Category: politics


Life is often what we make it, for many there is no choice as circumstances dictate otherwise through no fault of their own. I was honoured to have met an awe-inspiring man who is using his own good fortune and talents to assist those who do not have the power to choose as so many of us in developed nations enjoy, his name, ‘Just Another Guy’; Jag for short and this is his story.

Jag, as you have already realized is a Pseudonym and he was willing to share some personal insight into his life as a member of the Canadian branch of an organization called Doctor’s Without Boarders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF for short), with some provisions.

To be honest, while I have known Jag for some time I was not aware of his affiliation with MSF and it was by pure accident I found out, via another source. Jag is one of those rare individuals that do good deeds because they care as opposed to doing it for public recognition and glory.

My inquisitive juices flowing I had approached him with my limited information and explained that I desired to interview him for an article and why. After listening to my proposition, and after some deep thought and bewilderment on his part he finally agreed. He did question me as to how I found out about his alternate lifestyle in the first place but as I had agreed with the individual who had told me, I had to decline to divulge my source to which he understood when I explained why. (True to my word to my original sources I did not divulge to Jag, or anyone else, how I found out about his work with MSF and have not to this day)

I would like to point out that as previously noted; Jag authorized me to use the details written in this article with the stipulation his (Jag’s) real name, and any physical description that might help to identify him, was not published for personal and security reasons.
I had limited time to interview and glean what I felt was the most beneficial information possible, as Jag, being the humanitarian I had come to know and respect was already preparing for a new mission, Jag was heading to Haiti. Following are the brief questions I had time to ask and obtain his answers in return.

Question: I recall you were taking a sabbatical if you will after your stint in the Sudan. What was it like there and what caused you to want to choose not to go back into Africa at this time if you will. I recall you mentioned I do believe the Sudan. My question is, “Was your sabbatical based on what you experienced in the Sudan?”

Jag: “I returned from Sudan a bit more than a year ago. It was an immensely challenging mission. I lost 40 lbs in 5 months, I had high blood pressure when I got back, I was stressed. It was an interesting project, with interesting people. I accepted a mission that I was quite ready for. I needed more experience. However, I did a good job, I kept things running despite serious obstacles. I’m not too comfortable talking about some of the things that happened out there on a forum as expansive as the internet, so I’m going to remain a bit vague here.”

There was an option for me to go to a different country instead of Haiti, back in Africa. I have no hesitation to return to Africa. I love Africa; it holds a pull that I can’t really describe. Once you go, you’ll know what I mean. There is so much hope there, so much intensity, so much love and in the face of adversities like conflict, serious diseases, political instability and ethnic tensions. Yet, it’s a place of inspiration. I can’t describe it with justice.

I chose Haiti over the project in Africa this time because it is more in line with the direction that I wish to follow. I’ve worked in conflict zones and with malnutrition projects, both heavy components of MSF’s work. One of the other sides of MSF is disaster response. Unfortunately, for Haiti, less than a year after a devastating hurricane another crippling blow came in the form of the January earthquake. I was not able to respond with the initial emergency due to commitments here in Vancouver, and was in constant communication to respond in March.”

Question: I understand you are heading to Haiti to help build a hospital, which I find to be very commendable. My question is what part will you play in the construction of the hospital and would you as part of your contract be available if needed to perform other duties to assist the Haitians in their recovery from the quake?

Jag: “The position I’m assuming in Haiti is the construction logistician for a new hospital in Port-au-Prince. I’m not really sure what to expect. I usually just hit the ground running, and do what is needed, when it’s needed. Technically speaking, a construction log tends to oversee the construction, assure that it’s built to specifications and to train the national staff that will be doing the physical construction. A lot of working with MSF is managing and delegating. It tends to be to the advantage of all parties to allow/enable the national staff to take as much responsibility as possible. I’m all for promoting the independence and self-sustainability of those that I aim to aid.”

Question: One puzzling question that keeps coming to mind and that is how did you become involved with, ‘Doctors Without Borders (MSF)’, and why?

Jag: “Three years ago while working at an engineering firm based out of North Vancouver I was on a field project on Vancouver Island. On weekends, I would head to either Tofino or another secret spot to surf. One particular weekend, heading back from a surf trip I picked up a hitchhiker that needed a ride to the ferries that would take her back to Vancouver.

She had previously worked with WarChild International, another humanitarian aid agency. We got to talking, and I expressed that I was feeling like I was capable than I was being pushed in my present capacity, that I was looking to do something that would put all of my technical and engineering skills to use. I wanted to contribute to this world that has been so kind to me. Reciprocation perhaps.

When she said that I’d have my metal tested working with Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF (or Doctors Without Borders), I questioned her listening skills, I after all was/am not in any way medically trained. She suggested I take a look at MSF’s website and that the position of Logistician would suit me well.

Three months later, I was on a flight to Bonn in Germany for my pre-departure training. The rest is history.”

Question: You mentioned that you are a paid volunteer and the position allows you to save some money. That raises the following question: Does your contractual agreement provide, besides what sounds like a small monetary pay, food and lodging or do you have to cover those expenses yourself including travel expenses?

Jag: “MSF covers transport to and from projects, as well as a per diem in the field that tends to cover most personal needs. Lodging is also provided, while food costs are generally subtracted from the allotted per diem. A small financial stipend is provided to help cover costs/bills at home. But then doing this work isn’t about the money.”

Question: What is your position or qualifications in respect to your services that you provide? By that I mean, what services do they hire you to perform and what are your qualifications?

