Healing, Redemption, and Accountability
By Mike Archer. Abbotsford politicians, caregivers and agencies seem very motivated to get to the last stage of the healing process in the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis without ever having gone through the first ten or 11 steps in the process.

Cover photo: The Sally Ann’s Deb Lowell and the DWS’ Nick Zurkowski the day after the Chicken Manure Incident. Bas Stevens photo.

There are a number of theories on the stages of healing and resolution to abuse but the list of stages below* will serve for the purpose of discussion.

  1. The Decision to Heal
  2. The Emergency Stage
  3. Remembering
  4. Believing It Happened
  5. Understanding That It Wasn’t Your Fault
  6. Getting In Touch With Your Own Vulnerability
  7. Trusting Yourself
  8. Grieving and Mourning
  9. Anger
  10. Forgiveness
  11. Resolution and Moving On

* From Hopesurvivors.org

Bear in mind that these steps are for the abused to reach their goal of healing … not the abuser.

As evidenced by the number of people who have turned out at public rallies, the pressure being exerted on municipal politicians and the general sense of outrage expressed by citizens from all walks of life ever since Mayor Banman’s infamous Chicken Manure Incident, the community of Abbotsford seems to understand that people have been mistreated and that there is both an enormous need for both the victims and the community at large to heal and move on to a better way of dealing with the issue.

The power structure, on the other hand – represented by City politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers, as well as leaders of the church community, the business community, the care community and the police – seems to have banded together in a desperate effort to start the process at the end.

Task Force ReportTrouble is … you can’t start the process at the end, You must begin and the beginning. John Smith and Patricia Ross have tried to skip right past the first ten steps with their slapdash, pseudo-academic Homeless Task Force report, or the even more embarrassing UFV/ACS Survey which was presented in August and again last week.

The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA), in an effort to get rid of as many homeless as they can and reward the politicians like Bruce Banman, Les Barkman, Bill MacGregor and John Smith for helping them scuttle a $15.3 gift from the provincial government – the ACS/BC Housing low barrier shelter for alcohol dependent men – has even come up with a fast-track strategy of their own. ‘No-permit-Paul’ MacLeod is building some small cabins down by the recycling facility for the ‘proper’ homeless* – the 20%-40% who don’t suffer from drug addiction. No one has yet decided what to do with the majority of Abbotsford’s homeless – the drug addicts.

Paul MacLeod

Paul MacLeod

*MacLeod has assured the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) that they will have access to the communal spaces of the village 24 hours a day, seven days a week thereby making Valley Road unlivable for the vast majority of the homeless who live on the streets of downtown Abbotsford.

Starting at the end without figuring out what the hell you’re trying to do simply doesn’t work.

Turns out you actually have to know what you’re doing in order to get things done. The fact that’s it’s complicated doesn’t mean you simplify it. It means you find people who know what they are talking about.

Turns out a lot of people do know what they are doing and have offered to help us. Experts with Ph.Ds from real universities; specialists who have been working for decades with marginalized people; lawyers, doctors … people who know what they are doing. Their offers have, in the rush to solve homelessness in time for November’s municipal election, fallen on deaf ears.

The leaders of this community, it seems, prefer to deal in spontaneous, unschooled, unscientific advice from people with long track records of failure and institutionalized blinders which keep them from being able to accept the fact they are doing more harm than good in their rush to get re-elected.

UFV ACS ReportJohn Smith takes all the blame for the abject failure of the Abbotsford Social Development Advisory Community (ASDAC) which failed to accomplish a damn thing except the expenditure of money in all the years he ran the pointless committee.

But what of all the well-paid, publicly-supported institutions, men and women who sat around the ASDAC table achieving nothing and letting Smith get away with achieving nothing? Why aren’t they being held accountable for the human rights disaster which developed under their stewardship and while they stood by doing nothing?

After years of abuse and neglect there are only two reasons there has been any change in the behaviour of the Abbotsford Police Department or the City of Abbotsford towards the victims of their ruthless cleansing campaign:

  1. The Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) has successfully forced the City of Abbotsford to stop denying life-saving healthcare to drug addicts through its illegal Anti Harm reduction Bylaw; pushed ahead with a bevy of law suits and human rights complaints against the City and the APD; and successfully mounted and maintained the longest protest in BC history against the City’s Anti Homeless Bylaws.
  2. Abbotsford Today, first by breaking the worldwide story about Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident and then by relentlessly covering, from the street, every twist and turn in this most embarrassing and ugliest of issues in the City’s short history. The resultant news coverage from outside the community has kept the feet in the fire of those in the power structure who have caused the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis and wish they could easily and quickly put it behind them.

There is an aspect to the healing process, especially when it comes when it comes to the kind of long term, systematic abuse and institutional failure in the Abbotsford case, which is fundamental to the success of the process and which is being mismanaged deliberately by those who are to blame.

finger wag5. Understanding That It Wasn’t Your Fault

Before the aforementioned members of Abbotsford’s intelligentsia (such as it is), who are responsible for what has happened to their fellow citizens, take the opportunity to embrace this statement as though it applies to them, I’m afraid they will find no solace here. The healing process described above is for the abused … not the abusers.

Before this community is going to heal it must start at the beginning with a commitment to the healing process followed by truth and accountability. As South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission taught us, we must forsake punishment for accountability; retribution for truth.

Its simple really.

If you want to avoid punishment … you must be accountable.

If you want to avoid retribution … be truthful.

Until the leaders of this community are prepared to admit their wrongdoing, and apologize, they will be denying the facts and the truth on which resolution of this issue and the ability of the victims and the community at large to move forward must be based. Having denied so many people their human dignity and basic human rights for so long, it is inconceivable that the same people would want to rush past the steps required for individual and community healing and paper over their own shame in a flurry of trite, sycophantic, claptrap which isn’t fooling anyone.

If they want to be remembered by history as community leaders, they will need to step up to the plate and do the right thing pretty soon. The healing is either going to happen voluntarily or it will happen as a result of a court order. It’s up to them.

Either way it will happen.

Part Two of a series on the Abbotsford Homeless Crisis.

Part One – The Road To Redemption And Healing In Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis

Short Summary of Abbotsford’s Homeless Crisis:

Nick Zurowski, The Face of Homelessness in Abbotsford. Bas Stevens  Photo

First came  John Smith’s announcement to the national media that he had instructed the APD to handle homelessness in downtown Abbotsford; then the Abbotsford Shuffle – otherwise known as Chief Bob Rich’s “disperse and displace” strategy for solving homelessness; then Mayor Banman’s Chicken Manure Incident (first revealed on Abbotsford Today); then there was the Standoff in Jubilee; followed by the ‘MCC Dignity Village‘ protest camp on Gladys Avenue and the gathering of more and more of Abbotsford’s homeless to the security of living with others and out in the open in the growing size and number of camps across from the Salvation Army and along Gladys Avenue.

Embarrassing Revelations

Abbotsford Homeless Camp. Bas Stevens photo.

Along the way a few embarrassing revelations were uncovered and published by Abbotsford Today including
the fact that the Salvation Army knew about and was in agreement with the use of chicken feces to encourage the homeless to move from their camp across the street from the Sally Ann; and the rude and demeaning emails shared by police chief Bob Rich and his senior staff after the Chicken Manure Incident went worldwide.

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