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…

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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…

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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.