Thursday, February 19, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Pit Bull Attacks in Vancouver on 6-Year-Old Girl; in Surrey on Small Dog Fuel Calls for Breed Ban

Facial wounds on six-year-old attacked by pit bull in Vancouver. The girl required 10 stitches to her leg and another four to her face. Photo provided by girl's mother, who asked not to be named
Authorities confirm six-year-old girl bitten in Vancouver, small dog killed in Surrey.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday February 17, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"The pit bull just snapped and decided to kill my daughter. I didn't know what would have happened if I wasn't there -- it would have ripped her to pieces."

- Mother of six-year-old girl attacked by a pit bull in Vancouver on Jan. 1, 2015

A six-year-old girl was viciously attacked and wounded by a pit bull in Vancouver's Crab Park on Jan. 1, while a small dog died Feb. 6 in a separate pit bull attack in Surrey's Holland Park.

24 Hours Vancouver and The Tyee have spoken to both the girl's mother and the owner of the severely wounded dog that was euthanized following the Surrey attack.

The two women contacted me separately after reading my columns describing other recent pit bull attacks in British Columbia and calling for a B.C. ban on pit bulls, similar to those in Ontario and Winnipeg.

Ontario's ban forbids breeding and import, and requires dogs to be neutered and muzzled in public.

Both women, who wish to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, now support a ban. Their stories have not been previously reported until now in The Tyee and 24 Hours Vancouver.

The Vancouver attack was confirmed yesterday by the Vancouver Police Department, who said that "no criminal offence" occurred and that the investigation was turned over to the City of Vancouver Animal Control.

24 Hours Vancouver confirmed the Surrey attack with Surrey's animal control department.

'It was like a shark'

In an interview yesterday, the six-year-old's mother said that the attack by an off-leash pit bull came without warning and resulted in severe bite wounds to her daughter's face and leg, resulting in a trip to the hospital by ambulance.

The woman asked not to be identified to protect her daughter's privacy.

The girl's puncture wounds required 10 stitches to her leg and another four to her face, her mother said. The girl was traumatized by the unprovoked attack and is now in therapy, she said.

The two-year-old pit bull that attacked the girl has not been put down. Instead, it was returned to its owner with restrictions that it be muzzled and kept on-leash in public.

"We were leaving the playground when I looked back and saw the pit bull barreling towards us," the mother said. "It jumped right on [my daughter] and knocked her on her back -- it blindsided [her] from the side -- she didn't see it."

The dog sank its teeth deep into the young girl's leg, and her mother sprang into action. "I punched the pit bull in the face -- pure adrenaline -- it was like a shark, it was insane, like a beast!" the mother said.

The dog's walker -- not its owner -- immediately helped pry the pit bull off the girl, but then the dog "lunged and bit [the girl] in the face and clamped on," the mother said.

The dog's grip wasn't as tight, and the mother managed to free her screaming daughter as police and ambulance paramedics arrived to take them to hospital.

The mother, a beagle owner and dog lover, now believes that pit bulls "should be banned in B.C. like they are in Ontario."

In another incident on Feb. 6, a woman named Sandy (last name withheld for privacy) was walking her Maltese Lhasa Apso dog Cleo in Surrey's Holland Park.

Cleo - attacked by pit bull in Holland Park

"My dog was on her leash beside me and attacked suddenly without warning by a pit bull that grabbed Cleo," Sandy told me Sunday.

"The pit bull's jaws had enough time to do serious internal damage."

After she and passersby helped rescue Cleo from the unleashed pit bull, she took her bleeding dog to a veterinarian, but the 16-year-old pet's injuries were so severe it had to be put down immediately.

Sandy called police and Surrey Animal Control, who told her they captured a pit bull on the loose that evening with no tags and it was euthanized last week after no owner came to claim it.

"I think it's time to basically ban pit bulls," Sandy said. "I love dogs -- don't get me wrong -- but I really believe in banning. It's the unpredictability that does it."

Other attacks on record

The two incidents are part of a growing list of pit bull attacks in B.C. that mirror American statistics showing pit bulls to be the most dangerous breed for both fatalities and violent attacks.

In the U.S., advocacy group reports there were 27 fatal pit bull attacks in 2014 alone -- 64 per cent of the total fatal dog attacks. There were 25 pit bull fatalities in 2013, which accounted for 78 per cent of all dog attack deaths that year.

As previously reported, a 16-day-old baby was viciously attacked in her own Saanich home by the family's pitt bull-Rottweiler cross in Dec. 2014, suffering serious lacerations that required extensive plastic surgery.

