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.

Attorney-General MacKay wants us to believe solitary confinement doesn’t exist in Canada because he calls it ‘administrative segregation’. BS!

The use of solitary confinement and acceptable standards for the treatment of mental health in corrections is a form of torture as it exacerbates and often deteriorates the mental health of a segment of society that is marginalized, compromised, and vulnerable to abuse and in many cases clearly disabled. Solitary confinement deteriorates the mental wellness of anyone.

The use of solitary confinement can inflict permanent psychological injury. To use it on individuals with mental illness is more harmful, depending on their symptoms. ‘Administrative segregation’ denies a person the psychological benefits of movement, and visual or auditory stimulation. The need for human contact and interaction is fractured at best. Seeing a hand or face through a food slot may worsen symptoms. It is also internally disorienting to be exposed to 24 hour light. The use of light in various forms can be used to torture an individual. To my knowledge there is no medical literature supporting the use of constant light to treat or rehabilitate mental illness of any sort or severity.

When I was in solitary confinement I lost the sense of time in part due to 24 hour light. For me 15 minutes was exactly the same as 2 hours which was identical to 12 seconds. What reality was I to build without the cornerstone of time? At times I confused night with day. The denial of a sense of day or night affected my sleep which worsened my condition. Sleep interacts with several neurotransmitters which also have an effect on memory, emotions, moods and appetite. Solitary confinement causes a disruption in circadian rhythms and affects dopamine which is linked to schizophrenia and serotonin which is linked to depression, anger, OCD, sleep disturbances and many other emotional and physical disturbances.

To place someone in solitary confinement who is struggling with reality is like taking the half dead goldfish out of the bowl to revive it.

This government would not allow corrections to worsen the physical health of an inmate but we allow them to worsen the mental health of inmates. Mental health in corrections or around the corner is a health issue. Being involved in the justice system does not in any way mean the government or any individual has the right to withhold proper and humane health care. Mental health is health care. If I suffered a severe physical illness the image of correctional surgeons would seem alarming.

Even in corrections the necessaries of life are a societal standard. The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Commissioner’s Policy Objective Regarding Health Services is:

1. To ensure that inmates have access to essential medical, dental and mental health services in keeping with generally accepted community practices. Inmates with severe mental illness are subjected to ‘administrative segregation’ so why do we not see it used as an “accepted community practice?”

It is incumbent on government; a duty, to provide the necessaries of life including mental health care, as inmates are in conditions which make them incapable. The duty to provide the necessaries of life is essential when an inmate is further incapacitated by illness. This government has not and is not performing their duty. Instead they are openly presenting a systemic institutionalization of stigma through laws and services. Under the charter these are acts of discrimination. The government is legally bound to provide the necessaries of life; treatment, to any inmate who is in need of what we refer to as mental health services but which under the charter must be acted upon as though it is and can only be recognized as health care. To continue with the use of solitary confinement and the denial of mental health care is negligence.

When an inmate is incarcerated, health care becomes the responsibility of the government. Individuals in jails and prisons are neutered of any capability to seek out or enlist assistance. In dealing with individuals with mental health concerns, availing oneself of health care is often not within the capabilities of the inmate as symptoms often further reduce an inmate’s ability to vocalize and enlist assistance. If an individual is incapable of insight into their illness they are also incapable of being proactive with regards to their health. It then becomes imperative for the authorities to institute conditions and opportunities to address the needs of the inmate.

Attorney-General Peter MacKay says inmates in ‘administrative segregation’ do not suffer adverse effects and that segregation in Canadian prisons is “different from and not analogous to the concept of ‘solitary confinement’ referred to in many foreign jurisdictions and should not be confused with it.”

Solitary confinement in Canada is not dirt floors or cockroaches but the dimensions and duration of confinement is essentially identical. Inmates are given food and sanitation but their toilet is table and chair. Inmates are checked regularly but there is virtually no human contact. People who have no mental illness to contend with would find segregation alarming in a matter of days if not hours but politicians speak of it like it’s a fable or fallacy.

I know that solitary confinement has many similarities regardless of latitude and longitude. It is the prolonged exposure to a small chamber often with constant light and essentially no human contact. Peter MacKay wants Canadians to believe solitary confinement doesn’t exist in Canada because the conservatives and corrections call it ‘administrative segregation’. You can paint a Toyota a hundred colours but it’s still a Toyota. It is a ridiculous ruse and epitomizes the fact that the conservatives have no “concept” of solitary confinement.

