Sunday, February 16, 2014

Manitoba Links Weekly: REEFER MADNESS, Sage... Madness(?), Does This Mean I Shouldn't Bring a Samurai Sword to the Art Gallery, and Here's That Winnipeg Blog Compendium You've Been Waiting For (ManLinkWeek S02E17)

Ha, well, so much for my earlier plan! I wish I had a super-cool story about the very important and dramatic events that kept me from having this post out earlier, but the truth of it is just that the Olympic hockey is on way late at night (and onward through to morning!) so I'm on some very wonky sleep patterns. These are very important patriotic considerations! This'll just have to be a Sunday feature, I think, until all that gets sorted out. Please bear with me in the meantime.

So hello and welcome to a Manitoba Links Weekly! Brace yourselves for the week's worth of content, it's quite the flurry today.

This week on Winnipeg Internet Pundits I opened the show by not working a telephone correctly, because I am the smartest there is. (Well, okay, in fairness -- it was actually a switch outside the studio that needed flipping, rather than anything to do with the phone machinery itself. But it took me a minute or two to properly diagnose that while still keeping it together on-air.) Once that got settled, though, it was a very good show! Rather a good show, and I hope that you will enjoy it.

Let's light up the ManLinkWeek!

[ CBC Manitoba: Watt Street head shop owner closes after police raid business ]
[ Metro Winnipeg: Winnipeg head shops being pressured to close by police: Owners ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Police raids on head shops deflate Wild Planet owner ]
[ Winnipeg Police Service: Winnipeg Police Service Media Release For Immediate Release - Statement Concerning Retail Outlets Investigation ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Headshop crackdown for safety: Police ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Is there a war on Winnipeg head shops? Owners say yes ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Head shop owners say they run legitimate business but city isn't helping ]
Winnipeg Free Press: It's high time to end crackdown on head shops ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Besieged shops gain B.C. ally ]
[ Metro Winnipeg: Head shop owners consider national trade association after Winnipeg arrests ]
[ Save Our Head Shops (Facebook Group): We have some great news that we would like to announce: ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Winnipeg head shop owner says charges against him stayed ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Crown stays charges against head-shop owner ]
Do you remember the Laszlo Piszker media frenzy from a couple of years ago? Piszker was the retired septuagenarian assessed a $200 traffic ticket for using a cellphone while driving, despite his repeated insistence that he didn't own a cellphone. When the story proved to have legs, the Winnipeg Police Service publicly accused Piskzer of lying -- a very rare and unusual choice of approach, especially in an open case set to go to court -- and the blowback to that exercise in Building Relationships was such that the Crown elected to lay low and quietly stay the charges later. (To police chagrin, one must note.)

The Police Association, at the time, openly worried that the City's demands to increase ticket revenues could damage the Police Service's public support; this is worth mentioning because the Police Service went on to issue 30,000 more photo radar tickets in 2013 than in 2012, and it's hard to imagine that it's won them many new fans in that span.

A citizen -- the little guy, the common man, somebody that people can get behind -- receives a police punishment that he feels is unfair and heavy-handed, because he insists that he's done nothing wrong; the Police Service, finding itself made to look like the bad guy, doubles down on a position that later turns out to be untenable; the Crown, facing a case it feels entirely unconvinced it can win, drops the charges as discreetly as it can at the first opportunity. And none of this helps the Police any, in the public eye, especially ahead of the next time that something comes down to he-said-they-said.

Which brings us to today, and to the very sudden interest that the Police took in head shops and glassware sellers around the city this month. No fewer than three locally-owned, long-running small-business community institutions -- Hemp Haven on Larsen Avenue (open for 12 years), City Haul on Corydon Avenue (15 years) and Wild Planet in Osborne Village (34 years) -- came forward with claims that Winnipeg police had been making the rounds, ordering head shops to close within 30 days or face raids and prosecution. All three announced their intentions to close up shop, as well, arguing that the action -- 'harassment', their choice of wording -- made the proposition of continuing operations a losing one.

