The Inspectors We Have and the Inspectors We Need

The City of Windsor employs 500 sworn officers and approximately 150 staff.

Yet the most pressing need for our region’s safety and well-being are not those kind of inspectors.

We need inspectors who are able to inspect farms in person.

The federal government has conducted mostly remote inspections of Ontario farms that employ migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of physically entering the properties to make sure the labourers’ living conditions are safe.Employment and Social Development Canada, the department responsible for the inspections, told CBC News that over the last four months, all the farms it inspected during the initial 14-day mandatory quarantine period complied with the rules as of June 12.

But the department admitted in most cases, inspectors didn’t actually travel to the farms in question.

“For the safety of everyone involved, the majority of inspections are still being conducted remotely,” the department said in a statement. By some accounts, the inspections are done virtually. CBC News has asked for details on how the remote monitoring is conducted, but so far, the department has not provided details.

“Ottawa ‘remotely’ inspected Ontario farms while COVID-19 infected hundreds of migrant workers”, Lisa Xing · CBC News · Posted: Jul 01, 2020 5:00 AM ET | Last Updated: July 1

We need inspectors of our long-term health care facilities. From the above article above:

Unions also raised concerns when a CBC News investigation found the province was doing inspections of long-term care homes by phone before determining no problems existed. So far, about 70 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths have been residents in long-term care, and many say the virus has shed light on a system that has long failed them. 

There is a terrible disconnect between what we have long-known as a problem with long-term care and our collective non-response. As I was reminded by this article from Policy Options, it was only 2017 that there was a Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in Long-Term Care Homes System (spurred by the case of a nurse-turned-serial killer in Woodstock). Had our governments followed those recommendations three years ago, I think it’s fairly safe to assume there would have been fewer deaths from COVID-19 in Ontario.

But here we are.

I know members of the police force think that they are most maligned group of good people who are only trying to do their job, but frankly, I don’t buy it. Do you know who has it worse off? Your humble public servant whose job is to enforce the rules that are set down after every tragedy and eroded and ignored until the next tragedy strikes. I can’t think of another line of work in which it is the norm for their own organization’s (elected) leadership make it a point of to routinely publicly call out their employee’s work as wasteful, ignorant, filled with red tape, and then regularly undermine them for short-term political gain.

Speaking of which, the Mayor of Windsor, continues to undermine the work of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

(Let’s not forget that cohorts after cohort of Windsor City Council underfunded our Health Unit so those politicians could tout zero-tax increases which left us the lowest funded public health unit in all of Ontario. Just in time for a pandemic. )

I support our medical officer of health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed and the other members and staff of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

Politicians at every level of government have left us vulnerable during this time of COVID-19. Let’s support the inspectors who keep us safe.

Taking Suggestions Instead of Making Change

Despite the fact that the post curiously doesn’t use the words #blacklivesmatter, I like the text that introduces the Windsor Black Lives Matter Questionnaire from the Mayor’s Facebook post. I also appreciate the fact that it tells us that the questionnaire closes July 10th.

I do not like the wording of the introduction from the questionnaire itself. But it is telling. The questionnaire was created after a virtual roundtable discussion called “Windsor Black Lives Matter Panel Discussion.” The theme of the discussion, as identified by the mayor was talking with people.

On June 19, 2020, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor Police Service Chief Pam Mizuno participated in a virtual roundtable discussion with local Black and African leaders in our community. On the theme of ‘talking with people who make you see the world differently’, the open and honest discussion that followed provided an opportunity for leaders to highlight efforts, causes and communities they champion; explain and discuss local barriers to justice and equality; and identify opportunities Windsor has to become the most inclusive and respectful city possible.

Windsor Black Lives Matter Questionnaire

I watched the entire discussion in two sittings as the panel discussion is an hour and fifty minutes long. So I can tell you what was not discussed. The word defund was not used nor any discussion about the enormous size of the police budget was brought up in conversation. Despite that there are currently three WPS members and one retired WPS member with court dates in September, the criminal conduct of certain WPS police officers was not mentioned during this Black Lives Matter discussion. Nor was the June 18th event in which an officer reacted badly to two young people taking a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter — an event that the WPS addressed in a matter that impressed me while the Mayor chose to commiserate with the unnamed officer and questioned the beliefs of those taking a knee. Frankly, this makes me wonder how much the Black Lives Matter movement has made our mayor see the world differently.

Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens chairs the police services board and says the young men in the photo are entitled to their beliefs.