Peter MacKay uses the same distorted logic in telling Canadians ‘administrative segregation’ is not analogous or in no way comparable to solitary confinement. The United Nations refutes this notion. The United Nations defines solitary confinement as any incarceration method that restricts inmates to a cell for 22 hours a day or more “without meaningful human contact.” Canada falls into this definition easily but for some reason the government wishes to make their own parameters and use silly name games to camouflage their use of these measures. Is it a bad thing to follow the United Nations in promoting human rights or would we rather the conservatives make up our definitions? Are we a nation of conscience?

I would ask Attorney General MacKay how many solitary confinement cells he has seen in “foreign jurisdictions” and how many he has seen in Canada. What is the Dishonourable Peter MacKay’s firsthand knowledge of solitary confinement?

With regard to these “foreign jurisdictions” my first question is what are the differences? My second question is does the Canadian government consider solitary confinement as a form of torture in these “foreign jurisdictions” or is it simply foreign ‘administrative segregation’? My third question is which elements of solitary confinement in these jurisdictions are considered a form of torture and of these elements how many exist in ‘administrative segregation’ in Canada?

I can only laugh if Peter MacKay has never seen ‘administrative segregation’. I wonder if he has heard the door close behind him. Has he spent an hour there? Peter MacKay is a manipulative liar and I will call it to his face. We are all talking about the same place but the conservatives have named a bathroom Bermuda and we’re supposed to swim in the spin. Inmates refer to it as the Hole or the Digger. Corrections call it ‘administrative segregation’ and therefore conservatives tell us solitary confinement doesn’t exist in Canada. We are exposing persons with identifiable medical conditions to this contradiction of terminology. We should ask the inhabitants if it is anything but hell.

I will simply state that the conditions of ‘administrative segregation’ in Canada contains elements of torture and further that these conditions are imposed on individuals with symptoms of mental illness and in many cases for that reason alone. This policy and practice is discrimination.

We see photos of Peter MacKay and the Teflon Toupee in combat zones. It would be a great photo op with the pair of them near a solitary confinement cell. Maybe they could step on the throat of someone with an identifiable illness as they croon to the base of their vote who are excited by tough on crime policies regardless of human rights.

As far as non-existent “adverse effects” I mainly speak from personal experience but in comparison to the Attorney General Peter MacKay it is at least experience. Peter’s mother is a psychologist. Possibly she could draw him a picture of what dissociation and PTSD are. I went into solitary confinement with neither. I had never experienced them in my life. When I came out it took two years before I stopped staring. If that means nothing to Peter MacKay and his conservative agenda the shame is his mother’s.

Distancing oneself or ones government from the truth that they are not providing services in health care is understandable. I think quite simply this government wishes most not to have to compensate those who have been exposed to this form of torture. Like the residential schools they owe an apology. (Other than those in the conservative government who have spoken up against it.) It confounds me why a government would use conditions even remotely similar to what is clearly torture in other nations on individuals with a health condition or disability. I am ashamed of my nation.

As I write this, individuals with mental illness are in solitary confinement in Canada. The use of solitary confinement as an acceptable standard for the treatment of mental health is a form of torture, exacerbates mental illness and often causes a deterioration of the mental health of a segment of society that is under the care of our government. This shame doesn’t disappear with terminology. Tomato, tomahto.

Ignoring inflation it cost $550 000 dollars to deal with my mental illness institutionally.

I read an article in the London Free Press regarding policing and mental health. In a survey Londoners were asked :

“What do you think is the most important crime-related or policing problem facing the community and London police?”

Mental illness replaced downtown safety/bar issues in the top five. Why do Londoners believe that mental health is a police concern? If physical health is not a police concern why is mental health? If diabetics deserve doctors from start to finish why wouldn’t people with mental illness? If we are ever going to view mental illness differently we need to insist on medical interventions rather than law enforcement interventions. Part of the problem is the widespread perception that mental illness is synonymous with dangerousness.

