Tuesday, July 30, 2019

WRHA Lowballed Dirty Needle Pick Ups By 400% Last Year; Rate Up 1200% In Last 9 Months

When I started my investigation into used needles polluting our streets parks and backlanes, and the effect on meth use on neighborhoods near Manitoba Housing units last fall, it was because I had been repeatedly approached by 'average' people - a lot of them actually - about the changes to their neighborhood 

They felt their worries about the danger to their families and pets posed by users dropping their meth needles was being not just ignored, but suppressed. It was polluting their streets, parks and backlanes, homes, parking lots, businesses, rental properties -and sometimes on playgrounds, too - and those voters last fall felt their urgency was being ignored by city councilors and MLA's. 

They couldn't make heads or tails out about the role and responsibilities of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, especially since the agency, via field programs, "partners", and clinics, was handing out literally, as many needles as (aspiring?) drug addicts asked for.

I've previously mentioned that the first Winnipeg news coverage about used needles found on boulevards - during the Talwin and Ritalin craze 30 years ago - came about when I took Kelly Dehn of CTV, early in his cop and crime beat career, for a sightseeing tour in my taxi of my discoveries in South Point Douglas. So I was no novice to this field of reporting. 

(Left) James Favel, Executive Director of the Bear Clan
I took on this needle investigation - with no fiscal structure to support the research, which you can help me out with as explained in this story .

I did it because I knew, the Winnipeg public was being let down and it was dangerous. 

That's why the Bear Clan jumped in to help.

I have spent a lot of time asking some important questions about the scientific foundation of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority policies and practices and in particular the harm reduction centrepiece - a free needle exchange program. 

And it was worse than I imagined. And now we've learned, it's worse than James Favel imagined too.


Part and parcel of promoting the benefits of "harm reduction" programs and garnering public acceptance for them, involves addressing if those programs result in more needles dumped around neighborhoods.  

The WRHA relied on citations about needle return rates, as well as measuring the discarded needles being picked up against their total sharp distribution, which is now well over 2 million. 

* This information was provided to assure me nothing was amiss with their programs in 2018. 

* Their programs were based on 2 US studies - that were concluded before 2001. 

Think nothing was amiss? 
Consider the following 'Math With Marty' equation:  

A) WRHA email October 1, 2018: 
"Discarding unsafely in public is a rare practice ...
Discarded needle numbers are estimated to be between 5,000-10,000 per year currently in Winnipeg (estimated from Street Connections calls for pick up, Bear Clan and other pick up program reports)."

"This represents less than 1% of the total number of needles distributed annually." { Ed note - we'll get back to that part later} 

 B) CTV Winnipeg March 19, 2019 
"Bear Clan Patrol executive director James Favel said last year the group recovered 40 thousand needles on Winnipeg streets, on track to at least double that amount in 2019 ... We could do 60 or 80,000 this year and that's a scary statistic there."

C) July 25 2019 Global Winnipeg interview with the Bear Clan:

James Favel, the organization’s executive director, said they’re already on track to recover 120,000 needles this year.
By March, the escalation of street needles was obvious; BUT facing what they learned by July, Bear Clan probably wishes it was going to be only 60,000 pick ups, they're facing double that. That's why they're fed up.

To Summarize:

- The "10,000" high-end estimate was actually 40,000 used needles, last year (at least). 

- That 10,000 needles estimated last year will be 120,000 needles estimated, this year.  

- Winnipeg has a 1200% increase from the estimate of used needles being picked up made 9 months ago

***************          *************     ****

So you're thinking: 
How in the blue hell did the WRHA give an estimate about carelessly discarded needles for last year that was at least 400% out of whack? 

If the WRHA screwed up this bad on estimating how many needles were ending up on our streets, what else did they 'miscalculate'?  How many users? 

I kept digging, asking about raw data, how were needle counts being done and validated, public education programs ... I'd get answers, some of which weren't answers at all -- but asking too many questions resulted in the health mandarins saying personnel were just too busy to research the answers that flowed from their emails to me. 

I was even told I should file a Freedom of Information request to get any action on the unanswered questions. This week, using only the information and data they provided me without a FIPPA, I'm going to walk thru the evidence.