Also in December, a six-foot five-inches man weighing 250 pounds was mauled by two pit bulls outside a Langley store, requiring 19 stitches, after he said "Hi, pups" to the pair. They were tied to a mountain bike, which they dragged behind them to get at their target.

And in Nov. 2014, a miniature pinscher therapy dog was literally disemboweled in front of its shocked owner outside a Kitsilano post office by a sudden, unprovoked attack by another dog.

The six-year-old's mother read about those attacks before contacting me, and made clear that she wasn't initially concerned when she entered Crab Park, which has an off-leash dog park with a playground adjacent. She said there's a sign stating that dogs must be on a leash within 15 metres of the playground.

"We saw a pit bull off leash -- I've seen them more often, so I've gotten less afraid of them," she said. But then came the frightening attack that left her daughter with multiple stitches and a "face swollen like a grapefruit."

Six-year-old girl's pit bull puncture wounds

The mother said her daughter now "doesn't want to walk our dog or go to the park because she's afraid of the other dogs." She wants the city to either fence off the kids' playground from the dog park, or remove the playground to ensure no future attacks take place.

While the mother said the pit bull's walker -- who told her he was taking care of the dog while its owner was in Toronto -- was responsible and did all he could to end the attack, she has consulted a lawyer about potential legal action.

"I don't think people's dogs should be taken away, but pit bulls should be banned in B.C. like in Ontario," she said.

Similarly, Sandy has re-thought her views on pit bulls since her dog Cleo was fatally attacked.

"Before this happened to me I thought it was the owners' fault, but I've seen so many stories now... pit bulls have been bred for centuries to fight and not back down," she said.


Stephen Harper - Canada's most socially progressive Prime Minister ever - against his will

Prime Minister Stephen Harper - most socially progressive ever?
Bill Tieleman's 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday February 10, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"Life is never free of contradictions." 

Manmohan Singh, former Indian prime minister. 

Stephen Harper has surprisingly become Canada's most socially progressive prime minister -- even though it's against his will and personal beliefs.

Why? Because his right-wing Conservative government has been in power for the most dramatic positive changes ever made on a series of personal rights and freedoms.

Despite Harper's own social conservatism and that of many Conservative members of Parliament, his government has presided over Supreme Court decisions that have seen Canadians gain the right to:  union strikes; safe injections sites; RCMP unionization; and now even physician-assisted dying, all while avoiding revisiting the abortion issue and giving up on fighting same-sex marriages.

It is an irony that must rankle Harper mightily -- even former Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau doesn't come close.

Even before the most recent court decisions -- and the Conservatives' declining to try to overturn them -- his political friends were frustrated.

"It's my hope that Stephen Harper will soon get back to the values we had in 1993," former Reform and Conservative Alberta MP Myron Thompson said in 2013. "I hope he hasn't lost them, but he's certainly gotten away from them."

A still lower blow came from Gerry Nicholls, who worked under Harper at the right-wing National Citizens Coalition. Harper, at the time, he toldThe Globe and Mail in 2013, was "second to none when it came to criticizing conservative leaders who strayed even slightly from ideological purity."

But even by 2013, Nicholls said "what Harper is doing and what a Liberal government would do" were not very different.

Unanimous ruling

Despite that view, last week's stunning Supreme Court of Canada decision on the right to die was strongly opposed by the Conservative government in legal submissions. But government lawyers failed to convince even one of the nine justices. The Feb. 6 Supreme Court decision was unanimous.

The attorney general of Canada argued that "an absolute prohibition sends the message that all lives are valued, and worthy of protection from those who may subtly encourage vulnerable people to terminate their lives."

But the Supreme Court of Canada completely rejected the Harper position.

"The prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice," the court decided in a unanimous decision released Feb. 6.

It is extremely unlikely that Harper would now invoke the "notwithstanding" clause of the Canadian Constitution to override the court after that powerful ruling and huge public support for allowing doctors to help end the lives of those suffering pain and despair from terminal illness.

With an election scheduled for Oct. 2015, Harper will not want to risk defeat by going against the tide.

And to do so would maintain an unjust law that dictates imprisonment of up to 14 years for anyone aiding or even counselling someone to commit suicide -- something intolerable to Canadians.

Meanwhile, those who fought long and hard on this case are grateful.

"This is one incredible day. Physician-assisted dying is now recognized for what it is: a medical service that brings an end, for some individuals, to unbearable suffering," Grace Pastine, litigation director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which started the challenge, said in Ottawa Friday.

Indeed it was incredible. 

I was with both my parents when they died in hospital. Sadly, it was neither painless nor peaceful. This decision is merciful but tragically much too late for far too many people.

