Public Consultation: Town Hall Regarding Proposed Parole Office at 1010 Somerset West


58 comments posted
"I'd be better off writing

"I'd be better off writing you all a relatively calm blog post"

Thanks for this post, much more informative that what I've been hearing on the radio all morning.

I had to walk past a half-way house on my way to school when I was a kid (in old Ottawa South, I guess the tree on the front lawn was a forest). I seem to recall that the only problematic adults in my neighbourhood were those with full-time jobs and University degrees. Well, them and the bikers that took over the Mayfair for a while, but that's another story.



Posted by Brendan (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 09:03
As a resident of Hintonburg

As a resident of Hintonburg with one small child at Devonshire Public School and another soon to be a student there, I am ashamed this morning of my fellow community members who have lead the charge to stop the parole office at 1010 Somerset.

When we meet and chat at the neighbourhood parks and in front of our amazing school, we all seem to be pretty open-minded and social-justice-oriented individuals; but when push comes to shove and there is a real opportunity to help the disadvantaged in our society, the NIMBY mentality rears its ugly head. The claim is that we are trying to protect our children, but what about the example we are setting for them by saying, on the one hand, that we care about the less fortunate in our community, but we don't want to incur the social cost of making a difference, on the other. This said, I utterly reject the fear-mongering arguments that have fronted the push to keep the parole office out of our neighbourhood.

In terms of due process and community consultation, I am all for it and agree that it was sorely lacking in this instance. I can't help but feel that it was a bit of a red herring in this debate, however.

And lastly, where is our federal MP Paul Dewar on this issue? He was conspicuously silent throughout the debate and not surprisingly, I suppose. As an NDP MP, his party line would be to encourage the paroled office as a crucial part of the rehabilitation and re-integration of offenders. But as it stands, it would not have been politically prudent for Mr Dewar to appear to disagree with what I'm sure is his voter-base. Shame on him.

This is a sad day for Hintonburg.

Jeanette (nice to see you on here Megan!)

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 09:38
Jeanette, whether we like it

Jeanette, whether we like it or not, I think that it's fairly clear where MP Paul Dewar is on this issue. He opposed the parole office location on Gilmour St. for similar reasons. His assistant was at the meeting, sitting at the same table as me, actually, and he merely kowtowed to the "community" indicating that Paul had heard their concerns loud and clear, suggesting strongly that these concerns were going to be taken up by him as their representative. The NDP "party line" is remarkably malleable in practice, unfortunately, and the people who run the show aren't interested in taking principled positions that may be initially unpopular. Basically, whether it's Liberal MPP Yasir Naqvi, NDP MP Paul Dewar or "progressive" City Councilor Diane Holmes, they all need to be pressured in the same way, as they respond to the same stimuli.

Posted by John (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 16:01
For a blogger, you sure are

For a blogger, you sure are factual and well thought out, and reasonable and well-written.

I totally agree with your take on the issue. Must have taken some courage for you to speak at the meeting. Props to you.


Posted by Chris (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 09:55
Thanks for writing this,

Thanks for writing this, Megan. Those kinds of meetings are awful, but it's good that you spoke and writing a letter to CSC will make a difference too. If you feel like posting your letter here, I bet others who live in that neighbourhood will use it as a template to write similar letters. Nico xo

Posted by Nico (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 10:02
Megan, thank you for this

Megan, thank you for this post, and for attending the meeting last night. I simply couldn't do it, as I knew it would be exactly what you described. I can't stand to hear people spouting irrational bigotry and watching everyone else nod their heads - regardless of what logical argument they are presented with.

I wrote to the CBC yesterday in a fit of angry despair...we're having parallel reactions, as this is what I said:

Feedback re: Jeff Leiper - Parole Office

Your guest kept referring to an "intuitive" reaction to describe what the response really is - bigoted. Even though he acknowledged in the interview that the fear was irrational and baseless, he provided no argument to support the community reaction and instead bafflingly asserted that you cannot "glibly" dismiss it. By that argument, if everyone in the community is afraid of an ethnic group, the community has a right to reject that group. This is the same position that has always been used to support racism, and it betrays our justice system, which is premised on the notion that individuals can serve a sentence and then rejoin the community. Persons who have broken laws are not meant to be branded with a scarlett letter for life under our system, nor have we collectively agreed that lifelong bias and shunning is an appropriate response to legal infractions.

Kathleen, you said 'no one's going to celebrate a parole office moving into their community'. This only reinforced the idea that there's validity to rejecting the office, despite the demonstrated lack of a rational argument. You do not speak for me. I'm glad we have a parole system to allow individuals to be supported in community reintegration, especially as this morning's interview demonstrates so clearly that the community is hostile and bigoted toward them. I'd invite the office to move next to my home in Centretown, were it not for the fact that the existing office is only blocks away from me now. I am sad that it is my community that began this "run-out-of-town-on-a-rail" attitude, and that definitely makes me feel less safe - not because of parolees reporting, but because it reveals that many of my neighbours are narrow, intolerant people who do not respond to rational positions or facts.

S.E. Marriner
Centretown resident of 21 years

Thanks again Megan. As someone who spends the bulk of my time with parolees and the incarcerated, I think my head would have exploded if I'd heard my fabulous neighbours' hypocritical fingerpointing. As I also spend my time with survivors of abuse (because the criminalized are often members of both groups) I can tell you it wasn't parolees who sexually abused them as kids - it was their nice, "non-criminal" teachers, relatives, parents and parent's friends.


Posted by Sunny (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 10:12
Most of the people I've

Most of the people I've known and lived with who were on parole*... if not all of them**, were the cleanest and most responsible roommates and neighbours I've ever had. A few of them eventually slid back into the life they had before prison, but -- from my perspective -- the majority of them had spent so much time making promises to themselves and to God that they would make things better in their lives, so that when they got out they did everything possible to keep those promises.

There are things wrong with sentencing, and with the parole system, but in general the people who do regain the right to live in society deserve to be there.

*I've never lived with someone at a high risk to reoffend, or anyone who had hurt a kid.
**I've lived with, or next to, a lot of ex-convicts.

Posted by Gabriel... (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 10:30
thank you for this . I too

thank you for this .
I too was there last a night. As a community member, as a parent of two small children, as someone who sees no issue in CSC moving their offices to 1010 .
The level of fear and hate, of complete misunderstanding and inability to listen and think, broke my heart. My community, my neighbours, parents of my children's classmates disappointed me beyond words. Your words here today where just what I needed to hear, and know I am not alone.