A month after claiming only 10,000 needles were being dumped onto Winnipeg streets and properties, the WRHA newsletter touted the success of their "harm reduction" strategy of giving out free needles
I think the evidence will show the WRHA massaged definitions to suit their needs and manipulated the limited data they had - some of which was 20 or more years old - to fib that they had a handle on the growing discarded needle problem. 

For instance, this whopper, which will come up later in the investigation: 
"Harm reduction programs often recover as many needles as they distribute, which means fewer used needles discarded in the community."

Now granted, I only have a Grade 12 education, but if that's supposed to be how it works, the opposite was happening in the city. So here's the logical question I sent to the WRHA about that assertion:

Does the WRHA have any studies that investigated the ‘meth’ effect on needle return rates?

They said they wouldn't have time to answer that one.

Or have time to answer this next one either - actually a follow-up when I was sniffing out inconsistencies in their material:

"the presence of a needle exchange program ... a decrease in injection frequency has been observed ..." 

I researched this and in a medical context, the term "observed" means that a decrease was not statistically significant - ie .5%. 

So I asked: 
... Does the WRHA have any data that would, on a local level, support any assertion there has been "a decrease in injection frequency"?

Do you think that's a reasonable question? So do I. NO answer.


What the WRHA tried to do, was pseudo-cite science - in other words, refer to study findings without proving the relevance of the details they are citing to the current situation in Winnipeg. 

That made it easier to pretend the WRHA was overseeing a properly planned and executed free needle distribution programs under the umbrella of harm reduction. In reality, they were failing miserably. 

The current situation is, a lot of those WRHA free needles are not being disposed of by users, and the public is being put at risk. (Later you'll see me discuss with the WRHA about what "a lot" is. )

2018 - "10,000" estimated discards picked up.
2019 - Bear Clan says the trajectory is at 120,000.
A 1200% increase in estimates in only 9 months. 

It's no wonder the Bear Clan are fed up. 
“This is not why the organization started – so we can pick up bio-hazardous waste.”
Question for readers: 
Do ya think the original estimate the WRHA sent me was:

- Realistic? 

- Evidence- based? 

- A wild guess?   

* Paging Dr. Brain Postl. Math is hard. *

In a subsequent report, I will circle back to aspects of the WRHA responses that touched on City Hall more directly, and how it informed the City's handling of the explosion of drug debris.

(Which *spoiler alert* is to say  it let WRHA and Manitoba Housing policy endanger our neighborhoods - and had no data and no specific budget for needle pick ups.)

Before I get to that, more details to come of how provincial health and social service officials claimed their harm reduction policies and practices would work to reduce the used needle problem.  

I'm sure the Bear Clan would agree that a 1200% increase in discarded needles in 9 months speaks to the contrary. 


To find links and watch my 3 part video interview about the operation of Morberg House, a residential meth treatment program in Winnipeg, click this link.

To read the 5 Recomendations I sent the Drug Task Force for Manitoba Housing to fix problems with their neighbours and with procedures about discarded needles, click here.  

To read the most popular story of 2019, my setting the record straight about Sherman Kreiner and his Crocus Fund ponzi scheme just like we did on 92.9 KICK-FM, click here.

To see news stories and editorials I produce as Editor-in-Chief about Jewish issues, Israel, and the fight against antisemitism, go to TheJ.ca

For a sneek peek at a Winnipeg Rock music documentary focusing on LOAD and 3 other bands, and the prediction of the Music Maven of Canadian Radio, Howard Mandshein, click here.


If you think that my stories and interviews bring accountability from elected politicians, if my stories make you think about issues and policies a different way, if you like the history and background information often embedded in my copy, please support my work thru the elections. 

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Legacy Of CrimeStat Failure May Help Sink Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth

The skids were greased under whoever was going to be Winnipeg's police chief long before the position was awarded Danny Smyth in November 2016. That year, the city rose thru the ranks to lead the Canada Crime Severity Index, so there's the proof. 

But he can't use that as an excuse for long- or at all.

Last week he pointed his finger at the provincial and federal governments for failing to stem the meth tide while warning personnel throughout his department are fading fast and losing hope, in the face of 30-40% increases in serious crime categories since 2014. 