Jag: “My position varies based on the project. My next posting in Haiti I will be a construction logistician. But initially I was “hired” to be an all-round logistician. Essentially a “Jack of all trades” a logistician is likened to the spine of a vertebrate, you don’t see us, you don’t hear us, but we’re always working to make sure that the project maintains is operational capacity. That means being responsible for everything from vehicle mechanics, IT, communications, electricity, sanitation, water to security and supply.

We aren’t physically saving lives, we’re just there to make sure that the medical staff can.

As for my skills/qualifications, I grew up working on my parents farms and on a neighbours large dairy farm, this is where I learnt or developed skills in mechanics, electrical wiring, plumbing, welding, construction and the overall ingenuity to figure out how to fix or make things happen given what we had at our disposal.

In high school, I figured out that I wouldn’t play professional sports, and had to figure out a field that suited me. It turned out that Civil Engineering was the fit at that time, so I went to McGill and graduated with a Bachelor in Civil Engineering. A few years later, combining my technical skills with an education, and I suppose MSF saw a suitable candidate.”

Question: Any information about past contracts and what you see for the future greatly appreciated, as I know you are pressed for time.

Jag: “I’ve worked previously in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in the semi-autonomous state of South Sudan. I’ll see if I can come up with anything short and sweet for this question in the next couple of days… I’m not 100% sure I’ll have time to do so though.”

Jag was not able to contribute more as he had hoped but what he did share enabled me to see a real man who has found his own inner peace as he puts others ahead of both himself and monetary wealth. We have agreed to stay in touch and I for one will look forward to hearing from him as his time allows.

I was able to later access Jag’s personal blog, where he writes notations and updates for family and close friends. Even here, he is ever the humble self-sacrificing individual so many have come to love and respect.

Jag writes in his own words: “Haiti happened. MSF called, we talked, I wanted to be here for the Olympics, the Olympic people called, they wanted a volunteer driver for the Opening and Closing ceremonies, and parts in-between, called MSF, we talked, about me going to help rebuild post emergency, for probably a year, building a hospital or three, likely in March, pretty stoked, but I’m leaving again, settling down, placing roots once again back-burned, not dating anyone once more.”

In earlier times, he writes, “I wish I could paint this picture with words. Even if most of you might not know what plastic sheeting and shadow nets are, I think you can appreciate it based on what follows.

But imagine parched earth, giant two-inch eggshell pattern cracks in the dirt as far as an eye can see. Think of how a shattered windshield would look to an ant then magnify it to our abilities at perception and you’ll have an idea what I am talking, about well aside from the colour, that is.

Shadow net is exactly what it says, nets tied to poles or trees (if you can find one) that are about 3-5m off the ground, erected to give shadow, to protect us from the unrelenting and scorching sun. Plastic sheeting is essentially just a plastic, rip resistant tarpaulin on a 250m roll. Our compound walls and office roof are made from plastic sheeting and sticks, not the best for any kind of protection but it keeps folks from seeing inside…

Think of relying on satellite for all communication to the capital and Geneva HQ. Think of talking on a sat phone, knowing you can’t walk and talk, or be inside. Or imagine the frustration when you can’t get through and you need to, or worse when you do and the call drops and you have to repeat the process all over again. Try to dream of living and having your storage in tents, for months. Giant white canvas tents, and even with shadow nets the inside can and usually does reach 50 C.

For me, I love to be in the field, even with the heat, the plastic sheeting and shadow nets. The poor conditions and not exactly gourmet food, the struggle and challenges of it all are the fun parts. The challenges of management that are my day-to-day struggle in Juba are less fun. But to be fair, my attitude has changed. I am more positive, I have to be, I couldn’t last the three-four months here if I didn’t.

Think of all of this, and perhaps you might get to experience a bit of Africa and not have to leave the comfort of home. Ahhh, some days I wish I had done that.”

“ – Giving blood to help the Medics save an infants life, twice. I already put a post on this, so I won’t elaborate, other than to say that the second time is just as special.”

Another time Jag writes, “ – Watching a cesarean. Those who know me well know that I am fairly squeamish. So why would I subject myself to watching such an intense surgery? I feel as though I have to confront my fears so that they no longer remain a fear. Did it work? Hells no. This was real fear, I starting sweating that awful cold sticky sweat, my mouth dryed up, I couldn’t breath, all I wanted to do was rip off the face-mask as it was seriously suffocating me, I was too hot, I got dizzy, there was a period of at least two minutes where my eyes were open and yet I saw nothing. I sought solace in the cool of the concrete wall. Cut, cut, stretch, stretch, pull, pull, snip, snip, sew back up and sew back up. 25 minutes later, she was already in the process of recovery, the baby crying and me whimpering. In all fairness it was by far one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I know now though that if someday I find me a wife, and she needs a cesarean, I know which end of the operating gurney I will stay at. Thank you Dr. Claudine and Dr. Claude, I will never ever forget that experience.”

” – Seeing a baby in an incubator, I think that two of my fingers and my thumb would have had the same mass. Without MSF this baby would never make it.”

(There was more, so much more, but now you have some insight into why I feel honoured to have met Jag and why I look forward to hearing from him again when time permits him to do so. I may not have his vitality and youth but his inspiration is contagious just the same, which made it an honour to be able to tell his story abet as brief as it is)

I had both heard and read about Doctor’s Without Boarders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and some of the services they provided but had not really given it much further thought until I met Jag and then I started to recall all the good things I had heard and read. Unlike the Red Cross, which, based on the horror stories of Red Cross corruption from my family and Uncles who served in WW2, still leave a bad taste in my mouth. According to other, present day sources, the Red Crosses corporate attitude of for profit has not improved and is only preceded by the highly paid United Nations staff/contractors.