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 11:07
Thanks for attending that

Thanks for attending that meeting, Megan. I really have a problem with people invoking NIMBY. Healthy/vibrant communities are diverse communities.

I kinda feel bad for the parole office people because they have to leave Elgin Street and move somewhere like the Shitty .. er, City Centre.

Posted by jennfarr (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 11:33
First I want to thank Megan

First I want to thank Megan for posting this blog, and Sunny for writing her letter to CBC, both acts are ...

Well here is where I betray my own problematic preconceived notions of society and how I, like my peers, are perceived. It is often hard to remember that society is made up of individuals, even though I as a parolee wish to be seen as an individual to. Reading this blog and the comments has made me feel .. safer.., more connected to the community to which I am so desperately trying to belong and fit into.

I wanted to attend that meeting, but believed that I would be lost among a sea of people that would see me as nothing more that filth and therefore have no opinion of consequence or measurable worth. Why put myself through that I thought, even if I went with a friend, why put them through that; I imagine it is hard enough to be a friend to someone with so much extra-baggage (again this is only my perception or perhaps my own worry born of aforementioned baggage) why would I want to add to that in any shape or form. This of course could be no further from the truth as to how my friends would feel or react to being invited to the meeting, my friends are amazing people who would have sat and stood by my side with pride and dignity if I had the courage to speak up.

I'm digressing from why I felt compelled to post a comment.. quite simply reading this blog and the comments herein has been most unexpected ... I will remember the words I have witnessed fall within this blog and carry them with me for a long time.

Thank you all very much for being the people that you have become; people with open eyes, open minds and souls and hearts which see with the ability to make the faceless, the nameless have faces and names once more, as they should have.


PS And I will be at the next such meeting, uh, I may not be able to speak, but I will be there.

Posted by Neal (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 12:26
Hi Neal, It made me tear up

Hi Neal,

It made me tear up to read your comment ... I just wanted to let you know that I consider parolees to be part of my committee, and I am proud to live in a neighbourhood where people from all sorts of backgrounds can live together in peace. That's what cities are about, and it's why I bought a house in Hintonburg. I believe in inner city neighbourhoods and I would much rather raise kids (one day) in a place that celebrates differences.

I also wonder specifically about the sex workers who live and work in our neighbourhood. Have they been labeled "sex offenders?" Are these people the ones that the NIMBY types are scared of having around?

When I lived in Montreal a few years ago, I witnessed a public meeting that practically turned into a lynching. Community members were upset about a project that was being proposed that would have decriminalized prostitution in a specific zone. The project was quickly shelved after hundreds of people packed a local church and spread many of the same myths and lies that folks were peddling last night.

What was the result of that meeting? More violence against street sex workers erupted as frustrated "community members" took out their rage on the women who worked the streets.

That's the kind of behaviour that I don't want to see in my back yard.

Posted by Ariel Troster (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 12:57
Thanks so much for your blog

Thanks so much for your blog story (a friend mentioned it); it's a good summary of the event. I also spoke in defence of the proposed siting of the parole office at 1010 Somerset. I was going to write something similar, but now I can just point people to this URL.

The thing that blows me away is how logic, reason(ableness), basic understanding and compassion seems to go out the window for some people when they have children - like it's a free ticket to be a loud-and-proud bigot. Sad to see friends of mine, with not-insignificant education and "progressive" credentials, stand up as part of the rest of the pitchfork-wielding turnip truck that these events tend to attract. Goes to show that "progressive" simply means supporting fair trade coffee, listening to the CBC (Kathleen Petty must be a fav of this crowd, for sure) and maybe voting NDP or Green. When presented with anything that has even the most ephemeral possibility that it might affect them or "the children" personally, any pretense at "progressive" goes right out the window. Sadly, education (we're a highly-educated city) seems to play no role in mitigating this shit. We see this phenomenon whenever a sex offender is released, a parole office needs to be sited, with the proposed SCAN law, etc., etc. And there's always some opportunistic "progressive" politician there to cynically capitalize on the ignorance - Paul Dewar's assistant was there to say that "Paul shares *the community's* concerns". And, of course, Diane Holmes, the "Queen of Centretown" was in there like a dirty shirt, as was her appointee to the DCA's "safety" committee, Pam Connolly, and the rest of the turnip truck "bigotry-as-safety"gang.

What I've learned in the past while is that it's not enough to start grassroots groups to organize against the bigots. We need to start getting involved in these local government-sponsored community organizations - their home turf - and to make sure that the bigots are marginalized. None of them can even formulate an argument anyhow, obviously. I don't that it would take many of us to turn the tables on the bigots, if we cared enough to step up and get involved. My only caution is don't trust any of these politicians - no matter how "progressive" they pretend to be - they're proven panderers to the lowest-common denominator.

Posted by John (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 13:16
I realize you didn't say

I realize you didn't say that Greens are part of the bigotry-as-safety gang, but I'd like to step up and say that's definitely not the case. I'm a long time Green Party volunteer, donor, and voter, and I don't particularly care where the parole office ends up (hopefully I'll still say this when I have kids).

If someone is judged safe enough to be out in the community, then they're safe enough to spend time around schools. If that isn't the case, we should be fixing our criminal justice system, rather than shuffling parole offices around.

Posted by erigami (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 15:12
Fair comment, Erigami -

Fair comment, Erigami - there was nobody repping the Greens there who was kowtowing to the bigotry.

Posted by John (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 15:26
This is an excellent post

This is an excellent post Megan!

It's nice to see someone form an opinion through objective consideration of the facts. Thanks for being a voice of reason... even if that voice is drowned by others' fear and bias.

You should forward this to Ottawa's papers and radio stations!

Posted by PK (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 13:33
How about a moderate view

How about a moderate view for a change - in favour of rehabilitation, but not next to a school and community centre.

Not a single person spoke against rehabilitation, which is incredible really. Take this meeting to another neighbourhood, and you would likely have had many people questioning that basic role of CSC.

I was at the meeting last night, and the facts above are far from being unbiased reporting.

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 14:22
as someone who was at the

as someone who was at the meeting last night, it's very nice to find this blog and these comments after hearing so much negativity about the proposal. are we supposed to give people a prize because they're pro-rehabilitation? i just don't understand when we already know that there are 100 parolees living in this neighborhood, how having those people use a facility in this same neighborhood is going to make it more dangerous?

Posted by shelley (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 14:46
Thanks for this post, and

Thanks for this post, and for speaking last night. Your words weren't ignored by those of us in the crowd you agreed with you - and they weren't ignored by the CBC, who played a clip of you speaking several times (and read the letter sent by S. E. Marriner).

