Grace, Grit and My Damn Brother Wherever the Hell He Is

I was once a forestry technician. For any who wonder what exactly a forestry technician does, we basically plant trees in the spring and spend the rest of the year cutting them down. It all made sense to me when I was paid but in hindsight had they hidden the chainsaws, spring would have involved less perspiration.

I am reminiscing because my brother and I did some tree cutting ourselves at the family cottage. It was a long weekend and we actually cut down two trees. I use the term ‘we’ loosely.

My brother and I each have our own chainsaws. Between you and me my brother doesn’t know how to use his. Although his is more dormant I was on this occasion thankful he has one. I was exhausted before we were even near shade. I spent the first hour pulling the chord on mine. It ran quite well but only for a few seconds at a time. I gave up when oil started oozing out of spots I’m pretty sure contain no oil. I found a part in the grass near my folly and I could find no place to reattach it so I surrendered. I’m a tree hugger at heart but by this point I could barely lift my arms.

I sometimes mock my brother’s abilities and equipment but on this occasion I openly embraced his much cleaner and operable saw. We installed my larger blade and chain on his saw and were ready for forestry. We scampered along the slope in front of the cottage next to the tree that was in age more weed than wonder. It grew on a 30 degree angle opposite of where we wanted it to fall and its limbs conspired with their weight in the same direction. It was half rotten at the base and I struggled to make a notch in the side I wished it to fall. I made a cut on the opposite side fully expecting it to transfer its angle and weight in the direction of my desire. In protest it leaned logically and pinched my blade and my brothers saw. My knees were shaking as I know the danger of twisted, leaning, half cut trees. I was soaked with sweat and seriously considered unbolting my blade and handing my brother back the portion he owned. He doesn’t get out much and had been practicing yelling “timber” all morning so I obliged his obsession.

I climbed the hill to the shed where I put my hands on two axes, a hatchet and a sledgehammer. To this day I am unsure of what my brother was doing at the time. If a tree can be obstinate this one was. I placed the axe into the wound the saw had inflicted prior to being pinched. I pounded it in with the sledgehammer until the saw was released. Again, I am unsure what my brother was doing at the time but I heard him exclaim that the saw was free. “Thanks for that.”

I was basically petrified at this point since there was little holding the tree up and I knew it could kick out or fall in any direction, the least likely being the one I wanted. I did a little more cutting with the saw but I was basically at a point a beaver would be ashamed of. A beaver would have enough sense to leave the rest to the wind but I could see the eagerness in my brother’s eyes. I grabbed the axe again and using the sledgehammer pounded it with all my might in the direction the tree was deciding to go. “It’s going…wait…wait… did you hear that?” my brother exclaimed. In fact the tearing noise was fully audible to me as well and did nothing for my trembling knees. I kept swinging the sledgehammer wildly and it finally started to fall in the exact opposite direction of our initial plan.

It was somewhat anti-climatic as it fell into the limbs of other sympathetic trees and landed on the uphill slope as though settling into a favourite chair. I started to limb and cut the trunk into lengths that will eventually warm my mother. I struggled in the mess of leaves and limbs as I maneuvered up the slope. I couldn’t see much for all the trees but in need of someone to pull cut branches out of my way I had to again wonder where my brother was. I finally sawed a path to the top of the hill where the deceased tree had stretched. I stood on the cottage deck and took in the new view. It was only one tree but the view was entirely different. It only took two hours of fiddling, fear and frustration to see things differently. It all reminded me of the many other things I could not see at times in my life. The barriers and obstacles I have had to get past. I would like to say I have removed them myself but many have only been overcome by grace, grit and my damn brother wherever the hell he is.

“Homosexuality is sin Jesus saves from sin” Should we capsulate a portion of a belief system and label the individual?

An individual attended the London Pridefest Parade with a sign that said:

“Homosexuality is sin Jesus saves from sin”

There was a small counter “protest” to mock his belief and I saw one message on Twitter stating that “Mr. Homophobe doesn’t understand.”

Are all Londoners who would agree with this man homophobic?

We need to be careful what we attempt to stomp out for some day we may cherish what we did not recognize as religious freedom and freedom of speech. Dissension has the ability to be a voice only when protected.