Harper must listen to both the court and public -- and not stand in the way of ending further unnecessary suffering. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Memo to Media: Don't Broadcast ISIS 'Television Terrorism' - Shut Down Free Publicity They Want

Don't show terrorist hostages and give ISIS what it wants - publicity
Refuse to give these evil criminals the enormous publicity they need 

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday January 27, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"In order to spread fear and thus advance its political goals, a terrorist organization needs the media."

- Transnational Terrorism, Security, and the Rule of Law report

After yet another gruesome video showing the beheading of a Japanese hostage Saturday by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and new threats to Canada on Monday, it's time to stop giving them free publicity -- by turning off television terrorism.

ISIS is a barbaric group that has gained astonishing media coverage by kidnapping and then videotaping innocent victims begging for their lives.

The hostages' families then make tearful pleas -- also on television -- for their release and to show mercy, which has sadly not happened but no doubt further encourages the murderers as they gain even more publicity.

News coverage has made ISIS internationally feared -- almost solely for successfully manipulating media to cover them engaging in acts of extreme cruelty.

The menacing, knife-wielding, British-accented terrorist nicknamed "Jihadi John" who makes video demands and has previously overseen the beheadings of American and British hostages is now one of the world's most wanted -- and famous -- people.

But there is a way to dramatically reduce the insidious success of ISIS.

Don't broadcast executions

All media -- print, radio, online but especially television -- should refuse to give these evil criminals the enormous publicity they obviously want and thrive on.

Certainly I do not argue that kidnapping, death threats or beheadings should not be reported -- they should.

But if media voluntarily stopped broadcasting the ISIS videos, quit publishing the horrific pictures of victims supplied by ISIS and refused to give ISIS what it desperately wants -- free, horrifying publicity -- it could dramatically reduce the value of kidnapping and killing foreigners.

There are issues that need to be discussed in the western world about the root causes of terrorism.

Without doubt the American military's use of remote assassination of terrorists -- and sometime civilians -- through drone attacks provokes responses.

Canada has also thrown its military into anti-ISIS action in Iraq -- perhaps justifiably but with potential consequences, such as the murderous attack on Parliament Hill by a mentally disturbed gunman.

And new ISIS threats issued Monday claimed that "what lies ahead will be worse -- with Allah's permission" after praising the Ottawa attack and recent others in Australia, France and Belgium.

And there should also be debate about the West's ongoing support of a Saudi Arabian monarchy that beheaded over 70 convicts itself last year -- including for non-violent offences -- and allegedly engages in the torture of political prisoners, as reported by Amnesty International.

Blogger flogged

Such as the flogging of blogger Raif Badawi with 1,000 lashes over several weeks for the prisoner of conscience's "crime" of setting up a website for public discussion and accusations of "insulting Islam." Badawi also has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined US$266,000.

"The flogging of Raif Badawi is a vicious act of cruelty which is prohibited under international law," said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.  

It also bans women from basic rights like showing their hair or faces in public or driving a car.

More ominously, Saudi Arabia is known as the primary exporter of extremist Islam -- and Osama Bin Laden was its most prominent exile.

But Saudi Arabia is our "ally" and supplies massive amounts of oil to the west.

So there is an urgent need to get beyond the instant media coverage of the latest horrible act by ISIS and look at the broader picture of what is happening in the Middle East and why.

But no cause can possibly justify kidnapping and then obscenely killing foreigners simply to terrify the world.

"Terrorism is theatre," Brian Jenkins noted back in the 1970s.

With that theatre designed for broadcast, author Bruce Hoffman argued in his 2006 book Inside Terrorism, "The media responds to these overtures with almost unbridled alacrity, proving unable to ignore what has been accurately described as 'an event... fashioned specifically for their needs.' "

So news organizations need to acknowledge their role, turn off the cameras and change the channel on ISIS's ability to so easily manipulate the media for its own terrible ends.


Memo to Premier Christy Clark: Public Education Just Won Big in Washington State Supreme Court - Watch Out!

Washington State Capital Buildings - Olympia
BC should take careful note of its neighbour's mistakes.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday January 20, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"We have to invest. It's come to that point. This is the session. This is the Armageddon. This is the Super Bowl. This is it. And it's gotta happen this year."

Picture this education imbroglio: the Supreme Court rules that funding for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students is completely inadequate and must be remedied immediately with an infusion of billions of tax dollars every single year -- or else.

Then, after legislators drag their feet to find the money to hire thousands of teachers and staff and provide more resources, a visibly angry Supreme Court reconvenes to find the government itself in contempt of court.