"The Winnipeg Police Service", a WPS media release soon read, "wishes to clarify that there have not been any widespread 'raids' targeting these outlets, nor has there been a demand that these businesses cease operations."
(. . .)
"Since the spring of 2013, officers have been visiting many of the local stores to discuss complaints brought forward by community members, organizations and school administrators."
(. . .)
"The Winnipeg Police Service is committed to working with business owners and concerned community stakeholders to address the matter."

Each of these statements would turn out to be problematic, in their own way.

Recall that the Police had a problem in 2012 convincing the public to disbelieve one citizen, who'd claimed to not own a cellphone. So they gained little ground in directly contradicting the word of three citizens, all of them with the same experience in different places and none of them with anything to gain in closing their stores (especially with competitors closing at the same time). The nebulous claim of "complaints brought forward" had no evidence to support it. And the business owners, when asked, certainly did not indicate that the Police Service had taken any steps to work with them; rather, they stated they'd not even been told which products on their shelves were being allowed or disallowed.

"Loewen scoffed when told of a report he was never charged in the first place. 'I have the paperwork in my pocket,' he said."

It was not going well, let's put it that way.

Several councillors -- I count Mayes, Fielding and Eadie let me know if I missed anyone -- took this opportunity to grandstand about zoning against allowing head shops near schools, a won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-children solution to a completely different problem from the one actually happening at the time. "We'll keep new head shops away from schools!" That's great and all, but existing head shops are being hunted to extinction on laws they haven't broken and what appear to be illegitimate grounds, so if you could maybe look into that first that'd be a big help.

(But this does give us some clues, at least, about who exactly decided on the police's behalf that this crackdown was suddenly a priority.)

And if you're actually serious-serious about stomping out the dread demon marijuana -- which you really shouldn't be dreading, because you live in Winnipeg, and you've smelled Folk Fest before -- you're at the wrong end of Osborne Village, you should be sending police to the bus shack and the Subway at River and Osborne where dudes wander up and try to sell you weed. Dude, I just want to get home, leave me alone, c'mon.

Who are these people making these alleged complaints about marijuana? Have you stopped to wonder about this? Winnipeg is notorious across Canada as one of the weed-friendlier cities in an already weed-friendly country; the kids love it, the adults love it, the seniors love it (the first wave of Boomers, who started this whole mess, are nearing their 70s), and there are entire neighbourhoods in town that can be expected to smell like it as soon as the temperature cracks positive numbers. Our once-puritan national neighbours to the south are beginning to embrace it, one of our national federal parties is talking about decriminalizing it -- and we're worried that head shops will influence our schools? If illegal transactions were possible to track, I'd lay serious money that schools are one of the main places weed is sold!

To give you some idea of how ridiculous the whole affair became, I want you to consider the following passages from a pair of news reports.

"Coun. Harvey Smith expressed caution that his colleagues might be over-reacting, adding he wants any administrative report to include data on how many head shops operate in the city and where they are located."

"I don't want to interfere with their business unless there's a striking need for it,' said Counc. Harvey Smith."

Listen: when Harvey Smith is the libertarian best-for-business laissez-faire voice of reason in a situation, something has gone awry.

So a common-man little-guy citizen made his argument, and the police doubled down with their counter-argument, and the Crown... can you guess what the Crown did? You can guess what the Crown did: they stayed the charges. (Unsurprisingly so; there haven't been any successful prosecutions on these particular laws in sixteen years.)

And what have we learned from all this? Ehh, probably nothing. That's the thing about cycles; sometimes they just repeat themselves. But we'll see how the Police handle the next similar situation, the next time something comes down to he-said-they-said.

Moving on, and speaking of trouble stemming from unfair marijuana associations:

[ CBC Aboriginal: First Nations teen told not to smudge before school ]
[ APTN National News: Manitoba student told not to smudge after school confuses sage for weed, cites scent policy ]
[ CTV Winnipeg: Brandon School Division threatens to suspend student for smudging ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Student told not to smudge before school ]
[ APTN National News: Student filing human rights against school over smudging stance ]
[ APTN National News: Brandon school responds to smudging scandal, Dakota student continues to smudge daily ]
Oh, no. Oh, no. This was the worst, just the worst imaginable of unfortunate escalation.

