Archive for July, 2009

On second thought…

For now, this blog is on an indefinite hiatus. It may never return. It may return with a different focus. However, it is not open to a new editorial group taking over. Some group could start their own blog, but there are probably better things to do.

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Gatineau cruisers vandalized overnight

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
CBC News [Quebec]

A dozen police cruisers were vandalized overnight in Gatineau, Que., and fingers are being pointed at the city’s police officers.

The cruisers were covered with orange paint.

Both the city and the officers’ union said the officers could have been behind the vandalism, because words written in the paint referred to negotiations and work contracts.

For more than two years, police in Gatineau have been without a collective agreement.

Their protest has consisted of wearing cargo pants and khakis instead of police-issue slacks, but the mayor said he thinks it’s possible that the vandalized vehicles mark another step in the protest.

While the cars are being washed, said Mayor Marc Bureau, they’ll be out of commission.

Neither the union nor the city, however, has confirmed officers were involved in the vandalism.

Jean Pierre Bussière, the union’s vice-president, said there will be an investigation, but the vandalism is probably a simple sign of frustration.

“You know, in my understanding, it was probably a way to inform the people on what’s happening – that the city … they’re doing nothing to end the conflict.”

Bussière said he’s not sure applying poster paint could be considered vandalism because it could easily be washed off.

On Friday, Gatineau police officers who were being sworn in at the Elgin Street police station said they would be willing to wear their proper uniforms when they conduct investigations on the Ottawa side of the river.

But on the Gatineau side, they said, they planned to continue their plainclothes – or at least pants – protest.

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The End

This blog has now come to its end, so it won’t be updated anymore, unless a different editorial group decides to take over. But there are probably better things to do. Bye bye.

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Jay Phillips living up to dad’s example: Assault victim taught to stand up for himself
Swarming victim’s dad taught his son to be proud and stand up for himself

By Sam Cooper, The Province [British Columbia]
July 12, 2009

Hundreds showed up for an anti-racism rally in Courtenay last week to support assault victim Jay Phillips. Photograph by: Marcel Tetrault, Comox Valley Echo

Hundreds showed up for an anti-racism rally in Courtenay last week to support assault victim Jay Phillips. Photograph by: Marcel Tetrault, Comox Valley Echo

Many people were shocked by the video that surfaced recently of three young Caucasian men apparently swarming a lone black man in a strip mall parking lot on a hot summer night in the Vancouver Island city of Courtenay.

But having to fight because of his skin colour was no surprise for that black man, 38-year-old Jay Phillips. It was just history repeating itself.

His father also had to defend himself in B.C. because he was black.

On Friday, David Samuel White, 19, Adam David Huber, 24, and Robert William Rodgers, 25, were charged with assaulting Phillips on the evening of July 3, in an apparent racist attack captured on video and broadcast on the Internet.

The trio were allegedly involved in a separate attack on a young Caucasian man later that evening, RCMP Const. Tammy Douglas told The Province.

Phillips and his mother, Kirsten, who is Caucasian, responded to the charges in separate interviews with The Province.

Both remembered Jay’s father Reginald Phillips, who died before Christmas, as a man who taught his son to be proud of his colour and to defend himself.

Reginald and Kirsten first started dating in the 1960s in Prince Rupert.

“He was the only black man in town, dating a white woman, so of course he had to fight plenty,” Jay Phillips said with a laugh.

Racially-motivated fights continued in various B.C. towns, Kirsten said.

Reginald taught Jay Phillips to box from a young age, both mother and son recalled. Those skills are apparent in the July 3 video, as Phillips, a 210-pound man who can bench press 300 pounds, fought three men to a draw at the very least.

But it’s the way Jay has acted after the fight that Reginald would most appreciate, Kirsten said.

“He’d be extremely proud of the way Jason is handling this with his brain.” “He’d be beaming; he’d be so proud that I did this the right way,” Jay said. “My dad told me stand up for yourself — don’t be racist. Don’t take s— from anyone.” The family is well aware that the video of Phillips repelling three brawlers has become an Internet sensation. But the ugly incident can be used to teach and spark dialogue, they say.

Initially, Kirsten felt the gut-wrenching emotion of a mother watching her son on the pavement getting hammered by six fists.

