Why Figure Skating Is Bad For Our Health

I originally posted this on Facebook and it was suggested that I repost this on LondonFuse. So in case you didn't see it there...

"Why Figure Skating Is Bad For Our Health

You may be wondering why London all of a sudden looks so "clean". You may also be wondering why "all those people" hanging out at Dundas and Richmond are no longer present. I can assure you that the rerouting of public transit to other streets is not the cause of the disappearance of many community members in the downtown core. Over the last month, and more so within the last week, there has been an increase in police presence in downtown London. There has also been numerous drug busts, arrests, tickets and fines, creating a hostile an unwelcoming environment for many of downtown London's community, especially some of the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our community. Aside from these scare tactics of the London Police Services, many people are being zoned to other parts of the city. Yesterday, for example, one community member was zoned to Highbury and Dundas with no access to any place West of Highbury. It is not a mere coincidence that these measures are occurring at the exact time of International Figure Skating Championships in London, Ontario.

You may still be questioning what any of this has to do with OUR health. Simply put: London has tried their best to "clean-up" our streets in preparation for this event. By cleaning up, they really mean making marginalized people (e.g. those in poverty) invisible people so that those visiting London will see how great our city and downtown core really is. However, all this comes with a hefty price for our community: it's bad for our health.

It is bad for our health because, through intimidation, tickets, and zoning measures, London police are telling people that they are currently NOT welcome downtown. By limiting people's access to the downtown we are also limiting access to vital services that many people in the downtown core NEED for a variety of community, mental, and physical health reasons (e.g. the YAC, At^lohsa, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection, London Middlesex Health Unit, OW, etc.) or in the East Village (Unity Project, Intercommunity Health, My Sister's Place, etc.). By restricting people access to these vital services, we are increasing people's chances of contracting Hepatitis C or HIV because they are unable to access clean needles for safer injection, we are increasing people's chances of contracting STIs because they are unable to access condoms, lube, and dental dams, we are increasing people's chances of having mental breakdowns because they are unable to access their trusted support worker, we are increasing people's chances of not having a safe place to go, and the list goes on...

We have a collective responsibility in ensuring people's access to vital healthcare needs, especially the most marginalized community members. If we are failing at providing access to these services, we are also failing as a community and this jeopardizes the health of our community. This is why figure skating is bad for our health.

Please share and repost this note because we all know that the London Free Press won't be covering this story.

**Note: by making this post public, it is intended to reach the widest audience possible. I know this also increases my chances of receiving negative and possibly harrassing comments from strangers. So if you're a troll, please keep it to the LFP comments section. Thx."

March 13, 2013 - 11:26am

Again, for those not on facebook, here is a response to a question about "zoning":

I have spoken to two police officers who told me they didn't know and that I should talk to the city. I spoke to three people at the city Bylaws division and they said if the police are enforcing it, that I should be speaking to them.

However, I can say a few things that will partly answer your question. There are some Bylaws that the police can enforce (and others that can only be enforced by City Bylaw Officers). Public nuisance bylaw (PH-15) is one that the police can enforce. Public nuisances include, but are not limited to, obstructing traffic (J walking), disorderly conduct, public disturbances, etc. and what qualifies these 'nuisances' can be interpreted and judged by the police officer. Upon finding people who allegedly are making these offences, police have the right to tell groups of people that they are not allowed in the downtown area due to being a perceived public nuisance 5(4).

There are also bylaws relating to cycling on the sidewalk, loitering, etc. I believe that police can give fines for these and ask people to leave (though I cannot find the exact bylaw).

These somewhat relate to "zoning" people - which is just a general term used in instances like these. There are also many people who are on probation or parole and there are court mandates on what neighbourhoods you are allowed to be in. This happens all the time, but there is always some leniency with the police in terms of enforcing people's probation conditions. One main reason for being flexible is because people need access to certain services that are not available in their own neighbourhood. The police have been very flexible up until this event, understanding the need for certain services in bettering the lives of many people.

Of course, all these happen to be occurring conveniently at the same time as a large event. I did not write this post to challenge the bylaws/laws that have been targeting particular populations. Rather, I write it to address the negative effects that a decrease in access to vital services has on our community. This is not just an issue for London, but also one that occurs at many cities whom have hosted the Olympic Games.

There could be other reasons / bylaws / laws, but I have been unsuccessful in finding these after talking to both the London police and the City Bylaws division. I encourage everyone to contact the city and the police to find answers to this important issue that is affecting our downtown community, and more importantly, to speak out to issues that affect other people in our community.


March 13, 2013 - 11:30am

I wanted to add a disclaimer that this posting is based on firsthand testimony from community members experiencing the above. This is not me speculating about why there aren't any marginalized people downtown. It is based on real experiences and I know many social workers in the downtown core can relate to this and are also concerned.

<a href="/blog/why-figure-skating-bad-our-health#comment-3380" class="active">I&#039;ve read your post 3 times</a>
March 13, 2013 - 4:34pm

I've read your post 3 times now (including the additional comments) and it comes across as if you're against laws being enforced.

I'd argue, if anything, police and other law enforcement personnel, should be more active on a daily basis an enforce existing laws more regularly and not just when the 'world' visits. I'd also argue that if you believe a law to be out of place or irrelevant, or in the cases you've stated, obstacles to individuals seeking essential services, that you look into the necessary steps to change this.

This has nothing to do with a large event in the end, I'd argue, but rather that currently laws aren't properly enforced on an ongoing basis.

Just because individuals (regardless of what 'population' they belong to) have 'gotten away' with things in the past doesn't make it right.

While I can't comment on any specific situation as I haven't been involved in one I don't have an issue with someone being charged and removed from an area if they are selling drugs. Common people.

I'll say this in addition, I think 8 police officers for a span of 2 blocks is ridiculous and is an excess, but this is another topic all on its own.

March 14, 2013 - 9:47am

I also read the post three times, struggling to come up with a suitable response, I had to sleep on it. I understand entirely what you're saying, we have an tendency in London, in Canada and in the West to ignore important social problems, removing those undesirables from the spotlight when we don't want others to know about them.

I travelled out West with a band a few times a number of years ago, before the Olympics in Vancouver, and after. Because it's on the way when you're in the middle of nowhere, we ended up stopping in Red Deer. When Vancouver shipped out its undesirables, many of them were sent to Red Deer. The first time visiting Red Deer, it was a quaint isolated town where the singer of the band had to break character to assure the cook that we don't in fact worship Satan. A stark contrast to our next visit because no one cares about Satan when your community has a horrible crystal meth problem, introduced by shipping meth addicts across Canada.

I'm sure most people downtown are seeking assistance of various types, simply hoping to improve their lot or maybe just get by. The problem is, that's not what I see every day at Dundas and Richmond. I see drug deals out in the open, I hear people yelling obscenities at each other across the street, I see people avoiding the downtown.

Has this situation been handled properly? I highly doubt that it has, and I'm not dismissing your points. However, I still enjoy the fact that I didn't have to wade through crowds of loiterers and drug dealers, and that streets themselves are physically cleaner.

March 14, 2013 - 12:24pm

Most of the laws they're using to their advantage are by-laws that aren't enforced. Like, jay walking, no sleeping in public, no panhandling, etc. The laws are in place so that is something happens, they have a law to fall back on. Basically, the police are ok with you doing whatever until it suits THEM.

They're exploiting the existing laws to oppress and discriminate against an already marginalized group of people. These laws exist exactly for this purpose, to control us, and especially the lower class.

Shoving undesirables to another part of town won't fix the problem. If having a healthy downtown runs at the cost of leaving a significant part of our population behind, then it's not worth it.