But Smyth made a key PR mistake: he failed to acknowledge that top management over the years - including himself - weren't up to the task of managing a coherent counter-strategy.  

Blaming politicians only goes so far with cops on the beat and victims of crime, I am hearing, when they see a police chief who is failing to lead.

* For years, people who knew the score were calling out how police brass had undermined the CrimeStat formula, which went beyond statistical measurements and into crime analysis if done correctly. Smyth tried to leave that legacy behind and install a new crime-tracking tool:

"Winnipeg police replace CrimeStat with new web tool called CrimeMaps” (CBC Manitoba, March 8 2019)

It would be fair to say that since the change is so recent, there's probably no way to judge any results. However, it is also fair to say, that the failure to operate CrimeStat properly for 12 years had a very bad cumulative affect on policing and public safety

It isn't clear how involved Smyth, who was named a superintendent in 2012 and deputy chief in 2015, would have been, but it's overwhelmingly likely he knew what was going on, at the very least. CrimeStat, WPS-version, was full of holes and the public was fed half-truths for years, as were city councilors and the media.

* Deputy Chief Menno Zacharias was a champion of CrimeStat when it was introduced following a campaign pledge by Mayor Sam Katz. Here is part of his explanation of how it could work as a pro-active policing tool:

 specific crime trends can be seen developing in specific areas of the city.  These trends can be nipped in the bud so to speak, largely by identifying and arresting perpetrators.  These preemptive arrests prevent the trend from continuing and reduce the amount of crime.  It’s not the be all and end all but it is a valuable tool. 

Unfortunately he retired after the promotion of Keith McCaskill to top cop, a terrible hiring mistake in retrospect. 

Why? Let's jump for a moment to an answer Danny Smyth gave to a media question last week.

Q: … is the current meth crisis the gravest or most difficult challenge that’s been thrown your way?

A: …. I guess in my time there have been a few things that have been game-changers, certainly when crack was introduced into the community some twenty-five years ago it was a game-changer, gangs were a game-changer, this is the kind of drug that’s been a game-changer as well…

Crack was a game changer ... consider this:

In an exit interview when he retired, McCaskill admitted that he and other senior managers of the police in the 1990’s had underestimated the emergence of crack cocaine and the problems it represented to the city. 

A cop was dismissive of how serious it was that crack was being introduced to the Winnipeg scene in the early 90's? 

He blew the first test of the 3 Smyth described

How did someone like that end up in charge?

* Two years later in 2010, cop-turned pundit Zacharias blogged that CrimeStat was a proven winner IF the human element did its part. 

But under McCaskill, execution of that function was abysmal - as per this synopsis:

  • All players in the system must understand and execute their roles.
  •  Division Commanders must stay on top of crime in their area, identify trends and devise effective tactics to deal with them.
  • The Police Executive must be fully engaged and ensure the resource is used as intended."
  • The executive of the Winnipeg Police Service does not appear to understand or appreciate the capabilities of Crimestat and that could explain why they have largely turned their backs on it...
  • A key aspect of the Crimestat process centers on accountability.
  • The Executive needs to hold Division Commanders accountable.
  • Accountability is exercised most visibly during Crimestat meetings.
  • That cannot happen if the Executive does not attend Crimestat meetings.

Zacharias concluded: "Residents of Winnipeg have a vested interest in the overall safety of all neighbourhoods. Winnipeggers need Crimestat to work."

It didn't. Why? Because "The Police Executive must be fully engaged and ensure the resource is used as intended." and that was the last thing McCaskill wanted.

Because he wasn't a crime fighter, which is what CrimeStat required to deliver results.

* Even after the warnings of Zacharias in 2010, CrimeStat was still being gamed in 2013 - after Devon Clunis took over from McCaskill -  to minimize the impact from criminal activities and violence that Winnipeg residents and businesses were facing.

In a Free Press comments section smackdown of noted downtown cheerleader Brent Bellamy, urban policy analyst  Brian Kelcey admonished him that "comparing Winnipeg to other cities on the basis of in-year crime stat reports is misleading, since Winnipeg underreports crime data in its Crimestat model. This isn't a conspiracy theory about "unreported crimes," despite Bellamy's assumptions to the contrary."