Less than 3% of violence is attributable to mental illness in the absence of substance abuse. If ever we notice someone we suspect as hearing voices or disoriented in their thoughts or actions or somewhat delusional we might cross the street. The truth is that on both sides of the street 97% of our vulnerability to violence comes from the people who have no mental illness. People with mental illness are more often the victims of crime than the perpetrator.

When we allow law enforcement to administer to a health concern it is little wonder that the health concern becomes stigmatized, related to crime and associated with violence. If the police escorted diabetics to the hospital we would all have similar impressions about diabetes. Consider what we visualize, assume, think, feel and understand about mental illness. Now imagine having similar perceptions for a cancer patient. It would be unfair to the diabetic person or the individual with cancer but for the mentally ill it is as it would be for others with other illnesses; a barrier to treatment and a difficulty of rehabilitation.

Five years of my life have been spent under 24 hour care 7 days a week in an institution. Ignoring inflation it cost $550 000 dollars to deal with my mental illness institutionally. If a tenth of that money was used for comprehensive treatment in my youth, I might not be writing this.

A mental health clinician paid $60 000 dollars per year could have treated me for one hour a day for 70 years.
If we continue to fund and access policing and correctional measures to deal with mental illness we will forever feed the wrong end of the cow.

We do not fight cancer by building more cemeteries.(King)

When I first started living in the community after the forensic hospital I saw a psychologist once a week, a specialized therapist once a week and my psychiatrist at least once a month. Those supports were needed initially and they would have been expensive but it was nowhere near the near $350 dollars a day it cost to keep me in an institution. People can be monitored and treated in their own homes.

I could simply say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure but people might miss the point.

We leave mental illness unanswered and instead we deliver services mainly in times of crisis. Figure out the cost of an ambulance, two police officers and a truck or two of firefighters to respond to a suicide call and with any luck deliver that person to an emergency room and possibly a psychiatric unit for an indefinite period.

Now figure out how much it would cost for a therapist to prevent it in the first place.

If the financial realization is not enough for you consider letting heart disease progress to the point where invasive measures were necessary. With every other illness we prescribe the greatest amount of medicine at the beginning because to let any illness worsen is more devastating, difficult and expensive to treat. The social costs are immeasurable.

If you were ask a child how she feels about her father finding the best treatment for his heart she would likely answer the same for helping her father with schizophrenia. The best medicine at the beginning is not rocket science.

We are stupid to continue as we do but we are wrong and inhumane to do nothing.

You can call yourself a vegan but I had to call myself a lawyer and use the jail copy of the Canadian Criminal Code to read a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to write a letter to the Ombudsman of Ontario to be a Vegan.

In my mind one of the best things about Canada is our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Most of us take our rights and freedoms for granted. My rights and freedoms have been curtailed at times but even in solitary confinement in a correctional facility, I had and exercised certain rights and freedoms. When you can’t choose what to sit on, where to walk, what you eat or who you see; you pay attention to what part of you the government allows.

I wore an orange jumpsuit and could not escape even the light in the ceiling. When you are in solitary confinement or medical isolation about all that exists is you and That which speaks to you.

I was allowed both a copy of the Koran and a Bible and with knowledge of several other faiths I decided I needed to not be eating meat. You can call yourself a vegan but I had to call myself a lawyer and use the jail copy of the Canadian Criminal Code to read a copy of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to write a letter to the Ombudsman of Ontario to be a Vegan. It was jail policy that an inmate could not alter their diet unless for medical reasons after their admission to an institution. The jail tried to impede my religious freedom. I won my battle with the Deputy Superintendent and was punished with meatless cabbage rolls three times a week.

I do not belong to any recognizable faith, sect, church or choir but as someone who has experienced different aspects of spirituality in far flung places I see Canadians entering dangerous waters. It is seriously important when an institution can dictate what to eat, wear, not eat or in any way influence what gives meaning to any life. We can shout about Turbans before Burqas but we are on a dangerous slope kicking up clouds of divisions. It is somewhat frightening when a Prime Minister attempts to pit the country against itself.

It all slithers into the sinister when the conservatives have singled out one of the most vulnerable minorities in Canada. I am 46 years old and have never seen a burqa in person. My city is 365 000 small. One woman in one religious garnet is what the government wants us to see. We need to look for what we are being distracted from. We also need to imagine something similar being exposed to any religion. Religions grow, and fade. No one can be sure that they or their blood will never see a day where the faith that has guided generations becomes a minority. Why does this government dig their heels in here? When a government devotes its resources to interfere with any religion or culture, none are safe.