“My heart stood still and I still choke up when I watch the video,” she said. “But I had to cheer when Jason got up and they started to scatter like little flies.” “It shows racism is alive and well,” she added. “First and foremost, people are talking about it.” Phillips says the media sensation around his actions has led to offers to teach in classrooms and even run for politics, as he proves he can “speak well” with his message against racism and gang-up attacks.

“I was at a rally [in Courtenay against racism] and eight mothers came up to me and said the same thing has happened to their kids,” he said.

“There’s a mentality bubbling up [with bullying and fighting in Courtenay] and I don’t want to see it explode.” Phillips says he will eventually show the now-famous fight video to his baby son, Malik. And like his father taught him, he’ll teach the boy to box.

“I’ll let him know racism is out there. I just hope he doesn’t have to go through this.” Before they were charged, the alleged attackers appeared in a TV interview with faces obscured under hooded sweaters. They admitted to racist language easily heard on the video, but claimed racial motivation in the fight was “blown out of proportion.” “We’re not white supremacists,” one said.

Police have presented evidence to Crown prosecutors and if the three are convicted, a judge will decide whether hate-crime law is warranted during sentencing, RCMP say.

Phillips told The Province he’s convinced he was the victim of a hate crime, but he’s not at all interested in vengeance on the three.

In fact, he hopes they get proper instruction — in the justice system.

“They’re young and stupid, so hopefully they’ll learn from this,” Phillips said.

“You start running around and doing this kind of stuff and sooner or later, someone loses their life.”

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Hunt for pipeline bomber draws harassment complaints
Residents of B.C. town question RCMP tactics

Mark Hume
Globe and Mail
Saturday, Jul. 11, 2009

An RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] team hunting for the EnCana pipeline bomber in northeastern British Columbia has been accused of harassing and intimidating people in an attempt to get a break in the case.

Several residents of the Dawson Creek area say they have been interrogated up to eight times, pressured to take lie detector tests and asked for DNA and fingerprint samples.

One man said he fled a busy restaurant when police loudly accused him of being the bomber.

The RCMP say they have not received any formal complaints about their tactics.

But Vancouver lawyer, Jason Gratl, vice-president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he has written to the RCMP asking them to stop harassing two clients.

“They are acting like state or secret police,” Mr. Gratl said. “The RCMP have fomented a climate of paranoia and suspicion … by applying a level of social pressure that amounts to harassment and intimidation.”

The RCMP has more than 250 investigators trying to catch whoever is responsible for six bomb attacks on EnCana infrastructure since October. Police have interviewed more than 450 people so far, without any charges laid.

Mr. Gratl said four people have contacted him with complaints about police.

One of those is Dennis MacLennan, who says he willingly agreed to a police interview last fall, after the first bombings, but when investigators kept returning with more questions, he decided not to co-operate any more.

That, he said, led to a confrontation with members of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in a local café.

“They come and sit at my table … and they start engaging me in questions. I said, ‘look I don’t want to talk to you, my lawyer has advised me not to’ … So I get up to leave and one member of the INSET team starts yelling at me: ‘You’re the bomber You’re the bomber’ You know, in a public restaurant … this is just absolutely atrocious behaviour,” Mr. MacLennan said.

He is in a dispute with EnCana over the amount of money he claims is due for a well on his property, but says that shouldn’t make him a bombing suspect.

“I do my business by the rules … I’m not some radical crazy,” he said.

But police have kept after him for months.

“They just kept pressuring me and chasing me around town, talking to people I’m doing business with and telling them I’m under investigation … destroying business opportunities for me. It’s been quite stressful … they’ve gone to my landlord and said, ‘Would you be surprised if we arrested him?’ and poisoning the atmosphere with people I’ve had relationships with for 10 and 20 years,” he said.

“My friends think there must be something to it if the police are being this persistent. All sorts of rumours are being spread.”

A woman, who asked not to be named, sounded distraught as she described being a police suspect.

“They’ve talked to me three times; our son at least six times. It’s interviews, interrogations, wanting fingerprints, DNA, lie detector tests. They wanted my cellphone record … It’s two or three hours of questioning at a time, over and over again,” she said.

The woman, who is not one of Mr. Gratl’s clients, said she knows others who have been questioned by police, and most are withdrawing from social contact.