Kelcey, who had been a key figure in the early Katz administration, revealed "Winnipeg's public Crimestat statistics have never, ever reported assaults, non-fatal stabbings, arsons or sexual assaults where the attacker is known to victim, amongst other visible downtown crimes. We only know these figures are unusually high in Winnipeg, and concentrated in the North End and (to a lesser degree) Downtown because of federal crime report data that comes out one or two years later. "

As safety consultant Bob Axford put it, under Chief Clunis, "Crime stat in Winnipeg is now being used for purposes the US model was never designed = that is to avoid transparency and honest management." 

In other words - not a crime fighter.

* In October 2013, the Free Press reported about a review of CrimeStat by Matrix Consulting Services of Texas.  And what did they find?  

- cancelled or shortened weekly CrimeStat meetings
- non-regular attendance by the chief or his deputies 
limited analysis of statistics and how they impact on the work of general patrol units. 

"It seems that preparation time is limited and focused on 'just' trying to understand the statistical increase 'or' decrease," the review notes. Matrix calls on the WPS to introduce "more formality" to CrimeStat meetings and increase accountability and ownership for police in supervisory roles." ... Katz said he was "extremely disappointed" there is little buy-in to the program among senior police officers."

* So, when did CrimeStat get fixed? Well, according to CBC, not by May 2015, by which time residents of River Heights had started giving up on Chief Clunis and his managers ever getting their area under control - and hinting that maybe a program to put cameras aimed at backlanes would have helped  

Crowdsourcing of over 150 incidents paints block-by-block picture of property crime in Winnipeg neighbourhood

... The data also showed that in nearly 75 per cent of cases, the thieves roamed the backlanes, rather than streets... Another active member of the Broken Windows Club says these figures do prove the crime wave is affecting all areas of River Heights, but feels it's just the tip of the iceberg"I know personally for a fact that many more on my street were hit and didn't submit their incidents."

"The true scale of the problem is not fully known by residents, as the police service's CrimeStat website does not track the type of property crime that is wreaking havoc on River Heights residents."

* By the time Smyth - and meth addicted needle-dropping junkies - took over in November 2016, CrimeStat had been a colossal failure as a planning and coping tool. Deliberately sabotaged. It took him over 2 years to finally replace it and hope people forgot.

When Smyth made his PR gambit to get sympathy on the side of cops and civilian staff, he was counting on his own role being glossed over. 

Winnipeggers have seen the deterioration of public safety and order since 2014 - can you imagine that was 'the good old days' when people felt safe compared to now?? Public patience for the social-work approach of the trifecta of recent police chiefs is worn thin. They want results. 

They see a police chief eager to engage politicians whenever he can - that's the easy part -  but if we are leading the country in crime, guess what - we lead the country in crime victims too. Robbery and property crime both up over 40% in 5 years, total crime up 33%. And Danny Smyth offered those crime victims nothing last week- no leadership, no accountability, no hope, just a warning things will get worse. He's no crime fighter.

The Police Service needs a change of attitude, a change of direction, and a change of identifying trends and devising effective tactics. His ability to accomplish what's needed to save our city has to be seriously contemplated by Mayor Brian Bowman and City Hall -- and Smyth should have to make a case to council why he should stay in charge. 


This week we reached the 20% mark in the quest for 100 supporters at $50 each, who have stepped forward to help fund this crucial period for independent reporting in Winnipeg. 

Some donors have been extraordinarily generous with their kind words and financial vote of confidence - and because of their gestures, my reporting on the meth crisis, crime, politics and the Winnipeg community can continue.

Will you please join them? It only takes a minute to help.

It takes experience in the field, research, resources, and time to compose strong, vibrant citizen journalism. It takes passion and drive and determination.  

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Voting Rights A Federal Case This Week For Jewish Candidates and Voters

In 2012 a number of ideas were raised through the Governance Committee at Winnipeg City Hall, about various election rules and procedures. 
Some were out of nowhere, like having 16 and 17 year olds work at polling stations. 