If a government does not belong in the bedrooms of the nation what are they doing interfering with an individual’s customs and beliefs? If we allow this government or any government the mandate and ability to interfere in any religious or non-religious custom of anyone on our shores, it sets a dangerous precedent. It makes no sense to spout to the world that we are a country with religious freedoms but if you want to become a citizen you must interrupt your fundamental beliefs. I don’t think becoming a Canadian citizen should include institutional interference with any belief or custom of any religion, faith, sect or believer.

Who would a God find favour in? The one who openly displays his or her beliefs or the one who covertly wants her or him to be subjected to an interruption of faith and belief in order to belong in our citizenship?

One would assume someone’s identity could somehow be revealed without disrespecting or dishonouring what anyone believes and gains through public or private adherence to a system or lack of which forms and enfleshes what we inwardly experience. Is the burqa less significant than the water in a baptism?

Every citizen, visitor or refugee should be allowed at any moment to honour or announce any aspect of their faith, if safe. This provision is guarded by almost every organization, institution, agency and decent citizen but the conservative government seems to want to stand tall for us all and tell certain Muslims that they must deface a custom and belief to be included in the magnificence of multiculturalism and a land that offers outright protection of freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

I would feel violated if I had to remove and turn my back on my beliefs to become a citizen of a country that claims to embrace the opposite. Are we Canadians or conservatives? Belief in something or anything can be and should be one of the most sacred of personal rights and responsibilities. A measurable minority who claim majority is imposing on the fabric of an individual by reason of her faith. I believe all should be protected from such action if we aren’t already.

One could be the other and what protects the individual protects us all.

My religious freedoms were imposed on by the government but because the government had to honour the Charter of Rights and Freedoms I could even in complete powerlessness resist their overbearing actions. They had complete control of my body but I could fight for my spirit. If the rights of the individual to express their religious freedom is not respected, honoured and implemented by the government, the government can be forced by the individual to refrain from actions or policies that hinder religious freedom.

I will end with the words of the woman in a Burqa who this government is harassing. We need to ask what the end benefit is for Canadians and what the end benefit of the Conservative’s is.

“Aside from the religious aspect, I like how it makes me feel: like people have to look beyond what I look like to get to know me. That I don’t have to worry about my physical appearance and can concentrate on my inner self. That it empowers me in this regard.”

Why is it what’s good for the courts of the land are never good enough for the Conservatives of the land? For a party that claims closeness to justice they seem rabidly fanatic of disregarding Superior and Supreme Justice. This worries me.

What does St. Patrick’s Day have to do with Canada? Were the Irish indigenous to Canada? Did they plant some flag on our shores? Or were they like the majority of us, immigrants and decedents of immigrants?

The Irish have been as Canadian as any of us but I believe they have had ample time to assimilate.

Is it not inconsiderate and disrespectful to have them drinking green beer with utter disregard for Tim Horton’s and poutine? It’s a whole day and night of it for cows sake. Why can’t it be short like a Citizenship Ceremony? I thought we only let in a certain number of the Irish but when I drove down Richmond Street at noon they seemed quite prevalent. I’m not good with statistics but I would say 3 out of every 4 Londoners are Irish. I am Irish so I can’t really tell you what it might be like to be a minority. I kinda get minority though.

I saw people in green hats and even painted faces. I was leery of their disguises and wondered if it was truly safe. What if they had to prove who they were? I doubt they would be recognizable to their barely legal driver’s licences. I guess like the rest of us I assumed they were all Canadian citizens already but what if one of them had a few too many Guinness and had to take their citizenship tomorrow? With all that paint on their faces they could be anyone. They could even be Scottish. How would we ever know?

I saw two uniformed police officers and two security personnel in front of an Irish pub at 11:15 in the morning. Obviously all this Irishness is a threat. I do not even see this police presence outside the mosques I sometimes notice. I thought it was every living Muslim I had to fear but apparently it is the Jamaican spilling out an establishment after celebrating his brethren’s history, culture and religion.

