lake, ON – As you know, I often attended municipal council meetings across the Region; never have I witnessed anything as rude or entitled as the crowd at Niagara-On-The-Lake.

…there really are no other words for it.

Even at the most heated NPCA board and Regional Council meetings, people are reminded to act with decorum.

The council chamber is a place for meaningful debate and all should feel welcome to voice what matters to them without fearing public mockery.

They heckled; it’s the twenty-first-century and I’m looking around for pitchforks and torches like we’ve been accused of witchcraft.

According to an article in The Standard, Lord Mayor Pat Darte said if he had tried to control the audience any more, the situation would have become worse.

I was shocked not only at the behaviour of the crowd but at Lord Mayor Pat Darte’s inaction; asked to comment, I could think only of words such as ‘aghast’ and ‘mortified’ – words that rarely feature in my lexicon; I’ve seen school children act with more maturity and respect.

A politics and policy writer, and I left the meeting speechless.

Who left NOTL without adult supervision?

More NOTL: Not A Bee City



Union Waterfront by Fortress

Now and when

Port Dalhousie has long been embattled over plans for the Old Port Mansion site at the corner of Lock and Main Streets. Almost a decade after an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing, and three years after finiciers Fortress Real Developments took over, no decision on the future of the current reinvented proposal has yet been made by the City of St Catharines.

First, St Catharines Council must decide on the future of our commercial core and heritage district. See: Port Dalhousie Secondary Plan

What are the issues?

Residents fear City Hall will allow height restrictions beyond what the character of the heritage area demands for 3 currently planned condos. The proposals for the current Lincoln Fabrics building and the Royal Canadian Legion next door hinge on 2-storey allowances, both propose 8-storey’s.

The historic Lincoln Fabrics building is currently 6-storeys, the Official Plan calls for 3. Note: in real estate, a storey is generally accepted to be approximately 10 feet, or 3 metres, in height.  This is why although the Lincoln Fabrics building has 4 floors at it’s highest, it is considered to be a 6-storey building.

Other than that, I believe the plans have been well received by the community; the site at Lock and Main Streets is far more complex.

A tower, by any other name, is still a tower.

Once upon a time, in a Port called Dalhousie, the crowning gem in the City of St Catharines, there was a proposal for 17-storey tower that went to the OMB. After all was said and done, the fight exhausted, Port Place was never built.

Some buildings demolished, a scar on our heart, the site has sat like an open wound; the years passed.

One day, the people were informed the project had been taken over by financiers Fortress Real Development. They proposed a 14-storey mixed-use building with 157 units, and over 23,000 square feet of commercial floor space and a total of 258 underground parking spaces.

Gone was the 17-storeys and the theatre, replaced with 14-set-back-storeys and more units.

Seasons changed, the lake rose, the lake receeded, and the people of Port Dalhousie waiting to hear their fate.

Spring 2018

On Friday, April 13th, 2018, the Ontario branch of the RCMP executed search warrants on 6 locations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), tied to Fortress Real Developments, as part of an ongoing investigation into syndicated mortgage fraud.

How does this effect Port Dalhousie? It may not… but, fraud investigations can lead to seizure and/or forfeiture of property.

Why does this matter? If St Catharines Council votes to accept the proposed Amendment to the Official Plan, that amendment is irrevocable – should a new developer want to build, the amended heights would be applicable.

Doesn’t the 2009 OMB hearing overide the Official and Secondary Plans? Yes, and no. A decade has passed since that decision and, with the adaption of a new Secondary Plan, and a new proposal, the existing ruling can be revoked. That’s right – we are not stuck with 17-storey’s.

The current Official Secondary Plan calls for 3-storey’s at street level; the Amendment currently in front of Council, allowing for the 14-set-back-storey’s of the new plan, would fix the allowable height at the Lock and Main Streets site at 14 storey’s.

Let St Catharines Council know – Port Dalhousie demands a moratorium on a decision regarding Fortress Real Development’s Union Waterfront Proposal until such a time as the RCMP investigation is complete or Fortress proves financial capability to continue with the project.