This man is some symptom for what he believes? Is a 70 year old man of faith a homophobe for using Biblical precepts? Does this man hate the LGBT…community or is he merely showing them his love? What if further into his faith there is no privilege for homosexuals post mortem? What if it tears at his heart to see people marching away from heaven?

What if the man does not hate but is in fact doing a duty of his faith? Some faiths include passing on God’s Word or a message of salvation. Is there something wrong with sharing faith? Maybe this man believes God loves homosexuals but that it is a sin. Maybe he has no intolerance himself but believes God does.

Maybe this person does not judge homosexuals but is hoping to save them from God’s. What if this person see’s a hole in the street you are about to parade into? Is it okay to point out the hole? I see a man not pointing to a hole but what to him is Holy. This man’s beliefs may have allowed him to endure or accomplish things he otherwise wouldn’t. Maybe the man hopes at least one other person finds the hope, peace, strength and or purpose that he has found within his beliefs.

Does every parade goer need to be a convert?

Why is this individual labelled and discounted? What if it is more spiritual than psychological? I think we are on dangerous ground when faith or belief is labelled as homophobic. Essentially Biblical interpretation becomes censored. It becomes unsafe or unacceptable to freely express any aspect of our beliefs and or non beliefs. Should we capsulate a portion of a belief system and label the individual? If this sign is homophobic we have labelled a number of Londoners as the same. What’s next…medicating them?

If a person believes the Bible is the Word of God and they are called to share their faith I don’t think any label needs to be applied to them. “Homophobe” is a stigmatized identity so we need to be careful who we affix it to. It seems sad that at an event such as Pridefest Parade someone was essentially stigmatized for their faith.

We should take care when trying to remove stigma from ourselves that we don’t place it on another’s head. I rather enjoy a city that differs in faiths, beliefs and thought and I don’t think that sign said much outside of love.

If I believe other things are a sin is it okay to share those beliefs? When Christ said something about offering the other cheek maybe He was also referring to resilience? Turning away is easier than finding some symptom in another’s world view or eternal view.

Calling this man a homophobe would make some members of the LGBT…community homophobes as well. What of the LGBTQ…individual that would find peace in continuing with or a conversion to a faith that commits to heterosexuality? Would you rather them not see such a sign? Can’t God’s messages be for anyone at any stage?

To label something as homophobic pushes a minority of thought into an area of stigmatization we are trying to stamp out. If we want out of swimming in stigma it does no good to pull someone in.

I have been in spaces where only two possibilities exist. It is just you and a box of space or you are part of a reality with possibilities beyond what are rationally explainable. When I lost my reference to self I was defined by my faith. It was what I thirsted for and what sustained me. Even in a jail or prison freedom of religious conscience is only secondary to safety and security.

If we seek acceptance for ourselves is it not a duty to do the same?

Is it imperative that the perceptions of the majority become absolute?

The more I learn about the No Bystanders pledge the more it worries me. I was told it wasn’t worth debating the campaign because it has been so well received. I’m not convinced popularity is proof of merit? Nazism was once popular in Germany.

I am unfamiliar with social engineering but I wonder if the 519 No Bystanders Campaign is an example. It may seem innocuous to those who find agreement with the information being presented but what do we do with a citizen or citizens who believe one or all of the LGBT… identities, practices or actions are immoral? What do we do with the individual whose faith is that?

Is it imperative that the perceptions of the majority become absolute? What if my world is flat? Is it okay that I keep what you may call “colour-blindness”?

The 519 No Bystanders Campaign is also an education program attempting to make Canadian workplaces, services and community environments welcoming, safe and inclusive. The Hear It! Stop It! Campaign promotes actions such as sharing the No Bystanders pledge across organizations. Individuals are to ask colleagues to sign the pledge and display posters.

I see a problem with these methods. There are individuals who may for reasons secular, religious or otherwise want no part of such a campaign. Non-compliance becomes a homophobic gesture when it may be otherwise. The pledge becomes an ultimatum. Majority view and social consequence make pledging and “education” involuntary eventually. The risk is making someone’s beliefs or faith homophobic.

As the pledged group grows there is increasing pressure on individuals to participate. It can’t help but reach a point where choice disappears. Do you want to be the guy in cubicle 6 who would rather not pledge? It becomes an involuntary inoculation of information. When I was in primary school they allowed the Jehovah Witness children to stand in the hallway when the public announcement which included the national anthem and the Lord’s Prayer came on each morning.