Then, the judges give the government just one legislative session in 2015 to fix it or face extraordinary, court-imposed financial and other penalties.

The government is also ordered to reduce the number of students per overcrowded classroom to improve learning conditions. That means hiring 7,400 new teachers and 17,600 other education staff, at a cost of nearly $5 billion through 2019 and $2 billion a year after that.

It may sound like a wonderful dream for B.C. teachers after their lengthy 2014 strike.* Currently, they're waiting for an upcoming B.C. Court of Appeal case decision on class size and composition after a hearing in Oct. 2014.

This teachers' dream is definitely B.C. Premier Christy Clark's worst nightmare.

But in Washington State, it's Governor Jay Inslee's absolute reality.

Gov't violated duty to students

Not only did the Washington Supreme Court find in 2012 that constitutional provisions providing students with an appropriate education were not being met and must be restored, but in Sept. 2014 it scathingly ruled unanimously that the government was in contempt of court for refusing to fulfill its court-ordered remedy.

Washington State "is engaged in an ongoing violation of its constitutional duty to K-12 children" and it "has known for decades that its funding of public education is constitutionally inadequate," the Supreme Court found in its contempt decision.

Now, Washington State Democrats and Republicans alike must resolve the education funding issue in their current 2015 session in the capital, Olympia, or face withering court sanctions.

And it gets even better for teachers and students, because in November,

Washington voters narrowly approved state initiative I-1351 to lower the student-to-teacher ratio to 17 to one for Kindergarten through Grade 3 from the current average of 24 to one in elementary schools, and to 25 to one from 30 to one for Grades 4 to 12.

That measure is unrelated to the Supreme Court order, and will cost an estimated $2 billion more a year to hire 7,400 new teachers and thousands more support staff in the schools.

So, what's the lesson?

There is a lesson from Washington for the government of British Columbia: the best solution in the face of a potentially devastating court order to spend billions a year more on education is a negotiated agreement with the BC Teachers' Federation.

Clark should see that Washington's dilemma is a harbinger of B.C.'s possible future, and start talking to the union now rather than answer to an angry Supreme Court of Canada down the road.

The alternative for Clark is to find herself in the shoes of Washington State Democratic Governor Inslee.

"This unprecedented action by the Supreme Court is a critical moment in our history," Inslee said last September. "No one should be surprised, yet no one should minimize the court's order.

"I urged lawmakers to act this year and agreed with the court that we must do more to adequately fund education, which I believe is both a constitutional and
moral obligation," he concluded.
Washington's House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats but its Senate is controlled by Republicans, leaving Inslee with a tough challenge.

Tom Ahearne is a Seattle attorney who acted for plaintiffs complaining in the 2012 case that the state is not meeting its constitutional obligations.

"All the excuses [legislators] tell themselves that they can delay and no one has to do anything, these are now gone," said Ahearne, who represented parents Stephanie and Matt McCleary, lead plaintiffs for a group that also includes Washington's largest teachers' union, school districts and education advocates.

Ahearne isn't joking. The Washington Supreme Court ruling could not be clearer:

"The court has no doubt that it already has the legislature's 'attention.' But that is not the purpose of a contempt order. Rather, contempt is the means by which a court enforces compliance with its lawful orders when they are not followed," the court decision reads.

"These orders are not advisory or designed only to get the legislature's 'attention'; the court expects them to be obeyed even though they are directed to a coordinate branch of government. When the orders are not followed, contempt is the lawful and proper means of enforcement in the orderly administration of justice," the ruling signed by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen warns.

BC should pay attention

It all sounds very much like B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin's ruling in favour of the BCTF and against the BC Liberal government over its ripping up contract provisions and deliberately trying to provoke a strike in 2011.

"In Bill-22 the government re-enacted legislation identical to that first branch of what was previously declared unconstitutional, namely, the deletion and prohibition of hundreds of collective agreement terms on working conditions," Griffin wrote.

"When legislation is struck down as unconstitutional, it means it was never valid, from the date of its enactment. This means that the legislatively deleted terms in the teachers' collective agreement have been restored retroactively and can also be the subject of future bargaining."

Regardless of how the Washington State situation is resolved by its legislature, one thing is abundantly clear -- education funding is about to go up substantially as a result of the court rulings.

The BC Liberal government would be wise to pay attention and start opening the channels of communication with the B.C. teachers' union to find a negotiated solution to the B.C. Court of Appeal case.

Win or lose, if that case is finally resolved in the Supreme Court of Canada, Christy Clark may wish she was in Washington Governor Jay Inslee's position instead of her own, very expensive B.C. one.