As to the above post, Megan didn't write anything I read about the people there last night speaking against rehabilitation. As far as I could tell there a mix of motivations that brought people to the meeting - people who were open-minded but concerned/wanted more information, people who were afraid for their kids/themselves to have a parole office in direct proximity to their daily traffic patterns, people who are generally anti-crime and perceive the office as a threat to their property value, and people like me, Megan, John and others who said we recognize that "these people" are our neighbours, in the community regardless of whether the office is there. But just because nobody spoke against rehabilitation doesn't mean that they are particularly committed to grappling with the nuts and bolts of what does it mean to be an inclusive community.

Posted by Sam (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 14:47
With some effort I have

With some effort I have found the website where people can submit comments to the consultation process: .

Posted by Sam (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 14:55
Sorry for the third post -

Sorry for the third post - but I just got this news flash from a friend who works in politics - they just announced in Question Period that 1010 will not be the site of the new parole office. Due to community opposition they are choosing another location, according to the Minister of Public Safety.

Posted by Sam (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 15:05
What about a location next

What about a location next to a women's shelter, or like the location the CSC themselves pulled out of consideration, in the same building as Children's Aid? Why would they do that?

Are all locations really equal? Why does the CSC identify "vulnerable populations" in their analysis when choosing a location?

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 15:16
I'm pretty happy to let

I'm pretty happy to let people comment as they will, and Anonymous, you're free to state your point of view here no matter what it is.

But a couple of things.

First, this isn't a news site, it's my blog. It is entirely biased, and I make that clear. If you would like to list the facts that you heard last night, you can make your own blog and post them there. And as I said above, if I incorrectly listed specific dates or numbers, you're welcome to send me a citation and I'll correct them.

Second, my comments section will not be hijacked by questions like the ones you ask above. Notice that in my first sentence up there, I said "state." If you want answers to those questions, you need to be putting them to CSC, not on my blog.

In general, I'm excited about everyone reading and posting their comments - thank you! I'm glad I was able to express something that wasn't getting expressed.

Posted by megan on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 15:33
It's sad to see the victory

It's sad to see the victory of so much irrationality and lowest-common denominator politics across the political spectrum. Sad but not entirely unsurprising. Peter Van Loan, Paul Dewar and the upper middle class all are in agreement on this one - no parole offices where the upstanding decent people stand opposed. Were it not for people like you, Sam, Shellie, PK, Ariel, Neal, Jenn, Gabriel, Sunny and many others that I know and don't know I'd be basically completely ashamed to live here. Sadly, it's not that different anywhere else. I just wish that we could tip the balance and shift the culture in at least one neighbourhood in this city/region/ country. In the meantime, we need to keep calling these people out while, within reason, working to help those who are in need of a bit of moral rehabilitation themselves along the way towards their inclusion in the ranks of the rational and compassionate - people that we're all capable of becoming.

There was some hope that came out of this whole sorry exercise, for me, anyhow. The one person who *did* speak about the importance and value of rehabilitation was the parole committee volunteer whose kids went to Elgin St. It was unfortunate that his story went entirely unreported and un-noticed on the part of the vast majority of the overwhelmingly-NIMBY audience.

I chuckle when people talk about being "moderate" as some kind of virtue, but for a "moderate" view, you may want to see:

Posted by John (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 16:22
These 'unfortunate' people

These 'unfortunate' people are my neighbours and I must include them in my community. I am referring naturally to the hysterical complainers not the parolees. I have been privy to neighbourhood watch emails that border on the insane as they discuss the horrors of people who go through the recycling (to return on behalf of the too lazy) or those that seek commendation for the fact that they called the police on a pot smoker at 3am. Fight the Power!

Nobody is against rehabilitation, even those who really are, as it may cut down on more punishment won't admit it. It is NIMBY all over again even without any facts as to back it up. We are a society who sympathizes with spoiled brat millionaires who have our support while they recover from there indulgences - while we further stigmatize our real neighbours who are just trying to get on with their lives.
My neighbourhood, my shame.

Posted by PM (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 16:32
Megan - thanks for this.

Megan - thanks for this. I'd meant to go to the meeting last night, and didn't make it; I'm glad that some people went to make it clear that there are some people in our community who recognize that alienating and othering other members of our community who are trying to clean up their lives doesn't make it a safer place.

Posted by Ian (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 17:11
I wish I'd been able to

I wish I'd been able to make it to that meeting; unfortunately I had a previous engagement.

I find it disappointing that a diverse and accommodating neighbourhood like yours (and mine, formerly) would reject the parole office's plan to move there. I agree absolutely with your reasoning.

But what's really interesting to me is that I know some of the people on the other side of this debate and they are intelligent, socially conscious, compassionate people who are heavily involved in community development. I haven't had a chance to talk to them about why they opposed the move, but I think there might be more to this debate than meets the eye.

Posted by zoom (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 18:14
Thanks, first, to Vicky, for

Thanks, first, to Vicky, for pointing to this, and secondly, Megan, thank you for an excellent post. Many share your view, many don't. As you likely know, the Hintonburg Community Association never advocated either against or not the proposed Somerset site. Our board meeting this Monday night was shaping up to be a vigorous affair. While the overwhelming feedback we received through our neutrally-worded notice was opposed to the CSC proposal, we know different opinions are strong in the community. We wanted to hear what CSC had to say before we made a decision even in the face of the clear response we were getting from those who took the time to write to us.

My own reason for commenting is to address one small point raised by SE Marriner above, which is something I've been struggling with since becoming engaged with the Association 8 or 9 years ago. Marriner suggests that fear in a community isn't a valid consideration in policy-making. We hear the same things around crack houses, and around prostitution. I don't understand why people won't accept that fear can be real, and that it can affect people's quality of life, and the quality of life of the community as a whole.

I'm frustrated that when residents express fears - fears about living next to crack houses, being followed down streets by johns, about living next to offenders - their fears are dismissed out-of-hand. I don't share many of those fears, but I won't join those who tell those who express them to just suck it up and get over it. My son's got fears of the usual childhood things. I'm tempted at times to tell him to "suck it up, buddy. it won't hurt you." But I know that won't help. It'll just tell him that there's something wrong with him, that his fears don't matter, and just cause more problems down the road.