Possibly there is no shame in being singled out as a Jehovah Witness but the No Bystanders Campaign makes homophobes out of those who do not support it. Eventually the gal in accounting will be singled out for not participating in a reformation of her own faith.

Perhaps it could be less coercive.

Pridefest: If it is a campaign of conversation “Stop It” is no way to begin it

When you constrict the tongue so too does the mind. The community of London is being encouraged to pledge to not be bystanders to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language. In reference to this pledge the slogan is “If I hear it. I will stop it.”

If it is a campaign of conversation “Stop It” is no way to begin it. ‘If I hear it. I will explain’ seems a more attractive slogan. ‘If I hear it. I will speak.’ It is easier to start a conversation than to institute a conversion.

I don’t have a problem with the tone of this endeavor but I do have an issue with the type. As an individual who experiences a double stigma any effort in the direction of civility and ending stigmatizing language has my support. I also support any and all sexualities and points of gender in or out of a parade.

I was told I could research before I went down to Pridefest so I would be informed enough to avoid being “stopped”. Should people need to be educated to attend an event or should the event educate people? You can’t control ignorance. Stigma does not disappear with the end of insensitive references and terminology. Much of the stigma I experience has nothing to do with insulting words.

We have to let people catch up with their minds before we can make a lexicon let alone enforce it. Not every tongue is tied to the same point of appropriateness. Why would a celebration of variances of sexuality and gender want no variance in expression? This campaign creates a barrier for mindful experimentation in exposing old ideas and perceptions to new information.

Having a faction who has declared to “stop” some hurtful reference or word erodes the inclusiveness LGBT… are trying to create even for themselves. Isn’t not tolerating intolerance, intolerance itself? The individual who may not be up to speed risks some form of public correction of what in essence is a collection of experiences, upbringing, exposure and more.

It seems Londoners are being called to conform to some yet unidentified lexicon. To unleash even a small team of enforcers to the vagueness of insult is worrisome if not more. I don’t think you can argue that an acceptable reference to LGBTQ…“members” is an evolution. The problem with offensive language is it can be anything to anyone. Further it is always changing. It wasn’t many years ago that LGBT was an appropriate short form. Today I don’t even know since it has been altered to be more inclusive. I’m not sure it progresses dialogue to point out a failing of being up to date with each sensitivity in a group of individuals with differences themselves.

How do you define let alone defend a collection of varying sensitivities? It seems this campaign will have an array of individuals with a series of sensitivities correcting and “stopping” an array of individuals who may voice beliefs that have been determined by circumstances they may have not chosen. In essence the most sensitive individual dictates discourse and dialogue dies.

I don’t think you can take a point in time and expect the linear processes of thought and thus speech to equally reflect some unidentified line of right or wrong. You are essentially pulling a rope that will miss those who are better informed while sweeping the feet out from your fellow citizens who may not be at the point you desire.

I don’t get out much but my impression of this festival would be one that allows. Are we at a point where groups demand tolerance? For some Londoners the LGBT… community would be one they know little about. Is it much of an invitation to them to expect each and all to know the parameters of some code of language? Is it fair for those not in the know to research to find your demands? Can’t they just show up? Why throw a wall up for someone who does not totally understand you? Shouldn’t individuals who misperceive be welcome to express themselves freely? The police cannot “stop” what can come from our mouths other than what is codified as improper. The rest falls to free speech.

LGBT… reality and references cannot be imposed on people. Stigma comes from the mind not the tongue. Some Londoners may have more experience in past prejudices than present progressive phrases. Some Londoners are not up to speed with what might be appropriate presently. Should we expect that individual to conform with language that others institute as not publicly permissible at LGBT… events and across the city? Surely with this petition those who sign their names are given a list of what exactly they intend to “stop.”

If you are inviting Londoners to witness your humanity so must you witness the visitor’s. If there is a group in London that is walking around scouting sentences it is a duty to provide a list of what it is this force deems as inappropriate. If such a list has not been compiled already then what is being enforced is at the discretion of each individual pledged. This is unfair. Have the pledged been informed officially how to respond? Have they been told to ask questions first or simply correct? Are Londoners to expect a defined response to something they could invariably say or is that at the discretion of the pledged? If the parameters are black and white they should be printed. Promising to point out offensive remarks on the spot is only fair if the attendee is aware of what is considered offensive.

