December 2012 edition


Focus apologizes for two errors in last month’s edition. First we misspelled Joyce Clearihue’s name in the “Survivors” story. And second, we misidentified the jewellery designer for the Langham Court Theatre’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”—the correct name is Joyce Bezusko. Our sincere apologies!


The case for electroshocking Mia

Thank you to Focus and Rob Wipond for the horrifying exposé of VIHA and the BC Mental Health Act. I felt like I was reading something out of an ancient crime drama when reading about Mia. I can’t believe that we can’t opt out of such a questionable treatment in our Advance Directives.

Joanna Wilkinson


Rob Wipond’s compelling feature on forced electroshock in Canada is a brilliant piece of investigative journalism. Sadly, it is all too common that Canadians and people world wide are forced to go on the run from a psychiatry given far too much power by government.

Psychiatry as a profession is something many people claim has helped them, and I’m in favour of people who want psychiatry having access to it. But psychiatry has made no significant discoveries about the brain, and does not possess any diagnostic biological tests at all. Its diagnostic labels are based on a checklist of behaviours. This is subjective stuff, and hardly hard biomedical science. Psychiatric drugs and electroshock are controversial things to add to a brain, especially one that has never been proven objectively diseased, and should under no circumstances be violently forced on Canadians.…

May Mia and her family find some peace. I commend Focus magazine for covering this tragic human rights crisis in Canada.

Joe Lee


Rob Wipond finalist for 3 Webster Awards

Rob Wipond’s well-researched articles have raised public awareness and shed light on some of the byzantine and troubling aspects of residential care (and seniors’ care) in BC. For this we are very grateful.

Too often media coverage of residential care and seniors’ care is simplistic, lacking thorough investigation of a particular incident or issue, and without follow-up.

Rob’s approach has been refreshingly different. We hope that his work continues, as there is much left to do. To Rob, our congratulations and we thank Focus for supporting this journalist who does excellent, timely and important good work.

Kathleen Hamilton, President, Association of Advocates of Care Reform


Will a flu shot keep you healthy?

BC’s Provincial Officer of Health Dr Perry Kendall’s many assertions in his November response to my October article deserve an in-depth rebuttal, but I only have space to tease out some meaning from his numbers. 

He estimates that between 2000 and 6000 Canadians die every year from the flu. With 14 percent of the Canadian population, this means between 280 and 840 British Columbians die every year due to the flu. Those deaths are tragic, especially if they are easily preventable. 

However, before ordering mass vaccinations for thousands more healthcare workers, we need more than estimates and models. We need data. For example: Can Dr Kendall say precisely how many of us 4.4 million British Columbia residents got the flu last year? He cannot. Can he say how many of those 840 BC residents (in the worst-case scenario) died specifically due to the influenza virus, and not “influenza-like illness” which is not prevented by any vaccine? He cannot. 

Did he order post-mortem exams to provide essential data on the cause of death? He did not. Call me a nitpicker, but he could immunize me from skepticism if he gave real numbers instead of models, estimates and speculation. 

Dr Kendall and public health officials around the world promoting anti-flu policies have a very difficult job. They deserve our respect and support, but can they come up with much more than a “trust us, we’re experts” explanation? Apparently, they cannot. 

As we say in the research community: “In God we Trust, all others must show data.”

Alan Cassels, University of Victoria


It was interesting to read both sides of the flu shot/mask controversy. However, no-one addressed a key issue: If the wearing of masks is an effective way to avoid the spread of disease, and not just a punishment, shouldn’t all health professionals wear them to prevent spreading the many diseases for which there are no vaccines? Why don’t all hospital visitors have to wear masks? Why don’t patients have to wear them?

Steen Petersen


Victoria’s bridge to nowhere

With huge costs accumulating from the bridge, the billion-dollar dictated sewer build, the purchase and upgrade of the Travellers Inns, and runaway payroll at City Hall, the business community faces an impossible financial future, paying 3.3 times more than the residential property tax. The relatively small business community already pays well over 50 percent of these taxes. Business property owners face a grim future with the vacation of their lessees who presently pay their “triple net” rents. Property owners are facing the developing fact that property in Victoria is becoming a liability rather than an income-paying asset as their tenants flee the city. And there is no apparent recognition of what lies ahead.

Where is the budget for the next five years? Where is the Chamber of Commerce? And the daily newspaper appears to be totally unaware of the developing tragedy.

Peter Pollen


Time for peace

Ms Duivenvoorden Mitic’s “Time for Peace” is a brave statement. “Humanitarian intervention” and the “right to protect” are new codewords for war. But the reason is the same: profits—from war machines and the resources they grab for their investor-owners. That doesn’t mean there aren’t human rights concerns to remedy. But this can be done without intervention.

Frances Pearson


The argument for LRT to Langford

I love trains, but there is no rational case to make for LRT at this time. LRT is carbon intensive to build and operate compared to effective bus service. LRT transfers wealth away from transit-dependent, low-income bus riders. LRT is a massive subsidy to developers. It increases their property values and creates new profit centres around corridor routes and stations—the real reason for the LRT push. LRT has no appreciable impact on getting people out of their cars or on generating affordable housing. 

Los Angeles traffic is worse than it was when its rail frenzy began in the ’90s. 

I was a transit planner in LA who witnessed the transfer from bus operations and capital funding accounts into rail. Los Angeles LRT (and heavy rail transit) has only shifted low-income bus riders into rail along the displacement routes. LRT is not convenient for the vast majority of solo auto commuters.

The solution? The Bus Riders’ Union calls for: $20-monthly bus pass ($10 for students); 50¢ fares with free transfer; doubling the number of buses; making them clean fuel or electric; freezing rail spending; civil rights for bus riders—disproportionately women and low income; neighbourhood-friendly buses; 24-hour service on key routes.

This would cost half the price of the LRT. Forty percent of CRD auto commuters could leave their cars in one year with such changes.

If we’re serious about climate catastrophe and leaving the auto-dependency era for good, this is the solution. Are we serious? Or do we want a gold-plated developers’ toy?

Larry Wartel


A new supporting subscriber

I’ve been reading Focus cover to cover for years, always intending to subscribe but never quite getting around to it. Your October issue has prompted me—finally—to put thoughts into action. Thank you, Leslie, David and your team of investigative reporters, for producing a stellar magazine that keeps me informed and never disappoints. I’d be lost without it. 

Julie Lawson