“You know, I thought through this and certainly the young men in that picture have a perspective. Clearly there’s something that’s on thier mind and I’d appreciate hearing what they think we could do better. What could we do to improve the situation that would make them feel comfortable not to have to take a knee? At the same time, I support our police as well and I think they do a great job.”

He says he doesn’t blame the officer for returning the food.

“If I were the officer driving that car I likely would have handed the bag back as well. I wouldn’t feel comfortable eating what’s in that bag if that’s the perspective of the people who made that food. That would cause me concern as well. So I certainly appreciate the officer’s position and I appreciate the young men in there having an opinion.”

Dilkens believes something good can come from the situation.

“These types of conversations, it’s not wrong to think that there’s some good that could come out of this. What are the perspectives of those young men? They took a knee, what are their beliefs? What do they actually believe? What would they like to see made better in the community? How can we have a conversation and include their voices in that conversation to see how we can make the place we love better together?”

“Windsor Police Launch Internal Investigation After Arby’s Incident”, AM800

I was also disappointed in the responses of the Mayor during the June 19th Black Lives Matter panel. After a considerable discussion of the racism of our school systems which have poor expectations for black youth and guides them accordingly, the topic of the poor success of WPS police recruitment racialized groups came up and in response, Mayor Dilkens suggested that the qualifications to be a police officer could be reduced.

That being said, that conversation brought my favourite moment of the entire panel. It occurred when Black Historical Research Society President Irene Moore Davis responded to the Mayor’s comments by making the connection that the unnecessary stops of black men and women by police are added to a record that, if they chose to apply to join the WPS, is used against them during the regular background check of applications — a textbook example of systemic and systematic racism. Mere moments before this particular exchange, Michael Brown, the operations manager of Rapha Christian Center, told his story about how he and his friends were stopped by police not far from his Walkerville home because it was reported that there were suspicious black men in the area.

Irene also mentioned the Human Rights Project that formally concluded in 2014. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that Windsor police are among forces with highest number of human rights complaints in Ontario with “reprisal, sex complaints highest per capita at the Windsor Police Service.”

Source: Jason Viau · CBC News · Posted: May 01, 2019

With that, I thought I would share my five recommendations for the Black Lives Matter questionnaire. I’m not entirely sure where this questionnaire will go as it appears to be from the Mayor’s communication channels. This leads nicely to my first suggestion:

1. We need a new chair of the Windsor Police Board

There is no reason why the Mayor needs to be the chair of the WPS board. As the city is still in the grips of a global pandemic, now would be an appropriate time for the Mayor to step down from his duties as Chair to concentrate on one of our greatest threats to our safety and security. There are many cities in which the Mayor of the city is not the chair of the police board. In London, Ontario the chair of the London Police Services Board is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Paediatrics at the Schulich School of Medicine.

It can be problematic when a politician holds the role of chair because their actions can be seen as reacting to political problems, rather than systemic issues. Maybe it was appropriate for the Mayor to declare a zero tolerance approach to crime on October 1, 2018. Or perhaps the Municipal election date of October 22, 2018 weighed in his decision to use an approach both known for being ineffective and disproportionately affecting marginalized and racialized people.

When Drew Dilkens announced that Windsor Ontario is going to be the first community in Canada to partner with Amazon’s Ring surveillance system, in what capacity was he acting in?

2. The Mayor must step back from his pledge to bring Amazon’s Ring to Windsor

Amazon’s Ring network would bring corporate-controlled surveillance into our neighbourhoods. For more information explaining why letting them would be undemocratic and dangerous, please read Bonnie Stewart’s One Ring to rule them all: Surveillance ‘smart’ tech won’t make Canadian cities safer, CBC’s Spark’s conversation with Chris Gilliard: Smart home security could have real impacts on privacy, racial profiling, and the other conversations we’ve started at

3. The budget of the Windsor Police Services must be made public.

At the moment, even our own city councillors cannot read the complete WPS budget. A budget reflects the real values of an organization.

Trust is a two way street. If the WPS does not trust its community to see its budget, I’m unsure why it expects trust in return.

4. Police who remain in the service after being convicted of crime are toxic to the force and toxic to the community

Many people are shocked when they learn that members of the police who are convicted of crime are frequently suspended or demoted but are still able to remain on the force.

Addressing this challenge of bad apples spoiling the barrel will take years of sustained effort and a will to change the culture of the WPS from above and from within and with cooperation from the Windsor Police Association.

From a quick read of the Windsor Police Services Collective Agreement, I suggest that our Windsor Police Board and other parties consider addressing what articles it can to reduce harm from these menacing officers.