This campaign focuses on the tip of the iceberg. The tongue is built on a mass of information, experiences, exposures etc. If you cut a person’s tongue out they can still bleed hate. This seemingly innocuous gag order will provide an illusion of respect but create little. If we keep our streets safe for any terms presently legal the opportunity to make an impact on the submerged portion of the iceberg is possible. The tongue is only the tip. Change people’s minds and you don’t have to change what they say.

In my own experience with mental health I have experienced terrible insults but I cannot control where an individual is at. I cannot change their childhood. I cannot change the year they were born. I cannot change what they witnessed or did not witness in media, school etc. The insults I hear are connected to years of misinformation and correcting a word or phrase does little to alter the mass of misunderstanding. It stifles the dialogue when we pounce on phrases and there is the risk the offender will retreat and we will never learn about each other.

Are the pledged pure of speech? Has a lesbian ever made a demeaning remark about mental illness or one with it? It becomes a maze of sensitivities for us all to wander through. There is a point where the offended must provide an element of resilience. To single out an individual for their perceptions, prejudices, and experiences is also unfair and slightly counterproductive.

Individuals who use inappropriate language are often a product of society. Perceptions and prejudices need to be altered before language evolves to the point where it reflects inclusiveness and acceptance. If you want others to accept where you are at then it is only fair to accept where others are at. Insults often arise out of fear and a sense of being threatened. I see this pledge as creating more of the same. When language and opinions are tolerated they can be changed. When you attempt to “stop” language it curtails having opinions and in some cases ends the conversation.

What if an individual with mental illness is at your event and speaks inappropriately? What if this or any individual does not comply? Are there instructions to walk away? You know, enjoy the parade. If you’re looking over your shoulder at what I’m nattering about you will miss seeing the floats. Some of these individuals may be part of your community or transitioning into it. You are going to scold them on the street? I was assured that intent would be taken into consideration but I was not set at ease imagining each and every pledged being a mind reader. I don’t believe you can uncover intent on the sidewalk or at the mall. Legally it can only be proven in court.

If you want others to be tolerant so must you be. Open dialogue is preferable to vows of intolerance. It is unfair not to accept Caitlyn Jenner but it is equally unfair to expect people to transition mentally and socially overnight. If someone I have been exposed to for years showed up as a different or altered gender would it not require time and dialogue to adjust to the new information?

Creating an open and accepting environment becomes difficult when people sign a contract to “stop” anything. It would be hypocritical of me to sign such a pledge without also ensuring I am sensitive to every other individual who is different from me. I would need a PhD just to keep track. It is impossible to end intolerance and stigma by attempting to ban it.

For some Londoners attending Pridefest requires leaving their comfort zone. This pledge is a poor replacement. We all have prejudices however slight. Much of a prejudice is not intentional thought. People don’t purchase “Intolerance for Dummies” and study ignorance. It stems from a lifetime of information. I’m not sure we should fault people for what they may or may not know.

There may come a day when everyone is sensitive to TGBLQ… individuals but to force it will only create a semblance of change rather than real change. My sense is that Pridefest has changed and evolved as have Londoners in general even over the past five years. Did this evolution occur with a pledge campaign? Will it not continue to evolve without a pledge?

LGBT…individuals have millions of supporters, are organized, have political influence and presently a friendly government. Many in our community do not have any of these things. Celebrate what you are but be grateful for what you have been able to obtain. They are privileges some do not have. As far as this pledge I would firstly question my own mouth before I vowed to refashion someone else’s.

Ontario Provincial Police Detachment Commander’s Conference: excerpt from my presentation

Some would say you have too much time on your hands when you’re in the Hole, for those of you who aren’t accustomed to the lingo – solitary confinement. Usually this isn’t dangerous but rather an additional punishment in a complex system of punitive treatment. For me in early May of 2004 it was a launch pad for lunacy.

My thinking began fairly simply and I would say both then and now logically. When I was on the regular Range, an old retired teacher slept in the next cell. Each night at 20:00 hours they brought my medications and then would waken this soul to give him his usual sleep medications.