It is easy to agree with green beer but if we want to call ourselves Canadian we ought to show the same courtesy to any religion. St. Patrick’s Day was a solemn religious recognition at one point. People didn’t go to pubs they went to mass. Would you have your green beer if the conservatives were at the helm of deciding or needing to decide what is tolerable in another’s beliefs? Someone could have run the first Irish settlers back on their ship or told them to defrock their beliefs. We embraced and always have the religions, beliefs, customs and symbols of people who find our shores. To make a monster the conservatives have tried to twist one woman’s faith and belief.

These are her words:

“Aside from the religious aspect, I like how it makes me feel: like people have to look beyond what I look like to get to know me. That I don’t have to worry about my physical appearance and can concentrate on my inner self. That it empowers me in this regard.”

And from the non savages mouth we have:

“Stay where the hell you came from.”

This comes from a Conservative Member of Parliament whose represents Bruce-Grey- Owen Sound. I have travelled these regions and I wonder how many people wearing niquabs one would see in the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound riding. If I was a radio disk jockey I might be lonely asking for the first five callers. By all intents and purposes this representative of Bruce-Grey -Owen Sound is basically being intolerant of something he or his constituents don’t even have to tolerate. I never saw a person kicked out of a bar without even entering.

I can hear the waves of Lake Huron lapping the riding in no small way. Are we going to cordon off parts of the beach for specific religions and or their customs, beliefs and symbols? I don’t know much about intolerance but it sure as hell doesn’t rhyme with tourism. I wonder if Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound cares about tourism.

If we draw lines in the sand of a Canadian Citizenship ceremony they stretch across the nation. To what we expose the initiate can become a rite of passage on the campus. If I can do something to someone becoming a citizen it is not a stretch to consider the same treatment to a citizen. It is not one faith being threatened it is all faiths. It is not one woman in a niquab, it is each of us.

I hope for this riding’s sake that MP Larry Miller isn’t spouting some party puke in a riding to which it has little concern. It makes me wonder what Larry Miller might be missing that is of concern to his riding. I don’t like distracted politicians. According to Larry Miller he thinks “most Canadians feel the same.” I did not know someone from Tobermory could know what people in Newfoundland and British Colombia would be thinking. Maybe most Canadians feel this way but if this is so we have indeed arrived at a place far distant from where we were even a decade ago.

Larry Miller says: “they want to change things before they even really officially become a Canadian.” I wonder what sort of performance Larry Miller had to incur to become a Canadian citizen. I doubt he knows the gratitude and honour of stepping into our once great nation. It only seems to be the Conservatives who want to “change things.” Why is it what’s good for the courts of the land are never good enough for the Conservatives of the land? For a party that claims closeness to justice they seem rabidly fanatic of disregarding Superior and Supreme Justice. This worries me.

This woman is only attempting to honour and embrace the culture and religion that any and all other Canadians have been allowed to respect and protect. If we do not protect the rights of someone becoming a citizen it becomes difficult to protect the right of the citizen.

I’m willing to guess that not 10 000 Irishmen landed on our shores as a beginning. I envision just a handful. I wonder what it is like to enter a country as a minority. We could ask the Jamaican celebrating and embracing his brethren’s culture and religion but he seems assimilated and may not understand or appreciate the significance.

Thankfully our distant relatives were tolerant of our Irish ancestors and their symbols, dress, custom and belief. The world would a dull place make without the Shamrock Shake.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and yes I am in fact one eighth Irish which is why I am drunk enough to spell:

DISCRIMINATION

London agency My Sisters’ Place launches advocacy campaign.

A local agency that serves disadvantaged citizens has had their funding trimmed and now possibly terminated.

People want jobs and low taxes but I don’t think most would want either at the expense of vulnerable citizens. Homeless people are in many ways invisible. We notice some but many are cared for by agencies and able to find shelter and supports that keep them safe and contribute to their overall health.

It should be important city business to support agencies that many depend on. The they, could be we. It worries me as a Londoner when I see the mayor and council claim support for an agency while claiming they are powerless over such affairs. I doubt that Londoner’s would wish to see an agency flounder but one that services those who truly are powerless, depend on this city to give them power. They need the power of dignified accommodations. They need the power of a team of therapists and more. They need the power of opportunity and safety. They need the power of respect, compassion and at times the assistance of other Londoners. If I fall while walking down the street, someone will bend to help me. If I live in the street not even politicians can help or at least not in London. We have federal and provincial politicians who have figured it is not overly politically strategic to bend too far for those in need.

