The Week – March 10

David Arthur (author) Johnston, BCCLA lawsuit and kindness campaigning.

Homeless advocate David Arthur Johnston is now an author

Homeless advocate David Arthur Johnston is now an author

Mightier than the sword

Victoria’s favourite homeless advocate will now be battling society’s more stringent ways with a new weapon: the pen.

David Arthur Johnston, who is known around Monday, the city and much of B.C. for his oft-controversial homeless advocacy tactics, has decided to write a book about his experiences, titled The Right To Sleep: The Occupation of St. Ann’s Academy.

“Anyone who would have any interest, at all, in this book will already know, to varying degree, what it’s about,” says Johnston. “Essentially, it’s the first seven years of a journal being kept during this pivotal chapter of the City’s — and country’s, and world’s — history: the right to protect one’s self from the weather while living in the public domain, within a municipality, being affirmed by law.”

The book’s release party is scheduled for Wednesday, March 16, (7 p.m. at 5090 West Sannich Road) and will feature a “wine and cheese” event with classical pianist Shoko Inoue, who’ll be playing selections of Bach and Beethoven. The public is encouraged to treat it as a potluck. Johnson’s book will be available for a nominal charge, though Johnston insists that he will not be accepting any money for the book himself. All donations will go towards printing fees and to his “publisher,” David Shebib.

Since we last checked in with Johnston, which saw him — and the City of Victoria — in court over his rights to erect temporary shelters, Johnston has been busy making more legal waves. He has since filed a notice of appeal with the Appeal’s Court of B.C. regarding erecting “temporary abodes” during the day. Currently, homeless people are still allowed to erect shelters in designated  Victoria parks between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“It seems nothing can stop tent-cities from becoming a new legally-affirmed social phenomenon, and it has some people flailing,” Johnston says.

Meanwhile, looks like it will have other people turning pages.

Woman’s world

In mind of International Women’s Day and International Women’s Week, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has taken it upon themselves to file a lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of a 24-year-old aboriginal woman who has been held in solitary confinement at an Abbotsford federal facility.

Bobby Lee Worm, who was incarcerated for a first-offence robbery and assault at age 19, has received what the BCCLA is calling “unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment,” and has been kept in her solitary holding cell for up to 23 hours each day. But while the case itself may sound individual, BCCLA Litigation Director and lawyer Grace Pastine says the principle is affecting women throughout the province, and the country.

“Right now it is legal to keep people in solitary confinement, and that’s something that is up to the discretion of the prison,” says Pastine. “It’s a violation of human rights, and has been condemned the world over as a type of torture.”

Pastine is quick to point out that psychoses, depression, rage and suicide can often result from such treatment, and women may be even more suggestible than men. Seven women have been on the Management Protocol since it was first created in 2005. Currently, all the women on the protocol are aboriginal.

Those wanting to voice their opinions on the matter should contact their local MLAs.

Canuck kindness counts

According to a new national study, Canadians aren’t actually as kind as we think we are. But with the face of Canadian Football League legend Michael (Pinball) Clemons leading the awareness team, one company intends to change that.

“The real magic of kindness is that it’s most effective in its simplest forms,” says Clemons. “So whether it’s holding a door, donating blood, nominating someone you know online, or just smiling and saying hi in an elevator, it really has an impact.”

The study, taken in 2010 by Leger Marketing, has caused Mars Canada Inc. to launch a “kindness campaign,” which is asking all Canadians to become “kindness ambassadors” and take it upon themselves to go out of their way to promote kindness, or even nominate a person or organization to win one of three $10,000 kindness donations online, at marsacts.ca.

“We lose self-confidence and self worth when we don’t feel like we’re part of a community, and acts of kindness — even just remembering someone — can really pay off,” says Clemons. “We can all think of this as a type of training season, like in football, where we’ve just got to get our attitudes back in shape. More than a thriving economy, we need a thriving atmosphere of kindness and compassion to make our country livable.”

Spoken like a true Canadian.

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