I don't think anybody doubts that the school originally meant well with its no-scent policies, or that the white folk in charge meant well with their ultimately bumbling efforts, but oh my god is that ever a bad look.

Firstly, you've smelled weed before, right? My site stats indicate that most of you fine readers live in Winnipeg, which means, yes, you've smelled weed before. (Y'all saw the last segment above, I don't need to harp on the point.) Well, I don't know if you've smelled sage before -- the herb used in this traditional aboriginal smudging ceremony -- but it doesn't smell like weed. You have to be some kinda combination of sheltered and willfully ignorant to confuse the two, and then pretty guileless on top of that to begin lobbing accusations around based on it.

All of that is bad enough by itself. But when a white-run school phones an aboriginal parent to tell them their child will be sent home if they persist in smudging -- when a school, in not-exactly-historically-squeaky-clean Manitoba, goes out of its way to insist that aboriginal religion and culture will not be tolerated within its walls -- well, AUGH. There is no way to phrase this scenario in a way that doesn't feel incredibly gross.

On the bright side, the prominence of this story (especially if that human rights complaint does get filed) means that school divisions across the country will have to acknowledge the need for accommodation and plan ahead, so this should -- eternal optimism -- should be the worst the story ever gets. And, fortunately for everybody, this was the only clueless institutional racial insensitivity of the week--

[ Winnipeg Live: Birchwood BMW Art & Soul: Big In Japan ]
[ A.K.A. Jenny Wills: The Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Yellow(Face) Peril ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Winnipeg Art Gallery event called out for peddling stereotypes ]
[ CBC Manitoba: Racism complaints force WAG to rework fundraiser theme ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Why the WAG changed the theme of its fundraiser ]

"Join us, on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at Birchwood BMW Art & Soul: Big in Japan. Hosted by the Winnipeg Art Gallery, this party will be so epic that you’ll think you’re 'Turning Japanese.'"

oh god

"Grab your chopsticks, throw on a kimono and celebrate Japanese culture Harajuku style. Hang out in a pagoda and sip on some sake, or show off your jujitsu skills and impress the geisha girls that you’re bound to run into."

oh god

"Watch 'Hello Kitty!' Dance with a Yakuza, chat Science with David Suzuki, or fight evil with Sailor moon. Each floor of the WAG will showcase a vibrant and unique piece of Japanese culture."

Yakuza don't exactly 'dance' per se, David Suzuki was born and raised in Vancouver, "Sailor moon" should have the 'm' capitalized, and WHAT IS ANY OF THIS

"Visit our live DJs on EVERY FLOOR, and join the 'Dance Dance' revolution."

okay I mean I like DDR and all but Japan's recorded history actually goes back about three times longer than ours does, and that's not to overemphasize recorded history at the expense of those present before it or anything, but do you think reducing the entirety of that output to a few borderline-stereotypical pop-cultural touchstones could maybe cause some certain issues or

"Enjoy a round of traditional Japanese Sapporo, or embrace your inner ninja and try our samurai-sword shooters."

oh, god

"Impress us enough? You’ll know when you hear the sound of the gong!"


"Dress in theme or cocktail attire, just make sure it’s Kawaii (cute!)"

I just, you just, I don't... I don't.

Ergh. Well. The important thing is that they apologized, and... and they, uh... oh.

"With the controversy surrounding the Art & Soul event, there were certain individuals in the community, including academics and activists, who saw this as an opportunity to bring attention to platforms related to their own work and interests, and issues in our society.

The WAG saw this as an opportunity for dialogue. Tweets and Facebook posts multiplied, and quickly there were calls to cancel the event. While many of the comments had little to do with the actual theme of the event or the aims of the committee; we still felt it was best to drop the theme completely.