I think it's the same with communities. Communities have fears that can't be rationalized sometimes. CSC chose not to engage in a real dialog. A we vs. they confrontation was set up on this from the beginning. Dialog takes time. Decision House, the Salvation Army's transitional housing, needle exchange, didn't get integrated into the community after a two-week consultation period and a town hall that seemed destined to fail given its dynamics. Fears can be addressed, worked through, and talked about, but not in the fashion CSC chose to go about this. It takes time, honesty, and hard work.

If we don't take this time and put in the work, we're essentially asking most of the population who have natural fears to move somewhere where they won't be confronted by them. Kanata, Barrhaven and Orleans are largely sanitary places where people feel safe. Most of us downtown believe we're better off in an environment with greater diversity. But If we're going to achieve that diversity, public officials will have to recognize that they can't bury people's fears in statistics. Just as I won't tell my son that he's wrong to be afraid of a barking dog, but will work through his fear with him by talking honestly about his fears, and patiently working through the issue over the time it takes for him to finally believe in the rationalization, I won't dismiss Hintonburg residents' fears.

My frustration in this discussion was that neither side is unblemished by smugness and a general belief that the other side of the debate is simply wrong. It doesn't bode well for Hintonburg as we face many more serious challenges to come. We're going to have to do a much better job of talking to each other, and compromising, or we're going to seal our own fate through polarization.

Posted by Jeff Leiper (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 18:34
Jeff, Just because there are


Just because there are two sides of an issue (in this case, whether the siting of a parole office should be an issue), doesn't mean that both of them are right.

I think that as in many situations where there are power dynamics and differentials, in this one there are people who are oppressed (parolees) and there are people who are oppressors (those who feel that they have a right to deny the parolees their right to rehabilitation and to in effect live in the community). How many parolees would have been comfortable attending that meeting? I think that any notion of so-called community-building that fails to recognize these differences and takes a stand on the side of the oppressed, respecting their right to self-determination, is doomed to irrelevance. Certainly, dialogue between groups is possible and desirable, but it cannot be on the terms of one group alone. All the so-called "community safety activism" I've seen in Ottawa is tainted by the failure to consider, within the previous framework, the safety and security of parolees, sex trade workers, and other groups. It's all about polarization, actually. For the homeless and street-involved community, a neighbourhood watch that doesn't include a cop watch is pretty irrelevant. Kind of like a community safety survey that is dropped in the mailboxes of residential tenants and homeowners alone - as the OPS has done before in Centretown.

But in the end, sometimes people remain divided. As for the apparent abhorrence in the idea that we should dare question where people choose to live/gentrify, I think that it's fair to suggest that if some of these people are so irrationally afraid of crime and/or poverty and other realities of living in urban centres, maybe then they *should* move to Kanata or Barrhaven. This is Ottawa. There is no "crime problem" - people who come from cities where there are would and do laugh at this idea. Why should we privilege the voice of the irrationally fearful by acceding to irrational demands? It's not doing anyone any favours, even if helps local NDPers and city councillors getting (re-)elected. Just sayin.

What this episode has taught me is the importance of getting involved more in local state funded neighbourhood organizations, especially safety committees. There is evidently a sizeable constituency of ignorant bigots therein, and they need to be countered so that their damage and fear-mongering - not exactly a valid notion of "community-building" - can be contained.


Posted by John (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 19:40
John, I encourage your

John, I encourage your participation in community safety committees. I also suggest that calling a significant portion of your community "ignorant bigots" is naive and shows a failure on your part to be sensitive to the diversity of opinion that exists in this community.

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 20:44
I do not understand when

I do not understand when adults who disagree with other adults can feel comfortable so easily resorting to name-calling, shaming their neighbours, and sneering at honestly expressed misgivings. Can't we all please be a bit more civil and give one another the benefit of the doubt? Can't we please listen to one another and ask questions when we do not understand rather than thinking the worst of one another?

There has been a whole lot of presumption about the motives of others on display throughout this process. Having been against the 1010 site is not the same as being against giving parolees a second chance or being for driving them out of the community.

I encourage everyone to get involved in their Community Associations and Economic Development Boards. But please do so with the intentions of understanding your neighbours and building up your neighbourhood. Please do not come to police regular people's efforts to express their hopes and fears or to turn a difference of views into an ideological battle of "pro" or "anti" this or that.

I think we can all agree we have a great community, and that we can work together to make it better still. There's plenty of room in Hintonburg for differences of opinion.

Posted by Chris (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 21:19
Chris, I disagree with your


I disagree with your whole notion of civility. So-called incivility can be a helpful corrective when it's considerable acceptable to engage in far worse discourse about parolees or other "undesirables". So, turning it around is justice, frankly. I listened to everything everyone had to say, and there was much said that many more people other than I would characterize as intolerant, ignorant and moral panicky hysterics. I've been at similar meetings before, and I know bigotry when I see it and hear it. Calling it out is something of a responsibility, I think. I'm not saying that it is true of everyone who has an opinion based on inadequate information and community fear-mongering - I am thinking about the "safety activist" types such as the small band of people who forced the parole office to move from the Elgin St. location in the first place. I fully expect the namecalling and insinuations to fly when defending unpopular positions based on past experience, and I return whatever I get. I make no apologies for thinking that some of these people should be ashamed of themselves, using their children as props, putting irrational fears in their heads, and sounding like, yes, a bunch of self-righteous know-nothings. Reasonable points were made reasonably, but they weren't having it. They are the creators of their own problem (irrational fear); I and others can keep trying to point out the obvious, but they don't listen. The only other option is therapy, which I'm not qualified to provide. The parole office may still be in limbo, so I guess they "won" this battle, but it's only a matter of time before moral panic ensues over some other marginalized population.

I should note that at the same table I was seated at were people who were also somewhat-opposed to the proposal, some whom I did engage in productive dialogue with. And some of the most strident people at the mike included some friends of mine, including someone who used to be a roommate who I also went to school with. And on this issue, the fact that he has children has led to some very bigoted opinions that I don't support in the slightest. That doesn't mean I'm disowning him as a friend, but it does mean I'm calling him on it.

Anyway, I challenge you, Chris, to explain to us how opposing the siting of the parole office at 1010 Somerset St. did not in effect make rehabilitation more difficult and/or is not about tacitly driving parolees out of the community. Do you think that it is welcoming?


Posted by John (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 21:47
Excellent, Megan, excellent.

Excellent, Megan, excellent. Had I been there, I would have been in the back row with you... Why do people move to neighborhoods like ours and then want it to look and be like the suburbs? It reminds me of the people who move to the country and then complain about the wildlife and the fauna.

