Joe Elkerton of Project417 – First Nations Survivor

My good friend Joe Elkerton was recently interviewed and shared the challanges he faced growing up as a First Nations child in Toronto. A true survivor, Joe works tirelessly out on the streets of Toronto with Project417  to help the homeless, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable, forgotten people trapped in the sex trade. Worth watching – share it widely.

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Explosions in Two Toronto Apartment Buildings

Update: Hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate after explosions rocked two Toronto apartment complexes in separate incidents Thursday.

The first, a condominium building in the east end at Kingston Rd and Eglinton, suffered two blasts shortly after 2:30 am – one inside a utility room, followed by a Hydro transformer outside the building. More than 500 residents were evacuated to a community centre, where volunteer relief workers provided meals. More here from yesterdays post.

photo url - ctv.ca

photo url - ctv.ca

The second incident occurred early Thursday afternoon at 2369 Lake Shore Blvd., in the third-floor electrical room of a four-storey, 92-unit apartment building. [source ctv.ca] Residents were also evacuated to a nearby community centre – where about thirty stayed Thursday night. During investigation of the fire, what appeared to be marijuana grow-ops were discovered in three of the units. It’s not known whether the hydro consumed by the grow-ops contributed to the electrical room explosion.

Project417 volunteers also responded to the community centre with the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services team to assist residents and serve food and beverages adding to the relief assistance already being provided after the east end explosion.

Youth Grafitti Artists still treated as criminals

tagged!

tagged!

Grafitti – a fact of life in most urban areas, has always been a topic of much controversy. Some see it as art and expression, while others see it as vandalism, and a barometer of criminal gang activities. All municipalities have laws prohibiting grafitti to varying degrees and by far the majority of grafitti and “tagging” is created by youth. [ all photos with the article by ACoats 2007]

Reported last week on the CBC – “Manitoba man arrested after posting graffiti on Facebook“. [note – the man was a youth under 17 when posting the tags – A tag is the unique, stylized signature of the person who created the graffiti]

And my comments posted with the cbc.ca article:

Grafitti: nuisance and crime? or, art and free speech? The majority flows from the spray cans and brushes of our youth – as was this “creator”. Is it vandalism, or expression? Which is more visually disturbing – a taggers signature, or a giant 50% OFF SALE sign? Which is more depressing to see plastered all over the city – grafitti artists’ tags and names or public signage in bold black and red, “NO LOITERING”, “NO SHIRTS, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE”? Note to business owners – you want attention? Engage a tagger to liven up that blank concrete wall or make your window display more relevant. Note to Selkirk and St. Clements’ councils and the RCMP – treating grafitti as crime will never end it. You need to support community initiatives which give youth alternatives to gangs. You have far worse problems in your midst than tagging. The Five Man Electrical Band’s anthem, “Signs” is still worth a listen…

Living and working on the streets of Toronto, I see my share of grafitti and I feel it falls into four categories: street art, social commentary, tagging and lastly destructive defacement. You can see from the photo below, that this tag has a destructive element in blocking a store window. You should also know that the storefront was empty for months, and the only view it offered to the street was peeling, yellowed newspaper taped in place.

window grafitti on SpadinaIt could have been worse – in this area, taggers have taken to using glass cutters on windows to carve their grafitti right into the window, causing shopowners to replace the whole window at a very high cost. This is destructive tagging as protest and defacement.

So Hip It Hurts mural

So Hip It Hurts mural

Here, on Queen Street West in Toronto, a clothing store commissioned a large grafitti mural on a second floor sidewall of their store. Normally, I find these murals remain untouched, but this one has been defaced by other street artists and taggers alike.

City of Angels muralAlso on Queen West, the City of Angels store mural has remained untouched by taggers for years, and Grossman’s Tavern, a blues club, has had it’s beautiful yellow facade left untouched until only recently.

Grossmans Tavern or Big Yellow

Grossmans Tavern or Big Yellow

apple iPod grafitti :: Compare street artists, taggers and other grafitti to    the  corporate grafitti and other “approved” legal signage and banners around the city. Which is more pleasing to the eye? Apple’s iPod campaign at the left or the literally thousands of signs that compete for space in the same Chinatown district so plagued by grafitti. Maybe taggers  are reacting to the senseless commercial sign pollution of their neighbourhoods.

Is Toronto's sign bylaw being obeyed?

Is Toronto's sign bylaw being obeyed?

