Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We're Not Gonna Take It Anymore

There are some stories that just won't die, people, and the story with Edmonton city councillor Kim Krushell and Edmonton spokesman Jeff Angel just seems to be one of those. I've been following developments on this with great interest - and, well, I admit that I have pretty much thrown myself into it, too. Why? Because I think statements like those attributed to these individuals should not go unchallenged, and I decided that as a blogger I was in the perfect place to do so. So, here's the latest developments.

At the end of last week local country radio station 93.3 interviewed Ms. Krushell so she could clarify her statement that "northern workers coming to Edmonton to party may be a problem". Now, Ms. Krushell indicated some puzzlement as to why anyone would think she meant to relate this to Edmonton's homicide rate, so let's clear up that puzzle first. Here is the full text of the CBC article:

Council to consider Edmonton's murder rate

Posted: Aug 3, 2011 6:22 PM MT 

Edmonton's high murder rate is going to be on the agenda when city council resumes meetings in the fall, Coun. Kim Krushell said Wednesday.
Council will meet with new police chief Rod Knecht who was appointed in April to discuss options for dealing with murders. So far this year, 34 people have been killed.
When Knecht was appointed, he said "I see a tremendous opportunity to be a part of making Edmonton the most safe and vibrant city in Canada."
Krushell said council is frustrated, considering that the city spends more on policing than any other item, but said putting more officers on the street isn't the solution.
"We have cops out there that are very visible, we have peace officers, we've also beefed up transit security so when you add all these things together, we're expecting better results than we're seeing this year."
Krushell suggested that the large number of workers from the north who come to Edmonton to party may be a problem.
A better holding facility would give the partiers a safe place to sleep overnight, she said.

Now, call me crazy, but when the headline purports the article to about the murder rate, and the body of the article includes a comment about northern workers, it seems logical to assume the two are being related. Now, after listening to Ms. Krushell's interview I can see how she might be quoted out of context (as she has claimed) as she is not a very linear speaker and tends to toss in other ideas when supposedly talking about one topic. So, was she taken out of context as she claims? Probably - but then during the radio interview she brought up the issue of violence and alcohol use in bars as it relates to "dry camp workers". This made my ears perk up, because you know who else made this "dry camp worker" comment? Well, Jeff Angel, Edmonton's Chief Communication Officer did - and he linked it to the homicide rate in this article:

Boom workers fueling Edmonton homicides: city spokesman


Alberta’s boom economy is partly to blame for Edmonton’s gruesome murder rate this year, said the chief spokesman for the capital’s city hall that’s also smarting from some of the media coverage.

The spokesman — recently-transplanted Calgarian Jeff Angel — said Edmonton’s bearing the brunt of a petroleum-driven workforce that blows off steam, leading to violence.
“Edmonton’s the hub of the North...these workers leave their camps and what’s the first big city they come to?” said Angel.
“Edmonton’s a happening town and when they come from a dry camp, it’s a bit like coming to Disneyland.”
On Sunday, Edmonton police confirmed the city’s 33rd homicide of the year — a man stabbed while sleeping on a park bench.
It was the fourth killing in a week, while in seven months, Calgary’s only recorded three homicides.
During a visit to his hometown of Calgary, Angel said a cover illustration on the homicides story in Saturday’s Edmonton and Calgary Suns sporting the title “Deadmonton” rankled city officials in the capital.
“A front page like that stings...there’s huge civic pride,” he said, while acknowledging the homicide numbers are a story media can’t ignore.
“For sure it’s an issue, we know that.”
Many Edmontonians, he said, have considerable respect for Calgary, adding he hopes that sentiment can be returned.
Angel said Edmonton police are taking close note of their Calgary counterparts’ strategy targeting gangs that been credited with reducing homicide numbers.
And he said city and police leaders are taking concerted action on the issue, with 12 officers added to the beat and a series of meetings planned for this week.
“There’s a lot of work going on right now with both the city and Edmonton Police Service,” he said.
But on a spot overlooking the Deerfoot Tr. and Calgary’s downtown skyline, the graduate of Dr. E.P. Scarlett high school said “Calgary’s a great place — it’ll always be home.”
Now, just for the record when I read that article from the Calgary Sun I was incensed. As I've said before I don't get angry often but when I do it's an anger of the incendiary kind, and even though it was late in the evening I wrote an email to send to Mr. Angel. I then tweeted on Twitter to ask if anyone knew how I might reach Mr. Angel, and had a response within minutes giving me his email - and that of Mayor Mandel, and Mr. Angel's direct boss, too (ah, the power of social media!). I fired off the email and then sat back to wait to see if I received a reply, and people, I did - from Jeff Angel himself.
Now, I debated long and hard whether or not to publish his email reply, but I do consider emails to be private correspondence and therefore cannot in good conscience do so. I will, however, publish my email. This is what I sent to Mr. Angel:
I am a longtime Fort McMurray resident and freelance writer. My current project is penning a blog about life in our community, and I recently came across an article in the Calgary Sun containing comments from you as the City of Edmonton spokesperson. I would very much like to speak to you regarding these comments, the statistics that led you to these conclusions, and whether or not you feel these comments are conducive to the positive business and community relationship that has been established between the city of Edmonton and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. I found your allegations that crime in Edmonton is being fuelled by workers from the oil industry deeply troubling, particularly in relation to the murder rates in Edmonton this year. I also noted your comments regarding the respect Edmonton has for Calgary, but must wonder what sort of respect is being expressed for those communities to the north of Edmonton where much of that oil industry exists. I would remind you that these northern communities, like mine, are also helping to drive Edmonton's economy with our tourism, entertainment, and retail dollars, and wonder if you believe your comments about "camp workers" might just affect our willingness and interest in spending those dollars in your city. I assume you have statistics showing the involvement of oil industry workers in your crime rate, especially in the murder rate as that appears to be the implication of the headline of the article: "Boom workers fuelling Edmonton homicides: city spokesman". I would also point out that in the past year many of the individuals charged in drug trafficking in RMWB gave Edmonton addresses as their home address, and yet we are not placing the blame for our drug issues on opportunistic Edmontonians preying on our populace. Mr. Angel, you have no doubt gleaned from this e-mail that I am deeply troubled by your comments, and that I am also deeply disappointed by an official city spokesperson making such comments. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you, however, and can be reached through this email address.