Posted by Woodsy (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 21:56
John, so your friend had

John, so your friend had children, and is now a bigot, and you are calling him one. hmmm.

Take the time to consider that not everyone is in your exact situation, and that perhaps different situations give different perspectives on the same issue. No one can force you to have an open mind, you have to choose that for yourself.

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 22:02
If you opposed the location

If you opposed the location you did so for one of two basic reasons... you are afraid (for yourself, your children, others) of parolees or you are afraid of what a parole office would do to your property value.

The first point would be valid if the fears are founded in something concrete (ie. they are rational)... I think the facts speak for themselves that by and large the fear is irrational; safety from the "scary" parolees is not an issue. Of course it doesn't mean you still don't feel it, since whatever it is based on is not logical, but at the same time its entirely appropriate to tell someone to suck it up and deal with it. If we were totally ruled by our irrational fears we would never have, or at least started to, overcome racism, which is similarly based on an irrational fear, the fear of something different. Of course the CSC did no favours to themselves by not being prepared and contradicting themselves on a few occasions... if anything you can verify the facts that were presented and make an argument if they were wrong...

the second point is also valid, and also more honest, if not one that most would admit to. The reality is a parole office will lower the neighbourhood property values (but as someone who has looked in the Golden Triangle even that doesn't really hold true, that is one pricey neighbourhood to buy in!). Sadly it is because collectively as a society, most also have the same knee-jerk irrational fear to the parole office and it reflects in the housing bids in aggregate. Still just because the majority believe it doesn't make it right. Of course no one admitted they were afraid for their property value, at least it would be a valid concern (if one that was also caused by the same irrational fear). And it would be more honest.

So to those opposed, which is it and more importantly why? Maybe if people can stop and think about why they are afraid (and perhaps back it up with fact) it might help them overcome their fear....

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 23:10
John - Regarding your

John -

Regarding your declared approach to calling out the unjust, I respectfully disagree. It has never been my experience that "corrective incivility" actually makes people listen. It's hard, slow work to discuss, to share views and ultimately to change someone's mind or reach a consensus through mutual understanding, though it can be done. It need not all be hand-holding and flower-children either - I have always admire the drama "Twelve Angry Men" for illustrating this point. Probably, this meeting was not the best place to share ideas, respectfully challenge people's conceptions, reach a consensus or find an amenable solution. That would have required a proper consultation process. I place the blame for the absence of such a process with the bean-counters at CSC.

CSC was less than honest and forthcoming with the community throughout this process - Probably due to incompetence rather than design.

What I saw at that meeting were a bunch of cagey federal bureaucrats, who did not expect the reaction they provoked, and so were less likely to give people the information that people needed or asked for in order for them to make decisions. So those people made decisions based on what they do know. Being a parent is an awful lot about fear. That's biology. It's why our species is so successful, and at times, admittedly pathological. Fear is real and that reality can't be shouted away or shamed away or insulted away. Fear, amongst other things, made that site less than ideal. OK - so how do we deal with fear?

Fear can be calmly, gently, rationally spoken away. It must be reassured. A legitimate public consultation process to find a site acceptable to the community might have built buy-in, understanding and a knowledge-base at the same time. It might have assuaged a lot of misgivings, perhaps even demonstrated that a properly situated parole office might have strengthened our community (I don't know). We will probably never know as that was not the approach that was chosen by CSC and a lot of trust has been lost - not least for all the polarizing invective their chosen approach invoked in our community. Ultimately, CSC, for its part, was more interested in checking the "Cover Your Ass" box on their to-do list before taking a proposal to their Assistant Deputy Minister. The quick political turn around against the site makes that clear.

Turning up the volume on invective can lead to much but it seldom leads to a corrective solution. Calling someone a "bigot" will probably make that person not want to start an open and honest dialogue. I find one ought first to hold the kind of quiet constructive discussion you say you had with some of the naysayers close by you at the meeting. Bravo. A good start.

Hintonburg is a pretty inclusive place. There is no campaign that I know of to shut down any halfway houses or drive out the poor. I understand that most (if not all) of the halfway houses (and many of their residents) are forthright and work very well with the Hintonburg Community Association. No one wants to (or probably could) turn Hintonburg into the Glebe. As for your challenge, other than that, I don't know how else to say, other than to restate: "opposing or challenging a single proposed site for a parole office" is not the same as "seeking to drive parolees form the neighbourhood." There is no subtext here. Put the two sentences next to one another and you will find that all the words are different :o)

Anyhow, I am all for challenging the state in a vigorous, shouty, placard waving sound-bite sort of way - just balance it off with a smart letter writing campaign and you might actually get a point across. Neighbourhood Associations and frightened parents, however, are not the state. They are just folks. Challenge folks, sure, but be civil about it. That's my only real point, I guess. Hope that answer works for you.

Posted by Chris (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 23:35
By the way... "Fear is

By the way... "Fear is irrational", "Fear is illogical" - when did everyone turn into Vulcans? Where's Spock?

Posted by Chris (not verified) on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 23:42
Hi Jeff, I don't mean to

Hi Jeff,

I don't mean to turn Megan's blogspace into a debate page but there are a couple of points you made in reference to my thoughts that distress me, so I'd like to address them.

1. You say that my choice not to allow "fear" as a viable rationalization for bigotry is analogous to you telling your son to 'suck it up'. I respectfully suggest that you insult and infantilize your community and your neighbours (including me, as I am one) through this argument. There is a core difference that you are completely ignoring - your son is a CHILD. Are you saying that your neighbours have the capacity of *children* to deal with fear? I cannot believe you are asserting that...the voices speaking against the office are ADULTS. I believe we have a right to have a slightly higher expectation of their capacity to reason through fear. We should also give them credit for having this capacity.

2. I am trying to be non-judgmental about my neighbours' seemingly very bigoted stance. I give them credit for having adult capacity. However I don't know how to negotiate that when they are fully aware that all the people they are casting as 'dangerous' already live next door, and they just act like it wasn't said. Again, respectfully, this is what I heard you do in your interview with Kathleen Petty and I was sorely disappointed that you didn't address this reality. How do you reconcile that the community is rejecting the office on the grounds that it will bring an "undesirable element" to their community, when that 'element' lives next door today? This is doublethink of the highest order, and it just leads me to believe that the people complaining simply don't WANT to have a real discussion. How do you have a real discussion with someone who pretends they don't hear you? What are the anti-office voices doing, other than refusing to engage that discussion? You are accusing others of not wanting to have a real dialogue...I ask you, without artifice, to explain to me how to have a dialogue with people when they bulldoze over rational questions that challenge their position? Has there been one viable answer to this fact: 'Parolees already live next door, and have been doing so unproblematically for years, so what new threat does the office pose?' If a single reasonable response has been made to that, I'd really like to hear it, as it would lessen my confusion. I haven't heard it, and you didn't address it yesterday in your interview either. Thus I have to reason that you don't actually want to talk about the real issue at all.

