Articles

Articles2020-08-12T16:55:38+00:00

A selection of my articles published in magazines, newspapers, journals, and webzines.

707, 2014

The Proactive Search for Mental Illnesses in Children

By |July 7th, 2014|

ellie-320A new government-funded mental health training program for British Columbia family physicians and school staff promotes screening for mental disorders in all children and youth. Critics say the program omits key scientific evidence, seems more like drug promotion than medical education, and downplays serious potential harms. Nevertheless, programs like it are rolling out across Canada and the US.

Part one of a two-part Mad In America investigation into the expansion of psychological screening and electronic surveillance of children and youth.

Read it here.

 

505, 2014

Dangerous Linkages

By |May 5th, 2014|

The unplugging of a Saanich School District database raises serious concerns about the BC government’s secret plans for students’ personal information—and for everyone’s BC Services Card information.

The BC Ministry of Education warned Saanich School District in March that it would cost the district millions of dollars to make their openStudent database properly integrated with the BC Services Card. Daunted, the school board immediately cancelled development of their in-house database for recording student information, abandoning the two years and $1.5 million they’d invested.

However, there’s a snag in this seemingly straightforward story. Based on the facts the public has been given about the BC Services Card, the government’s assertion to Saanich couldn’t possibly be true. So was the provincial government misleading the school district? If so, why? Or does the government have secret plans for the BC Services Card and our schoolchildren’s personal information that are much more invasive, expansive and expensive than the public realizes?

Clues to the answers lie in

505, 2014

Commissioner urges public accountability for police chiefs — RCMP internal investigation also underway

By |May 5th, 2014|

Following closely on the heels of Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s recommendation that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police should be made subject to provincial freedom of information laws, the RCMP has been ordered to conduct an internal investigation of the BCACP. Read more at Focusonline.

304, 2014

My Scary Trip through Ukrainews, Victoria

By |April 3rd, 2014|

When it comes to complex international issues, does following the news increase or diminish our understanding?

I want to talk about something that’s difficult to talk about in person: Ukraine. But not the actual place or events surrounding it, which I know less than nothing about. (Emphasis on less, an issue I’ll return to shortly.) I want to discuss the local Victoria aspect of “Ukraine”— which is more influential over my own life.

It seems we’re talking, writing and posting online about Ukraine a lot more than we used to. We debate what’s happening there, who’s to blame, and even about what actions we should be taking: providing financial support, boycotting, brokering negotiations, sending troops, the whole gamut.

So what caused this local cultural shift? Events in Ukraine? Many dramatic international events happen that we don’t talk about. And even though a million Canadians have some Ukrainian ancestry, many more have German or Irish ancestry, and I haven’t noticed any heavily-funded Victoria-Ukrainian

503, 2014

From Compliance to Activism: A Mother’s Journey

By |March 5th, 2014|

cindi-fast-featured-700x494Through years of turmoil and confusion, Cindi Fisher’s enduring love for her involuntarily committed son gradually changed her from compliant mom to mental health civil rights activist. That’s when authorities banned her from even contacting her son. But could she be a bellwether of a coming nation-wide wave of protestors? Click here to read the full article at Madinamerica.com

403, 2014

“To Safeguard Against Tyranny”

By |March 4th, 2014|

Read deeper and BC Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin’s ruling in support of teachers against the provincial government is about much more than just our schools.

It seems appropriate that the late-January BC Supreme Court ruling won by the BC Teachers Federation has received attention in our news media. But there’s an undercurrent that permeates Justice Susan Griffin’s Reasons for Judgment that hasn’t been discussed nearly as much as it should be: Her very worrying evaluation of the state of our democracy.

For those who haven’t been following the story, the BC Liberal government passed legislation in 2002 that seemed to be a blatant attack against the most basic civil rights of teachers to freely associate and take action collectively. It deleted hundreds of agreements from existing contracts and stripped the BCTF of virtually any powers to bargain on key issues about teachers’ working conditions—primarily with respect to the number of students in classes, and the learning environments for children with

102, 2014

Are Local Police Being Covertly Militarized?

By |February 1st, 2014|

Vancouver and Victoria police told academic researcher Adam Molnar they’ve started training in combat exercises with the US military. Police weren’t so forthright when Focus came asking.

Western Canadian police forces and the US military have been skirting laws on both sides of the border in secretive, controversial, urban-combat training exercises, says researcher Adam Molnar. Molnar recently completed his Political Science PhD thesis for the University of Victoria, titled “In the Shadow of the Spectacle: Security and Policing Legacies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.” His study provides a behind-the-scenes look into how the biggest peace-time security operation in Canadian history permanently re-shaped British Columbia policing with respect to governance, use of electronic surveillance, public order emergencies, and public-private partnerships. One of its most provocative chapters outlines the creation of the Vancouver Police Department’s “Military Liaison Unit,” and the spread of the model to other police departments including Victoria’s.

Molnar can’t disclose the names of the police sources he interviewed due

301, 2014

Police Chiefs: Public or Private?

By |January 3rd, 2014|

BC’s Information Commissioner launches an inquiry into police chief associations.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has launched an inquiry into British Columbia’s two police chief associations. Denham is considering recommending to government that the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and the BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP) should be declared governmental “public bodies” and be made subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). According to her December 6 “letter to stakeholders,” the Commissioner is also inviting public input about this possible recommendation until February 14, 2014.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissoner (OIPC) evidently has some of the same concerns about the associations that Focus has been reporting on for two years, as it’s become clear that these secretive associations have been doing everything from crafting the government’s policing legislation to ordering police media spokespersons around the province to promote the virtues of mass surveillance. “In my reflections on

2711, 2013

An Overabundance of Caution

By |November 27th, 2013|

We’re worried about each other’s “mental health” a lot more than we used to be. But calling 911 for someone can be a disastrous approach, say victims of our good – or not so good – intentions.

The day before, John had interred his mother’s ashes. But then came what he describes as an “unbelievable, incomprehensible incident” that, in his sensitive state, was “otherworldly” and “traumatizing.”

John (who wishes to keep his name confidential) went to a Victoria recreation centre to try to clear his mind. He bumped into a friend and they talked into the wee hours. When John returned home, the lights in his condominium were on.

“I thought, I must have leaned up against the dimmer switch when I was putting my shoes on,” says John. Then he noticed an out-of-place binder, his laptop positioned differently, his email program opened. “Something was askew,” says John. “It was like I was in some sort of parallel universe.”

Had someone broken in?

3010, 2013

Coup de Police

By |October 30th, 2013|

Secret police chief association records provoke serious questions about lack of police oversight in this province.

As I read through hundreds of pages of records from two BC associations of chiefs of police, I discovered that a letter I had sent to the West Vancouver Police Department Chief Constable had been turned over to all of Canada’s major banks, Canada Border Services, CSIS, and the US Secret Service. This certainly made a mockery of my privacy rights. Yet I realized that much more than privacy was at stake. These previously secret records—a drop from a much vaster pool—painted a worrying picture of unchecked police powers.

A catch up: Last year, I set out to learn more about the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP), because these groups have had tremendous influence on public opinion and provincial justice policies for decades, and yet there’s virtually no publicly available information about them. My

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