MSF is the only one, based on my research, that presently leaves me with a good feeling about their services, especially after meeting Jag who gave me such great insight into the workings of MSF, or at least as much as he was able to tell me without breaking any obligations he was sworn not to divulge for safety reasons. As Jag stated, unlike the other groups, MSF will do whatever it takes, often at great risk to get to where they are needed, be it by Plane, SUV, Donkey or even Walking… The people they are there to help come first against all odds.

From my personal observations and research of Jag the man, I found rare qualities that most of us in our daily personal quests are devoid of as we seek personal riches without any thought of the welfare of our less fortunate fellow beings. Jag it seems, is a man who resoundingly puts others ahead of himself and while one day desiring to find a mate and settle down to a home and family of his own, continues in the meanwhile on his present course of putting others first ahead of himself and any monetary gain.

MSF field news… (Dated March 12, 2010) “Currently, MSF has 348 international staff in Haiti working closely with over 3,000 Haitian staff. With the expansion of services, the 26 MSF hospitals and health centres can accommodate 1,346 inpatients. In the last two months, MSF teams have performed more than 3,700 surgeries, provided psychological counselling to more than 22,000 people, and treated 54,789 patients….“

MSF, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Canadian connection
“The recent Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) comes as something of a shock…” “it is a shock not only because the media spotlight that is focused on Nobel Peace Prize recipients shines so brightly, but also because such “official” recognition is unfamiliar and, perhaps, a little uncomfortable to MSF volunteers.” …Michael Schull, MD. Schull served as president of MSF Canada for five-(5) years.

MSF was born in the early 1970s out of the exasperation of a group of French doctors who worked in desperate conditions in the Biafra War (1967-1970). “They were determined to create a movement to deliver independent humanitarian aid wherever it was needed, and one that would speak out about the plight of the victims it helped.”

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS SPOTLIGHT SUDAN
“A violent attack in Jonglei State, Southern Sudan, at the end of August resulted in the reported deaths of 42 people. MSF is mobilizing resources to help victims of the attack, which injured more than 60 and displaced up to 24,000.”

In conclusion I would like to thank Jag, for allowing me to get to know the real him as a person and for taking the time to answer my questions and allowing me insight into MSF from an insider’s view. I also want to thank not only Jag, but also all the men and women of MSF for their unending dedication and hard work those for the less fortunate.

While awaiting Jags approval on the final draft of this article I received a message from Jag that the mission to Haiti was canceled due the kidnapping of two Swiss nurses who work for MSF. Sad news for the people of Haiti who really need the help but the good news is they, the nurses, were released unharmed and without having to pay a ransom.

Hello Al,

“I am not going to Haiti. Quite a few non-essential staff were sent home, and a few people like me are no longer going. The two Swiss nurses were returned safely and the ransom was not paid. MSF is in a process of determining their next steps in that country. They/we do not respond well to kidnapping. On the whole, it’s difficult not to feel disheartened when such seemingly selfish incidents occur.

The same day that I was informed that my project in Port au Prince was scrapped I was offered the same position as previously back in Africa, AND, the engineering company that I worked at before MSF just happened to let me know that they had a position for me in (blank as requested) if I was interested. So…I’m going to (blank as requested) tomorrow to have lunch with the guys and see if we’re still a good fit.

It looks like I might be putting up the traveling hat for a while, putting my foot back in the door of the engineering world, and perhaps most importantly creating a bit of congruency back into my life. I’ll keep you posted…”

Jag…

Haiti appeal… “We are not currently accepting donations specifically for Haiti on our website. You can still donate to our emergency medical work around the world through our general fund using the links…” Click here for details.

With the Vancouver Olympics, just a few short weeks away and news of Al-Qaeda’s trained monkeys latest daring attack on the Afghanistan parliament I reflect on the wailing and gnashing of teeth here at home over the new body scanners.

Headlines scream out, “New Rules terrorize flyers...”, “Scanner ‘violates human dignity”, and I give my head a shake and wonder who the more stupid group is. The terrorists whose only goal is to kill innocent people because they can, or we as Canadians who think because we are Canadian we are invincible and therefore our freedom to do as we please should not be infringed upon.

While personally, I have no need to fly now I do believe we need to tighten up our airport security and if it creates an inconvenience so be it. Better to be inconvenienced and alive then to have our own way and die in the process. To long we as Canadians continue to let the criminal elements of the world dictate the rules while we, like trained monkeys, sit back and allow ourselves to continue to be dictated to by the scum of society as we wallow in chaos that now surrounds us.

I had to laugh when I heard on the Bill Good show shortly after this issue of body scanners broke, about how Micheal Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Union commented that, “…the privacy concerns with these body-scan machines are very, very serious…” I thought to myself afterwards what is Vonn really concerned about as I am sure that the airport staff has better things to do then be interested in looking at her pasty white ass; it is not as if she Angelina Jolie. In fact the staff who monitor the body scans do not even know who the individual is going through and if it allows us, as passengers and or loved ones, to arrive at our destinations safely then so be it. Personally, I would go through twice each time I boarded if it ensured I was going to be safe during my flight; and I am no spring chicken with a muscular body nor am I an exhibitionist.

Personally, I think Vonn is just another lawyer trying to make mark for herself at the taxpayers’ expense.

I also question Britain’s opinion that full-body scans violate child-pornography laws. You would think that the images are being collected and sold, with full visual identification including age and ethnicity, to the highest bidder. I can just here old Bin Laden laughing about how we have become like his other fools as we terrorize ourselves with our moral stupidity at no cost to Al-Qaeda.

Now if I was a terrorist and wanted to make some great brownie points with the boss (Bin-Laden) the 2010 Olympics and the present quibbling about security when flying into this country would just make sense. All those potential victims gathered in mass numbers including international state dignitaries, not to mention all that free press coverage already established to assist in spreading the message of fear and vulnerability based on the when and where will terrorist strike again.

