By Mike Archer. Before Mayor Banman allows another Abbotsford taxpayer dollar to be given to the Calgary Flames he should buy every houshold in Abbotsford a copy of The Chicken Manure Incident. At $5 a copy it would be a bargain and it would change this city forever.
Certainly more than any out-of-town hockey team ever could.
June 4th Was A Game Changer
The 44-minute film, which debuted Saturday night in front of, what Jesse Wegenast, of The 5 and 2 Ministries, described as an ‘Over-packed house’ with an excellent question and answer session afterwards, introduces the world to the individual human beings who live in the ditches, along the railway tracks and under the overpasses of Abbotsford.
Written and directed by Kevin Miller, the documentary skillfully turns the homeless men and women of Abbotsford from a social problem into fellow citizens. It also reveals community leaders for what they are. Unable, unsuited and unwilling to do their jobs or show the most basic understanding of what it means to love their neighbours … all their neighbours.
There is a particularly poignant moment during the film when Const. Ian MacDonald, of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD, says “We are responsible for protecting 140,000 people …”
It is not clear whether the homeless men and women, who suffer from alcohol dependence, drug addiction and mental illness are among the 140,000 the APD feels obliged to protect.
The APD’s behaviour over the last decade would seem to indicate they think it is their job to protect the citizens with homes from the citizens without homes.
Dispersing And Displacing
The APD’s admission of guilt and agreement to compensate a growing number of homeless citizens who have had their belongings, taken, destroyed, pepper sprayed and ruined demonstrates quite clearly to the world how police chief Bob Rich’s policy of dispersing and displacing homeless citizens has been being carried out by the men and women of the APD since Councillor John Smith told the Globe & Mail he had directed the APD to begin a campaign that would deal with the homeless problem downtown.
In another of the film’s interviews, Jim Burkinshaw, who has been the point man for the Abbotsford Christian Leadership Network (ACLN) on the issue of the silence of the churches on the abuse of homeless citizens, dismisses the email which revealed that the Salvation Army approved of the use of chicken feces against the homeless people across the street from their headquarters, as a ‘social media’ phenomenon which wasn’t true because he had asked someone at the Sally Ann and they told him so.
Unrepentant Defender Of The Status Quo
Burkinshaw appears to be saying that James Arden, Acting Director, Park Services, for the City of Abbotsford, who wrote and published the email, is a liar and both Abbotsford Today and the Vancouver Sun are guilty of spreading Arden’s lie (neither of the existing newspapers in Abbotsford at the time dared print the information). Pretty heady stuff for a guy who speaks for an entire Christian community which is as much on trial as the City of Abbotsford and its police department.
Or maybe Burkinshaw is saying that since the evidence was electronic it doesn’t exist. Burkinshaw appears to be resistant to the first step in the healing process – the truth.
A luddite speaking for a flock of terribly lost sheep, Burkinshaw reveals himself and his fellow ACLN members to be unequal to the task of dealing with the most important moral issue facing the community.
As the movie demonstrates so well, the ACLN can build nice buildings and bring the Christian faith to a great many middle class, white, successful people who own houses but when it comes to facing reality, taking a stand or doing something about the homeless citizens of this city they are either not interested or simply not up to the task.
“Nobody Was Actually Hurt”
Police chief Bob Rich demonstrates his unfailing lack of understanding of his job by saying that no one was actually hurt by the chicken manure dump and that at least we’re not as bad as Vancouver where the cops actually killed a homeless guy.
He either doesn’t care or doesn’t know about the Abbotsford citizen who almost lost an eye due to infection from the chicken feces the City used as a social policy tool.
Nor does he seem to have any ability to understand the meaning of the word ‘hurt.’
Like the demeaning emails revealed last summer, Rich demonstrates his well-known ignorance of the issues he is paid to deal with.
Perhaps the biggest buffoon in the documentary is Mayor Bruce Banman. The man whose administration is suing homeless people and which has spent anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 fighting homeless protesters with injunctions, barricades, spotlights and police in the last five months alone, places the responsibility for the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis squarely on the shoulders of … you guessed it … the homeless themselves.