3. I am very disturbed by your use of the terms "intuitive fear" (yesterday) and "natural fear" (your post above). When you say the community has an intuitive fear or a natural fear you are implying it has reasonable grounds. Why do you describe this as "natural fear"? Are you suggesting it is 'natural' to be afraid of people who have broken laws? Why? It is only 'natural' if they are somehow different than "us", separate from "us", an 'other' from "us". It is right there that the polarization begins because, Jeff, they ARE us. I know, work with, and am socially close to many people who have broken laws - I suggest you are too. Our communities are filled with people who have broken laws, including (often) ourselves. I do not accept that this is a "natural" fear. It is a manufactured fear, one that we construct and justify to ourselves in order to perpetuate "us" and "them" mentalities. I'd ask you to reconsider your use of those words. They contain the exact ‘othering’ assumptions that create the polarization in this discussion. You attribute that to others, but I suggest your 'naturalistic' assumptions may be the author of it.

4. Finally, you suggest people should be supported in feeling afraid to "live next door to offenders". Again, this is grounded in totally misleading the public. I have worked at the Sexual Assault Support Centre for 12 years. 85% of the women I work with were sexually abused as children. The overwhelming majority were abused by a parent, family member, someone they knew, or some 'pillar of the community' their parents welcomed into their homes or lives. Abuse by strangers is, by comparison, an absolute rarity. As vast numbers of children experience sexual abuse, and the majority in their own homes or in the spaces of trusted people, the reality is we all ALREADY live next door to "offenders", just not ones who will ever be prosecuted. Almost none of the abusers of 12 years of women and girls I've supported have EVER been prosecuted. They live next door to you, but not in a halfway house. Until the community starts addressing its own collusion in keeping this reality silent, and instead trying to pass it off on the comparatively infinitesimal number of individuals who end up in the justice system, it is hard to take them very seriously. When I speak publicly I tell parents, "If you really want to keep your children safe, teach them to talk to strangers, as it is overwhelmingly the people they know who will harm them". This is well-known and long-known information, and it's a secret to no one. But, like the point about parolees already residing next door to us, people just ignore it, because it inconveniences their ability to deflect judgement onto others, rather than looking at themselves.

I have gone on too long, but this is upsetting. I want abuse of women and children to stop and the way to do it is not creating smokescreens and 'boogeyman' fears that allow the "upright" people to continue to abuse in the house next door to you, and the "criminals" to be exiled to…where?

Posted by Sunny Marriner (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 00:55
OK, last comment on this

OK, last comment on this from me. I respectfully support your respectful disagreement with my approach, but I'm not likely going to change it. Sometimes people need to be called out when they have bigoted attitudes. Does it change their minds? Probably not. But at least people are then clear what side they're on. This doesn't apply to the soft middle who are genuinely just ignorant - in the sense of not understanding what a parole office is, or what the risks are and are not - and I always take the time with folks like that. I'm talking about the true believers, the Stephanie Strudwicks and the Pam Connollys and their ilk. And no, I don't have much respect for them, and I doubt very much that they have much respect for me and others like me who have put forward opposing viewpoints on these matters, frankly.

I respectfully disagree with you that the problem was with the CSC folks. (And believe me, it feels more than a little weird for me to be defending the representatives of the state and correctional system against the 'just folks' from the community.) I was particularly impressed by Mark Jowett, a reasonable and soft-spoken man who got involved in the issues surrounding the parole office because his kids went to Elgin St. PS. It was interesting to hear his account of his transformation from a NIMBY to somebody educated and supportive of a humane correctional system, and came to recognize that the fears that he had about the site proved unfounded. Too bad his point of view was completely ignored.

Anyway, sure, I'm not Spock either but I'm sick of pandering to the paranoid and divisive who may think that they're building a better community, but aren't. It may be politic for some, but it isn't for me.

Posted by John (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 00:56
I'll be up front about a few

I'll be up front about a few things first... I live in Hintonburg with my wife and two (soon to be three) kids. I opposed the 1010 site, apparently out of 'irrational' fear.

I've thought long and hard about this one and I have a question for all those in support of the site (well, moreso those who are calling me 'irrational' than anything else.)

If Atomic Energy of Canada wanted to put a medical isotope reactor on Lemieux Island, would you all be in support of that? I know I personally would love it. I just recently won a fight with cancer and, even though my family and kids would be near a potential meltdown, I wouldn't mind in the slightest if the medical community had that resource closer than Chalk River...

But, that begs the question, I suspect that some of you wouldn't want it around out of fear of that potential meltdown. How come? Think about all the thousands (ok, maybe hundreds) of reactors in the world, and there have been how many, maybe a dozen meltdowns? Proportionately speaking it's a perfectly safe technology, and yet I'm sure the community would be up in arms over AECL locating it there. Does a community ever have the right to say no to something coming in that they don't want? Irrational or not, I think that option should be there...

Posted by Nicholas (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 06:52
Nicholas, we're not talking

Nicholas, we're not talking about bringing potential danger into our community. The people who would use the office already live here. For that reason, your analogy of building an isotope reactor nearby is indeed irrational, not to mention alarmist.

That being said, I believe both that it is human nature to be afraid of the unknown and that we tend to believe what we read and hear in the news. We tend to forget that what makes the news is by definition unusual and rare. But Sunny makes a very good point about who is actually abusing children and once we know that we can, rationally, stop being afraid of the perceived unknown threat. Incest and other types of family abuse don't get prosecuted and so don't make the papers, therefore we underestimate their scope. We owe it to each other to make the unknown, known. Learn about who and what we should truly be afraid of, rather than allowing our innate fear of the unknown guide our thoughts and decisions.

The language being used at the Bronson Center was telling and a little frightening. Parolees 'lurking' in the bushes, parolees attracting more 'undesirables' into our neighborhood. I've lived in Hintonburg and/or China town for 7 years now and I have yet to have any kind of problem with crime, discarded needles, sex workers causing some sort of ruckus, johns or pimps following me home. My experience here, and that of the people I know, is that this is a warm, convenient, and interesting place to live. From what I can see, my neighbors (including sex workers, parolees, ex cons not on parole, and so on) are average people who are busy raising families, going to work, tending their houses, and furthering their education. Too busy with all of these things to make trouble for others.

Someone said the other night that crime has dropped in our neighborhood over the past few years. I can only imagine that the presence of the parole office would either have a neutral or positive affect on the crime stats. There hasn't been any increase in crime around the Elgin Street parole office, so why would it be different at 1010 Somerset Street?

Posted by Shelley Taylor (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 08:30
This is a ridiculous

This is a ridiculous analogy... parolees and nuclear reactors aren't exactly apples and apples my friend...

... but thanks for coming out

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 13:46
Nicholas, I don't even know

I don't even know where to begin with this analogy. I find it more than a little offensive for you to compare parolees in this community to nuclear technology - we're talking about the perceived risk of a parole office that would serve many members of this community, people who deserve respect and support, not the perceived risk of a nuclear reactor. But by making this inappropriate comparison, you provide a good example of the kind of 'irrational fear' and hurtful stereotyping that others have already identified. You're trying to justify a groundless fear by making a structurally weak analogy and saying, 'see, you would be unreasonably frightened too IF this completely different, hypothetical situation were to arise'. It doesn't work.
Now, like Chris, I think it's good to be a concerned parent and to question and assess the risk of new developments in the community. But you have to be prepared to listen and reasonably consider the answers that are provided. Otherwise, 'irrational' fear reigns.
And I keep returning to the point that making groups feel like a toxic presence, diminishing their stake in this community, will not make this community healthier or safer. Quite the opposite.

Posted by Colin (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 08:19
Shelly and Colin, thank you

Shelly and Colin, thank you for making my point for me. As much as you decry my example, it illustrates a lack of knowledge on the topic. I do not consider an isotope reactor a threat to the community but you obviously do. Why? Perhaps because you don't know enough about them... I readily admit that I do not know enough about the office, and what it does, to be comfortable with it in my community - but I AM aware that the parolees are currently in the community and I have no problem with them being here in the slightest. In this particular case CSC had a problem with process. They simply expected the community to take it without explaining why they should. And at what point does a community have the right to just say no to something?

And Shelly, you're lucky you've not had any problems in the community. I own a rooming house (used mostly by a 'sensitive' demographic in itself) and I've had to deal with the drug dealers, needles, and prostitutes personally. And no, I'm not equating that activity to parolees, just responding to your statement that our community is clean when it's not.

Posted by Nicholas (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 09:13
Going to dive in once more,

Going to dive in once more, though generally I'm happy to let things run.

I feel like this is starting to move into a back-and-forth that's not useful. Nicholas, you put forth an example that you felt was apropos. Shelley and Colin disagreed with its usefulness, without making any comment on their personal views about the nuclear reactor. You react as if they did, as well as using the very loaded word "clean," when Shelley had said nothing about the "cleanliness" of the neighbourhood.

That's the top of a slippery slope, and I'm putting up a fence.

Everyone, please feel free to continue commenting about other things, however.

Posted by megan on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 09:31
You're right Megan, an

You're right Megan, an unfortunate choice of words. My mistake.

As for the remaining arguments, I've tried to explain one possible dissenting opinion and seem to be very ham fisted in my efforts but thank you for letting me throw my two cents in. It's been interesting.

Posted by Nicholas (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 10:25
OK, I said that my last post

OK, I said that my last post would be my last one, but something's been on my mind, reflecting on all this that I had to put out there.

Having considered the facts before me, I don't really believe that everyone maintaining that this is all about "safety and security" are actually that irrationally fearful or stupid. I think that many people like to be able to control and shape their environment and surroundings to their liking and/or moral and aesthetic standards, and that some are able and willing to pay for the privilege and believe that they have special entitlement to do so accordingly. My theory is that these may be people who move into "up-and-coming" neighbourhoods, engage in expensive renovations, reproduce, and defend their interests. Added to this group are those who are the same way but whose only interests are their property. I think that in part the "safety and security" / "what of the children" shtick really is just an add-on to make their cause more popular with less affluent people with children, seniors and other vulnerable populations, even if ultimately that means the latter eventually can no longer afford to live in the neighbourhood. As has been noted by others, many other affluent people are also concerned about their property values and the worry that others will be irrationally fearful, even if they are not.

If these power dynamics are indeed real, it would be nice if more people would just own up to their position in all this. It's far more respectable a position than obfuscation, denial and (self-)deception.

Certainly many parents and/or homeowners choose to not reinforce those kinds of power dynamics, and some actively oppose them. Parents want to make sure that their kids are safe and most parents do not have this kind of an agenda (particularly if they aren't more affluent newcomers). Before they're eventually recruited by the true believers and the agenda of the affluent, information distinguishing the real and mythical risks in terms of the safety and security of their children needs to be made available to them. Not everyone knows what a parole office does, or what rehabilitation is. Knowledge is power, they say. In that light, I hope that parents and others out there, especially those who don't necessary fit into the above group of the predominantly-affluent, hopefully have an open enough mind to listen to what people like Sunny Marriner and Mark Jewitt have to say and learn from it.

Posted by John (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 13:19
Thanks again for hosting

Thanks again for hosting this space Megan! Your blog post was informative and (obviously) thought provoking...

In the name of reconciling differences among neighbours, I propose that we engage in some fierce but friendly rochambeau-ing.... begining with John and Chris, then moving into the elimination rounds... I'm looking at you Shelley.


[link by megan]

Posted by PK (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 14:14
I didn't make it to the town

I didn't make it to the town hall meeting, but what I'd heard about it (and the preceding "grassroots" campaign) left me feeling deeply embarrassed by the behaviour of so many friends and neighbours. It's a relief to see some contrary opinions expressed here.

I moved to the area knowing that there were pockets with significant social and criminal problems. A local parole office seems like a good fit.

If anyone had presented any compelling evidence that parole offices tend to significantly increase crime rates in their immediate area I might feel the local opposition was justified, but that evidence doesn't seem to exist.

I can't really see that this vocal campaign of opposition has achieved anything positive either for the local community or society at large, but I can see a lot of negatives.