Give me a full body scan, heck I will strip naked and go for the full cavity search in public to ensure my friends and family would remain unharmed. (Gross, not a pretty picture but you get my point) We have become a society of sheep willingly allowing ourselves to be led to the slaughter by our own pompous inability to stand up and fight for our rights. Bring back the death penalty and stop giving the criminal elements of this world any say in what happens to them once they have committed a crime regardless of age, gender or race.

Now if you ask me do I feel the full-body scanners are the end all when it comes to air port security my answer would be no. In fact, I would say they are a great waste of money. Here we are paying, as I understand it $250,000.00 per machine for a total of eleven-(11) scanners which begs the real question, “What, if anything, are we doing to fix the real weak link in our port of entry security?”

I am talking about the under trained and as I understand in some cases underpaid airport staff who are entrusted with the lives of thousands on a daily basis. At best from my research security at Canadian airports is a joke as fear turns into pandemonium the moment something happens, especially in the USA.

Another prime example of how bad Canadian Airport security is, is the Robert Dziekansk case where everyone from airport security and other supposedly well trained staff to and including the RCMP failed miserably to assist a man whose only crime was not to have the ability to speak English was eventually tasered and died.

Send back the full-body scanners for a refund and use the money to not only increase the pay scale but also to better train our security staff, and not just at the airports but at every entry point. If someone does not meet, the correct clearance standards to continue past the checkpoint send him or her back on the next available flight from whence they came regardless what all the bleeding hearts think or feel. The safety and well-being of every Canadian, by birth right or otherwise, should be uppermost in our minds regardless what others may think.

I reflected on a well rounded article by Jon Ferry of the Province News where he noted that the father of the alleged Muslim terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, had actually warned the US authorities about his sons plans and we all know how that turned out. It seems stupidity and the failure to communicate from agency to agency is in itself an even greater threat to our safety then any terrorist can dream up when it comes to airport security, as an example, and because of that, everyone suffers.

Perhaps the best example of airport security is in Israel.

According to Sela, a security consultant with Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv,’ Israeli airports rely most on direct contact with passengers and careful screening of their backgrounds… Every passenger is interviewed before going through security screening. Staff make direct eye contact with each passenger and are trained to watch for signs of stress, nervousness and other behavioural indicators. “

“I can watch people when they are going through a certain stage in the security process and I can pick out the dangerous one 99.9 times out of 100, maybe higher” says Sela.

In closing, my personal thought is that Canada and the United States should swallow their stupid pride, grow some balls, and learn from the Israelis. Then and only then will we have anything resembling true point of entry security worth expanding upon.

MVT, a Double Edge Sword

MVT CanadaAs I follow the ongoing saga of MTV Canada vs. its employees, I am reminiscent of the biblical story of David and Goliath, the employees in this case being David.

I first became enamoured with the dispute between MTV Canada (an American firm) and its Canadian employees when I read what I consider a very biased article by Harvey Enchin of the Vancouver Sun entitled, “HandyDart workers have a good offer on the table. They should take it

A good news story should have balance in its reporting, something Enchin seems to have missed in this instance as he espoused the values of the company and the supposed negativity of the Union without offering one iota of detail from an employee’s perspective.

I wanted to know more, with that in mind I decided to do my own research, by approaching the employees of MVT Canada for their side of this seemingly convoluted story. Based on the nature of the situation the names of those who were willing to speak have been changed out of respect of their current situation.

The first individual we will call Sarah. Sarah is an employee and a client of MVT Canada or as we know it, Handy Dart.
Sarah had put her thoughts to paper and presented them to me. Based on the content I felt impelled to present the entire letter as follows:
…………………………………………………………………………

“I have 2 sides to my opinion about how MVT is running the company. I am a driver who has been off on Long Term Disability for 11 months following a motorcycle accident.

When I got hit, I didn’t realize I would now be a HandyDART client as well as an employee. I was confident that I would have a good experience as a client, because as a driver, I knew how hard we all worked at getting people to their destinations….safely, congenially and on time.

When MVT came into the picture, I was being optimistic. They said that they wouldn’t change anything about the company. They said that the customers would benefit because there would be more opportunity to call for bookings 7 days in advance. They said that there would be more buses on the road and more employees to handle the increase in ridership.

They lied.

The week that MVT took over, I noticed a difference. A small one, but a difference. My rides were late outside of the window. I thought surely this was just a problem due to the fact that they’re just getting organized. I optimistically gave them a month to sort out their problems.

It only got worse.

I was starting to hear from the drivers that they time they were given to pick me up was NOT the time I was given over the phone from the booking agents. Who, I might add, seemed increasingly more confused about the city of Vancouver. I thought this too was odd. That they had hired new people, but people who had absolutely no idea how long it takes to get from one place to another because they had no clue how far apart each destination was and they didn’t have a clue about where construction was.

I started being late for my appointments, so I started to book my HandyDART earlier and earlier to compensate for the problems I was having. This still didn’t make a difference, because on 3 occasions they were so late that I was waiting up to an hour and a half.

Once, I waited an hour and a half for a ride only to find out that dispatch had given my ride to someone who was on their break. They actually assumed he would cut his break short to come and get me. Fortunately, he took his break and took care of himself, but unfortunately for me, I got the brunt of it.

They gave it to him when my window had ended. That was when his break had just begun. So…he had to finish his break, then travel to get me. Hour and a half sitting on the curb of the street with no back support amongst decades of ages of bubblegum and cigarette butts. By the time they came, I was in so much pain I had to call my partner to drive all the way to the heights of North Vancouver to come and get me from my friends BBQ because my time was now cut short. Not only because of the fact that my ride to come and pick me up would be there within half an hour, but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even take the HandyDART ride home. I needed our vehicle with a reclining seat and had tears all the way home.

Where was my independence? Gone.

Another time, I waited in the rain for a HandyDART who was late outside my window and the lovely dispatch said, “Well it’s only 5 minutes over schedule.”

Sure…5 minutes…when you’ve already waited 30 minutes in the rain again in a seat which is damaging your already injured neck and back…35 mintues is a long time.

Needless to say, I called after 15 minutes to say again, where’s my ride? “Oh they’re right around the corner” was the response. Had to wait almost another 15 minutes from there and when I called to find out just what was going on, and why this keeps happening the dispatch told me that there just wasn’t enough buses and that booking agents are told to over book the rides.

In other words, clients stopped mattering. Money took the forefront for MVT.

My very last ride before the strike, which happened to be my very last ride as a client, was pure hell.

I waited my half our as per usual. No ride. I called. No answer for 30 minutes. So, now I’ve been waiting an hour. But to add insult to injury, I had no minutes on my phone, so those 30 minutes at $1/minute cost me $30. $30 out of pocket just to find out where my ride was.

When I finally got through, they told me, “Well we sent you a cab.” Swell. So I’ve been waiting for a HandyDART, cabs at my physio are lined up sometimes 6 at a time, and contrary to what the company believes, the cab drivers DO NOT get out to tell you they are there for you. They told HandyDART I was a ‘no show’. Right…I was sitting right in the doorway you knuckle draggers.

So, they sent ‘another cab’. By this point, my sugar levels had dropped and I was due for my lunch. I brought a snack that I ate after my physio as per usual while waiting for my ride and this usually lasts for me to get home to have a proper lunch. But not this time. I was at this point having to wait an hour and 15 with no lunch.

Cabs were lined up and of course, none of them came to tell me they were here for me. So I walked all the way over in the rain, went from cab to cab and asked if they were there to pick me up. They all shake their heads no, one at a time.

I really couldn’t afford to call dispatch again, so I asked to use my physiotherapist’s phone. They were so unhappy that I was still waiting they obliged.

I find out now at an hour and a half that they called me a ‘no show’ again. Now I’m shaking from sugar drop, my back and neck are so tense I can barely walk and finally…finally…the manager at dispatch gets on the phone and tells me cab number 116 will be there to pick me up.

Hour and a half.

When I was driving for HandyDART run by Pacific Transit Co-operative, this would never have happened. The wonderful dispatch would have taken matters into their own hands and taken care of business right when it happened.

They can’t do that now because MVT is breathing down their necks not allowing them to take care of the clients.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a bus and the driver has had more than one addition added to the list and they just look at me with stress saying, “Well, you might be late. They’ve given me a ride that is from the other direction”. These additions given by a dispatch that I’ve worked with in the past whom would never under any circumstances make you late because they cared about you and the client.

Something else I found as a client, so many times I’ve heard, “I haven’t even had my coffee break”, and they’re more than half way through the shift.

Driving is a stressful enough job without the added pressures of too many rides put in to their day causing them to miss breaks or just be under so much pressure to try to keep up with the demand that they can’t do their job safely.

As a client, I’ve seen the quality of HandyDART go down the tubes. As a driver, I’ve seen my co-workers under so much stress that I worry for the safety of the passengers they’re transporting.

MVT is only here for one thing. Money. Not people. Not clients, not drivers, not improvement of independence in a person with disabilities’ life.

I’m pretty sure a Canadian company would have more compassion for their employees and their clients. U.S. companies are used to treating people like dirt and U.S. people are used to taking it. Canadians will not. We know what we deserve and this is not it. The fight is on and there is so much support for the workers of HandyDART that I know we will win the fight for humane treatment. Not to mention our pensions, benefits, full time hours and dignity.”

…………………………………………………………………………

As was reported in the news HandyDart had issued a 72-hour strike notice and as pointed out by Enchin (of the Vancouver Sun) they (HandyDart employees) went on strike that Monday. “Since Monday, HandyDart drivers and other employees have been on strike… “

He goes on to write in his column, “Their job action has left thousands of our most vulnerable citizens at risk, alone and housebound.” What he fails to mention or neglected to find to research for his article is that according to a second HandyDart employee whom I interviewed, was the pre-empted work stoppage by MVT itself on the Sunday, one day prior to the strike taking place.

As Delmar (the name has been changed) stated, “On that Sunday, (one day before the strike was to begin) without notice to staff or clientele, cleared the booking board of ALL appointments except essential services. Unionized office staff and drivers were not informed of the MVT cancellation of service for HandyDart customers until they (the employees) arrived for work as scheduled.
According to Delmar, the problems at HandyDart started shortly after MVT took over the HandyDart service when it staff started to receive bills for January and February 2009 in their mail for Medical benefits that had previously been paid by the company as part of their benefits package.

Delmar states that once the union approached the company about the situation they were readily assured that the problem would be resolved. However, he continues this was not to be the case as the billings continued to arrive asking for payment.
It was then that Delmar decided to take matters into his own hand and contact the Ministry of Health. The customer service agent informed him that MTV Canada had not applied for the medical plan it stated it was providing its employees, until then he was responsible for paying for the medical plan himself until MVT applied to take over.

“It was not until”, Delmar stated, “I took my findings to the Human Resources Department at MVT that the company applied to provide the promised medical plan for its employees.”

“Others areas of contention we have with the MVT take over, Delmar continued, ‘was with our company pension plan. As of January 1, 2009 no money was being withheld for our long standing Registered Savings Plan.” “MVT”, he commented, “had decided when it took over the Handy Dart contract that it did not want to apply to continue the pension plan as per the contract that was in place prior to the takeover.”

“They later,” he continued,” applied for the pension plan and were denied because they (MVT) only wanted a temporary status.” “As of September 1, 2009, the company started deducting money from the employees’ paychecks for their Municipal Pension Plan. `But as we were informed,” he commented, “it was not going into the pre-existing RSP but rather the money was being held by the company for a future pension plan yet to be determined.“ “To date“, he exclaimed, “ we do not know where our money is!“

You can view other areas of contention between MVT C Canada and its employees here. “HandyDART info`… news & views“

MV Public Transportation
“ Thinking of WORKING for MV Transportation? Then please read this before doing so!… The “Owners “…and Jon Monson” didn’t want to hear about their “Problem Child” Mr. Schell… How about the WRONG man for the job, especially one with ice water in his veins and a distain for his employees?“

It should be noted that Mr. Schell now manages MVT Canada.

African immigrants sue transportation firm, alleging bias [USA]
“Nine East African immigrants filed a lawsuit…against MV Transportation…alleging discrimination based on nationality and religion…The lawsuit…alleges that the plaintiffs faced “severe and pervasive harassment and other discrimination…” The complaint is chiefly against one manager…who allegedly told the plaintiffs they had no rights as immigrants and that they were earning too much money“

In respect to the latter Delmar commented that MTV Canada informed office staff that they were to have NO personal items on their desk, including family photos. Many staff have placed Canadian Flags on their desks in protest. To date the company has neither rescinded the memo nor forced anyone to remove the flags.

HandyDart from a user’s, and a driver’s, perspective
“HandyDart saves the government money and should not be considered a profit-making situation for a private firm. Drivers are entitled to make a fair living wage….“

HandyDart from a user’s, and a driver’s, perspective cont:
“ If the union membership votes to continue the strike, perhaps the LRB could be persuaded to revise what it considers essential so that more buses could be back in service immediately.”

Conclusion:

Personally, I am not a big union fan, as I believe in most cases they have become as corrupt and self-absorbed as the employers they once challenged on behalf of the working class; however, in many cases they are still provide some security for the employee. I say this because I see companies such as MVT and others like them as profit driven mercenaries who will stop at nothing in their quest to line their corporate pockets.

It is natural for every company, big or small to need to turn a profit to be successful, but they must also remember a company is only as successful as the people who work hard to help make it a success, from the CEO down to the labourers.
I do believe in researching my topics to the best of my ability before commenting to ensure I am as unbiased as possible, which sadly was not the case of Harvey Enchin. Harvey`s piece about the MVT conflict resounded of a one sided hypocrisy reminiscent of an individual who has taken a bribe to use his powers as a reporter in an attempt to sway his readers into thinking MVT was an innocent party in the present demise of the HandyDart ridership.

Unlike Enchin I am as opposed to what MVT Canada really is, a for profit company attempting to circumvent Canadian Labour standards at the cost of both its employees and its clientele. Does this situation now enamour me to the Unions, no, it just makes me less sympathetic towards MVT whose sole agenda is to add to its ever-increasing corporate coffers at the expense of the Canadian working class and elderly who rely on the HandyDart system and the benefits it is supposed to provide.

“O` Canada!”

At a time when BC is limited, as I see it, to a two party choice, three if you like the green Party it is refreshing to see a third option (or what can be classified as one of the alternative parties) on the horizon. Enter Your Political Party of BC (YPP).

james-headshot
James Filippelli, (founder)
Port Moody-Coquitlam.

brent-headshot
Brent Williams
Port Coquitlam

I found Mr. Filippelli to be refreshing in his approach to the BC Political clime. I found him to be very much in tune with all aspects of life on the coast with a very mature outlook in life given his young age (26).

During our hour-long one on one interview, which based on the depth of knowledge I perceived in this young man, I was in awe. In hindsight, one-(1) hour was anything but enough time to phantom the depth of his intellect not to mention his over whelming love for BC and its people.

I did not sense the well-seasoned pre-polished party rhetoric I was accustomed to when dealing with most politicians. Rather, he (Filippelli) came across as refreshing, filled with youthful exuberance and yet seemingly retaining a deep-seated wisdom of someone twice his 26 years of age.

As I read though the YPP Party Platform, while finding the wording lacking in comparison to the more seasoned party word usage, I was intrigued never the less with the ideals the YPP was trying to present and even more intrigued as Filippelli explained it portions to the YPP party policy to me in his own well-developed verbal interpretation.

According to Filippelli, when questioned about the statement, “The Government is taking advantage of you!” under the heading Government Reform, prospective political parties are only interested in getting in power. Once they have achieved that, he states, they go on to reward the companies and/or organizations that supported them with golden contracts. In the case of the Liberals, it is the Corporations and for the NDP it is the Unions.

As I read further into the YPP Party Platform as outlined, I swear I could hear howls of anguish from Victoria as I envisioned the YPP in power. For the first time in history, BC had a government that was truly accountable to the citizens of BC… All Government actions and contracts completely public, campaign promises legally binding and completely public budgets…back to reality!

When it comes to the economy and spending power, Filippelli believes that every dollar we as taxpayers spend out of our own pockets stimulates economical growth far more then the same tax collected dollar spent by the Government.

As he noted, part of the problem is that our tax dollars, continually pushed along an endless paper trail, devalues ever tax dollar collected.

In respect to what, he terms, “Green Technology Business”, or as noted in the party platform, “Encouraging green technology business now will give BC and economic advantage…”James had this to say. “..it has to impact our personal lives to become a reality”.

As I interpreted, what he was alluding to is, people and governments can talk about going green, governments and corporations can make options available such as the electric car for example, but until we as individuals are forced to face reality, nothing will change for the better.

As outlined in the party platform notes, transportation accounts for 40% of BC’s greenhouse gasses. It goes on to outline that by encouraging electric vehicles and rapid transit, we (as British Columbians) would improve BC’s greenhouse gas far more effectively than the present carbon tax ever will.

As Filippelli pointed out, BC transit is s simpler mode of transportation which is both cheaper and convenient…”everyone benefits if we use transit.”

As he further pointed out, and as Translink espouses, we need investment to make the present system sustainable. However, as Filippelli points out, we can increase rapid transit availability from money retrieved from Government wasted funds. With the money, saved rapid transit could then be expanded to include Mission, Abbotsford and even Chilliwack. “We have to think beyond present needs and plan for the future”, he noted. “With money spent properly”, he continued, “there would be no lack of funding available for expansion”.

Another aspect of going green, garbage and garbage collection would be divided into four-(4) categories: garbage (to be defined), compost, plastic and paper recycling. There was not mention of metals or glass but I assume that would also be a given.

In respect to the present mainstream political parties and the healthcare system, James had this to say, “The NDP feels the Government can do better and the Liberals feel the people can do better”. Either scenario is just a fancy way of passing responsibility as opposed to finding a solution.

When it comes to the present health care situation in the Province, Filippelli and the YPP believe in a parallel health care system.

“No one has to be without healthcare”, he stated. Everyone, he continued, “should have public access to health care without paying from your own pocket, it should be free”. “However”, he notes,” with a parallel system consisting of public and private, if an individual has the needed funds, they have the right to go to a private facility as opposed to waiting in line for the general public system. “That in turn”, he commented, “would free up waiting list for those who cannot afford private care to seek medical attention far quicker than the present system allows”.

As for the hot topic of the day, legalization of marijuana, James and the YPP are strongly in favour of legalization. As he stated, “Marijuana is a gateway drug!” By legalizing pot and only selling it under controlled situations the same as liquor only to individuals 19 years of age and older you stop the drug connection to hard core substance opportunities.

I can hear all the hippies of old and present day marijuana advocates testing their Bic lighters and checking their finances before they head down to the corner store to purchase extra rolling papers. Don’t forget your Cheech and Chong bobble heads….

As I noted in the beginning Mr. Filippelli and I chatted for about an hour and even that was not enough to appreciate what this young man had to say. Like it or not, the Your Political Party of BC may just be the alternative party British Columbia needs and like what Filippelli has to say or not, he knows his stuff.

May 12, 2009 make your voice heard; VOTE even if you hate all of the Candidates!

DEYAS

On Saturday August 16 DEYAS hosted the Eastside Youth Festival with live music, graffiti painting, b-boy dancin’ and a BBQ where we fed over 500 people. Special guests Deja & the Young Prophecy Army rapped twelve songs about life in the streets. People in the crowd were talking about how they identified with the words. In fact people are still talking about the event, which is why we are already working on next years show!
Anna Jones, Director of Development for DEYAS.

With temperatures in the mid 20’s, and the promise of a full day photographing local youth bands and other artists of varied genre, in Vancouver’s Victory Park, I was excited as was my colleague; Lloyd Lewis a former photography partner and now owner of Photo Hunters Freelance. The day had started with the awakening of the individuals who call Victory Park home, some of whom as they awoke began to question the strangers with cameras in their midst as to the purpose of their visit.

One individual, meager belongings and guitar in hand, after we explained our purpose for being there, proceeded to play some of Johnny Cash’s well-known songs for us with such heartfelt intensity and dedication I swore Johnny himself was there.

I observed the latter fellow throughout the day and was amazed at the full-bodied spark of life in his demeanor. He, like many of the individuals that gathered, as the day progressed for the music and the mid day meal that was provided, never complained about his lot in life as he shared his musical talents with anyone who would listen until the bands themselves began to play. Even when asking for and receiving donations after he himself played, which in most instances were meager and often with none forthcoming, he would smile and say thank you for listening just the same.

The events started with an introduction by Anna Jones, Director of Development, followed by a First Nations Elder’s blessing from Dalannah Gail Bowen and a short speech by Cannon Singh the Executive Director of DEYAS and later a guest appearance by Patti Bacchus of Vision Vancouver.

There were eleven-(11) melodious acts that day as well as a break dance demonstration by a group of young men and women titled, “Mitch Granger and the B-Boys“. I never felt as exhausted in my life (figuratively speaking) as I did watching this fine group of performers with extreme envy at their vim and vigor as they performed seemingly tirelessly.

I may not have the understanding or even a contemplative appreciation of much of this generations music but I can honestly say that by the end of the day I truly felt the love and respect each of the performers have for the homeless in Vancouver as portrayed in their musical presentations. What made it more evident, in my case, was having the knowledge that many of the performers were/are themselves homeless and like everyone involved that day they prepared for and gave of their talents freely without any thought of monetary or personal gain.

Deja and the Young Prophecy Army:

Research shows that this group of fine performers, were and in some cases still are homeless, had pooled their talents together in just a two-week period. Not only had they collectively pooled their talents for the festival, but they also collaborated to create a CD that was sold at the Eastside Youth Festival for just $15.00 each. All proceeds from the sales were donated to assist in building a new low barrier transitional home for Vancouver’s homeless youth.

I enjoyed not only the music but the visual presentation as well, of each member of this group, there was one individual that really caught my attention and made me realize that the old adage, “You cannot judge a book by its cover”, is true at all times.

Here was a young woman; I do not have her name at this time, which really took me by surprise. With her naturally curly, flame red, hair, biker style boots (as I call them) and wearing a black and red striped shirt, whom I thought was just part of the audience, until she took to the stage. As she began to move to the beat of the music and sing, I became awe struck as I inwardly bowed in humility and swore I was listening to the voice of an angel. Of all the individuals that sang that day she and she alone still stands tall in my memory as someone who has a God given talent that to me puts her right up there with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Queen Latifah two women I greatly admire for their vocal talents.

Sharon Small of Directions performed a few solo numbers on her guitar giving me the impression of a modern day Joan Baez, attempting to reach out and inspire the crowd through her music and song.

Devils Advocates:

An interesting duo reminding me of the era when I lived in Georgia, with their banjo, harmonica and guitar combinations providing a well balanced presentation. For some unknown reason I was really caught up in my thoughts of the deep south with this duo. Thank you for the pleasant reminders of past memories regardless of the fact I was the only one enjoying that particular moment in time.

Jah Bless:

This talented group according to information on the DEYAS Festival brochure is, “an original group compromised of members from other Vancouver Groups… specifically for this event.” It goes on to state,” Espliff and Reece Worth from Freeflow, Lil Bit and Ras Nikhikesh…” would play acoustical reggae-hop songs that as is pointed out, “that promise to get you movin.” They did indeed!

The list goes on with other great talents such as Stephanie Lang, The Barn Owls, Sally Snow, The Light Bulb Effect, Pajamas, Arvilla, Kill Matilda (Their drummer, Lord Killington, was entertaining on his own merits) and headliner band Simian Special. Each was spectacular in their own right as they shared their songs freely and with such deep passion that mere words cannot begin to do justice.

Being an old rocken roller from way back I really got into the groove when Simian Special took to the stage and the group’s vocalist played a little game called, “I’ll take your photo while you take mine.”

Victory Park was hopping to the point that even the devil could not resist making an appearance…

Visual Artists:

For the record, I would also like to mention that there were a number of visual artists participating as well, such as Tony Ludovico. Each depicting a scene in, around the Victory Park area in such mediums as oils, watercolors, charcoal and the lowly pen and like everyone involved they donated their time and work. Each of the pieces, to my understanding, will be up for auction in the New Year with proceeds going to assist the homeless youth.

ABOUT DEYAS:

When asked about who created the idea of a The Youth Festival and the purpose DEYAS hoped it would serve, Anna Jones had this to say, “I thought of the idea of the Youth Festival…” She continued by saying, ” I hoped it would do many things including; give youth a chance to showcase their talent, feed the public, bring people outside the community into the community to build bridges, gain media exposure and community awareness of youth addictions and homelessness in an effort to break down barriers.

As Ms. Jones also noted, “The event achieved everything we set out for it, except draw out the other service providers.” “It could be better visually”, she noted, “had there been more sponsors but this is something for next year.”

As to whom founded DEYAS it was John Turvey stated Jones, “After he (Turvey) went through his own recovering school and working in the system he decided to found DEYAS.” Jones further stated that he (Turvey) helped to establish Native Health and numerous other service providers for the eastside of Vancouver.

When asked how long she (Ms Jones) had been with DEYAS she stated, “Since August of 2007”.

As to what Jones foresees as her personal vision for DEYAS she had this to say, “In the future of DEYAS I would like to raise funding to do a province wide prevention program to reduce the amount of kids ending up on the streets, something similar to the smoking campaign.” Jones goes on to say, “I would like to find a way to get the community to collaborate instead of being so competitive so we can reduce the gaps and duplications of service thereby being more effective for the client.”

I asked Ms. Jones how DEYAS has affected her life to which she replied, “It (DEYAS) has affected my life in terms of understanding when it comes to addictions and how that has always been a part of my family challenges. It has,” she continues,” helped me in healing ways, that I am giving back.”

When asked if given the opportunity to go back in time would she would make the same choice to actively participate in DEYAS as she presently is, she had this to say,” Yes, I would come back to DEYAS if given the chance as I have been blessed with a wonderful work family and that is a rare gift.”

Is she in it for the money? As Jones points out, “I took a $20,000.00 a year pay cut to do this job. I live on a tighter budget and my family has had to adjust, BUT,” she states, “we are all happier… and I like what I do.”

Jones is presently lobbying for more money for, as she states, “…to be dedicated to youth services, particularly prevention, harm reduction and treatment as law enforcement is the one pillar that is always consuming the most amount of money.”

Conclusion:

I was skeptical in the beginning about becoming involved in this assignment based on the area and my own self-perceived ideals about the Eastside and the individuals who call it home. By following through I found personal enlighten and a better understanding of just how tough life can be for those less fortunate. I was privileged to witness, firsthand, the power of today’s youth and the selfless acts of paying-it-forward to assist others when they themselves have nothing. Something many if not most adults today fail to comprehend and many of us ignore as we travel about our daily business with an out of site out of mind mentality.

As for the DEYAS staff, this is the first time I have met a group of individuals who actually lead by example. I find the whole concept refreshing with a slight twinge of envy at their tenacity and dedication. They (DEYAS) have their work cut out for them but based on their seemingly devout dedication DEYAS just may be the answer to the Eastside Youths needs.

Personally, I am already looking forward to the next event and if the talent is anything like the aforementioned it will be time well spent. I hope to see you there!

DEYAS will be holding music festivals annually, to provide not just entertainment and food, but more importantly as I understand it, to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless youth in Vancouver’s Eastside. You can find further details about DEYAS and its services and events at http://www.deyas.org or call Anna Jones at 604-685-6561.


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Allan Herman, Creative Visual Marketing Services Incorporated (CVM Inc.)