June 2013 edition

Inspiring a girl to vote

I applaud Sandy Mayzell’s mission to educate young people, and particularly girls, to the possibilities of changing our country through the political process. I saw no mention, however, of the history of politics and women of colour. While the “Persons Case” declared women to be persons under Canadian law in 1929, Aboriginal women, Asian women and other women of colour waited much longer for the opportunity to be seen as agents and persons in their own right, as well as waiting much, much longer for the right to vote. Aboriginal women and men were first granted the right to vote federally in 1960; and until Bill C-35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights in 1985, Aboriginal women (and their children) lost their Aboriginal status if they married men who were not Aboriginal.

When we are connecting our young people to information about their rights and responsibilities, we must remind them that there have been and still are great discrepancies in what rights and freedoms are provided to various people, including immigrants, refugees and foreign workers in Canada and challenge them to work toward a political system where all are welcome to participate in the political process.

Julianne Kasmer


Give yourself a medal

How dare David Broadland impugn the reputation of Victoria’s chief flak Katie Josephson for her justly deserved Queen’s Jubilee Medal. Does he have any idea how hard this $150,000-a-year spin doctor has to work to achieve the pinnacle of her trade as an organ grinder? The years she has put in to train all those monkeys, especially the chief monkey, to dance to her tunes surely deserves this most exalted recognition. Could this pathetic excuse of a city council exist without her at the controls?

Patrick Murphy


Following the money

I wanted to thank you for your insightful April editorial: “Following the Money—Democracy is a sham when donations rule.” 

I appreciate your excellent analysis and only wish there were more commentaries like yours in the press.

Sharon Glynn


The best place on Earth

I am very late in thanking you for the excellent article (March) by Alan Cassels re: the destruction of independent drug evaluations in BC and the related firing and smearing of seven employees. I sincerely hope there will be follow-up articles [see May 2013] and that some semblance of truth will eventually be revealed, and that efforts will be made to address the gross injustices involved.

I attempted to get information on this subject from my MLA, Maurine Karagianis. At first I was stone-walled, then I received a very vague and unsatisfactory response, saying nothing could be done while an investigation was in progress. Highly disappointing and it caused me to withdraw my support of the NDP and my previously respected and supported MLA.

Barbara Bambiger


Is the law catching up to BC’s police chiefs?

I just read the latest article on the police chiefs by Rob Wipond in the May 2013 issue. It is exciting to hear of a local reporter bravely fighting a very uphill battle and succeeding in creating a more transparent ethical police force. And it is magazines like Focus, using its limited resources to support outstanding investigative journalism, that make it possible for Rob to do his very important job. Thank you, in this age where we are inundated with free, fast, and cheap news, for producing a magazine with such substance.

Janna Reimer


Casa Blanca

I read Mr Miller’s article on Shutters with great interest. This building has always struck me as out of place and reminds me of the Olympic Village in Montreal. The shape of the building also seems to amplify the noise of the floatplanes; the residents are always complaining about it. Another equally hip project from the same developer is The Falls across from the Sticky Wicket. Here the residents like to complain about the noise drifting up from the night life on the streets below.

Both of these buildings were heavily marketed to moneyed people in Alberta’s oil patch, which is why they look great in a brochure and have little to do with the brick-y red buildings that set Victoria’s architectural tone.

Owen Brandon


Gene’s observations on urban planning and urban possibilities are always interesting. “Casa Blanca” is the first one I’ve read that appears not to have been proofread. Morris Lapidus built the “Fontainebleau” Hotel, not the “Fountainbleu”. And if any building is going to “flaunt” Victoria’s unwritten cultural code, I’d expect to see in-your-face pome (lots of room to move there: apple, pear, quince—any fleshy fruit having several seed chambers and an outer fleshy part largely derived from the hypanthium) on square, topped with red shingles. On the other hand, or on the other side of the bridge, going against all that by breaking out into curvy white is Shutters, flouting (not flaunting) all the unwritten expectations for Victoria buildings.

Diane McNally


Here’s the challenge, BC Hydro

I’ve had vague and miscellaneous misgivings about BC Hydro’s push and associated storm of mis- and dis-information for “smart meters.” Thanks to Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic (April 2013) for substantiating and supplementing my possibly preconceived notions! 

I certainly support your challenge to BC Hydro and their clique: “Tell us how society—not business and government—will benefit from smart meters.” Bravo!

Marilyn Leslie Kan


Playing chicken with democracy

Last month’s BC election is part of a trend in recent elections—no one saw a Liberal Party win coming, let alone a majority win. We also saw a drop in poll numbers—barely 50 percent of those eligible to vote chose to do so! What does this say about democracy in the West? In last month’s Pakistan election 60 percent of eligible voters braved violence and sometimes hardship to cast their votes.

I think that in Canada (and the US) it is all about strategy and power—it has virtually nothing to do with leadership or values or the truth. Pretty cynical, huh? One of the most powerful emotions used to control someone is fear. Fear goes right to the reptilian part of the brain, and blocks out reason. It shuts down the cerebral cortex, where we should be making significant decisions. The fact that Christy Clark and her Liberal team repeated the same message over and over: “It’s all about the economy and the NDP are a danger to the economy”—makes it evident that they preached fear. The Liberal ads were relentless and repetitive. Their campaign was not trying to inspire, address past wrongs with solutions, or even about a real plan for the future—it was all about instilling fear. I think that Stephen Harper’s brilliance in this department should be starting to look familiar. Cast your eyes south of the border for more examples.

The message is loud and clear: To win in politics you have to play the fear game. You will lose if you don’t. Simple. There are some anomalies, like Andrew Weaver and a few others, but I am talking about the trend—the strategies used to win power.

This is a dangerous game that essentially sacrifices the pillars of democracy: government chosen by the people. Real leaders lead, they don’t lie to us (spin us half-truths) and manipulate us. When the reality of day-to-day living hits, when we have to start thinking through and devising real, long-term political solutions (using our cerebral cortex), the voting public will become cynical and disillusioned with politics. Will the magic of Christy’s smile and charismatic “trust me” still make those who voted for the BC Liberals feel like “they won” just because the party they voted for won the election?

Can we call this democracy? Is it really people choosing—or is it just an ideal that sounds good? When there is no leadership and vision genuinely chosen by the people (this was a power grab not a genuine grassroots selection of vision and leadership), the danger is anarchy. Let’s call this what it really is: playing chicken with democracy for the sake of control. Perhaps top-down, authoritarian, patriarchal rule is too hard to give up, even when we know better.

Clare Attwell


Focus gives hope

Just a note to praise your magazine’s consistently insightful, penetrating and refreshingly sane views! And to encourage you to vigorously sustain your journalistic integrity! 

As a Canadian who lived 10 years in England and loved the Observer, Spectator, Independent etc, I had reluctantly resigned myself to fond memories of journalism of that quality…. But wait! What’s this? Shrewd and articulate, with clear-headed and clever writers, here comes the plucky little Focus, proving that world-class writing belongs anywhere and everywhere! You go girl (and team)! Fit to stand with any magazine anywhere, you give me hope—one lone, but impressively powerful voice in the midst of the dumbed-down and mediocre!

Richard Carlson