Did Claude Giroux commit sexual assault?

Maybe?

Certainly not according to the Ottawa Police, even though the NHLer repeatedly grabbed a man’s ass at the Great Canadian Cabin on Canada Day. That man was a cop and Giroux was arrested, but he was never charged and eventually released.

There are a lot of unanswered questions about this matter. Why wasn’t Giroux chareged? Was it because he’s a famous hockey player? Is it because he grabbed a man’s butt? Why didn’t the officer press charges? Are big manly men not allowed to admit when they’ve been assaulted.

It is possible that this situation didn’t warrant an arrest, but how easily would we dismiss it if Giroux had groped a woman? (Granted, some people don’t really care about sexual assault.) What makes the whole situation worse is that the police were all too willing to gland-hand Giroux’s tem, the Flyers, offering them an inside scoop as they lied to Ottawa reporters.

Everything about this situation stinks, especially the idea that a sexual assault may have been waved away.

 

Is OSEG Just Lying?

News came out yesterday that Winners is the newest retailer to set up shop at Lansdowne Park. The groans were inevitable. OSEG and the city have touted Lansdowne as an urban village, a “unique urban village”, but adding Winners to a list of shops that includes PetSmart, GoodLife, Booster Juice and Telus is just more evidence that the vision isn’t so much “urban village” as it is “South Keys North”.

OSEG and the mayor can object to the big box store label (and, perhaps they’re right, they’ll be medium-sized box stores), but they can’t really claim anything unique or village-y about this shopping plaza. So, it really brings us the question, were they just lying?

It is possible that Lansdowne will still resemble something close to an urban village–and I certainly hope it does–but the overall promise is going unfulfilled. Maybe OSEG never planned to make an urban village. Maybe they had no idea whether it was even possible. I should probably assume stupidity rather than malice.

But it reminds me of their treatment of transportation. The travel plan for RedBlacks games hopes for hundreds of cyclists. This is a good development, and they have planned for it, to an extent. They will have 600-1000 spots for supervised bike parking (for special events), and they are installing 300 bike rings throughout the grounds. So, they’re trying… sort of.

If OSEG really wanted people biking to Lansdowne, they wouldn’t handcuff the city when it comes to re-developing Bank Street. As it stands, we may not be able to get rid of on-street parking (thus making actual room for hundreds of cyclists) due to the contract with OSEG.

Further, the travel plan requires parking buses on the Bank Street Bridge, creating a walk-your-bike-zone (which apparently won’t actually be enforced). It’s bad enough that the bridge is unsuited to bicycle traffic (and pedestrian traffic), and the city isn’t doing anything substantive about it, now–on game days–they’re telling people to get off their bikes. And remember, Bank Street is considered a cycling route by the city.

I still have hopes for Lansdowne. I don’t think the obvious mistakes are crippling or irreversible (well, maybe some of them are irreversible). I just hope that the apparent dishonesty is just an appearance.

We shall see.

Patios in the Glebe

Yesterday, the city’s transportation committee approved an application by Erling’s Variety for a patio on Strathcona Avenue. They actually approved three patios, but this was the only one that seemed to cause any problems. Residents spoke forcefully against it, almost begging for accusations of NIMBYism. It was a stereotypical Glebe performance.

In the end, the committee (rightfully) approved the application but (rightfully) imposed some some ground rules. The patio can only stay open until 9:00 pm, not 11:00. There must be a privacy barrier on the residential side of the patio. Smokers, both staff and patrons, must be discouraged from smoking near private homes, and the restaurant must put out proper butt-out infrastructure (to use a rather inflated word).

Some of the criticisms from residents were understandable (noise, smoking), some were less so (more drink and driving). Personally, I found two of the objections to be interesting–the danger from parked cars and a question about Orleans.

The parked-car objection seems odd. Restaurants often have patios near parked cars and no one has ever died. But if you look at the layout, you can understand the concern (even if it remains a tad overblown). At that point on Strathcona, there is no parallel parking. The city has a cutaway area that offers angled parking. Cars will be pointed directly at the patrons sitting on the patio.