Then there’s the famous “Hug me tree” on Queen West. The photo below is as it appeared a couple of years ago, but then a turf war broke out between the original street artist, who’d cared for it for years, and a newcomer who thought the space deserved a change.  They’ve repainted and sculpted it back and forth and it now stands in disrepair. Perhaps the spring weather will bring it new life.

Hug Me TreeIn the following three photos compare the street art graffiti  to bland booze ads or blank crumbling brick.  Is the painted over brick better esthetically than the tag it covered?

Contrast - which is more appealing?

Contrast - which is more appealing?

Homeless Aboriginal Man’s claims of beating at St. Mike’s in Toronto

St. Michael's Hospital torontoFollowing up on the recent Missionlog posting about the death of a homeless man in a Winnipeg hospital after 34 hours in the ER , there were news reports just last week from Toronto. A homeless First Nations person has claimed he was beaten severely by in house security staff at St. Michael’s Hospital (according to cbc.ca).  Officials dismissed the allegations as an isolated incident. But following those reports a nurse has come forward to refute the claims it was an isolated incident – providing details of a similar beating of an aboriginal visitor at the hands of security.  More details of the shocking reports are available online at  –

Aboriginal Man Alleges Beating , Racial Slurs by hospital security guards

Nurse Alleges previous incident of beating by St. Mike’s staff

In other homeless news, a study by a York University graduate student has focused on the glaring difference between government promises of funding for housing and homelessness and the lack of money actually being spent. She estimates homelessness costs Canadians $6 billion dollars each year. The results of her investigation and many other leading sociologists will be presented at the annual National Homelessness Conference this week in Calgary.

‘The federal government is throwing $7 billion at bridges and roadways, and $2 billion at housing. I’m thinking that perhaps the homeless are now going to have new bridges under which they can sleep.’

—Social work professor Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff

Check back to the Missionlog blog for more updates or visit project417.com to find ways you can help to end homelessness.

CNN Rips Bush For Katrina Remarks in Farewell Speech

[Source – huffingtonpost.com & CNN] – Campbell Brown of CNN cut through George Bush’s bull Monday night, taking the President to task for his remarks about Hurricane Katrina during his farewell press conference. Brown “was taken aback” with Bush’s statements defending his administration’s Katrina response – “Don’t tell me the federal response was slow,” Bush said, “when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.”

“Many people will disagree over many aspects of the Bush legacy,” Brown said. “But on the government’s handling of Katrina? It is impossible to challenge what so many of us witnessed firsthand, what the entire country witnessed through the images on our television screens day and night. “Mr. President, you cannot pat yourself on the back for that one,” she then said. “We will debate the war in Iraq, debate national security, the economy, and the rest of your legacy. Those debates will continue for years to come. But on how you handled Katrina, there is no debate.”

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Sad News: Body found by Barrie police may be missing teen

This will be the last update I post here about the tragic Brandon Crisp story. Our hope had always been that Brandon would be found safe – here at Project417, we meet many youth on the streets of Toronto who have left home for a multitude of reasons. We’ll continue to be vigilant in helping to heal wounds and restore families whenever possible.  [ ac- november 11,2008 ]

From the CBC at cbc.ca – A body found northeast of Barrie, Ont., on Wednesday may be 15-year-old Brandon Crisp, who disappeared from his home last month after a dispute with his parents over a video game. A teenage male’s body was found on Wednesday morning by hunters, said Sgt. Dave Goodbrand of the Barrie Police Service. Police are not yet confirming the body is Crisp’s, but it was found in the Shanty Bay-area where they had been searching since Oct. 20. The Crisp family has been informed that a body was discovered and an autopsy will be conducted to determine the identity, Goodbrand said. Our prayers go out to the Crisp family.

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Brandon Crisp – Missing Teen – Latest Updates and Links

UPDATE  – Wednesday, November 5, 2008 | 2:50 PM ET — There has been some sad, discouraging news that a body of a young male has been found in the area police were searching for Brandon Crisp, missing since October 13th.  Police have not confirmed the identity yet. The latest report, made less than an hour ago on local and national news is available on cbc.ca Our prayers are with Brandon’s family.
Here are other updates and links to sites concerning the search for Brandon Crisp.

Nov. 5 – 2008 – Witness Reports second sighting of Brandon Crisp – National Post

Nov, 3 – 2008, 1:00 PM  Latest Update – Barrie Police

See also –
The Facebook Group at –
America’s Most Wanted Web Update at –
Also try –
Anyone with information is asked to call the Barrie Police at (705) 725-7025 ext# 2160
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