03-07 a) The Board agrees that if it becomes necessary to reduce the Service, this shall be accomplished in reverse order of seniority, and further, that any recall from layoff shall be accomplished in reverse order of layoff in that the last member laid off shall be the first member recalled, further that the member’s seniority shall remain intact, if he/she returns within one (1) year, subject to s03-07(c). (revised 2006)

Perhaps those with criminal convictions can be first to be pushed out?

For more insights about how Police oversight can be improved, I would suggest the reading the short policy paper, End Police Violence. Invest in Black, Indigenous and Racialized People’s Lives from the Ontario NDP. From it, I learned:

4. d) Currently, officers face no statutory penalty for not complying with an SIU investigation
4. e) Gold-standard reports full of pragmatic improvements and recommendations, including the Tulloch Report[9], have sat on the shelf gathering dust for years
4. f) In 2012 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, noting that officer misconduct was rarely disciplined, specifically asked the justice system to punish officers for lying, misleading the court, and fabricating evidence[10]

End Police Violence. Invest in Black, Indigenous and Racialized People’s Lives

5. Defund the police. This means: move both the funding and the responsibility to provide social services such as mental health check-ins to other providers

Windsor Police Services, like many Ontario police services, also provide community services, such as training school children as cross guards. It has been argued that many of these youth oriented services could be provided by others agencies and community groups, perhaps at considerably less cost (it’s hard to tell for sure, see Reason #3 above).

Endnote: A little less conversation, a little more action

In the wake of the wave of police brutality against protesters both in the U.S. and in Canada, agencies such as the Windsor Police Services are asking the community for suggestions on how they can hurt their community less. It appears that organizations such as the Mayor’s office is unaware that by asking for the uncompensated time and expertise of racialized people, they are further burdening people who already have to dedicating too much of their energies just to survive and thrive in an anti-black world.

If you and your organization really want to make Windsor be known as the most inclusive and welcoming community, then it is incumbent on you to make an action plan that spells out how you are going to do the long-term, unglamorous, and difficult hard work in your organization. In my humble opinion, only when you have a first draft of such a plan, should you go to the community for feedback. They might send you right back to the drawing board (and if they recommend doing so, you should do so) but at least you will not ask your community to do your homework for you.

Alternatively, rather than giving people the power to make suggestions, give racialized people the power to make change in your organization.

Law and order vs. Justice and peace

I don’t know whether it is possible to understand the protests of the current moment as a single, country-wide, thing. We know that there are those protesting police brutality, those who are inciting violence to incite more police brutality, those there to loot, and there are those who are just there because they have had enough.

It strikes me that the protests across the United States are very different from each other. But there is one commonality that has been made very clear: the collective response from the police.

Mere weeks ago, police showed remarkable repose as men with automatic-weapons walked around inside various state capitols and yelled in their faces. This week, we have seen night after night of police engaging in horrendous violence. Police cruisers drove into crowds. Journalists were shot at directly with non-lethal ordnance. Non-violent protesters were kettled and tear-gassed. Police murdered more black men.

There has been so much trauma this week in a nation that will not be allowed to grieve.

In 2016, I took up a seat in a bus of mostly women who went down to the Women’s March in Washington DC to show solidarity. When I returned, I got a call from the local CBC affiliate asking for comment in regards to public statements made by certain members of our community who called us “dumb bitches” for getting involved in another country’s politics. It was as if these people did not see that we might have common cause with those women suffering in the United States.

To protest in Canada in this moment is to show sympathy with those suffering mightily in the United States. But to protest in Canada in this moment is also making a declaration that black Canadians also have a common cause in suffering from generations of systematic racism that many white Canadians refuse to see.

Canadian police perpetuate that systematic racism. From under-policing when it comes to missing indigenous women, to over-policing when it comes to black bodies, our police — much too frequently — serve power before its community.

For years, Canadian researchers and activists have been calling for the divestment of our police services and re-investing those funds into housing and other social services sorely lacking from our communities. This moment should be their moment. But white Canadians won’t let it because they will not equate what’s happening in the United States with what is happening here because they refuse to see it.

On Tuesday, many Canadians posted black squares on their social media streams in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.

I would suggest that each Canadian who posted a black square on their social media to ask themselves, what percentage of their taxes go to police? Then, would I ask them to look up the budget of where they live to see what that percentage really is.

I know it sounds like a lot of work but it really isn’t. I found the answer in a couple of minutes on this handy chart on page 7 of Windsor’s 2020 Budget.

