Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe is stalling on release of information about investigation into Chief of Police Battershill

+++  The mayor has asked for an extension of the time he is allowed to read the report into the investigation into allegations against his Police Chief, who is sitting doing nothing while receiving his regular salary.  The mayor, who is in a conflict of interest by virtue of the fact that he is Chair of the Police Board, is stalling.  Apparently, by law, the mayor is not obligated to release the full report to the public.  This law is obviously flawed and will impede full accountability to the taxpayers should it not be released in full.  A Freedom of Information request under the circumstances would seem to be futile.  A lawsuit suing for the information to be released in the public interest seems a more likely course to pursue…  +++

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Health and Social Issue: Needle Exchange near Catholic School…Reflections and a radical suggestion from Gregory Paul Hartnell, Victoria

+++   Reprinted from the current issue of Island Catholic News [ICN], April 2008, Vol. 22, No. 3, page 8.  ++  Editor’s Introduction  ++   During the month of March, the [Victoria British Columbia, Canada] media was covering the issue of the placed proximity of the needle exchange program to a Catholic School, St. Andrew’s Elementary, the Cathedral school on Pandora.  Gregory Hartnell monitored the situation as a concerned observer.  ICN reprints his writing from his website http://goyodelarosa.wordpress.com/.  ++  It appears that the Bishop of Victoria, Richard Gagnon, is now in accord with the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Jospeh Colistro, and the Principal of Saint Andrew’s Elementary School, Keefer Pollard, in supporting the so-called ‘needle exchange programme,’ just not in close proximity to the school.  The Bishop has endorsed a letter with Mr. Colistro which states, in part: ‘While the Diocese of Victoria and Island Catholic Schools are compassionate to the needs of the homeless and those with drug addictions, we do not support the placement of a needle exchange in close proximity to Saint Andrew’s Elementary or any other school or daycare … ‘  ++  The language used is carefully parsed, and politically correct in not condemning the disastrous failure of the so-called ‘needle exchange’ outright.  It is questionable whether this position accurately reflects the needs and desires of the children and parents directly endangered and the greater public interest, or whether it simply attempts to have the problem moved to another neighbourhood.  ++  In an open letter to parents found in the ‘Communicator,’ Saint Andrew’s online newsletter, Principal Pollard wrote:  “The news of the proposed change in location of the needle exchange has created a taxing and emotional week for all of us.”  Referring to the emotional meeting on Wednesday, March 12 in the Saint Andrew’s gym, Mr. Pollard continued: “Parents clearly articulated our central message: as a Catholic community committed to social justice, we support plans to help the needy.  Our single concern is the proximity of a needle exchange so close to an elementary school.  ++  “Mr. Joe Colistro, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, and I will be going to the Victoria City council meeting tonight at City Hall at 7:30  We will be making a presentation to City Council.  Our petition will also be brought forward by us or another school representative….  ++  “We have time to calmly reflect on the news and information we have received and consider future actions.  Whether or not we convince officials to stop or amend their plan to move the needle exchange, we will continue to protect our children and continue to ‘build in love.'”  ++  The petition to which Mr. Pollard refers was available from the front desk of the school to all parents and community members who cared to pick it up and sign it.  It was worded as such: “We, the undersigned, think that it is unwise for the City of Victoria and  VIHA [Vancouver Island Health Authority] to place a needle exchange at 941 Pandora.  This is half a block away from the preschool and elementary school (St. Andrew’s Elementary and Preschool).  We believe the safety and well-being of the 3 to 12 year old students will be affected by this action and ask that the needle exchange be placed in a different location.’  ++  The letter signed by Joseph Colistro representing the Island Catholic Schools, and R. Gagnon, Bishop of Victoria is found below Mr. Pollard’s letter to the parents.  Most of the relevant passages are found here:  ‘The sudden and unexpected announcement that a needle exchange program would be located in close proximity to the School has raised serious concerns and valid emotions.  Local School council members, parents and the local community have been working diligently to ensure the needle exchange program is not moved to Pandora Avenue.  This was clearly stated to VIHA [Vancouver Island Health Authority] and the City of Victoria at the Parent Forum on Wednesday evening.  While the Diocese of Victoria and Island Catholic Schools are compassionate to the needs of the homeless and those with drug addictions, we do not support the placement of a needle exchange in close proximity of St. Andrew’s Elementary or any other school or day care. … Parents should feel assured that Island Catholic Schools and the Diocese of Victoria remain committed to ensuring that St. Andrew’s remains a safe environment for all children.  The safety of the children continues to be our number one priority and will not compromised.’  ++  The Vancouver Island Health Authority has bought the building concerned.  They have, for the time being, announced that they will not place the needle dispensary in that building, but it is clear that it is their preferred location.  At the moment they appear to have no other options as they are determined, apparently, to ignore the needs of the community, and are not accountable to anyone.  They will likely try to placate parents, City councillors and other Concerned Citizens with a campaign of molification, meanwhile dispensing the enabling needles to addicts enslaved to life-threatening addictive behaviours by a mobile distribution system.  ++  The present dilemma provides an opportunity for the Bishop of Victoria, Richard Gagnon to provide real leadership to the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, the Principal of St. Andrew’s Elementary and all other faithful Catholics looking for a realistic, compassionate pro-life Catholic response beyond mere nimbyism.  ++  Is it not time that we, the faithful of the Catholic Church in this city, assumed our Christian social responsiblities and offered financial resources to help find suitable homes to rent to recovering addicts’ abstinence-based treatment societies that would provide a healthy alternative to provincially-sponsored enabling programmes that keep addicts mired in addiction, frighten children and parents, and aggravate criminal and anti-social activity?  ++  Is it not time for Richard Gagnon, the Bishop of Victoria, to help us provide real hope for children, parents, taxpayers and addicts desirous of supporting a pro-life alternative system of abstinence-based recovery programmes provided in residential treatment houses in all affected neighbourhoods, instead of making meaningless statements about compassion?  Perhaps it is time that the People of God showed Bishop Gagnon the way to lead a real compassionate pro-life alternative health care movement and to completely shut down the destructive needle exchange altogether?  +++