New Orleans, Gulf Coast Brace for Hurricane Gustav Monday, and Tropical Storm Hannah on its Heels

Satellite Image Hurricane Gustav - Hannah

Satellite Image Hurricane Gustav - Hannah

Hurricane Gustav will reach major hurricane status by the time it reaches the central Gulf coast early in the week. Uncertainty still remains about whether Hanna will add to the misery by late next week. The current forecast takes the eye of Gustav into the coast of Louisiana, west of the Mississippi Delta, late on Monday or early on Tuesday. However, all interests along the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to South Texas should monitor Gustav and prepare accordingly. The heavy rain and winds from Gustav will test levees breached during Hurricane Katrina. However, the storm surge will be less across Lake Ponchratrain if the hurricane makes landfall over the southwestern coast of Louisiana.

According to the Times Picayune in New Orleans, Gov. Bobby Jindal said that Louisiana will open contraflow traffic patterns on interstates by “early, early Sunday morning”. Preparations are being made to evacuate people out of at least 19 parishes where a state of emergency has been declared.

Project417, planning a Katrina re-building visit in November hopes that Gustav and Hannah do not add to the devastation of New Orleans and the gulf coast this time.

Visit Project417 to Help with Hurricane Relief

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Deadly Listeria Bacteria – Tainted Deli Meats Linked to Food Deaths – Maple Leaf Foods – Toronto

Canada Food Inspection seals found on recalled products

Canada Food Inspection seals found on recalled products

Healthzone.ca – Listeria outbreak spurs food safety overhaul:

“Ottawa will hire more food inspectors and may allow irradiation of meat to reduce bacteria that causes food-borne diseases such as the deadly outbreak of listeria linked to ready-to-eat meats. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto believed to be the source of the listeriosis outbreak would undergo tough scrutiny when it resumes production. Federal inspectors “will hold and test 100 per cent of the product coming off the lines for four to six weeks,” he said.  Still, he echoed Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain when he said that testing products for listeria is like looking for a “needle in a haystack.” [ End quote: sourcehealthzone.ca – Toronto Star – The Star online]

There are some important links to keep updated on the ongoing Listeria monocytogenes bacteria investigation:

Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Listeria Investigation: Ready-To-Eat Deli Meats

Listeria Monocytogenes – Public Health Agency of Canada

CFIA Recalled Products – MEAT PRODUCTS PRODUCED AT ESTABLISHMENT 97B MAY CONTAIN LISTERIA MONOCYTOGENES

Maple Leaf Foods Product Recall Notice

According to Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer: “For most people, the risk posed by listeria is very low”. The Public Health Agency of Canada advises healthy people who are exposed to listeria are rarely affected by the bacteria.  However, there are certain people who are at higher risk for listeriosis – the very young, the very old, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. People from these at-risk groups who may have eaten contaminated products and have experienced symptoms, such as persistent fever, severe headaches, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, should consult their health care provider. We recommend that those at greater risk take precautionary measures when preparing food by avoiding the recalled products.

People with weakened immune systems reports say include people with HIV /AIDS, and alcoholics. Here at Project417, our concern is with the homeless street people that we serve. Many of them are included in the groups identified by Health Canada as being at greater risk. Project417 has always advised independent sandwich run groups not to make sandwiches with fresh deli meats like ham, corned beef, roast beef and condiments like mayonnaise, mustartd, butter etc due to problems with food spoilage, Many of our street friends have gotten sick in the past from eating bag lunches prepared by well meaning but un-informed church groups and other volunteers who go out on unsupervised sandwich runs.

Even though in the past Public Health street nurses had advised that bologna was a good choice for sandwich runs due to preservatives, as a result of the news reports and Health Canada advisories, we updated the Project417 website with a notice to groups to avoid any sliced meats for use in sandwich runs to the homeless and stick to the tried and true PB&J or plain process cheese slices.

The real tragedy is the number of deaths of unsuspecting Canadian consumer, concentrated in Toronto and Ontario who have died of the listeriosis outbreak. And our homeless friends are some of the most vulnerable reduced to living on handouts and dumpster diving just to survive.  Check back often for more updates.