Other proposals floated were about giving a ballot to people who had only lived in the city for 60 days, restricting third-party advertising, and other matters. 

What caught my attention, to the point I spoke at both the Executive Policy Committee and City Council as the policy evolved, was a proposal that would affect the voting rights of Jewish electors: changing the City Charter to fix elections to be conducted on a Saturday or Sunday in October, instead of the traditional mid-week vote.

Here is what I said on May 30, 2012 to a city council that included a Jewish Mayor, Sam Katz, and two Jewish councilors,  John Orlikow and Jenny Gerbasi:  

"I am disappointed that when this returned from the Governance Committee, there was no comment that I could see anywhere in the report with regards to the issues that are raised with members of the Jewish community that are observant who are prohibited from marking a ballot using a pen or a pencil on Saturdays. 

And towards the end of October the Jewish Sabbath would not end until around 6:00 p.m., those that might go to synagogue would then return, they would have perhaps have one hour to be able to attend a ballot box and there are individuals such as myself who prefer to vote really, as late as election day, see what comes up in the news, see what comes up in social media, see what comes up if council candidates come knocking at your door. 

And I don't think that it's a healthy idea to put Orthodox Jews in particular, into a position where they might feel compelled to have to attend in advance voting polls, etc. ... I would like to see some sensitivity on the part of Council with regards to that issue."

This all seemed common-sensical to me and Winnipeg council agreed and spiked the idea. 

That common sense however escaped our federal Chief Electoral Officer, who disregarded the unfairness of this years' fixed date falling on a Jewish High Holiday (Shemeni Atzeret) or that advance polls also fall on Sabbath and adjacent Succot high holidays. 

The Act gives St├ęphane Perrault authority to switch an election date for exactly that reason. 

A Charter rights lawsuit being heard Tuesday in Toronto brought by Chani Aryeh-Bain, an Orthodox Jewish candidate for the Conservative Party in Eglington- Lawrenceand an Orthodox voter in York Centre, Ira Walfish.  

 "(Bain) will not be able to campaign on election day. She will not be able to instruct others to campaign on her behalf. She will also be prohibited from encouraging other Jews to vote for her on election day or on two of the four advance polling dates.” The suit stipulates that approximately 75,000 people identify as Orthodox Jews out of 392,000 Jewish Canadians.

The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada has been granted intervener status. Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada, said “It is imperative that Elections Canada not allow a situation to develop in which a significant swathe of the population find themselves unable to exercise their most basic democratic freedoms."

I thought the fact this concept had gotten to the point of a Council vote in Winnipeg was a bit of a fluke. I stood up for voters and made my case. The opposition of the Chief Electoral Officer to revising the date of the national election, despite being asked well within the time limits in the Act to do so, is no fluke.  It's mean-spirited and contrary to the express will of the legislation. 

Elections Canada informs that "As of 2014, the Chief Electoral Officer is appointed for a 10-year non-renewable term. He or she can be removed only for cause, by the Governor General, following a joint address of the House of Commons and Senate." A new Parliament should consider if his refusal to uphold the rights of Jewish voters meets that threshhold.

Watching out for voters and taxpayers is a major part of the mandate of citizen journalism. 

In 2012 no 'human right lawyer' in Winnipeg stepped up to explain why proposed changes to voting days weren't fair to thousands of voters. I did. 

By supporting my reporting and research you are supporting not only important journalism, but a watchdog for human rights and democratic principles. We want to find 100 donors who will commit $50 each for enhanced coverage of public affairs, news, and civic, provincial, and federal politics.

To join our donor drive, you can follow the links in this story: 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Manitoba Liberal leader calls past welfare cuts by Tories and NDP "sadistic"

With an undersized war chest and scrambling to field a full slate of candidates, Dougald Lamont took to an interactive online forum to spread the Liberal Party platform - scarce as it is at this stage of the pre-campaign - to Manitoba voters for the September 10th election.

The St. Boniface MLA, leader of a 4 seat Liberal caucus, is hoping to make gains by coming up the middle with voters disaffected by the performance of the current Progressive Conservative government and the previous NDP administration. 

In an innovative gambit to engage voters at no cost, he held an 'AMA' - Ask Me Anything - on Reddit this week to field questions.

