Thursday, August 19, 2004


Underbelly of Vancouver
Downtown Eastside


Well as everyone knows the Jeff Berg case is the story of the summer. First we have the Police Chief, Jamie Graham kicking a dead man while he's down. Next up, the rapidly decreasing in popularity, Mayor Larry Campbell, joins the fray, also taking the boots to the deceased, Mr Berg.

Wow - so you say? Yes so do I. But why and how? Well Mayor Larry Campbell has risen to the defense of his embattled police chief over the Jeff Berg matter by articulating his support for the Police Chief. As you recall on August 13th, 2004, Chief Graham, held a press conference and made unsubstantiated and unwarranted comments about Mr Berg's character. This as most of us know, was public relations spin, to take the heat off the VPD, regarding the findings of a Coroner's Jury. The Jury had ruled that Jeff Berg's death was a homicide. Who was responsible for the Homicide? Well, the finger pointing was directed straight at the Vancouver Police Department.

You know though it must be serious for the leadership of the VPD and the City, when the Police Chief's boss, the former Coroner, now Mayor of Vancouver wades in with his ill advised comments about supporting the Chief.

But wait, something isn't quite right here. Surely, this can't be the same Mayor Larry Campbell who gained popularity by defending the human rights of those who are drug addicted. This can't be the same Mayor Campbell who rode, this single most important issue of the 2002 Vancouver civic election campaign, all the way into the highest political office in Vancouver? Is this the same Mayor who as Chief Coroner said "drug addicts are not criminals and this issue must be treated as a health issue"?. Surely this can't be the same Larry Campbell who now is defending the Police Chief's desperate attacks on a dead man?

Surely, this must be an imposter, pretending to be Mayor Campbell? Does Mayor Campbell have a double? If he doesn't have a twin - what gives? Now that Mayor Campbell sits in the highest oval office, has he forgotten why the public supported him? Has he forgotten why his buddies in the film industry supported him?. Has he forgotten that west side families of drug addicted individuals who reside in his neighborhood, voted for him and supported him for his seemingly compassion of drug addicts. Has he had a lapse in memory and also forgotten the Downtown Eastside voters that he actively and passionately courted?

Well, it appears that the answer to all of the above is a resounding Yes. But why?

Surely, it couldn't be that Mayor Campbell only said certain things during the campaign to get elected? Surely Mayor Campbell doesn't judge people? Surely, he doesn't de-value the dead? Surely, he must recognize that he's a Mayor and not a Police Chief? Surely, he must believe that he's to act in the best interests of all people regardless of class or circumstance in life?

Ah, the old class issue rises again. Speaking of it, I remember way back in 1991, Mayor Campbell, made a visit down to the Downtown Eastside and came calling to the Downtown Eastside Resident's Association (DERA), where I worked at the time. I re-call vividly why he was there. A very horrendous murder had just happened in our City. Cheryl Ann Joe, who worked the streets of the Downtown Eastside had been brutalized beyond belief. The community was outraged over the murder of Ms Joe and sprang into political action. Mr Campbell, obviously was concerned over Cheryl's homicide and in his role as coroner, was on a fact finding mission, one assumes to find whether deaths of this nature are preventable.

Did Mayor Campbell learn anything from those days? Well my guess is that if you ask Mayor Campbell - he would say yes. He will point to his record as Chief Coroner, of championing the rights of drug addicted individuals, who were prematurely dying on our streets. He has said many times over, that these deaths profoundly affected him.

Ok so now we know he seemed to care for drug addicts. He also seemed to care about social issues in the city. He appeared not to judge people. His work as Coroner paints a picture of a man who treats with compassion, the dead. In fact, he has said, the Coroner's role is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. He also claimed, that the Coroner's mandate is to bring some final measure of dignity and respect to those who died tragically and prematurely, often as a result of mis-adventure, neglect and homicide..

Mayor Campbell, touting himself as the voice for the voiceless. Mmmmmmmm....... What happened since his heady days as Coroner.

Well, two years ago he wins election. As a Mayor, he defines himself as a populist. He has numerous times, articulated that he's not into political labels. He has even compared himself to Premier Gordon Campbell.

But what has alluded Mayor Campbell since his election, has been his inability to be what most people had considered him to be. Being a voice for the underdog has totally escaped him. More and more, his antics in Council chambers, leaves observers shaking their heads in dis-belief. In fact, it has even left fellow councilors from with-in his own party, mistrusting and fearing him. Those who adored the man are turning their backs on him.

At times, he has engaged in what can only be considered fear tactics. Watching him in action, is like watching an aloof, I don't really care what the voters think of me anyway, immature little boy. As a matter of fact, his style, has reminded me of a former Mayor. Whether threatening to throw lawyer and activist, Connie Fogal-Rankin, out of council chambers - to attacking attendees at council - with expulsion - for simply applauding when a councilor delivered a heck of a speech - has been Mayor Campbell's typical way. He often resembles an angry man who after exploding, will use some humor to soften, one assumes, his appeal. A complex man, perhaps. A bully, perhaps.

Like former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, once said, style without substance though is a dangerous thing. And from where I'm planted, Mayor Campbell's joining the choruses of assault on the deceased, Jeff Berg, is very troubling and obscene. Its like the bullies in school syndrome. It starts with One bad apple - then Two - then Three and so on.

Unfortunately for Ms Berg and the others in Mr Berg's family, nothing much, in the legal sense can be done over the disgusting comments and actions of Mayor Campbell and Chief Graham. However, in the case of Mayor Campbell something can be done at the ballot box.

I'd say its high time, voters begin to seriously think of what they received, when they elected Mayor Campbell to be their elected representative?

Jamie Lee Hamilton
(604) 781-3361