Just to, y'know, just to make sure you know they were the victims in all of this. Just a-puttin' that out there! Would've been a real great time, if not for those academics and activists. The WAG just wanted to talk! They wanted to talk, and certain individuals with their own work and interests shut everything down, and now nobody gets to drink samurai-sword shooters while pretending to be organized criminals and subjugated women. THANKS, ACADEMICS AND ACTIVISTS.

There's a certain strange dramatic irony in the WAG event touting anime as a symbol of its welcoming cultural togetherness, because Japanese manga and anime have a problematic streak of sympathetic Nazi characters. Ask your otaku friend -- you may not know you have one, but you have at least one -- ask an otaku about Hetalia: Axis Powers cosplay. It's, uh... it's some Prince Harry shit, let's put it that way.

('Nazi chic'. No, I'm not kidding.)

Let's move on to something a bit cheerier, shall we?

[ Winnipeg Free Press: Attack ad is baseless ]
Ha ha ha ha, yep, this is more familiar territory, all right. Remember that latest NDP attack ad? The not particularly good one, yes. Remember how it trotted out many of the Manitoba NDP's most treasured go-to attack lines -- a thousand fired nurses, seven hundred fired teachers, the shadow of the dread beast Filmon, and so on?

The NDP continuing to pull citations from 1996 and 1999 was probably already damning enough, but Deveryn Ross -- who's been killin' it on the provincial file lately -- followed the citations that the advertisement uses and found that, well, as it turns out, nothing the NDP claims to be citing is actually true.

Whoops! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

This hasn't dissuaded the NDP, of course -- if anything, they've redoubled the effort -- but this'll be a good reminder going forward to not trust their citations any more than you, uh, than you probably trust anything else out of 'em.

Though I must note, of course, in all fairness, that none of this would've happened if Gary Filmon hadn't fired those thousand fact-checkers. THAT IS ONE THOUSAND JOBS LOST UNDER THE FILMON GOVERNMENT MISTER SPEAKER

[ CBC Manitoba: Co-op grocery stores moving into Winnipeg ]
[ 680 CJOB: Everyone’s A Winner in Safeway-Sobeys-Co-op Deal ]
[ Global Winnipeg: Co-op to take over Winnipeg Safeway stores ]
[ Winnipeg Sun: Co-op taking over 4 Safeways ]
[ West End Dumplings: Red River Co-op's first foray into the grocery business (1958 - 1983) ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Co-op biting off just enough ]
The bad news: if you collect Air Miles, these new Co-op grocery stores will not be offering them the way the Safeways used to. The good news: literally everything else. Nuts to Safeway, man. If brands could be burnt to the ground, I'd be the first in that line with the gasoline.

Speaking of hot developments (segue!):

[ bloggingwinnipeg | Find out what Winnipeggers are saying. ]
Awwwwwww yissssssssss. A compendium! A handy quick-reference guide to the local blogosphere, sorted by categories and updating steadily.

It's a wonderful idea, at just the right time, and I'll be really excited to watch it develop and blossom in the coming days and weeks. And I'm not just saying that because whoever's running it picked me its very first entry.

Not to brag, but if we correspond this new Blogging Winnipeg site to the Pokémon National Pokédex, I'm Bulbasaur. It's okay, I envy me too, your jealousy is natural and understandable.

(This also technically lines Winnipeg Cat up with Raichu, which may seem an odd couple at first, but heck, that'd be a fun adventure team-up. Imagine the fanart!)

And, finally:

[ Festival du Voyageur: Schedule ]
[ Winnipeg Free Press: Bell of Batoche to appear in Winnipeg Monday ]
Happy Louis Riel Day Long Weekend, everyone! Festival du Voyageur is in full swing, and A Part Of Our Heritage is rolling through town for the holiday proper, so be sure to get out there and enjoy yourselves. (Weather's looking good, too!)

Thank you for reading ManLinkWeek! I'm going to go roll onto the couch and sleep until hockey's on. Next week we'll catch up on Shindico -- everyone's favourite company, you'll recall -- as part of a whole new slate of topics, so be sure to check back then; until then, have a happy Louis Riel Day!

No comments: