A determined effort is needed to break the cycle of poverty and despair

A determined effort is needed to break the cycle of poverty and despair

Enough talking, time for action

By Carol Sabo

The report by the BC Civil Liberties Association on the RCMP has resulted in a lot of discussion on two main fronts – violence and discrimination.

I lived the time when police wanted to ‘talk’ to someone even slightly unsavoury, they’d take them under the stairs in the Terrace Hotel, out the ‘men only’ entrance at the back of the Skeena or to the alley behind Danny’s pool hall.

They did a fair amount of ‘talking’ with their flashlights or fists. I know this for fact. It’s just how it was done.

Times have changed; police now, when they tell someone they want to talk to them, they actually talk.

The RCMP know they belong to the global branch of law enforcement that’s got a reputation for ‘bad apples’ – no matter if some instance of police brutality happened in L.A., Montreal, New York or the Terrace of days gone by.

They know they have to work harder to try and change public perception. Some of the RCMP training includes non-violent crisis intervention, sensitivity training, communication skills and problem solving and I believe they do use those skills, and more, on a daily basis.

I have absolutely no doubt there are still some who abuse their power – it happens in any profession, as we hear over and over again on the news.

Priests, politicians, teachers, doctors, judges, home care workers – the list is as long as the number of professions there are.

It’s a part of human nature – a sad part, but true.

In the big scheme of things it’s a very, very small percentage who do abuse, but those are the ones we hear about.

I think what people aren’t seeing in this whole discussion is that the BC Civil Liberties sessions were pretty much the first open forums people were invited to and at which they could tell their stories.

The sessions had credibility – they looked and felt ‘official.’ Local advocates encouraged their clients to attend and participate.

They empowered them, gave them the confidence to speak of things that had happened and stories they had heard about. People believed if they spoke, ‘someone’ would listen and it would enable change.

Discrimination happens in Terrace – every single day, day in and day out – and like abuse, in every field.

Instances of discrimination occur far more often than instances of violence because acts of discrimination are a more subtle way to hurt – but I think, in the case of RCMP it actually happens less than in most other fields because RCMP members are cognizant of their circumstances.

I think if there were a grocery libertarian group or a big box store liberties association and they held the session instead of the civil liberties association, the report would have contained many more instances of discrimination than the one in the news now.

People have lived a lifetime filled with discriminatory actions and other inequities.

There is pent-up anger and stories of injustices that would fill volumes and volumes of reports.

The opportunities to speak freely about it are few and fewer still is any indication what is said will result in change.

What the issue really is about is circumstance.

It’s not about the RCMP. Terrace has had an extremely depressed economy for some time now.

We know we have more poverty, higher rates of violence, generally more shadows on our ‘soul’ than most places in B.C. and although we love our community – trust me, our community has ‘issues’.

People are hungry, are poor, and they see no bright light for themselves or their family on any horizon.

If everyone in Terrace had a warm and cozy home, complete with computers with high speed internet access, LCD TVs with all the cable channels, a Wii console and a shelf full of games, a well stocked cupboard complete with junk food, board games and puzzles in the hall closet and baseball mitts or ice skates by the back door they wouldn’t be walking down the couple main streets we have, looking for something to do to get their mind off the realities of life they face.

The dream of a civic centre, like the old one Terrace had is bandied around like a fix for all that ails.

I remember that one, too. It had ‘class’ divisions. Don’t let anybody kid you.

It’s human nature for people to congregate with other people of same likes, backgrounds, lifestyles.

Let’s stop trying to make a one-size-fits-all solution.

The drop-in program at the All Nations Centre is more about companionship than it is about homelessness.

People are bored. They need interaction and to some degree, some structure is needed to make any gathering place work.

We need to put a plan together that not only takes care of today’s problems. We need to work to stop those problems from getting worse, because they are getting worse.

We need to break the cycle for the future. That means working with children and youth.

What’s missing is money – funding to operate more than any single program in isolation, an overall solution that deals with all the pieces at the same time.

I think we have the resources in Terrace to do it – what we need is one person to coordinate it all towards a single goal – community health.

I don’t think it would cost a fortune but still, funding is tight.

My suggestion: break the community into sections – small business, non-profit, large business, educational institutions, government, bands, health agencies, etc.

Then put a dollar amount on each section with a suggested donation/contribution of $250 for small business, $500 per non-profit, $1,000 per large business, $2,500 per government, band council, etc.

It could easily all be tax deductible, either personal as a charitable donation or in an advertising line in business.

Put that money together and hire one person to coordinate.

An advisory committee could put the ideas forward – it’s not inventing a wheel.

God knows everyone has talked about it enough. Let’s quit talking. Let’s do for a change.

Carol Sabo is the executive director of the K’San House Society which operates a transition house, emergency shelter and housing for low income people in addition to a number of other services.