Sounding almost proud of his ignorance on the subject of homelessness he lectures the downtrodden and encourages them to do something about their situation.
The Arrogance Of The City Of Abbotsford
Pastors Ward Draper and Jesse Wegenast come out of the documentary as examples of the small but growing community of people in Abbotsford who are determined to make a difference in the way the city treats its homeless citizens. Unwilling to give up and let Abbotsford’s Christian community absolve itself of responsibility for their fellow citizens, Draper and Wegenast continue to make their rounds, helping their fellow men and women and trying to get the church community to give a damn.
They seem unfazed by the lack of response from their fellow Christians from the organized, brick and mortar, faith community, nor the arrogance of the City of Abbotsford. But then why would they care?The two men are devoted to helping the men and women of our streets … not the hierarchy of an old, out-of-touch and uncaring Christian community or the heartless void of the City of Abbotsford’s homelessness war room up on the 5th floor.
Wegenast and Draper simply soldier on, fighting their own war on the streets of a city which seems determined to sue, abuse and arrest homelessness out of existence.
The Abbotsford Shuffle, it appears, is with us to stay. And the cleansing, it appears, ain’t anywhere near over.
Whether healing will ever begin is a question which the documentary leaves wide open. Miller has done an excellent job of exposing Abbotsford’s power structure for what it is and demonstrating what one group in the community has decided to do for their fellow citizens with or without the approval of those within Abbotsford’s social, religious and political power structure.
Long-time homeless advocate James Breckenridge perhaps puts it best, “This is most un-Christian community I’ve ever lived in.”
The Chicken Manure Incident
Buy the Video here
Early in the morning on June 4, 2013, workers from the City of Abbotsford, BC pulled up to a homeless camp on the side of the road and dumped a truckload of chicken manure on the site. Intended as a quick and dirty way to disperse this “problem population,” little did those who concocted the scheme realize who they were messing with.
This 44-minute documentary presents a unique window in the ongoing battle between the City of Abbotsford and its homeless population and one Christian ministry’s attempt to get the church more involved on behalf of the homeless. It is a gritty story of a deeply divided community torn between their desire to help “the least of these” while at the same time providing an environment of freedom and justice for all of its citizens.
Written & directed by Kevin Miller, director of the feature-length documentary “Hellbound?”
Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis
Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis, which has been going on for years, became a political problem on June 5, 2014 when Abbotsford Today revealed the Abbotsford Chicken Manure Incident during which the City of Abbotsford, with the approval of the Salvation Army, dumped chicken feces on the homeless men and women camped out across Gladys Ave at the Happy Tree.The Standoff in Jubilee Park which led to the eviction of those protesting Abbotsford’s treatment of its homeless population by force just before Christmas, began in October as protest against, not only the Chicken Manure Incident, but the years of abuse, mistreatment and an ongoing, inhumane policy of dispersing and displacing them in what became known as the endless ‘Abbotsford Shuffle.’
After the City of Abbotsford chose to fight with the homeless men and women of the Drug War Survivors (DWS), who organized the protest, instead of finding out what they wanted, the scene was set for a confrontation. The DWS made fools of the City and the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) by moving erecting a walled wooden structure which, while it made for tremendous publicity, actually had a much more utilitarian function. All of the wood (which was donated) had been assembled in such a way that, if taken apart, will ultimately be the building blocks for the DWS Proposal for sustainable housing for their members.
Despite initial meetings with City staff, which were greeted with very positive reactions, and repeated attempts to discuss their proposal with City officials, the DWS has been left wondering why the City doesn’t seem to even want to talk to them about solving the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis.
During the same time period Jeff Gruban of the Fraser Valley Atheists and Humanists (FVASH) and Ward Draper of The 5 and 2 Ministries came up with the D.R.E.A.M. Project . Mayor Banman initially grabbed at the opportunity to be seen as a caring politician and promised Gruban and Draper he would supply bus service to their project if they ever got it off the ground. Then he dropped them like a used condom. They haven’t heard from Bruce since.
Buy the Miller Video here