The News Rundown
- Last weekend, Vancouver residents were shocked at yet another incident of gun violence in the city. Not only has there been an increase in gang violence in the first part of 2021, the shootings and murders have been particularly daring and risky. In what may be the most brazen shooting yet, United Nations gangster Karman Singh Grewal, a 28-year-old man was shot dead near the international departure terminal at the Vancouver International Airport on Sunday.
- Sgt. Frank Jang with the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says the victim is known to police and the attack is believed to be part of the ongoing gang conflict around the Lower Mainland.
- “I think we’re all tired of the violence that’s been taking place on our streets. There comes a time where there’s just no further words. ‘Please do the right thing’, ‘please don’t kill one another,’ ‘stop the violence’ apparently it’s falling on deaf ears. It’s time to get down to work, find these people, put them in jail,” Jang said.
- The Lower Mainland has been the scene of multiple targeted, gang-related shootings in recent weeks. In the last two weeks alone there have been at least six shootings, five of them fatal.
- The UN gang has been locked in a bloody battle with both the Brothers Keepers gang and the Red Scorpions since at least 2017. All sides have had high-level members killed this year — with retaliation sometimes coming in less than a day.
- Murders have happened in busy mall parking lots, crowded parks, near schools and outside a popular restaurant on the Vancouver waterfront.
- Questions are being raised about why police agencies around the Lower Mainland are not broadcasting the identities of known gangsters so the public can be aware and take caution.
- During an ongoing turf war in 2017, Surrey RCMP put out names and photos of five people they said were a risk to public safety. This included Grewal, the man shot and killed outside the Vancouver International Airport Sunday afternoon.
- B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth seemed to imply Monday that more resources to fight the spate of recent gang shootings could soon be coming. Police agencies and units from around the region met with Farnworth on Thursday.
- “I think we need to use all the tools that we have available to us to deal with the gang upsurge in violence that we’ve seen in the Lower Mainland and the police have a significant number of tools available to do that,” Farnworth said.
- Gang experts believe the more the public is aware of who these people are in the community, the better chance police have to get the situation under control. Retired Vancouver Const. Doug Spencer, now runs an organization called Odd Squad, which aims to educate kids in schools about gangs and gang lifestyle.
- Spencer says: “The more the public is aware of who is doing what, the more sets of eyes you have out there in your community. I support telling the public what’s going on, putting out pictures of the guys involved. It takes a village to make everybody safe.”
- “The key thing is they’ve got to stop treating these gangsters like they’re poor, misfit, misunderstood kids. They’re stone-cold killers. They should go to jail. If you took away and put in jail all these kids using firearms and (getting) caught with firearms, all of a sudden there would be complete quiet times.”
- This is what is completely missing from national talks on gun reforms - a lack of reform with the justice system. If you increase jail terms for these hardened criminals, they won't be on the streets to commit more crime.
- An increased police presence in the region had uncovered a sophisticated clandestine fentanyl lab in Port Coquitlam, where enough precursor chemicals were found to make “approximately 13 million potentially fatal doses” of fentanyl. No arrests have been made yet, as the investigation continues.
- Vancouver is getting a bad reputation as a gangster's paradise. It's now up to our police, our court system, and our provincial and federal governments to make this a priority before it gets even more out of control.
- On Thursday the United Conservative Party caucus ejected MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes.
- Todd Loewen, the MLA for Central Peace-Notley posted a statement on his Facebook page in the early hours of Thursday calling on the Premier to resign and he himself resigned as caucus chair.
- Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress Medicine Hat has been one of the most outspoken critics of the government's handling of COVID restrictions.
- Both men were early members of the Wildrose party going on to win election in 2012 for Drew Barnes and 2015 for Todd Loewen.
- This has led many to paint the UCP with the same brush that the old Progressive Conservatives were painted with, being arrogant and out of touch. The exact words used against former Premier Jim Prentice were used by Todd Loewen this week.
- Many questions have been raised in this time of instability including whether or not the Premier has the confidence of caucus to continue.
- Alongside this there have also been criticisms for the UCP shutting down the legislature from the media and NDP.
- The ouster of the 2 MLAs was done by secret vote and by convention, caucus meetings are supposed to be confidential.
- In terms of why the MLAs were kicked out now rather than earlier, the Premier said: “It’s clearly not a decision just about disagreeing with government policy because we have a lot of members who’ve done that, but I think they’ve done it in a way that tries to maintain the unity of our team, and that was really the basis of yesterday’s decision.”
- And that’s just it, the unity of the party was in question.
- Thousands of grassroots members recruited by both the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose voted to bring the two parties together.
- This vote happened less than 4 years ago. In the span of 4 years a political party was created from two, a platform was built, and an election was won.
- Politics in Alberta in the new millennium has been inherently unstable. No Premier has won re-election since Ralph Klein in 2004.