My master plan was to escape from the Hole. This would occupy some of my idle time. The Hole is about five by eight feet with solid concrete walls and has a solid steel door. The door has two four inch square windows for observation and a flop down opening through which food is passed. Escape by physical means is not a possibility. That leaves two other exits. The first is to escape the reality of the Hole in your imagination. The second is to devise a complex plan whereby the system itself rescues you from the monotony. I spent several days imagining except everything I imagined was reality to me. The C.I.A. were really monitoring me, my toilet was bugged, the Pope was in the basement following my every move, my thoughts were being broadcast throughout the jail and courthouse etcetera.

After becoming bored with my physical surroundings in a bizarre reality I devised a simple and at the same time innocent plan to depart from Hole number six. I decided I would pretend to be asleep when they came by with my evening medications, I assumed they would try to waken me like my teacher friend. The logical outcome that I foresaw was that I would be taken to the nurse’s station for observation or assessment. My hope was to jump awake in the nurse’s office and proclaim to be Harry Houdini The Second as I had just escaped from the Hole in my sleep. That madness wasn’t to be. Things quickly went in directions I couldn’t possibly have hoped for.

Firstly, during my feigned sleep they came to offer me back my mattress. There are no clocks or watches in jail let alone the Hole so my timing was off. I had been removed from the medical cells for screaming in the night as I was saving the world and was there for “administrative segregation” rather than for punitive measures but I still lost my mattress, pillow and sheets during the day. They may have been successful in preventing me from sleeping during the day but be damned if I didn’t retain the right to pretend sleep!

After the guards screamed my name several times, they came in and physically tried to waken me. I remember hearing the nurse’s voice, she proceeded to check my pulse and blood pressure. I was able to discern from her voice and information she gave to the fire department, who were now present, that my pulse was erratic. She was calling me Mr. Batten so I knew she was frightened. At the same time the fire department response was reminding me of my calls to the Fire Marshall’s office weeks earlier to have the jail updated regarding inspections.

They lifted my limbs and tried to look into my eyes.I was twitching different parts of my body while everything else was relaxed. They lifted me into a chair as I was concentrating on twitching and relaxing. On the way through the doorway they slammed my foot into the jam. It didn’t break and I didn’t flinch. I took the cue that they weren’t as concerned about my well being as they were about my security and “flight” risk. I realized where I was when they tipped the chair forward at the top of the stair well and in my relaxed state I began to fall out of the chair. I was pushed back at the last second but they continued to test me as I’m sure they were not convinced I was having seizures.

Near the top of the stairs I heard the one of the female emergency responders say I held the breathing tube down my throat for ten seconds and that I was no doubt a popular person around the jail. Everyone broke out in laughter. The humour wasn’t lost on me but I did not crack a smile.

Once they had me outside I was greeted with a breath of fresh evening air. I wanted to open my eyes, to see the stars, but I have a feeling I would have seen a police officer first. They said to me “O.K. Mr. Batten we’re outside, do you feel better?” I hadn’t been given the signal from God to stop or change course so into the ambulance I was placed. It was nice to be on a soft bed, nicer than the mattress I was offered at the jail.

I have a feeling I was shackled around this time. They put something down my throat again to create an airway. My airway was larger without the apparatus. I choked continuously for at least two minutes all the while twitching and remaining relaxed. My secret was to try to concentrate on one thing at a time. While choking on this airway, it wore on my throat and started to mix with my air and saliva. I began frothing blood and the ambulance turned on the sirens and I could feel the acceleration. For all I know they could have been circling the jail trying to outsmart me. They didn’t realize I had complete and total faith in God.

Once in the emergency room I could hear one of the guards misinforming the nurses and or doctors. One guard said I had just come off a range and could have been into some drugs. He also said I had been acting strangely for several days which though plausible didn’t say much for their treatment of me.

They warned me several times about the catheter, it sounded more like threats. I was more reluctant than my peaceful appearance. I had a catheter removed following a suicide attempt. I let out a small yelp at that time and I assumed going in would not be much better. The catheter didn’t provide a drop of urine. “Ohh” was their response. I could feel and hear them moving about. “He didn’t flinch,” said a female voice. I would later bleed as a result of that catherization.