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Toronto Secord Ave Explosion: Evacuation Ended – Tenants Home This Weekend

Secord Avenue Site of Explosion

Secord Avenue Site of Explosion

About 900 residents who were forced from their east-end apartment building following an underground explosion last month will be allowed back into their homes starting this weekend. As building management made the announcement outside the evacuated building today, one angry resident interrupted to scold them over a broken promises…[end-quote, source – Toronto Star]

Project417 volunteers had assisted at the Secord Ave Public School evacuation site following the explosion. Since that time residents have had to be temporarily housed in City shelters or with friends and family. They have been required to continue paying rent and now the landlord is reportedly reneging on a promise not to require the standard 60 days notice to break leases. No clear explanation has been given for the cause of the explosion – which has been overshadowed by the recent massive propane explosion in North Toronto.

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Private security in Toronto Chinatown sparks safety debate

Homeless at Spadina / College

Homeless at Spadina / College

Excerpt from – Allison Hanes, National Post – For a week now, a pair of private security guards have been walking the beat in Toronto’s Chinatown hired by the local BIA. So far more than two dozen “banning orders” have been issued against disruptive undesirables. Dave Wilson,of Toronto Police, complained that lesser-trained employees lower standards…

“Randy Lippert, a sociology professor at the University of Windsor, has studied the trend of BIAs taking charge of local safety. The phenomenon has been imported from the United States, first catching on in Vancouver before sprouting here in Ontario, he said, as resources for community policing drift to technology and major crime.

“Despite its popularity, Prof. Lippert said there are some compelling questions to consider surrounding accountability and training. “Generally speaking, would most people like to have a private security guard making decisions that dramatically affect people’s lives when they’re only getting paid 10 or 11 dollars an hour?” he said. “I’m not saying that all private security people are like that, but certainly you’re starting to scrape the bottom of the labour pool…. A lot of them are wannabe, as they say
‘wanstables,’ people who in some cases didn’t make it.”

[end of excerpt – source National Post]

This is a very compelling and insightful article, well researched and balanced. The main issues would be – what are the private security firms charging the homeless with? That is, what laws are they breaking that a private security guard is authorized to enforce? Provincial trespassing legislation? The streets are public property, and the ground allocated to businesses very narrow, with the exception of their storefront fixtures and entrances – there is no “trespassing” on a public street or sidewalk – the very reason police do not lay trespassing charges against the homeless at City Hall for example. Loitering similarily is not often enforced by police, an outdated law, and difficult to apply in public areas. Also the arrest process must be equivalent to the crime and loitering has no victim and is non-violent, so police may not justify the use of force or restraint to enforce it. How are security guards above the law here? Other “offences” cited in the article include Petty thieving, public intoxication, drug consumption, urination and/or defecation in public, intimidation, prostitution and aggressive panhandling.  Intimidation and aggressive panhandling are specifically provided for in the Safe Streets Act of Ontario and should not be in the jurisdiction of private security firms.

For an update visit the Commentary page by clicking the tab at the top of this page. It’s important that the rights of the public be protected and that includes people who may be homeless. It’s not against the law to be homeless! And it is our duty to protect and help them.

|| Visit Project417 to Help the Homeless ||

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Violent Crime, Not Homeless – Real Problem in Toronto Chinatown

Man faces 12 charges – Firearm seized Dundas Street West/Spadina Avenue Chinatown

On Monday, August 18, 2008, at 7:40 p.m., 14 Division Community Response officers were on patrol in the Dundas Street West/Spadina Avenue area.

It is alleged that the accused was in possession of a loaded firearm, the accused fled on foot, the accused was arrested and a loaded 9 mm Mac 11 machine pistol was seized. Qoheleth Chong, 19, of Toronto, has been charged with – Careless use of a firearm, Possession of a prohibited weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized, Unauthorized possession of a firearm, Possession of a prohibited firearm with ammunition, Possession of prohibited weapon obtained by the commission of an offence, Carry concealed weapon, Possession prohibited weapon, Carry concealed weapon, prohibited device or prohibited ammunition, Possession of ammunition contrary to prohibition order, Possession of firearm contrary to prohibition order, Fail to comply recognizance, Fail to Comply with Probation.