"Firstly, huge bonus points for doing an AMA on reddit. I don't even think Pallister knows what Reddit is." 

While staying for the mostpart in a centrist role and reiterating previous positions of his party on issues like education and healthcare cuts, Lamont only strayed from a statesmanlike tone once - when asked about Employment and Income Assistance.

"EIA, under the PCs and the NDP alike, has been sadistic to recipients."

"The PC cuts are only making it worse. Reforming EIA will be part of our anti-poverty plan. Stay tuned for more on this!" Lamont went on to say the HUB  community mobilization program in Brandon "does great work and we would ensure that programs that have positive results are being supported and expanded."

He restated the Liberal platform on addressing the meth epidemic and drug treatment programs, including supporting the establishment of "Drug Stabilization Units" and funding transitional housing for recovering addicts. 

Pointing to an upcoming announcement about a full community safety plan, he promoted his proposed Manitoba Provincial Police Force as a necessary enhancement to RCMP presence "because people in Manitoba are living with no police nearby and it's not safe."

A father of 4, Lamont also touched on the brain drain and connected it to a lack of  higher-end jobs, in part caused by "an incredible lack of capital for Manitoba entrepreneurs". He is proposing "a Manitoba Business Development bank (that) would provide patient money to Manitoba entrepreneurs."

In the world of reddit/w, comments are voted on for popularity or approval, and the highest score Lamont achieved was a +21 about provincial pot policy. 
He vowed to review the legalization framework of the PC government, wise-cracking "there have been chronic issues ... I don't know what Pallister's been smoking if he thinks his plan will reduce illegal pot sales." 

That apparently earned him at least one vote.
Independent journalists have an important role to play in covering issues and stories for the pending Manitoba election call - and the federal election that will follow in October. 

Do you trust the diminishing field of MSM reporters to identify issues important to you and ask questions you'd want politicians seeking your vote to answer? 

So far a dozen donors, at $50 and more, have responded to the funding drive to ensure The Great Canadian Talk Show and citizen journalism will have a role in being a watchdog for the public interest in Winnipeg and Manitoba. 

Those donations meant we could research and prepare a 3 part video series about Morberg House and its successful residential meth recovery program, and how it's helping reduce crime and public disorder in St. Boniface.

And if it wasn't for our extensive review about the deceptions of Sherman Kreiner, a blowjob from his longtime allies at the Winnipeg Free Press would stand as the sole retrospective after his demise. 

Thousands of Manitobans who got fleeced by the Crocus Fund deserved better reporting than "Crocus fundleader' creative and hard-working"- and we gave it to them!

Your support means the world to me and I fight every day for you and for people without a voice. 

Go to this story about our return to active blogging and chip in today --  keep the news we have going - and believe me, we have some exclusives coming. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

Bonus Video: Meth Program And Homeless Outreach Makes St. Boniface Safer This Summer

In the last 3 years as meth addiction ramped up, the peaceful quiet of St. Boniface became noticeably disrupted. 

The Norwood Grove Biz warned City Hall "As the downtown core took steps, we saw an influx of bridge community. Business owners didn't know what to do and hadn't seen it before." 
Issues surrounding homelessness, panhandling and street-involvement become a growing concern to the community "which saw endless customer harassment, vehicle break-ins, vandalism and more." 

The wake-up call was when the washroom at Tim Hortons was set ablaze and shortly after, the staff walked out due to threats. This past winter, the ScotiaBank had to lock its ATM Lobby overnight due to incidents.

This summer, the area is noticeably - visibly- calmer.  

Marion Willis of Morberg House confirmed that's the case.

A StreetLinks bike patrol and a robust outreach program are helping guide addicts and the homeless towards support and recovery services and out of trouble. With a reduced homeless population she identifies panhandling and meth camps as the current challenges. 

In this bonus video segment she describes the work they are doing to make Winnipeg safer and lauds the Winnipeg Police and Mayor Brian Bowman for supporting their role in crime prevention through social development.

Part 1 of our interview with Marion Willis: 

   *  Our citizen journalism is unique and effective, honed at KICK-FM and on City Circus TV. 

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