Dumb and Dumber

With the conservative government dragging their heels on anything proactive regarding the recommendations put forward by the inquest into the Ashley Smith homicide I must speak.

Sometimes surfing the internet is a vice but I have been fortuitous in stumbling on the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Commissioner’s Directive. The 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.

From personal experience and more radically from the circumstances of Ashley Smith’s death I feel obliged to point out to the commissioner or anyone else who doesn’t care, that community practices do not include solitary confinement as a default. It seems individuals in corrections feel solitary confinement is a panacea. We leave medicine up to people who are trained to turn keys and push food carts. I can’t believe we pay correctional officers $50 000 a year to call surnames, inspect anuses, turn a key and distribute diets. In Canada we need at least two guards and a lieutenant to orchestrate the ordinary.

Please don’t assume I am a disgruntled delinquent. The same stupidity can be found in many public services. Last month the London Fire Department was experiencing some form of inefficient insomnia or doing some sort of safety blitz. On three separate evenings a full size fire truck pulled in front of my house. I tend to self-isolate and have a degree of agoraphobia so I ignored them the first two times when they knocked on my door. I finally relented and decided my discomfort was less important than the tax dollars that were blowing down the street.

It took two “blueshirts” or regular firemen and one “whiteshirt” or supervisor to canvas me about having fire detectors on each floor and a carbon monoxide detector. It was costing Londoners about $153.00 per hour to have these bored but brave men go door to door and that doesn’t count whatever the hell it cost to fuel a fire truck at $1.39 a litre. Get a Smart car dumbass! I may be an idiot but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a 15 year old who needs volunteer hours to pull a Radio Flyer wagon full of batteries and smoke detectors through the same neighbourhoods to hand out to citizens without? We could save money as taxpayers and probably save more lives. I understand the dilemma. What would fire services have to bargain with if they did less than less?

I digress but it is an honest diversion. While I was in jail I also had “blueshirts” or guards come to my door with the odd “whiteshirt” in the background making sure my captors didn’t screw up simplicity.

According to the Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner and their Response to Medical Emergencies: the primary goal is the preservation of life.

• Non-health services staff arriving on the scene of a possible medical emergency (like a ligature around the neck) must immediately call for assistance, secure the area and initiate CPR/first aid without delay.
• Non-health services staff must continue to perform CPR/first aid until relieved by health services staff or the ambulance service.
• The decision to discontinue CPR/first aid can be made only by authorized health services staff or the ambulance service.

Here I can only wonder why “whiteshirts” were making decisions they were not authorized to make. “Blueshirts” overrode the commissioner’s directive as well. Insubordination and insanity.

Any poor “blueshirt” or guard who can read or remember must have been pacing frantically at watching Ashley choke when we consider the following directives.

• Initiation of CPR by non-health services staff is not required in the following situations:
• Decapitation (i.e. the complete severing of the head from the remainder of the body)

Correctional officers must be known to be overzealous in administering life saving measures if they have to be formally called off when a head is not attached to a body. The correctional officers outside Ashley’s cell must have been convulsing with compassion when they could see she was not dismembered. “But Boss, her head is still on.”

Another instance that does not necessitate CPR is:

• Decomposition (i.e. condition of decay, deterioration, disintegration of the body)

This directive has a place in a correctional setting considering the care many inmates receive. One would assume that an ordinary citizen wouldn’t require i.e. and an explanation of decapitation or decomposition but apparently correctional officers are so thorough in their first aid they need “too far gone” spelled out.
Only in a correctional setting where charges are checked every 20 minutes could one find a corpse in a state of decomposition. “But Boss, I counted him for the past three weeks.”

Considering these directives it seems incomprehensible that Ashley Smith was watched by corrections officers as she choked to death. How is it that when she fell unconscious with her head attached and in no way decomposing no one intervened? It seems ironic that inmates are in these facilities for not following written rules but those who are charged with assisting and encouraging offenders to become law-abiding citizens can pick and choose or even fabricate their own. In Ashley’s case the result was both sadistic and sad.


The Not So Great Lakes

I like to call myself a fisherman though I am less so than in my younger years. This past summer I had fair luck here on Lake Huron providing my family with several Bass and Perch meals. I do have my share of luck, for instance it was I who caught fifteen fish and my nephew one on one excursion; he’s two and a half. Outside of that I don’t carry with me any extensive knowledge or talent.

This year I was at the lake before anyone else and found myself on the water alone last night. The seas were rough relative to my light aluminum canoe. I hooked into a beautiful Smallmouth Bass after only three casts and was expecting a bountiful night. At the rate I started I was sure to fill my canoe. The odd wave splashed over the edge of my unnamed boat and I had to brace myself by knee to one of the gunnels to cast my beautiful lure with the wind. After a while I pulled out my smokes and enjoyed what would be my last from that pack. I also pulled out my Ipod. I have never fished to music and at the moment I am unsure of what possessed me to do so. I pulled anchor from the rocky shoal and was drifting quickly past the boulders that make the fishing so excellent. It really was idyllic but like many things in life – change is inevitable.