I don’t find this interesting because of the possible danger. No, I find it dangerous because of the proposed solution–no patio. If I were to choose which I would have at the corner of my street, a nice restaurant patio or a row of parked cars, it’d be a no-brainer. Give me the life and liveliness of a patio any day (especially on closing at 9:00). Not only would it be more aesthetically pleasing there would be fewer cars that would be driving down my street coming or going from their parking spot.

As an added bonus, if the city did away with those spots, the sidewalk could be expanded out. This would alleviate another common complaint about patios, that they take up valuable sidewalk space (see: Elgin Street).

Maybe it’s just a case of status quo bias, but it seems like residents have their priorities mixed up.

Another objection was raised in the form of a question, would such a proposal in Orleans be approved? The implication being that residents in the Glebe aren’t treated as well as residents of the suburbs.

This is a weird complaint. How many people want the Glebe (or Centretown or the Market or Hintonburg) to become Orleans? I would be horrified if city council started treating the Glebe like a suburb. That’s not a dig at the suburbs (though, to be fair, I’ve been known to take digs at the suburb). What is attractive about the Glebe is its very un-suburbanness. It is a neighbourhood based on walking, storefronts, mix-use developments and, to a certain extent, nightlife. Any complaint that the Glebe should be treated like Orleans is missing the entire point. (In fact, it is the suburbs that should be treated more like urban neighbourhoods, facilitating more walking, biking and mix-use development.)

So Erling’s gets a patio, but with restrictions. A compromise has been reached, everyone has given a little and the decision isn’t permit; if Erling’s wants to open their patio again next year, it will require a new application, so they have an incentive to cooperate with the neighbourhood.

This is, in fact, a case of city council working really well.

Kickoff

It’s game day for the Ottawa RedBlacks. They kickoff the regular season this evening in Winnipeg. It’s been a long road to get a sustainable football team back in Ottawa. We suffered through a Riders team that constantly teetered on the brink (and eventually disbanded); we were toyed with when Grant White came to town; and we were given the Renegades, a team that was as poorly run as the Riders’ final days but without having built up any good will with the community to try to pull them through.

Last month, I wrote about the idea of being a disenchanted CFL fan for the Ottawa Citizen:

I was born 274 days before Tony Gabriel made The Catch in the 1976 Grey Cup, Ottawa’s last championship. Needless to say, I don’t remember it. I spent the 1980s and some of the ’90s rooting for perennial losers. Such was the fate of Ottawa fans of my generation, but, regardless, I was a fan.

As much as I loved CFL football, we eventually broke up. I watched CFL commissioner — and current Toronto mayoral candidate — John Tory scold fans for not supporting the team (even though we regularly outdrew the Grey Cup-winning Argonauts). I watched as former mayor Jim Durrell attempted to patch together a plan to salvage the team.

But there was no salvation.

So here we are with the RedBlacks. The team seems better than any Rough Riders or Renegades team we have seen in over thirty years. It’s a time of hope for fans. And even if they don’t win many games, they’re already a success.

Ottawa Police Punish Cyclists During Safety Blitz

I think Ottawa cops have a weird sense of humour. They released the results of a recent “bike safety blitz” that was conducted on June 26th and 27th. “Safety” consisted of stopping and harassing counseling 130 bicycles on appropriate safety procedures. You know, wearing a helmet (which isn’t actually required by law), having the proper reflective tape, not going trough stops signs, having a whistle, wearing the proper clothing, never leaving your drink unattended at the… oh, sorry, that’s the wrong lecture.

What took this from just insulting to downright offensive was that this blitz came one day after the cops declared they’d not be filing charges in the death of Mario Theoret, the cyclist who was right-hooked last year.

And worse still, this hunt for cyclists will continue for the next month.

It shouldn’t take much thought to figure out why the police approach to “safety” is so boneheaded. The lack of a helmet or whistle are not the grand threats to my safety as a cyclist (in fact, the lack of a helmet might even be safer). No, the issues I have are the careless driving of motorists, infrastructure that is built for cars first and no one second, vehicles with massive blindspots and a mentality that all cyclists are scofflaws who are to obviously to blame whenever a car runs them over.

Take this quotation from Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Atallah Sadaka when talking about “bike safety”:

“The safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians is a priority for the Ottawa Police Service and this campaign was an opportunity to educate and conduct enforcement.”

Yes, when dealing with the safety of cyclists (who are far more vulnerable than motorists), this police officer mentions the “safety of drivers” first. It may seem unimportant, but it is telling.

What is particularly odd about this vendetta against cyclists is the city’s move to better accommodate cycling. Just today, the transportation committee approved a plan to build new cycling infrastructure in the east end, and the city unveiled new bike corrals in Hintonburg and the Glebe. (And, let’s not forget, the city is counting on hundreds of cyclists to make RedBlacks games attend-able.) It is absurd that the police–who work for the city and for the betterment of the city–would take this initiative to actively thwart cycling.

The audacity of Ottawa Police Services has had one effect on me, however. It has made me realize that the police do not care at all about my safety. They have no intention to protect me or my rights. They only think about cyclists as a nuisance to harass. So now I know. I can’t play nice expecting the city, the police or motorists to give any thought of me. I’ll take the lane. I’ll block traffic. I’ll do everything I need to do and I won’t play nice. Playing nice will only get me killed.

I also have no inclination to ever help the police, ever. (Granted, talking to the police any more than is necessary is a fools errand, bike or not.) They’ve thrown down the gauntlet. I’m not going to upheld the polite lie that the police officer is my friend.

In a nice twist, the Ottawa Citizen trolled the police last week. Publishing, on June 29th, an op-ed declaring Ottawa is still not safe enough for cyclists:

I heard the collision before I saw it — the thump of a car slamming into something soft, then a howl of anguish from a distraught witness. Biking around the corner, I saw the driver sitting frozen behind the wheel while four frantic pedestrians tried to help the injured cyclist.

Hardly a day goes by in Ottawa without us hearing a report of a cyclist getting hit. There are roughly 300 reported collisions annually between bicycles and motor vehicles in Ottawa, most occurring during the peak cycling months we’re in right now. (A reported collision is one in which the police are called, which means most collisions aren’t counted in this calculation.) And as our urban cycling history continues to be formed by eye-witness anecdotal accounts, news stories, ghost bikes and the annual accumulation of statistics, many feel our city is becoming more dangerous for cycling.

The word “whistle” is not mentioned once.

To Kill A Cyclist

Whoops.

That’s all we seem to get. A man is dead. The police have spent eight months investigating. Facts have been reported since day one. No charges will be laid. A collective shrug.

By all accounts, Mario Théoret was not comfortable with his commute. Each day, he travelled 25 km to and from work. His trek would take him along Hunt Club Road, a thoroughfare with an 80 km\hr speed limit and a flimsy painted bike lane to protect him against hurtling chunks of metal. Hunt Club would take his life.

Théoret epitomized goodness. He was devoted to his family, his friends and his community. He did charity work, organizing special events for kids. If you were writing a tragedy, you would never concoct Théoret. His goodness would be unbelievable.

According to reports, Théoret was travelling east on Hunt Club Road, approaching Merivale Road. It was Thursday October 17, 2013. There was a transport truck, also heading east, intending to turn right and head south on Merivale. The truck “right-hooked” Théoret.

If you look at Hunt Club, you will see the bike lane on the north side of the street, adjacent to the right car lane. You will also see a right turn channel just before the intersection with Merivale. Any cyclist in the bike lane will have the right-of-way over a truck looking to turn right.

Looking. Maybe the driver wasn’t looking. Maybe he was, but couldn’t see Théoret. Regardless, it doesn’t really matter. As Théoret rode—legally—towards that intersection, a transport truck crossed his lane, causing a collision, causing a death.

Our city helped kill Mario Théoret. It is ridiculous to think that we could ensure the safety of cyclists on Hunt Club with some buckets of white paint. We built what is, essentially, a freeway cutting through our city; its traffic intermingling with bikes and pedestrians at extra-large intersections. The infrastructure screams the message, this road is for automobiles.

You can’t completely blame motorists for responding to this message. We have created incentives to drive fast, be selfish and treat non-motorists as second-class users. It is natural that when you are told you are the most important thing on the road, you believe it.

This dynamic is not isolated to Hunt Club. We see it throughout our city, in suburbs and downtown, commercial areas and neighbourhoods. We rely on sharrows and road signs to keep cyclists safe from cars. Cycling routes often double as trucking routes.

And our response to safety concerns amounts to little more than condescending lectures about high-visibility clothing.

Wear a helmet. Use reflective tape. Ride in designated bike lanes. None of this saved Mario Théoret when a truck crossed his lane. And though city infrastructure and political myopia facilitated the death of Théoret, it was the truck driver who killed him, and our justice system needs to admit it.

I have no doubt that the driver feels terrible. Most of us would if we were involved in such a terrible incident, but the driver’s feelings should not be valued over Théoret’s life. It is too easy to kill a cyclist and get away with it. We don’t want to punish someone for an accident; but these incidents strain the definition of the word. It may have been unintended, but that does not absolve responsibility.

If you shoot someone by accident, it is still a crime. When you are on a bike, with traffic speeding inches away from you, every car is a loaded gun. Every driver could take your life in a split second. If it was you, what would you want people to say?

Whoops?

Hockey and Rape Culture at the University of Ottawa

You’ve got a high bar to clear if you want to defend the University of Ottawa’s suspended hockey program. For those who missed the news, uOttawa has announced that they are shutting down the hockey program for the 2014-2015 season. They had already suspended the program for much of this year after an allegation of sexual was made against three of the players back in February.

There have been no arrests and, obviously, no convictions, yet, but the university has completed their investigation, determined there was a there there, and have decided the best thing to do is to shelve the team and fire the coach. It should also be noted, the players haven’t been suspended.

So, with an allegation of rape, a cover-up by the coach (who knew about the incident within hours but never reported it) and an internal investigation completed, the school has made a wise decision. It is difficult to argue that the school is in the wrong.

But, of course, someone will! And that someone is Lawrence Greenspon, a prominent lawyer. Greenspon is representing seven of the players, claiming they have been treated unjustly and unfairly maligned.

“They would go to parties or other social gatherings and people would come up to them and call them rapists,” Greenspon said.”They have suffered amazing consequences to this point.”

Ignore the fact that reports–as well as the statement made by University President Allan Rocke–note that only three players have been linked to the (alleged) sexual assault and that this isn’t an indictment of each individual player. Focus, instead, on the target of this complaint.

The players who are (I will assume) being unfairly maligned aren’t blaming their (alleged) rapist teammates. They’re blaming the university. Now, it wasn’t the university that sexually assaulted the woman. It wasn’t Allan Rocke who covered it up. And it wasn’t school administrators who created this toxic culture in the program. It was the players and the coach (and maybe coaches).

Blame the people who committed the (alleged) crime. Blame the coach for the cover up. Blame everyone involved with the team for fostering this atmosphere of entitlement, but don’t blame the school. It’s a rather tasteless defense.

Now, we might be able to blame the university, to a degree. What we might be seeing is a lack of institutional control (a vague term that is often employed in the U.S. to punish thoroughly, but non-specifically, corrupt athletics programs). It is quite possible the university didn’t provide proper oversight or didn’t respond to warning signs.  But if you’re going to blame the university for that (fair enough), then you must applaud them for this decision. The school has (perhaps finally) exercised a bit of control over a program that covered up sexual assault. Give them a bouquet of flowers, not a lawsuit.

The university does not have to maintain a hockey team. These students are not owed a team. Claims that their “careers have been ended” are so ridiculously overblown. If they have the potential for a career, this certainly won’t derail that (and, lest anyone be confused, amateur hockey is not a career for these players).

But, the players–no doubt hurt, and likely feeling betrayed by their school, coach and team–will continue to flail as they fight the suspension:

Greenspon said his clients had been expecting the university to apologize and reinstate the program on Wednesday. He pointed out the university does not have a code of conduct, which opens it up to a lawsuit.

So, apparently, their argument is you didn’t tell us not to rape. Good luck with that.