After some blood work, they pulled the intravenous from my left arm and the blood shot across my chest, some things were working. They pinched the inside of my left arm and left a bruise, no response. They kept trying to examine my eyes, I fought it and they kept saying he’s faking he’s faking. Off I went to the psychiatric unit.

A while after I was directed to wake up, I was interviewed by a psychiatrist. He started asking the usual questions. I was cognizant of time and place, I knew the date. The sad part for me was that I had to yell at him to bring him down a notch with his condescending questions. I was an important figure, I was followed by religious leaders, the CIA, etcetera. They maybe thought I was delusional but that would have to be assessed and investigated to prove me wrong. The doctor was a sceptic without sufficient reason as far as I was concerned. As he left my room I screamed through my door to the nurses’ station which was out of sight. I assumed he was there taking notes. “Do you give out drug samples to your patients?” “Do you have a pharmaceutical license to dispense medication in Ontario?”

I think they were interested in me while I was meek and gentle, swaying with the end of the world. If I lay on my pillow, the world would end. Awake, I would finally see my children.

I’m not sure what the doctor wrote about me. He must have declared me sane enough to go back to jail because that was where I was heading. For some reason the system found me fit enough for confinement once again. I was placed in the medical cells where you get a mattress 24/7. I was behind bars but I had indeed escaped from the Hole.

Dear Mr. MacKay, I was surprised that when I spoke to you at the Canadian Alliance On Mental Illness and Mental Health Gala that you did not inquire into my access-ability requirements.

I feel terrible. The Honourable Minister of Justice Peter MacKay is leaving his post. He’s been urinating on the Charter for a while now and I was wondering how long he could keep it up. I guess he’s finally petered out which I’m sure is a relief. Maybe not to the prime minster who is nothing more than Reform without Peter.

If I thought Peter MacKay would resign I would have written to him sooner. I only wanted to invite him to my home but he has taken it as the gauntlet being thrown. I hate to say it but for someone so athletic looking I would have thought Peter had more game. I did admonish him which may have been unwelcoming but having no regard for a segment of society who are in conflict as a direct result of a mental illness is not a slight I can pretend to ignore.

I actually thought Peter may have visited me so he resigning is quite a shock. Does anyone know how long cucumber sandwiches last? I guess someone should step aside. We are allowing serious human rights violations to be inflicted on the mentally ill. When I looked into my crystal ball/stainless steel toilet sink combination I saw more orange than justice ministers resigning at my feet. I wasn’t even aware that it was an injustice to be psychotic in the confines of solitary confinement.

I did not mean to scare Peter MacKay into resigning. I only wanted to point out his mistake in the hope of pointing out more mistakes. It would have simply been tea with a detainee but in a way he has done the right thing by stepping down. I feel somewhat responsible but he made his own mistakes. I would have reasoned with him and found a way around all of this but some crown attorneys see only one scenario. It can be overlooked as a job description for a crown attorney but when you continue on that path as a Justice Minister you become a knob. Peter MacKay became a thing Stephen Harper turned to key up for election. When it comes to justice and sadly Peter MacKay this government always did what looked good and seldom what was good.

I’m not an optimist but I have dreams. I will be awake at night imagining the course of withdrawing my extended hand to the prime minister. Possibly he too will not see me coming. I certainly did not see this coming. I don’t know who to aim for next but this is sure a lot of fun. Good bye Peter.


May 12, 2015

Dear Mr. MacKay,

I was surprised that when I spoke to you at the Canadian Alliance On Mental Illness and Mental Health Gala that you did not inquire into my access-ability requirements. Some disabilities are invisible and I assumed at such an event you would have been more careful. I mentioned to you that I had lived in solitary confinement and that I was found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of a Mental Disorder. But you handed me a business card without asking if I had any requirements of assistance. It would have been most helpful to have you contact me.

As one of few who speak about the issue of Not Criminally Responsible having experienced it as living flesh I am dismayed that my voice has not been heard by this government. I submitted a Brief to this government regarding Bill C-54 which post prorogue became Bill C-14. I spoke with government employees and tried to access my own Member of Parliament but I was never asked if I had any accessibility requirements. I’m somewhat uncomfortable with sharing my medical information with a receptionist and I had to enlist assistance from individuals not employed by the government in attempting to communicate with the government.