With a breeze on my cheek, a rhythmic motion to the canoe and music to tie the scene together I couldn’t have wished for more other than fish. In slow motion the boat listed to starboard, my heavy tackle box slid and everything entered the water to the side of the fish swimming on my stringer. The fish was as big as any I had ever caught and I am want to blame it for my capsize but there must have been other factors which lead to me with my head bobbing beneath my canoe. The song played on as I was banged by my floating tackle box, two paddles, a net and my Smallmouth Bass. None of it seemed real as the music floated through my head as if nothing was different. I quickly righted my canoe to save my fishing pole from the bottom and suddenly realized I had nothing to bail out the hundreds of gallons now occupying the inside of my canoe. I clung to the side and counted my possessions certain something had passed me and my life vest to the bottom. It seemed to all be floating in the canoe just fine. I took off my flip flops and tossed them in with the flotsam and made my way to the back of the canoe. I hugged what was either the bow or stern and tried to yank my life jacket from around my ears. And the band played on.


My fifteen minute paddle and ten minute drift had left me further from land and home than one would want to be in sixty-five degree water. Adrenaline kept me warm as I kicked my way to shore. I can’t say it was a pleasant thirty minutes but I was alive. Outside of expense I wished I had my Iphone rather than music, regardless, I didn’t have the Coast Guard in my Contacts anyway. It was a struggle kicking a canoe full of water through the waves but I had Lady Gaga for inspiration. I wouldn’t recommend this activity for aerobic exercise but I was without the sore ass that follows my yearly session on the stationary bike.

I could see figures on shore as I made my way in. One couple who I’m sure saw my low lying canoe with a head bobbing at the back seemed uninterested and carried on down the beach. And the music died. I intend to write Apple and commend them on how their non-waterproof Ipod actually performs quite well while submerged in a pocket underwater. I stowed my now defunct headphones in my pocket figuring they were shot with the waves that lapped at my head and also to ensure that in the event of rescue I wouldn’t appear as a stereotypical self-absorbed teenager lost in music.

I was keeping a close eye on my bobbing tackle box hoping a wave wouldn’t sweep it from my canoe. I was getting tangled in my fishing line and was too tired to enjoy any form of body piercing so I retired from my exercise and reeled in my lucky lure and stowed my pole underwater in the canoe. As I propelled closer to shore I had a good view of my bass, its fins were out of water like a shark and I was grateful to not have to deal with anything like that. I was however becoming resentful of my finned friend as it was clearly alive but made little effort in the direction of intention. When I finally hit a sandbar and could walk I was relieved but only momentarily as I passed over it and into the depths again. A family of several generations had gathered and sauntered over to my landing. “You’re supposed to ride in it.” My purple lips failed to form the curse that rose from my exhausted body. A man my age came a couple of feet into the water to assist me. He noticed my fish and was instantly enthralled. He tried to undo my stringer and asked his daughter to get a photo. I removed the fish and held it up for a picture. Neither of us was smiling and I was disinterested in recording the moment. I dragged my normally heavy and now completely filled tackle box to shore and tipped a few gallons from its seams. We removed everything else and tipped the water from my vessel. He asked if I had far to go and I replied “No, I’ll just walk her home.” And so I began to pull my mainly dry canoe and contents along the shore towards home. I was still barefoot and soon tired of walking on stones and bravely stepped back into the canoe. I was spent and probably looked like a three year old as I struggled by paddle against the wind. I was more than relieved when I made it to the beach in front of our place. ImageI pulled the canoe to shore forgetting about my exhausted fellow passenger. He slid across the sand as dead weight still having less intention of making it to the cottage. Maybe I should have offered him a ration of rum once safely home and he may have hung in there.

Back at the cottage I was beginning to tremble, not much energy remained. Mom helped me remove year’s worth of tackle from my box and we laid it out on newspaper. We agreed it was excessive as we punctured our fingertips. I followed through with my promise for breakfast and filleted my fish under the outside light. With that out of the way I took an inventory. I had lost my favourite hat, a half pack of smokes and two pounds of body fat. My Ipod was inoperable as was my lighter so I lit a cigarette from a new pack with the BBQ flame thrower. I soon after went to bed and spent my first hour and a half shivering uncontrollably despite blankets and a thick hoodie pulled over my head in the July heat. I awoke in the morning clinging to my pillow like I had the gunnel of my canoe. I heal quickly and I will probably head out again tonight if she calms down a little but I will not have music and I will take someone with me. These moments are best shared and two set of legs would be like owning an outboard motor.