Those in need don’t show up on polls which is why it is the duty of the elected to ensure that they are represented.

I wanted a mayor who didn’t just roll up his sleeves for pictures and popularity. I wanted a mayor who rolls up his sleeves in the business of every citizen. In my mind and heart London is more town than corporation and I think it slightly sad that the elected are unable to find a solution for this agency.

We saw their pretty faces on London street corners smiling and waving hoping that being a menace to traffic might result in a vote or two. It seems the best wavers got elected. Wow, much cheaper than the buttons. They have left the sidewalks and streets of their voting base but have basically forgotten that streets and sidewalks are beds and benches for some still.

Are we to believe that the elected are unable to assist a fundamental agency in the homelessness plan they are spreading in our faces? It’s not much good having a colouring book but no crayons. These individuals can’t draw something up? If the elected can’t assist this agency who can? What the heck is going to happen when bigger issues hit these politicians? If a factory was closing up would they throw their hands up? If they don’t know how to fax their fannies to get some attention to an issue they never will.

If these nit-wits can’t find a way around funding an essential agency which protects those with no voice they must be hunkering down to sit on their asses for the whole term. Londoners paid a bunch of letches for new tires as they left office but the people they pass in the street can pound the pavement for support? Am I to believe there was no rule to prevent an outgoing politician from increasing the value of their personal vehicle using their “Polhill cards” but things are so complex for a legitimate and productive agency to receive funding that they might have to go without tires, or curtains?

The only consistency is that I don’t have a choice in Joe Swan’s tire allowance or the funding of something honest. Democracy is a dream.

Are municipal politics so complicated that the elected can be left without a voice? If the elected can do nothing what hope is there for the citizen? If any of these vulnerable individuals fell into the Thames River the city would foot the bill for their rescue. When they are drowning in the streets no one shows up let alone foots the bill. When we allow this one agency to hemorrhage it is left to other agencies and departments to pick up the pieces. If we cut the toes and leave My Sisters’ Place dangling, the rest of the body will dance about in pain. Others may save the toe but they will expend an exaggerated amount of time and money trying to fix what was once not severed.

Londoners are not off the hook for an amount they are on the hook for something immeasurable.

What is the social and financial impact of leaving homelessness unanswered?

People line up to test their bodies but we flee the very thought of having to do so with our minds and emotions.

I came close to not being here a couple of times. The last and more serious time was before my since ten year struggle with justice. When I came to from my comma I was seeing perfectly clear double vision. My eyes cleared up within hours but I still keep a form of double vision.

Since I awoke that night I have survived solitary confinement, abuses, humiliations, abandonment, illness, betrayal, loss, terror, prejudice, stigma, hate, and poverty to degrees that would make them each significantly difficult on their own.

If I knew what I was going to be experiencing for over a decade I would have employed a method closer to a moving train. When I look at my experiences since my last suicide attempt I see great pain, untold sorrows and defeat after defeat. I also have the perspective to recognize the unique mixture of love and friendship that is woven into these experiences as well.

My best friend for a few years was a 330 pound forensic patient. Ed had been shot by the police in a fairly justified manner. Some people were afraid of Ed. He wasn’t pretty, sometimes smelled and had a huge voice.

Ed died about this time years ago. He was living in an apartment, practicing to get a new driver’s license and he drank coffee and smoked too much. I miss Ed but it doesn’t hurt much when I think of him these days. When I think and try to balance all the bad things that have happened with the good, I can’t. There is too much of each.

Maybe it’s like a marathon. People endure taxing the limits of their physical capabilities for a ribbon. People line up to test their bodies but we flee the very thought of having to do so with our minds and emotions. When I think of Ed he is so much more than a ribbon. I had to endure and struggle to subsequently meet many individuals. Ed was one and I am sharing the Eulogy I wrote about and for him at his memorial service:

