Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We too walk past those who need our help

Two-year-old Wang Yue wanders into a Guangdong street and is knocked down by a van that speeds on. Eighteen people pass here as she lies in the street without stopping to help. She cries, laying in her own blood. At last, a peasant woman picks her up off the street. She died Friday.
The horrible scene, captured on closed-circuit TV and seen by millions, has sparked a global discussion. Why are people in today’s China so indifferent to a child in pain, crying, bloody, in the street? How can they turn away from suffering? Has the rush for economic success drained people of humanity?
Last week in B.C., John Gaffney finally got out of hospital, after five months. He wasn’t sick. Community Living B.C. didn’t want to pay for a group home for Gaffney, who is 46 and has Down syndrome and dementia. His parents didn’t think he would be safe in the home share CLBC proposed. So he stayed in hospital. (That wouldn’t happen to someone without a disability.)
Gaffney is a symbol. It’s clear that CLBC has lost its way. The focus has shifted from supporting adults with mental handicaps in living full lives, to dealing with “urgent health and safety needs,” as the corporation said in seeking more funding. The government has shuffled ministers, fired the CEO and offered a series of changing stories about what’s going on.
But until last week, no one in government acknowledged the people being forced from group homes they had shared for years, or the clients who lost every support when they turned 19.
They walked around those people.
With good excuses, I’m sure. Deficits and finite resources and other priorities. Some of the people who walked and rode past Wang Yue probably had good excuses too.
Then Liberal MLAs Randy Hawes and John Van Dongen joined families and advocates and the opposition in saying the government was failing people who really needed support. But the indifference to their plight lasted at least a year, as threats to health and safety and quality of life grew.
Last week in B.C., the missing women’s inquiry was getting underway in Vancouver. The first witnesses were testifying about how Robert Pickton could kill women for years without being apprehended.
There are lots of reasons. But fundamentally, Pickton and many others could prey on the women because we — governments, police and most of us — choose to make it easy. We walked around them, as people in that Guangdong market walked around Wang Yue’s broken body.
Consider the evidence in just the first few days of inquiry. A majority of Vancouver street-level sex trade workers reported suffering beatings, rape and other violence, testified Kate Shannon, a public health researcher and a professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of B.C. Most never reported the attacks to police, because if they did officers would sometimes pick up them late at night, detain them and then drop off in some distant part of the city to find their own way home. Others feared harassment, arrest or theft by officers.
The desire to avoid police also meant workers took greater risks, like getting into a car without assessing the danger or ignoring lists of dangerous potential clients.
John Lowman, a Simon Fraser University criminology professor who researches prostitution, said public and police pressure forced sex workers into darker and more dangerous neighbourhoods, where they were easier prey.
Catherine Astin, a nurse who worked on the Downtown Eastside, said she and colleagues noticed women were disappearing. But they didn’t go to the police.
Police and frontline workers shouldn’t be singled out.
Prostitution is legal in Canada. But the government, on our behalf, has passed laws that increase the danger for workers. Communication for the purposes of prostitution is illegal, forcing women into the shadows and preventing them from screening clients.
Living off the avails of prostitution is illegal, so women cannot band together in a safe location and hire their own security.
Everyone knew those laws, and the way they were being selectively enforced, put women at risk, led to them being beaten and killed. No one cared enough to do anything about it. Lowman testified predators found it easy to justify violence against people that society had signalled were disposable.
Maybe we wouldn’t walk past a child lying in the street. But we’re certainly prepared to turn away from others whose suffering is just as real.


Anonymous said...

You are right Paul,

And right to remind us all that lately in BC we seem to enjoy re-electing those who can be counted on to do the dirty work for us, so we can beat our chests and deplore those very predictable results your column brings to light, as if our hands were clean and we've had nothing to do with the nasty business. Considering the relative prosperity we enjoy compared to those who we've been disparaging in China, what right have we to be smug and patronizing.

Raymond Graham

Bluster said...

Speaking of everyone ignoring cries for help, check out the Victoria story linked to in the following article:

Seems that both the government and the BC news media have been MIA on this horror story.

BC Kettle calling the China pot black?

DPL said...

I must have lived a sheltered life, because I first became aware of people sleeping on heat vents while flying back and forth to Europe and especially London, during the late 60's early 70's. Maybe like so many others I wasn't looking. These last few years the poor have certainly become more noticeable. During the time of the NDP Government under Clark, I complained to a NDP MLA why we seemed to be growing more food banks. She told me I was living in an imperfect world. It sure hasn't gotten any better under the present bunch in power.Children in poverty are a great concern. The food banks are running broke, we build new stadium roofs. We lived for a few years right in the middle of the DTES, saw the lack of concern by many of those, shooting up in the alleys , getting beat up for their few dollars or their shoes. Yes this is an imperfect world and yes, most of us do turn a blind eye to others less fortunate than ourselves. I do read the articles of the reality from some columnists, you and Jody for starters.

Anonymous said...

The outrageous salary's Campbell handed out, including his own $60.000 per year salary hike. The gold plated pensions. Hahn's million per year, with BC Ferries. The totally absurd bonuses paid, while the disabled are booted out of their homes. Then we had Campbell and Harper forcing the HST on us, while BC people were in a deep recession, and still are.

People do care about 131,000 BC children living in poverty. It is the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals who don't give a damn. Nor did Campbell give a s**t about the minimum fantastic wage, of $8.00 per hour. Campbell's misbegotten Ministers sat there with their fingers up their noses. They didn't to one damned thing, for the unfortunate. Meanwhile, they were watching Campbell stuffing his wallet, to overflowing.

Everything that didn't stuff Campbell's wallet was disposable. Single mothers and their children. The disabled. Public school children so hungry, they couldn't do their lessons. Clean hospitals, didn't stuff his wallet. Schools in general, didn't fill his pockets. The women that went missing...were the last thing the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals cared about.

However, Campbell's theft and corrupt sale of the BCR, did stuff his pockets. So did the valuable real estate that went with the BCR. Also Campbell's theft and sale of our rivers, made him a pretty penny. Rumor has it, there was a kickback for the stupid smart meters.

Campbell/Clark BC Liberals, have totally fouled and dirtied BC, with a lot of help from Harper. Campbell betrayed his own peoples well being. He went to work for the other snake in the grass, Harper. The two of them should be tried for High Treason, and imprisoned. A pair of fascist dictators, is what they are.

Dave Killion said...

"Willcocks does not seem to know that the indifference he rails against is the direct and perfectly predictable result of the welfare state he endorses."