He is scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall, on Tuesday, August 26, 2008, room 101, at 10 a.m. Contact: Constable Tony Vella, Public Information, for Detective Izzy Bernardo, 14 Division 416-808-1400 [end of bulletin]

Youth gangs tag a new storefront in the Spadina Dundas area.

Youth gangs tag a new storefront in the Spadina Dundas area.

While the Chinatown BIA and Intelligarde are rousting harmless homeless panhandlers, the police are right there in the neighbourhood in broad daylight and a loaded 9 mm Mac 11 machine pistol was seized from a youth nineteen years of age. He probably started out young with the rest of the growing gangs of neighbourhood teens who have plagued the Chinatown business district with destructive tagging or grafitti. Do you need to ask who is responsible for increased crime and drugs in the area?  This is not an isolated incident and highlights why the Toronto Police see homelessness and panhandlers as lower priority issues.

Visit the Missionlog Commentary page for updates. Click the Commentary tab at the top of the page or click here now.

Message From Mayor to Private Security Firms Harassing the Homeless in Toronto: Let the City Handle It

View north of Dundas on Spadina Chinatown.

View north of Dundas on Spadina Chinatown.

Toronto Sun, Aug.21, 2008 – Let city handle it, Mayor David Miller says:

“Chinatown shopkeepers should let the city do its job — but with social workers not police, Mayor David Miller said yesterday. Miller said he didn’t support the hiring of a private security firm to patrol the streets of the busy Spadina Ave.-area to remove the homeless. — [end of excerpt]

The City of Toronto and the Spadina Chinatown Business association have a much more serious problem than homelessness.  It is a serious oversight on their part to blame crime in the area on the homeless – Chairman Stephen Chan blames the homeless for car thefts and other crime without any arrests data to uphold the claim. He need look no further than the youth gangs in his own neighbourhood – they are not homeless and they are not merely a nuisance on the streets. They are dangerous armed criminals. Refer to the Toronto Police Bulletin below and my Project417 update and commentarty following –

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With all this news recently regarding the private policing by security firm Intelligarde, hired by the Spadina Chinatown BIA to move homeless off the streets, I thought it was important to highlight the real crime issues faced by Chinatown. The following is a Toronto Police Community Bulletin issued August 18th, the same timeframe as when the Sun is reporting on homeless harrassment:

Man faces 12 charges – Firearm seized Dundas Street West/Spadina Avenue area

On Monday, August 18, 2008, at 7:40 p.m., 14 Division Community Response officers were on patrol in the Dundas Street West/Spadina Avenue area.

It is alleged that the accused was in possession of a loaded firearm, the accused fled on foot, the accused was arrested and a loaded 9 mm Mac 11 machine pistol was seized. Qoheleth Chong, 19, of Toronto, has been charged with – Careless use of a firearm, Possession of a prohibited weapon knowing its possession is unauthorized, Unauthorized possession of a firearm, Possession of a prohibited firearm with ammunition, Possession of prohibited weapon obtained by the commission of an offence, Carry concealed weapon, Possession prohibited weapon, Carry concealed weapon, prohibited device or prohibited ammunition, Possession of ammunition contrary to prohibition order, Possession of firearm contrary to prohibition order, Fail to comply recognizance, Fail to Comply with Probation.

He is scheduled to appear in court at Old City Hall, on Tuesday, August 26, 2008, room 101, at 10 a.m. Contact: Constable Tony Vella, Public Information, for Detective Izzy Bernardo, 14 Division 416-808-1400 [end of bulletin]

Youth gangs tag a new storefront in the Spadina Dundas area.

Youth gangs tag a new storefront in the Spadina Dundas area.

While the Chinatown BIA and Intelligarde are rousting harmless homeless panhandlers, the police are right there in the neighbourhood in broad daylight and a loaded 9 mm Mac 11 machine pistol was seized from a youth nineteen years of age. He probably started out young with the rest of the growing gangs of neighbourhood teens who have plagued the Chinatown business district with destructive tagging or grafitti. Do you need to ask who is responsible for increased crime and drugs in the area?  This is not an isolated incident and highlights why the Toronto Police see homelessness and panhandlers as lower priority issues.