“I can see some of the same symptoms of [post traumatic stress disorder] in those who have been police targets … there is isolation, paranoia, just like they have been in combat,” she said.

Another woman, who has not been questioned herself, said a friend was interrogated repeatedly and “he was absolutely torn apart by the intimidation. He was a basket case.”

She said she didn’t want her name in the media, fearing it might result in a police visit.

RCMP Corporal Dan Moskaluk, media relations officer for the North District, said police would like to hear from anyone who thinks they have been treated unfairly.

“I guess the response to those types of issues [is that] we are always concerned,” he said.

“At this point in time I’m not aware of any formal complaints that have been received or are being investigated … but again we would certainly welcome any issues that people would like to voice to us,” he said.

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B.C. pipeline bombed for sixth time
EnCana spokeswoman confirms bomb went off early Saturday morning, less than a kilometre from site of Thursday’s explosion

The Canadian Press
Sunday, Jul. 05, 2009

For the sixth time in nine months, and the second time in three days, a bomb has exploded near EnCana’s natural gas pipeline in northeastern British Columbia.

The blast early Saturday morning took place less than a kilometre from where EnCana workers were trying to cap a gas well damaged in an explosion Thursday.

“Our crews were at the wellhead site, where they were working to stop the gas leak,” EnCana spokeswoman Rhona DelFrari said from Calgary.

“Around 2:30 in the morning they heard a loud bang, so they immediately went to the spot where they thought it was and that’s where they discovered the explosion at the pipeline.”

The Mounties are labelling the bombings as domestic terrorism and have flown in a unit of its Integrated National Security Enforcement Team to investigate.

RCMP spokesman Corporal Dan Moskaluk said the EnCana crew, as well as a nearby resident, reported the explosion.

The blast caused a brief leak of potentially toxic sour gas but the pipeline’s control system sensed the drop in pressure and triggered emergency shutdown valves to isolate that portion of the line.

It’s not clear whether the EnCana repair crew was downwind of the leak but Cpl. Moskaluk said no one was hurt.

Some nearby residents evacuated their homes when they heard the blast, said Ms. DelFrari, but it was unnecessary.

The small amount of leaked sour gas dissipated instantly, she said, and tests of the air showed no signs of hydrogen sulphide, which can kill in small quantities.

“So there was no risk to the public,” said Ms. DelFrari.

It’s the sixth bombing against EnCana gas-transmission facilities since October.

The bombings have all taken place along a 15-to-20-kilometre stretch of the pipeline near Pouce Coupe, just south of Dawson Creek on the B.C.-Alberta border about 1,050 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

The string of unsolved bombings has left Pouce Coupe, which has less than 800 residents, edgy and suspicious.

“This is an attack on the entire community now,” said Ms. DelFrari. “This isn’t just an attack on EnCana as a corporation. This person is putting everyone’s lives in risk right now.”

Police suspect the bomber is someone who has a grudge against EnCana and who perhaps lives in the area.

The attacks began with three bombings shortly after a letter was sent to a Dawson Creek newspaper and to EnCana. It labelled oil and gas companies terrorists and demanded EnCana stop natural gas development in the area.

There was another explosion in January, then none until this week.

Most have targeted wells or pipelines carrying sour gas.

Cpl. Moskaluk said though no one has been hurt yet, the bombings have created stress in Pouce Coupe, as well as nearby Dawson Creek, which depends economically on energy development.

“Many have been questioned, many have been brought in for interviews,” he said.

“They’re all looking at one another. You can imagine how that’s eating away at people.”

Cpl. Moskaluk said police won’t be releasing information on the type of explosives used or the bombs’ construction. He could not say if the latest bomb had been planted before or after Thursday’s blast.

He said police hope this sixth attack will trigger some tips to help them catch the bomber.

I think if somebody comes forward then I think there’s a little bit of strength in numbers,” said Cpl. Moskaluk.

EnCana has offered a $500,000 reward for information and set up a special phone line for the bomber to call them but so far it hasn’t rung.

Meanwhile, EnCana is maintaining bolstered, 24-hour security along the pipeline. But Ms. DelFrari admitted there’s no way to ensure the bomber doesn’t strike again.

“Let’s face it, it’s hard to patrol hundreds of kilometres of pipeline and we have about 150 wells in the Dawson area,” she said.

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