Spirit of the West
I read Gary Stephen Ross’s “A Tale of Two Cities” (March) on the ferry between Vancouver and Victoria, after enjoying BC Ferries’ famous clam chowder; the issue’s cover — featuring a building I pass every day on my walk to Simon Fraser — had caught my eye. After I read the first paragraph, my stomach churned. It was clear that the article would be nothing but a celebration of everything wrong with my city.
Ross, the editor of Vancouver magazine, describes Vancouver through the lens of luxury, citing lifestyle markers — Choices Market, Happy Planet fruit juice, and the Grouse Grind — that are unattainable to most residents. In fact, Vancouver is one of Canada’s most expensive cities, and low-income residents keep getting crunched: in November, rbc Financial found that citizens were spending an alarmingly high percentage of household income on housing, and anecdotal evidence shows that rents are among the highest in the country.
Of course, none of this is of any consequence to Ross, who describes Vancouver’s homelessness-ridden Downtown Eastside as “a twenty-square-block human zoo.” On the whole, his article is a commercial for a city that only exists for a select segment of its population: the subscribers of Vancouver magazine.
James Lewis Watson
The Walrus’s covers and features have consistently failed to stoke my curiosity. I was seriously considering ending my subscription — until I read Gary Stephen Ross’s piece about Vancouver. He chronicled my community with the sort of clear-eyed eloquence only an astute transplant could bring to the table, intelligently dissecting the small-town outpost mentality that has been both a blessing and a curse for the city and its surrounds. The accompanying photo spread was just as incisive; the picture of the hollow tree in Stanley Park showed the absurd lengths we go to in order to preserve catatonic Kodak moments for the tourism industry. Suddenly, I look forward to future issues.
Port Coquitlam, BC
Soul on Ice
The following email was addressed to members of the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council. The Walrus was co-addressed, along with several MPs and other concerned parties.
Chiefs of dotc:
Attached you will find an article, “Life on the Instalment Plan” by Marian Botsford Fraser (March), about Renée Acoby. All of us should read it.
What is happening to our women is a disgrace. Indigenous women account for up to 90 percent of some Canadian prison populations. It’s no wonder: most of our reservations in the four Western provinces have unemployment rates as high as 64 percent. Our women have no options, and end up victims of gangs, drugs, prostitution, or worse; the Sisters in Spirit initiative compiled a list of more than 500 murdered and missing women. We must fight for their rights.
Acoby and others act out violently because they are treated worse than animals by the Canadian legal system. I remember when cops in Winnipeg would laugh at the twelve-year-old gang members who were “so brave” on the streets but who “cried like babies” in the back of their cruisers. No one is laughing now, because the prison system has beaten those twelve-year-olds into adults so violent that officers have to travel in groups. This cycle needs to be brought to public attention.
As overwhelmed as we chiefs are by the many issues facing our people, we must begin the process of helping individuals like Renée Acoby. We should, at the very least, get her a lawyer; however, I think that we must make her case an international issue. I will send a copy of the Walrus article to every embassy in Ottawa. Acoby is just one of hundreds — maybe thousands — of our women in prisons, out of sight, out of mind.
Chief Terrance Nelson
Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation
I do not disagree with Fraser’s hypothesis that the penal system helps create monsters. It does. Yet inmates are responsible for their actions, and Fraser, who wanted to blame Corrections Canada for Acoby’s dismal circumstances, glossed over the impact that Renée Acoby’s crimes had on her victims, whose experiences were terrifying and life altering. Had she provided a balanced account of Acoby’s behaviour, Fraser would not have been able to draw such a stark conclusion. This is biased journalism; you should be ashamed.
Pity Troy Jollimore. Not only have love and romance killed his interest in science fiction, but, judging by his reference points in “Star-Crossed” (March), he is trapped in a time warp.
I am of Troy’s generation, raised on a steady diet of Star Trek reruns and books by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Jay Pournelle. Unlike Jollimore, I kept up with the genre even after I found love. And let me tell you, Troy, the genre is a-changin’. Take Battlestar Galactica: Jollimore refers to the late-’70s version, that low-budget, badly acted series about a city-sized group of human refugees fleeing their robotic enemies. Women were present, but he’s right: romance was not.
Fast-forward to the twenty-first century: Battlestar Galactica is reborn with modern special effects, better actors, and tighter writing around current themes like terrorism. This series explores not only deep space, but human relationships in extreme circumstances. In this and other shows and movies — Defying Gravity, Children of Men, Gattaca, Firefly, heck, even Avatar for that matter — science fiction is becoming more humane, its approach to storytelling more complex.
No, space is not such a lonely place anymore. And it’s a good thing, too.
Leonard D. Eichel