What would happen should the unarmed Intelligarde patrols come upon one of the armed Chinatown area criminals during a break-in, drug deal or other crime? The accused Qoheleth Chong is not homeless, but a resident of the same Chinatown neighbourhood.  And yet the business owners have been duped by their representatives that street homelessness is the top issue they are facing worthy of thousands of dollars of private policing.  The presence of those same surly security guards wil actually have a negative impact on their business as the public will react to confrontations between normally unobtrusive panhandlers and the guards who roust them. It’s an accident waiting to happen. The public or perhaps even tourists are bound to get caught up in an altercation sooner or later. Even the presence of those security guards on public city sidewalks is an affront to our freedoms and actually endangers our safe enjoyment of public property. The sidewalks in front of the Chinatown businesses are not private property but public. If they have a concern about the homeless blocking access to their doors, or being drunk and disorderly in public (a small minority),  then they need only call police who will respond. Perhaps they should stop selling Chinese cooking wine at five bottles for five bucks.

If the Chinatown business community was truly concerned about the sidewalks being blocked by the homeless, a far worse problem is the huge number of illegal, unlicenced street vendors (see my photo at the top) who block anywhere from a third to a half of public sidewalks, as well as the huge mountains of garbage and empty boxes from the sidewalk Chinatown markets that are to be at curbside but turn walking the public thoroughfare into threading the eye of the needle. This is all about appearances – Chairman Stephen Chan is concerned the homeless are “unkempt”, pehaps he could organize clothing bank donations from the vendors who block the sidewalk with clothing racks of T-shirts at a half dozen for $7.99 . According to the Sun news reports there were only 12 homeless rousted by security – they could have been clothed for less than twenty bucks.  Community outreach would be much more effective than community policing. The city and the Chinatown business community need to open their eyes to the real problems facing the area – why are your youth armed with automatic 9mm weapons? and where are the weapons coming from? – and stop blaming their problems on helpless homeless people living in crisis.

The Intelligarde Security philosophy towards community policing and some revealing in person insight into how that firm’s president views the public is the subject of another article on my Commentary page. Click on the tab at the top of the page or here to read more about Intelligarde President Ross McLeod.

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Intelligarde Security’s Mission: Arrest Homeless, Panhandlers, Referred to as Dirty Bums

A Chinese Gentleman Panhandling on Spadina

A Chinese Gentleman Panhandling on Spadina

Sunmedia, Toronto – Aug.21, 2008 Toronto Sun, by Ian Robertson, Headline: Dirty bum gets tossed

“A panhandler who refused to leave private property after messing his shorts was among 11 rousted at the start of a second week of controversial Chinatown security patrols. The beggar, who refused to stop appealing to passersby for money near Spadina Ave. after he “soiled his silks,” was arrested by Intelligarde Security officers Tuesday, firm founder Ross McLeod said…

Toronto Police Association president Dave Wilson is quoted as saying [private guards] lack the training, dedication and experience of cops. Unlike police, an unarmed uniformed guard can incite people to fight “and we don’t want to be showing up at incidents and having to worry about security guards as well.”… [end of excerpt ]

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Here at Project417, I have almost ten years of experience doing outreach to the homeless on the Spadina Chinatown streets. The accompanying photo was taken by me on Spadina, just south of Kensington Market, to illustrate the growing number of elderly Chinese-Canadians who have been forced by community circumstances to resort to panhandling. Of course homelessness knows no race and the homeless panhandlers in Chinatown come from all communties right across the country, but there are a growing number of seniors in Chinatown who appear to have no visible means of support and have taken to the streets.

The threat to public safety through the presence of hired private security firms is real. As well as the assault on human rights, not just of the homeless, but the public who are being confronted and intimidated by what amounts to uniformed thugs on public city sidewalks. Chinatown BIA President, Stephen Chan claims the homeless are blocking doors, aggressively panhandling passers by and even says they are responsible for thefts from cars. The BIA is blind to the real crime problems in their own community and are misguided in targetting the homeless – my next post will outline alarming crime trends in the Spadina Chinatown as well as first hand encounters with Intelligarde bullies.

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