- Stelmach and Redford inherited mandates, went to the polls, and won. They both resigned before it was time for their next election.
- Jim Prentice didn’t even get that far and win his first mandate.
- And we all know the story of course on Rachel Notley and the NDP.
- Put simply, the voter base in Alberta in the last 20 years has been volatile and as a result political parties that want to find success must maintain internal unity.
- Here at Western Context we like to cut through all the hyperbole and media sensationalism put forward by all sides. This week it’s looked like the so-called right leaning media and the mainstream media are on the same side.
- What this means for everyday Albertans is that in an era where the loudest voices get amplified over social media we all need to look up and question if the narratives our preferred sources are feeding us are true.
- The non-biased state of play in Alberta is as follows.
- 1.) Going into the pandemic Albertans were deeply upset and divided over the policies put forward by the federal government.
- 2.) Albertans have a libertarian streak that can be traced back to 1800s era migration from what is now the northern United States.
- 3.) Non-mainstream outlets have to resort to sensationalism and division to build a base of their own. This is amplified over social media giving those who are upset with the restrictions of the day an outlet.
- 4.) There is an argument to be made for relaxing or completely removing all COVID restrictions. Anyone who immediately shuts down this idea or doesn’t hear the argument out further entrenches those upset with the government of the day.
- 5.) Had we had vaccines at the time table of the United States, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
- We have said it time and time again, the pandemic will end, and soon. And based on the state of play outlined, we have to ask: when the pandemic is over, do Albertans really want a divided United Conservative Party?
- Any media outlet or group that seeks to play the base of the UCP against the UCP for their own gains is no better than the mainstream media and NDP.
- This is precisely what the NDP wants.
- People can be upset at the government but it doesn’t need to result in creating a new third party.
- The time of reckoning against Justin Trudeau will come for those upset. We are having a referendum on equalization in the fall and the government is examining the report of the fair deal panel.
- Despite what UCP supporters may feel, the entirety of the party has not turned against the leadership. In the Calgary Sun Letters section, two writers expressed support for the UCP showing that there’s still a section of the population that supports the government, they just aren’t being very vocal.
- Finally, all of the hyperbolic media coverage focused around internal party matters has distracted from core news stories this week such as the Alberta justice minister calling out the NDP and media, Alberta unveiling a higher education reform strategy, and the CBC pointing the finger at right leaning people, populists, and the uneducated as being vaccine skeptics.
- I would have much rather talked about any of these stories since in their own right they’re all very important but hyperbole and interest in seeing a repeat of Allison Redford and Ed Stelmach has led us down this path.
- Last month on April 15th, Quebec Liberal MP Will Amos shocked Parliament, when he came back from a jog late for a committee meeting, and with his laptop camera on, proceeded to change his clothes right in his office, as the internal parliamentary feed broadcast his nude image to everyone, understandably breaking parliamentary procedure. After Amos made the news, it was quickly forgotten. But the Liberals are now reviving the story, to try and force the truth from the Bloc MP who first took a picture of the embarrassing gaffe.
- Liberal MPs are seeking to have Bloc Québécois MP Sébastien Lemire appear at a House of Commons committee to explain why he took a photo of Amos' accidental nudity, and who he shared the photo with. The testimony, if it happens, will take place behind closed doors because of legal and parliamentary procedure considerations.
- Lemire admitted to taking the photo on April 21 and apologized to Amos, but said he didn’t know how it leaked to the media and became public.
- At Thursday’s meeting of the House of Commons board of internal economy, Liberal government whip Mark Holland said a public apology isn’t good enough: “If this was any other workplace…I can guarantee you an apology and walking away as if nothing happened wouldn’t be the end of the matter. Imagine if this was a female colleague. What would our discussion be?”
- MPs from the other parties on the committee all objected to Holland bringing it up during the public portion of the meeting despite the fact it was already scheduled to be discussed later in camera (meaning without public access). The opposition MPs also said the committee traditionally works by consensus, and Holland’s move to have a public vote to force Lemire’s appearance breaks that custom.
- The Liberals are demanding answers on this, and attempting to take the moral high ground on this issue, but have consistently repeating voted to kill any debate on the sexual harassment scandal in the military. Holland trying to play the reverse Uno card and garner sympathy based on gender is also odd, given how many Liberal MPs have had to leave caucus in the last 6 years due to sexual harassment claims.
- It almost seems that by trying to bring up an issue from a month ago, the Liberals are trying to distract from something else entirely. Maybe by reminding everyone of last month's momentary viral photo (which by this point had been forgotten until the Liberals brought it up again), they are trying to distract from their inaction on the Vance scandal.
- Nobody cares about a naked Liberal MP caught on camera not doing the work he was elected to do. What Canadians do care about is about our jobs, our lack of housing prospects, rapid inflation, and any other numerous problems brought about by the pandemic.