As I said above I did receive a reply, and while I appreciate the reply I am disappointed to report that there was no hint of apology or retraction to be found. Mr. Angel assured me that he did not single out the RMWB or any specific northern community, although I find this distinction ridiculous as when one refers to "dry camp workers" in Alberta we all know who and where they are referring to. Trying to hide behind the vagueness of the wording doesn't help as I certainly felt that our community was singled out with his comments, and many others felt the same way. He also noted that he did not intend to disparage the RMWB or our community, and yet I still feel that was the fundamental outcome of his comments to the newspaper reporter.

Not only did Mr. Angel's email not include any hint of apology or retraction he actually again commented that a "young transient population combined with drug and alcohol use is just one of the many contributing factors to violence". I wonder what "young transient population" he is referring to? I would assume he again includes those dry camp workers who treat Edmonton as "Disneyland" in that population, and once again I resent this implication without some statistical evidence to back up this claim. Mr. Angel's major contention is that during his interview with the Calgary Sun he indicated that there are several factors contributing to Edmonton's homicide rate (a contention with which I agree) - but he did not indicate to me that he was misquoted, misunderstood, or taken out of context. What does this mean? This means that while he spoke of other things, and while the Sun decided to focus on specific comments regarding dry camp workers (and add a sensationalized headline), it appears that he did indeed make the comments that are attributed to him in the article. This means that it appears he did indeed imply that "dry camp workers" are linked to violence, and thus also to Edmonton's homicide rate. 

Look, I don't need to tell people what to think or how. I trust the intelligence of the people in this community, and I suspect that they will look at this and realize that we (or "northern workers", or "dry camp workers") are in essence somehow being implicated in Edmonton's horrendous homicide rate. I don't know how these "dry camp/northern worker" comments came about since there is no mention of them in the Edmonton Police Services' new strategy to combat crime in Edmonton. I do know one thing, however - I deeply resent these comments. This is my community being talked about, and while once upon a time such allegations may have gone unchallenged, those days are over. I was pleased in the last few days to see the incredible interest the community in the RMWB has had in this issue, and how it reacted with shock and dismay at these allegations. We have become a proud community, and no one will ever again be able to point a finger at us and not be called to account for doing so.

At this point I guess I should disclose that I personally come from a very long line of obstinate individuals. As an example I offer my father after his retirement. The city in which my parents lived determined that a water main had broken on their street, and proceeded to spend weeks digging up the mains. They not only dug up one half of the street but also my father's meticulously manicured lawn, sidewalk, and driveway. Unfortunately after digging for some time they realized the maps had apparently been read incorrectly and they had dug up the wrong side of the street. My father was outraged, and began a one-man campaign against such idiocy at city hall. He began to appear there on a weekly basis, not to complain but to ensure they realized the ridiculous nature of such a mistake and to remind them of their duty to not repeat it. I am sure that when the receptionists saw him enter the building they dove under their desks, as they no doubt realized that the man who had at first appeared to be a "sweet old guy" was in reality a doggedly persistent individual with a keen interest in justice, an intolerance for fools of any kind - and all the time in the world to make his point. People, I am my father's daughter in every sense.

So, where to go from here? I am not sure at this point. I think I have made my point, and I have taken steps to ensure that those who would make such comments know that they will be challenged. In the end, though, I know that what matters most to me is the residents of this community have taken a stand against these comments and allegations, and they have demanded to be heard. They have said we have had enough. We will not simply listen to such accusations without demanding evidence, and we will no longer be told by others outside this community "who we are". Take notice, world - quite frankly, we're not gonna take it anymore. And I am so very, very proud of all you for that, Fort Mac.

1 comment:

  1. Last Friday 93.3 made me laugh! They had two spoofs of this story. This one I'll always remember, too funny

    "Edmonton city councillors blame Northern Workers for the bears because the bears feel they need to come and police the city"

    I agree lets not take it anymore. If the media get 70,000 complaints everytime they run negative press about our city then it will stop. I don't need my parent's calling me anymore asking me to leave. They believe what they hear in the media and actually really think I'm in danger up here. Meanwhile it is peaceful, beautiful and I've never been happier anywhere.