His name is Ed and he’s my best friend. He’s been my best friend since he gave me his apple the first meal I had on the Fallen Angel Unit (Forensic Assessment Unit). At that time apples meant love and he gave me his. We didn’t say a word to each other as we ate our replica meals and I probably should have been afraid of his three hundred plus pounds but he gave me his apple. From that day on Ed has been nothing but generous to me. As I write this my belly is still full of the soup he made and shared with me in his apartment and my veins course with nicotine from the pack of cigarettes he gave me tonight. I visit Ed most days in the community. He has a small apartment and it is a great getaway for both of us. We are both weary of hospitals and nurses and cameras and crappy food and shared toilets and little or no privacy. Ed and I share more than meals, we share our experiences. We talk about what has happened to us sometimes, usually he more than me, but we share it in silence always. We sit together and know we have each been in Holes and siderooms and handcuffed and shackled, he more than me. Ed’s story spans twenty-five years; his last battle has been seven years. My whole experience with the law has only been seven years. Ed reminds me of how good I have it, literally at times.

When I was on the Fallen Angel Unit for my Assessment Ed and I would sit in the smoking room and rule. We were two that truly had our heads, or so it seemed to me, and we were both personable. Ed would give me his pouch of tobacco and let me roll cigarettes whenever I wanted. Every morning we would be the first two into the room. I would have a huge manic smile on my face waiting for him. We liked each other for some reason or maybe for no reason. I think because I don’t talk much and am fairly quiet Ed likes me. I am generous back to Ed. He has no wheels so I run the odd errand for him getting groceries or Thursday night fish and chips.

When I came to the Forensic Treatment Unit Ed would become one of my dorm mates. Ed would lie in his bed on his back and rock his head back and forth for about an hour. This was his stress reduction and I think he picked it up somewhere in his twenty odd years of incarceration. Ed was a good dorm mate; he always had food to share and a pair of shoes to sell.

I could write a whole book about Ed, he is full of stories. Ed spends his days smoking and drinking coffee and knows everything about everyone and if he doesn’t, he is not shy about asking. “Where are you going Brett?” “Where were you Brett?” What did you have for supper has to be one of his favourite questions. Sometimes I resent the invasion into my privacy as I don’t know how to be rude and say mind your own business. I also realize he doesn’t go anywhere or do anything so news is his only entertainment.

“Well you got out of here for the weekend, that’s the main thing, good for you.” Ed is always genuinely happy for me and any progress I make as far as privileges. He also gives me hell for not pushing for more. “When are you going to ask for ‘Live in the Community’ Brett?” “Soon” I answer. He says I should be out of here and we both know it is true but the system is what the system is. It is like a cold, there is no cure it just has to run its course.

Ed befriended me when I was most ill. When everyone else pulled away, Ed was my friend. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I needed anyone but I think he was. Ed didn’t look compassionate but he was. Ed lived in the present and appreciated things as simple as a cigarette, a coffee or a burger.

I have learned more about generosity from Ed than from any combination of people in my life. He really didn’t have anything but what he did have he shared. I was definitely on the receiving end of more meals and coffee’s than I was able to repay. I don’t think Ed kept track but I regret not being able to repay some of that generosity.

Ed used to call me every day. What did you have for supper Brett? Ed was a little preoccupied with food but it was one of his few pleasures. Food becomes a very important part of your life when you are incarcerated. Most days the high point of your day or a significant marker for time is a meal. To receive little or no satisfaction from that meal, undermines what little morale you can muster at times. I sometimes enjoyed telling Ed about my culinary habits when I shifted from eating out of a can to actually preparing meals. I think Ed’s cooking inspired me to do some myself. I’m glad Ed was able to eat what he liked in his final years.

Ed was an outgoing and friendly person. He knew many names and felt emotion for what he perceived were injustices in others circumstances. This is empathy. Ed was rich with friends and I was blessed to be one.

Ed seemed obstinate and defiant towards what he would deem as his oppressors, many who would say they were simply helping Ed but we don’t know exactly how Ed perceived things and it is his perception of events that coloured his actions. If a man feels truly wronged as Ed often did then it is in his right to pursue some means of remedy. Ed usually went within his rights and sought out legal avenues to remedy the wrongs he perceived. Some would argue he wasn’t always rational in these pursuits but imagine the emotion involved in defending your rights as a person. Ultimately Ed wanted autonomy, he didn’t want to be needled, literally, he wanted to be left in peace. I don’t find this to be anything but rational and it is unfortunate Ed is not here to enjoy the peace he now has. Ed has finally received his Absolute Discharge.

I have an apple for you Ed, somewhere, somehow I will get it to you.