I am pleased you are coming to London and will take you up on your offer to see me. I would like the opportunity to show you that solitary confinement can damage an individual. Mental illness in the correctional system is a complicated issue. I understand corrections is not your portfolio but in reading your statement on solitary confinement and thanks to your offer to speak with me I’m sure you could understand and convey to those better versed what you will learn.

Since language is no more than incomplete shorthand I will be able to convey more in person. As such I would like to invite you to my home. I am slightly agoraphobic and it would be helpful to have access to my writings to impart on you what I know. I have firsthand knowledge of corrections and the forensic system from the position of inmate and patient while living with serious and persistent mental illness. I know you believe that there are no adverse effects to Administrative Segregation but I have proof. Some of this evidence is within me, some of it is written and some of it is in how I live.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience to set up a meeting.

Kind regards,
Brett Charles Batten

I had a meeting with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Peter MacKay

I was sitting at an elegant table in the elegant Shaw Centre in Ottawa. We were gathered for the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health Champions of Mental Health Awards. The Parliament Buildings were to my right as was my beautiful wife and I was simply minding my own business. A senator who didn’t look anything like Mike Duffy came round the table and gave me his business card. I smiled and gave him mine.

I noticed the Minister of Justice Peter MacKay schmoozing and posing for photographs like some redundant rock star. He seemed pleased with himself. Without warning I rose to my feet and went and stood behind him as he was speaking to a groupie. I glanced back at my wife and she had the same worried look on her face as the day I proposed to her. I gave her a wink and she started shoving dinner rolls in her purse in case we were turfed before the taters.

“Hi Mr. MacKay, my name is Brett Batten and I’m an advocate. I don’t know if you’ve ever met anyone who has lived in solitary confinement but I have spent some time there.” “In fact I have” was his response. I wondered if they too were wearing a suit and tie at the time but my immediate thought was to recall ‘Bobby the Bullshitter’ who lived around the corner when I was seven. “We’re going to Disneyland.” “I’ve been to Disneyland twelve times.” I detoured the exasperation and mentioned that I would like to discuss the issue of solitary confinement with him sometime.

“Well, that’s the portfolio of Public Safety and my portfolio is Justice.” I wasn’t sure who thought who was stupid. “I understand that but as the Attorney General you have made statements regarding solitary confinement which are misleading.” “I don’t believe I have, what did I say?” I looked around for a second as I thought we were suddenly in the House of Commons. “You said Administrative Segregation was not similar to solitary confinement in other countries.” “Well, solitary confinement in Sarajevo is different from what we find in Canada.” “Well, we are not talking about dirt floors but the dimensions and more are quite the same sir. The United Nations defines solitary confinement as any incarceration that confines a person to a cell for 22 hours a day or more without human contact.” “Well I don’t always agree with the United Nations.” (Especially when it contradicts ‘the agenda’.) “Solitary confinement is used for sex offenders to ensure their safety.” “It is predominantly used for individuals with mental illness; it is a default response to a health issue.” For someone who didn’t say anything about solitary confinement Peter seemed to hit on all the points he made in his official statement.

I decided to give him the benefit of my doubt and asked who I could speak to about the issue. “You can talk to me” and he handed me his business card asking for mine. “Where are you from?” “London!” “I’m going to be in London in a week or two, maybe we can meet.”

“I was found Not Criminally Responsible and was the individual Champion of Mental Health here last year. Pretty much in that order.” He looked surprised and at the time I wasn’t sure at which. Maybe for a minute he thought ‘Wow, I could have actually spoken to someone found Not Criminally Responsible before I shoved the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act through Parliament.’ Nothing may come of this but at least Peter MacKay can say he shook the hand of someone found Not Criminally Responsible. Good on him!

It all sounds hopeful with him coming to London for Tea and Crumpets but like the rest of the electorate I expect his political promise to be broken. It was a formal event and I’m sure he was trying to appease me but I did drive all night to get home and vacuum in case he visits. He has my business card so I hope he enjoys my Blog.

As a public service Peter MacKay’s phone number is (613) 992-4621. Just tell him Brett gave you his number.

P.S. Please don’t call me at home, I’m expecting an important call.