So, where do I sign the petition to get that medical isotope reactor built? Can we get a windfarm on top, and a parole office attached? Nobody could complain about their kids walking past an office on Lemieux Island on the way to school... :-)

Posted by Mark (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 16:26
Ok - maybe I don't have any

Ok - maybe I don't have any right on this Blog 'cause I live in the burbs, but I lived here long before I became a Parole Officer.  Actually, this is my 4th career and by far, the most fulfilling yet!  I feel that my work as a PO is actually makng some difference in society.  The parolees that I have supervised, have for the most part, been average Joes who have taken a wrong turn in life.  They have paid a heavy price through their incarceration but are now back in society.  Most of them don't want to go back to jail.  Most of them have made committments to themselves that they want to stay in society as law-abiding individuals.  Some of them don't make it!  I have recommended that some of them should be returned to custody for failing to live up to the terms of their release.  Some of them have even thanked me for this!  They knew they were off-track.  For the most part though, Parolees are much like you and me.  They've made mistakes in ther lives.  They regret their mistakes and need to find ways of making amends.  My job is a PO is help them make the right decisions - sometimes with a carrot and sometimes with a stick!So what does all this have to do with the location of a Parole Office?Quite frankly I need some  place to hang my hat and do my job as best I can.  I can generally work anywhere - it is no skin off my neck as to the location of my office.   Generally I don't meet my clients (parolees) in my office anway.  I meet them where they live, where they work and where they play.  When it is necessary to meet them in an office-setting however, it would be nice that I don't have to add insult to injury by getting them to take an unfamiliar bus ride into the middle of nowhere like some industrial area.  This sends a very negative message to individuals who are trying their best to fit in.  And Yes, the parole office is also the location where Correctional programming continues to take place - the "R" words: rehabilitation / reintegration.1010 Sommerset would have been a good location to do the work that I do.  I think that the Community will probably be worse off for rejecting this proposal.  I wonder how many people would have rejected the proposal for a police station in their neighborhood?  Well, whether it common knowledge or not, Parole Officers are 'Peace Officers' and have significant authority under the law. Ottawa Parole has some 16-18 such 'peace officers' at the one location. PO supervisors have the authority to sign 'Warrants'. Not even Police Officers have that authority! In my expereince, Parolees, if they have a mind to, do not re-offend in the neighborhood where their parole office ids located - they would be too easily recognized.  They would generally go to some part of the city where they are not known.  Does this mean that if the Parole Office is located somehwere other than 1010 Somerset that this area may then be worse off?  Food for thought?

I cast no aspersions on anyone attending the meeting the other night. Everyone has to live according to their own rationale. I'd hope that their resoning would be informed.

I do not speak for CSC - just as someone who is particularly informed about the subject.

And NO, I'd have no trouble if a Parole Office wanted to locate to my
neighborhood - I've even advocated for such.

Anyway - just the thoughts from one of the clogs in wheel.

Posted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 17:10
Hello again everyone, I

Hello again everyone,

I won't take up too much of your time, I have a few questions, I would like addressed if possible. I am still learning how to use the Internet to search for information, evidently one must be specific in search questions which explains my inability to find this information for myself.

A number of posters (I'm not sure if that is the correct term) have made the comment that crime has not increased in the Elgin/Gilmour street area since the Parole Office was first located there a number of years ago.

Ok, fair enough to state that, would you please post the link to where you found this information, or copy and paste the figures here so both sides of this discussion may see for themselves.

I just spent two hours looking online for those very stats, and discovered two things; the information is there and I can't narrow my search enough to find it, and two I can find the bibliography of the people that researched the stats really well. The latter discovery was much to my amusement and frustration, mostly because I don't think computers like me very much.

My second question is for both sides, perhaps actually my question is more of a statement, I'm not entirely sure which as I write this now.

Fear: is both born of rationality and irrationality paradoxically juxtaposed, while simultaneously seemingly independent of one another and yet symbiotically propagating; where the rationality of fear is the cognitive function, and the irrationality of fear is the emotion. One cannot exist without the other.

People have a right to be afraid,
to feel,
to judge,
to choose,
to disassociate,
to exile,
to condemn,
to welcome,
to understand,
to disagree,
to debate ....
All of these things both sides can agree on,
true we won't all like these realities
on both sides
there are people that will argue and fight over the nature of these realities.

I myself am afraid and yes, my fears are both irrational and rational all at once. I am afraid to speak out, lest someone in the crowd make a phone call and have me sent back to prison, I am afraid to stand out in a crowd, I am afraid to walk down the street, to go to school, to apply for work, to buy groceries...I am afraid of new people, of strangers, of sounds of someone walking behind me, of being attacked at night when I walk home, I am aftraid every waking moment of my life.

I am not afraid of the ex-cons, the parolees, I am weary of them, but I know them, I understand them, only because I lived so long in that hell called prison.

I am afraid of you... My neighbors, who smile at me and shake my hand, who pay me $20 to shovel their driveway in winter, the corner store clerk, the person I see everyday on my way to catch the bus to school, I am afraid of my classmates, my fellow activists, the people who disagree with my outlook and views on life... of my girlfriend and those friends of hers who know I am on parole.

I am afraid because like all of you... I see myself as someone who is other than you, and try as you will to make me believe that you see me differently the very act of acknowledgement that I come from where I do; prison and a childhood that is both filled with horror, and beauty.... only makes my fears remain, sometimes even grow stronger, and yes sometimes lessen and yet.... I still feel like I do not, cannot, ever truly belong to the community I wish to.

My point being this: these . . . although I have rationally named my fears, I have given shape and breadth to my fears.... these are my feelings.

Feelings are irrational.

What we do with those fears is the rational.

The irrefutable facts of our discussion are these: the Ottawa Parole office is moving, its new location will be in some Ottawa neighborhood, CSC will not give you, the people of either side, the information you ask them to, we must educate each other, parolees are a minority group within the myriad groups within our communities.

I say our community, because this city is our community; yours and mine, this is our home.

I will close by saying this about my fears, yes I have them, yes I allow myself the freedom to feel them, to express them... and yet.



I face my fear.

I go out and I talk to people, I try and contribute to someway, somehow find away to connect with the people of this society in which I struggle, like we all do, to live. I speak before groups of people about my life as it is now, about the life I lived and I speak about my hopes, my dreams, my failures, my successes... I do these things, like write to you now because I am afraid.

I do not know you, I only imagine who you are, I only imagine what you are like, how you will treat me, but I know I truly do not know.

And this is another point isn't it; we do not know each other, but we want to, because we are afraid of all that we imagine in and of each other.

We may never be friends, those on the one side of this discussion, or even those on this side, that's true, but we may come to a point where we do not fear each other's presence in our lives and that..... I believe that is reason enough to try and allow ourselves the freedom to understand each other.

Thank you for your time and patience in reading my comment.


Posted by Neal (not verified) on Wed, 04/01/2009 - 21:07