- If anything, this is another cautionary tale to anyone operating a webcam - if it's pointed at you and it's plugged in, just assume it's on and you'll be fine. This is a lesson many Liberals have had to learn in the zoom era of Parliament - in November, Ontario Liberal MP Maryam Monsef was caught on camera discussing her salary, not realizing her microphone was on. “The question they’re going to ask me… How much do I make now? Like 250k?” Monsef can be heard saying before the feed cuts back to the House.
- It's clear that this story was brought back as a distraction from other issues. The Liberals would be wise to just move on to much more important matters. It's good that the media has been shaking their collective heads on this issue too.
- It’s on and off and on and off has been the roller coaster of progress on Bill C-10 over the last two weeks since we talked about it here at Western Context.
- Things looked to be going in the right direction as on Sunday night Steven Guilbeault announced that in his view, social media users “will never” be regulated.
- On Monday the Bill was put on hold while it would undergo a charter review to see if freedom of expression rights would be violated.
- On Thursday Justice Minister David Lametti announced that the Bill passed Charter Review and no rights would be infringed.
- The Department of Justice feels that there are adequate limits on what the CRTC can and can’t do.
- For his part the Justice Minister delivered the verdict the government wanted but Steven Guilbeault seems as incompetent as ever.
- Speaking with CTV news this weekend he said that individual users wouldn’t be targets but the CRTC could have powers related to discoverability of online content.
- Those of particular interest would be those who have “millions of viewers” and “generate a lot of money on social media” and “act like broadcasters.”
- When pushed for more information on what the thresholds would be for these, he had no answer.
- The answer that Guilbeault and his cabinet colleagues were hoping would take off was that a new amendment was proposed that would outline what powers the CRTC may have.
- Effectively, the CRTC would have the power to prioritize or de-prioritize content in the name of discoverability based on how Canadian it is.
- In this interview and through the amendment, Steven Guilbeault managed to confirm what everyone opposed to C-10 had been saying. Social media users with large followings will be regulated… but by the CRTC.
- In addition to being able to request changes to discoverability in algorithms the CRTC will be able to ask a platform how much revenue it makes and will be able to ask for a percentage of those revenues to be funnelled into Canadian cultural productions.
- And to further highlight what Steven Guilbeault is missing he Tweeted an excerpt of an blog post by Gord Dimitrieff who is an independent music publisher and record label owner who called the C-10 backlash “predictable and dangerous” saying, “observers have sounded alarm bells about the role of social media in manipulating public opinion at scale by spreading fake news and toxic narratives” he went on to conclude adding, “we are now witnessing public opinion being manipulated at scale through a deliberate campaign of misinformation by commercial interests that would prefer to avoid the same regulatory oversight applied to broadcast media.”
- Despite what this independent author says, there are no conspiracies and Guilbeault’s decision to highlight the passage in a Tweet also raises further questions about what the true motives for C-10 are and what Steven Guilbeault is missing.
- Returning to Justice Minister David Lametti’s statement that the Bill doesn’t violate the charter, his review found that with the amendments mentioned the Bill doesn’t seek to regulate users directly or specify what proportion should be Canadian.
- The Justice department also said that an “additional consideration” was that the government moving to limit the CRTC’s power over social media platforms to provide information, pay into the Canadian content system, and the Bill’s provision to allow for increased discovery of Canadian creators was a factor.
- These statements, according to Michael Geist, the widely accepted expert on Internet law in Canada and Canada research chair in internet and e-commerce law at University of Ottawa, show that what the Justice department did wasn’t a Charter analysis but was more a “trust us” declaration.
- If the Bill passes which is looking likely, the issue will be referred to the courts adding in more questions about what the ultimate goal of C-10 actually was.
- Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives said this week that if they form government they will repeal C-10 and replace the Bill with another that adequately funds Canadian content creators.
- Summing up, C-10 looks likely to become law and Canadian content creators won’t be regulated by the government but the CRTC will be able to lean on content providers like YouTube and others to tweak their algorithm to promote Canadian discoverability.
- It’s because of this change that the government is saying the Bill is fine as is now.
Word of the Week
Trust - firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something
Quote of the Week
“The key thing is they’ve got to stop treating these gangsters like they’re poor, misfit, misunderstood kids. They’re stone-cold killers. They should go to jail.” - Retired Vancouver Const. Doug Spencer on how to solve gang shootings
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Trust Issues
Teaser: A rise in BC gang shootings leads to questions about police methods, 2 UCP MLAs leave the party, and the Liberals resurrect a month old gaffe as a distraction. Also, we discuss just what impacts Bill C-10 will have on Canadian internet.
Recorded Date: May 14, 2021
Release Date: May 16, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes