Former Edmonton health chief to investigate listeriosis outbreak

Former Edmonton health chief to investigate listeriosis outbreak.

 Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday that Sheila Weatherill, a past CEO of Capital Health in Edmonton, has been  appointed  to act as an independent investigator into the outbreak, which sparked a recall of many sliced meat products across Canada. [end of quote]

This only after criticism earlier this month that the PM was delaying the critical process and putting Canadians at risk. The new deadline for the report is now not due until late July, a four month setback and almost a full year after the deadly Listeria bacteria caused death and illness from Listeriosis.

Further it is reported that because Prime Minister Harper did not choose to give Weatherill full judicial inquiry powers, that the report will not be effective and leave Canadians at risk – this according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal. 

The Old Man and the Storm – Hurricane Katrina documentary – Jan 6th on PBS

Mr. Herbert Gettridge

Mr. Herbert Gettridge

About a true hero of  Hurricane Katrina: Mr. Herbert Gettridge – airing January 6, 2009 and online. Six months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, producer June Cross came across 82-year-old Herbert Gettridge working alone on his home in the lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood devastated when the levees broke in 2005. Over the next two years, Cross documented the Gettridge family’s story. After a long wait, the film  – The Old Man and the Storm – will air on PBS to tell the story of perseverance against all odds, not the least of which is the bungling of recovery efforts by state and federal agencies.

Project417’s Andy Coates came across Mr. Gettridge in the Lower Ninth ward in April of 2006, eight months after the storm hit. Like Cross he found Mr. G, as he became affectionately known, working by himself – the only home-owner for blocks around struggling to clean-up his property and repair his hurricane ravaged home.  I visited him at his home last month returning from our Texas Hurricane Ike relief trip.

I first visited New Orleans in March 2006, eight months after Katrina, to volunteer for two weeks with the Salvation Army. Our director Joe Elkerton had been a first responder in September of ’05 just after the storm. When I saw the devastation of the city and the snail’s pace at which recovery was taking place, I decided to stay for the next six months and organize volunteer teams through Project417 to help with the clean-up. Over the course of that stay, Mr. Herbert Gettridge, Andy and Paul, July 2006almost a hundred volunteers came down to work on projects with me – three of the work sites were properties owned by the Gettridge family in the Lower Ninth Ward of Orleans Parish, New Orleans.  Everyone who met Mr. Herbert Gettridge realized he was no victim  – 82 years old, he was one of the first returning residents of the Lower 9th – and was working single-handed to fix his home. His mission, to rebuild it so his wife, staying with family in Madison, Wisconsin, could rejoin him in the home they had built together more than fifty years ago.  Many faith based volunteer teams pitched in to help Mr. Gettridge re-build – and that story is told in June Cross’ film on PBS . (It was so wonderful to be able to visit with both Mr. and Mrs. Gettridge in their renovated home last month – what he’d been wishing and working for so long).

Almost without exception, everywhere in New Orleans re-building was taking place, hard working church volunteers were making a difference.  Of course there were a multitude of recovery teams, not just faith-based, that came to New Orleans to fill the vacuum left by the total absence of any organized government efforts – including groups like the local Common Ground who adopted the Lower Ninth,  and young hard-working AmeriCorps youth were sweating it out all across the gulf. (Project417 hosted AmeriCorps teams at two Lower Ninth sites).

Be sure to watch the story of a true American hero – The Old Man and the Storm – on PBS January 6th at 9pm (check local listings).  And when you’re done, consider coming with Project417 back to the Gulf and continue the re-building that is still going on. We want to get a fund set up to build new homes on two properties owned by Mr. Gettridge in the Lower Ninth. All across the Lower Ninth are still homes that have not been touched since Katrina 3 1/2 years ago. In Mississippi, from Waveland to Biloxi, re-construction continues – house foundations still lay bare.  Following Hurricane’s Gustav and Ike this fall, Project417 is hosting teams in Galveston County, Texas – the devastation is on the scale of that visited by Katrina.  The people of the Gulf coast need you, their neighbors, to come and help them.

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New Hurricane Threats and Funding Shortfall Delay Project417 New Orleans Mission

Mold marks calendar in flooded Gettridge home Aug. 29th, the date Katrina hit.

Mold marks calendar in flooded Gettridge home Aug. 29th, the date Katrina hit.

An update for Andy’s Project417 mission partners – As you might know, in addition to our work with the homeless here in Toronto, Project417 has been providing Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief in New Orleans since 2005. Between the week following Katrina in September, 2005 and November 2006, Project417 Executive Director Joe Elkerton and Andy Coates have been in New Orleans several times, from short two week missions to an extended stay by Andy from April to October of 2006, serving in disaster relief programs and heading up home re-building / recovery teams.

Since that time, several appeals by Project417 for funding of another home renovation mission to re-build houses destroyed by the flooding have fallen on deaf ears. Most people assume that this long after Katrina the city is not in any immediate need of relief. To the contrary – hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed and many have not yet received any U.S. federal or state funding. Less than half the former residents are able to return.  In addition, of the hundreds of millions of dollars donated to some organizations, during Katrina, the majority of those funds left New Orleans when the immediate disaster was over, deposited in general funds until the next emergency, not to be used to help New Orleans as many donors intended.

Project417’s missions to New Orleans are of a small, grassroots nature and simply help local families rebuild their flood ravaged homes. More than 25 Toronto area volunteers have joined Andy and Joe on six separate occasions to help rebuild. One of those we helped, Mr. Herbert Gettridge of the Lower Ninth Ward of Orleans Parish, New Orleans, is the subject of an upcoming public televsion documentary on PBS Frontline, The Old Man and the Storm, by acclaimed producer June Cross (Watch it Jan. 6th, 2009 at 9PM, check local listings) telling the Gettridge family story of survival and recovery assited by volunteers from across North America, including Project417. Another we helped with a team from Heart Lake Baptist Church in Brampton, Mrs. Aline Dastague of Lakeview, is over 90 years old and was living in a retiremnt home while her home sat destroyed by the failure of the Canal Street Levee.

Andy was scheduled to go to New Orleans for the recent Labor Day weekend and take part in the August 29th Katrina Memorial events and visit Mr. Gettridge, to prepare for a planned November short-term mission to re-build more homes. But donations fell far short of the $1500 goal to fund the trip, although several long time supporters sent generous last-minute cheques. And then new hurricanes threatened New Orleans. Hurricane Gustav forced the evacuation of New Orleans and much of Louisiana, news covered here at the Missionlog, and threats from tropical storm Hanna, and Ike, and Josephine, so the trip has been delayed. Although Gustav was downgraded to category two and only glanced by New Orleans, the levees held and residents have received the return home notices, power is out for over a million people and there still was some serious flood damage from the hurricane borne torrential rains.

As soon as power is restored to the area and Project417 donations reach our modest goal, Andy will visit to assess the new damage, update recovery needs and finish preparatory planning for the November mission. Visit Project417 today to see how you can help or join the mission.

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UPDATE – January 5, 2009 – Andy has returned from two disaster relief trips to Galveston County, Texas for Hurricane Ike in San Leon, Texas – helping families rebuild their huricane ravaged homes. Vist Project417 to volunteer for the next trip. Returning from the most recent Texas trip, Andy visited Mr. and Mrs. Gettridge in their New Orleans home and made plans with Mr. Gettridge to set up a trust fund to build two new homes on property in the Lower Ninth ward owned by the Gettridge family.

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 – 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: – 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


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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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.

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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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