Courts May Have To Force Abbotsford To Obey The Law

By Mike Archer. Before he was elected to replace George Peary, Bruce Banman used a phrase that made him sound like a reasonable man who might be able to navigate between the religious, political and, in some cases, just plain ugly beliefs in Abbotsford about the rights of civic officials, politicians and police to decide on a human being’s value.

Banman liked to refer to himself as a “medical practitioner” (chiropractic) and said he would bring his medical knowledge to bear on questions such as addiction, homelessness, harm reduction etc.

The phrase he used went something like this: “I may object to the fact that you drink but I have no right to force you to drink from a dirty bottle.”

Some people took him at his word. Some people thought he was signaling a change. Some people thought Abbotsford would finally start to emerge from a wickedly cruel political agenda that has caused the City to have some of the country’s highest rates of HIV and Hepatitis C – two facts the newspapers and the economic development department regularly forget to mention as they try to cheerlead the world into believing this is a healthy and spiritually enlightened community.

The newspapers and the economic development department like to gloss over the fact that along with unacceptably high rates of HIV and Hep C, we have one of the country’s highest rates of drug use in schools, a much larger homeless population than politicians or service providers will admit to and public institutions which have been harassing and abusing homeless people, in some cases, for years. The way we treat our poor in Abbotsford has some very serious consequences. This crisis has been brewing for years and is now in the process of boiling over.

Assurances from the old white men who have ruined this city no longer cut it. And Banman sounds like a buffoon trying to pretend he’s one of them.

Our City faces nearly a dozen lawsuits, two human rights complaints and at least two investigations into our police department by the police complaints commissioner.

Under Banman’s leadership we developed a worldwide reputation for using chicken feces to control homelessness. Faced with a protest over the City’s actions, Banman’s council has decided to get permission to send in the cops to clean up* Jubilee Park.

*The part of Jubilee Park occupied by the peaceful protest of the Drug War Survivors is cleaner and tidier than the rest of Jubilee Park which is maintained by the City – the same City that covered these people in chicken feces last summer.

What happened to our “medical practitioner” mayor who didn’t believe he or anyone had a right to “force you to drink from a dirty bottle?”

Did he discover that homeless people don’t vote? That drug users find it hard to make it to council meetings? That none of the spare change of the mentally ill gets dropped in political donation jars?

What happened to turn Bruce Banman into the kind of mayor who could say things he must know to be idiotic or, at the very least, make no sense at all, such as …

“We can’t shoulder this burden all by ourselves. Other levels of government have to come to the table.”
This in response to a question about why he was opposed to the BC government bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to Abbotsford in order to build a Supportive Housing Project for homeless men.

“The homeless have to be willing to be helped and do their part.”
This in response to a question about why he opposed allowing homeless men and women who have alcohol, drug or mental health issues receive help from organizations other than religious organizations which insist those they help be free of drugs or alcohol.

“It is a safety issue.”
This in answer to a question about why his City is applying to have the police move the victims of last summer’s chicken feces poisoning back into the shadows, the ditches and the alleyways where the public won’t be able to see what we now know has been going on in this community for years.

If getting re-elected by the narrow-minded, wealthy, religiously extreme minority who have taken control of our public institutions is so important to Bruce that he will go back on his words, parrot his prepared script like a windup doll instead of talking to people like a human being, and abandon the people of Jubilee Park to his police force and the parks and rec crew who poisoned them last summer … then it looks like it will be up to the courts to force the City and its police to obey the law.

And while they are at it, if the courts determine the City and its police have not been obeying the law, someone will need to take a look under the hood in order to find out what other laws the City may have been breaking or ignoring all these years.

What an embarrassment for such a dyed-in-the-wool, conservative, law-and-order community to be told to stop breaking the law.

It would be just peachy if we could learn both how to obey the law and how treat our fellow citizens with a modicum of basic human decency before the City of Character Conference next year.

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