The largest percentage of our property tax — 21% — goes to our police services. It’s three times as much as the money we allocate to community development and health services.

Since we are experiencing a global pandemic and a historically low crime rate, I believe that this is the perfect time for us to divest from police services and to invest in housing and other social services. I realize that to state it so clearly, in this moment, invites accusation of demanding retaliation.

But I am not looking for retaliation. We want justice and peace.

Living in a city with no ambition

From this morning’s installment of newsletters in my mailbox, I read a short essay from 2008 called Cities and Ambition that brought up some uncomfortable emotions for me.

The premise of the essay is that a great city sends a message of ambition to its residents and this message matters greatly.

Now we could take up arms against this claim with scrutiny and evidence but instead I will ask you, dear reader, to instead, try this idea out. Let’s get into this premise, drive around in it, and see how far we can get.

Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder.

The surprising thing is how different these messages can be. New York tells you, above all: you should make more money. There are other messages too, of course. You should be hipper. You should be better looking. But the clearest message is that you should be richer.

What I like about Boston (or rather Cambridge) is that the message there is: you should be smarter. You really should get around to reading all those books you’ve been meaning to.

When you ask what message a city sends, you sometimes get surprising answers.

Cities and Ambition, Paul Graham, May 2008

Years ago, I heard Suzanne Vega telling an interviewer that whenever she finds herself in a new city, she asks herself, who would be the city, if the city was a person?

This is who Windsor is to me.

Windsor is a middle aged man who lives in the suburbs of South Windsor. He loves the Tigers and/or The Lions, college football, hockey, but stopped watching basketball when the Pistons fell from grace. Before these unprecedented times, his family would make regular shopping trips in Detroit. Well, not in Detroit proper. He only goes to downtown Detroit to watch professional sports and concerts. He thinks of Motown and Bob Seger as his music. He avoids walking and walking in downtown Windsor in particular. He has never taken his family to Uncle Tom’s Cabin but they go to the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky every winter. He can afford the fanciest golf courses in the area and that makes him feel chuffed. He loves the fact that Windsor has a long-standing history of supplying vice to Detroit: prohibition, casinos, strip clubs, but he doesn’t believe bringing retail cannabis to its neighbourhoods. He is boring.

Now before I continue, please do not reply with a ‘not all Windsor residents’ comment (otherwise known as “No Tall Men”). Yes, I know that you, dear reader, you are different. You are better than this. You have listened to Detroit techno. You go to the DIA to watch foreign films. You think we should invest in new industries in the area. You think the food scene of the region is grossly undervalued. You get really annoyed by people like me who are just so negative.

But I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about Windsor as a person. And let me tell you why I believe my characterization holds. Whenever I hear of a new initiative or project from our municipal government, I ask myself, Could this project happen in the 1950s? And if it is, then I know it will come to be. And if sounds even remotely progressive, it will fail or be kneecapped.

Every day, I read of another city that has recognized that it needs to open up its parks and its streets to its residents so they can enjoy the outside, safely. Every day, I read articles of cities that are adding miles and miles of bike lanes so that people can move freely without the ever-present gut-wrenching fear that a car will take their life or the life of a loved one.

I’m discouraged by our lack of ambition when it comes to building a better city. I’m discouraged that despite having natural habitats constitute the lowest percentage of any region in all of Ontario, we cannot seem to even maintain what little we have, much less talk about a future in which we restore and expand existing habitat. I’m discouraged when reports that suggest that Windsor could do much more to improve the quality of life of its women or that child poverty is a serious problem, the mayor and others respond by taking offense and questioning the numbers. I’m discouraged that our politicians constantly remind us of a fact is no longer true — “Windsor is the fourth most diverse city in Canada” — because this fact is not self-evident when you look at our police force or our civic leadership.

How much does it matter what message a city sends? Empirically, the answer seems to be: a lot. You might think that if you had enough strength of mind to do great things, you’d be able to transcend your environment. Where you live should make at most a couple percent difference. But if you look at the historical evidence, it seems to matter more than that. Most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time….

No matter how determined you are, it’s hard not to be influenced by the people around you. It’s not so much that you do whatever a city expects of you, but that you get discouraged when no one around you cares about the same things you do.

What do you think is the ambition of the city of Windsor?

The stories that I would like to see reported on in our community

Today is Day 8 of self-isolation for myself and my family.

More than ever, I rely on local journalism to keep me informed about what is happening in my community. Now, I recognize that journalism – like everything else – is under the strain of the presence of COVID19 (and I know it was in a fragile state to begin with) but still, I would like to share with you the stories that I would like to see reported on in our community.

Why is it apparently impossible for the government to ban “flushable wipes” that contribute to sewer backups because they create ‘fatbergs’ in the sewer systems?

The COVID-19 spike in demand for cleaning wipes are stressing sewer systems in Ottawa. How can we prevent soap blockages in Windsor’s sewers?

Is #TakeoutTuesday an appropriate gesture if we really want to support local businesses during this time of economic stress?

Is asking the entire city of Windsor to all order takeout on a single day really the best way to help local businesses? Or will it only add stress and possible exposure to employees that conflicts with current ‘avoid crowds’ messaging from public health officials?

To what extent are residents of Windsor-Essex engaging in self-isolation? I’m self-isolating, so I can’t tell.

But the story that I would most like journalists to press our officials on, is the matter of the Southwest Detention Centre.

Are local officials planning and acting aggressively enough to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Southwest Detention Centre?

I’m not particularly well-versed with the inner workings of the local criminal justice system. However, I do follow local news somewhat closely and the stories about SWDC that I have read have given me pause:

The overcrowding at a facility opened in 2014 to alleviate serious overcrowding at the former Windsor Jail means that some cells designed to hold a maximum of two inmates now have to accommodate three. “I have (client) inmates who are sleeping on the floor,” said Carroccia. “I’ve heard lawyers say they couldn’t talk to clients because of lockdowns.”

Crowded Windsor jail causing headaches for lawyers, courts, inmates“, Doug Schmidt, Windsor Star, October 3, 2019

Joe Gratton, a 31-year-old Windsor man, died from one overdose Wednesday at the South West Detention Centre, and Blake Carter, 21, also of Windsor, remained in an intensive care unit with a police presence, the Windsor Star confirmed.

Windsor overdoses add to region’s drug toll behind bars, London Free Press, November 1, 2019

An inquest has been announced into the death of a 30-year-old woman in Windsor. Regional supervising coroner Dr. Rick Mann says an inquest will be held for Delilah Blair. She died in hospital on May 22, 2017, following transfer from the Southwest Detention Centre. An inquest is mandatory under the Coroners Act.

Inquest announced into death of woman at Southwest Detention Centre“, CTV Windsor, Friday, May 3, 2019

A former Ontario corrections officer is hoping to organize a panel discussion to talk about alleged harassment, racism and corruption that takes place in the corrections and law enforcement sector. Iosko Assenov resigned from his job in 2016 because of severe depression, which he attributes to working conditions at the South West Detention Centre in Windsor, Ont. where he said he was subjected to bullying and racial slurs.

Ex-corrections officer wants panel discussion on racism and harassment in sector“, CBC News, May 24, 2019

And then there’s this:

The Ministry of the Solicitor General has confirmed that a person performing maintenance work at the South West Detention Centre has tested positive for COVID-19. A spokesperson for the Ministry said the person “was not directly involved with the care or custody of inmates.”

South West Detention Centre maintenance worker tests positive for COVID-19″, CBC News · Posted: Mar 20, 2020

I don’t think it’s generally understood that the majority of those being held in detention centres (“jail”) have not yet faced trial. “Approximately 74 per cent of detained inmates are awaiting trial at detention centres across Ontario, while approximately 80 per cent of inmates detained at the SWDC are awaiting trial. ” ***

We – collectively – have not adequately prepared for this moment as well as we should have. We now know that we have to do more than hope for the best. We need to ensure that everyone is preparing for the worst. Journalists who ask difficult questions of leaders remain a important force of local accountability. I wish them well.

***Quick aside: at the 34 minute mark of the Wag The Doug podcast about the 2019 Annual Report from the Ontario’s Auditor General: #15 Dirty Money, Expired Eggs: The Auditor General’s Annual Shaming you can hear how broken the administration of the Ontario justice system really is.

No Ring Please

In September of last year, not long after I had shared my concerns that new police cameras could be used with facial recognition software, mayor Drew Dilkens told AM800 that he was in talks with Amazon to make Windsor the first city in Canada to have their police department connect to their Neighbors App which allows residents to readily share footage of their Ring security camera, without a warrant.

This rang alarm bells.

The mayor is the chair of the Windsor Police Services Board. It is unclear whether Dilkens is pursuing the partnership in this capacity or through his role as mayor. It is unclear whether an RFP would be necessary before such a partnership could be established. No one I have spoken to can tell me whether the matter would come to city council where residents like myself would have an opportunity to share their displeasure with the prospect of a partnership with one of the largest companies in the world.

My neighbour across the street has a Ring doorbell. He was an early adopter and years ago he encouraged me to buy one until he realized that my house doesn’t even have a doorbell. He is a good neighbour and he looks out for the people on our street. Last year – or whenever the first year when alcohol was permitted to be sold at Art in the Park – he was sitting on his front porch and saw a man who had, in broad daylight, decided he would relieve himself of piss on the tree in the front of my yard. My neighbour yelled at him until the drunk man’s friend pulled him aside and moved him up the street.

And that, my friends, is in a nutshell why I don’t believe the Ring doorbell is not the response that will lead to a safer Windsor. What is important is that we have neighbours who we know and look out for each other. Sending video footage of this pathetic man after the fact would not change the fact that he had exposed himself and peed on my tree. To send the footage as evidence to the Windsor Police Service would only add a burden to their workload as this is a crime that is clearly not worth pursuing.

Many people act on the impulse to share every transgression of what we think as normal and to share it online on Facebook. I belong to two neighbourhood Facebook groups and sadly, when people are not sharing pictures of the three wild turkeys that once roamed our hood, they are sharing footage of people engaging in suspicious or criminal behaviour. One person recently shared footage of a woman who was walking down the sidewalk at 4am until she stopped to walk up the steps of this person’s porch to see if there was a leftover cigarette in an ashtray. Seeing none, the woman stepped off the porch and moved on. The person who shared this footage was furious. A couple of years ago, a man wrote to warn people of a suspicious man who was taking pictures of people’s houses. A couple hours later, Andrew Foot of International Metropolis and author of Windsor Modern replied to say that the suspicious man in question was him taking photos of architecture that caught his eye.

My neighbors — on each side of my house and across the street — all use Amazon’s Ring doorbell. This sometimes raises opportunities to measure my commitment to privacy. For several nights in a row this past summer, some kids (I assume) were egging cars on our block. Eventually it was my “turn,” and I woke up to my neighbor knocking on my door to inform me that my car had been egged. He said he had footage from the incident captured by his Ring, and that, if I wanted, he could send it to the police. I thanked him, but politely declined the offer. I live in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest population of Muslims in the United States, and I am certainly not going to involve the police when there’s a strong possibility that it might endanger a Muslim kid over a problem that can be solved with white vinegar. Surveillance often encourages “solutions” that far outstrip the level of the infraction. Without a camera, it’s unlikely that someone would bother to call the police for a car egging, but the existence of footage — the fact that people have potentially actionable evidence they feel compelled to use — turns a minor instance of vandalism into a situation involving law enforcement.

Chris Gilliard, Caught in the Spotlight, Jan 09 2020

The above story was shared by Dr. Chris Gilliard of Detroit whose scholarship “concentrates on digital privacy, and the intersections of race, class, and technology.” Chris was our guest speaker for an event I helped organize with three fellow University of Windsor colleagues: Natalie Delia Deckard (Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology), Bonnie Stewart (Faculty of Education) and Kristen Thomasen (Law). The evening of talks was entitled “Safer Communities in a ‘Smart Tech’ World” and it was on January 22nd, 2020 at The Performance Hall at the University of Windsor’s School of Creative Arts Windsor Armories Building. Bonnie Stewart was our host who introduced the topic to our audience. Kristen spoke to some of the legal context and I spoke about concerns using a network technology lens. Chris spoke directly to the issues at hand and then we had a great question and answer period with the audience.

Around the event we were in the media locally and nationally in hopes that we could start a larger conversation in Windsor to address our concerns. And we weren’t the only talking about this issue. On the February 14 2020 Friday Roundtable on the Dan Mac Donald Show, all three guests – city councillor Rino Bortolin, CEO of WeTech Alliance – Yvonne Pilon, & journalist and marketing specialist Jon Liedtke all raised problems with the potential partnership.

If you would like to raise concerns with this potential partnership with Amazon, I would recommend that you do so via the upcoming community consultation dates with the Windsor Police Service who are preparing to update their 3 year Business Plan as required by provincial law.

The Business Plan, is a Board oversight instrument that provides the Chief of Police with direction regarding priorities and objectives for the Service. It also provides a fiscal projection for the Board and Council beyond the current operating budget.

The Chief is responsible for the implementation of the business plan. In order to provide maximum flexibility and to encourage initiatives, the Chief is free to determine the best means to achieve the plan objectives.

Windsor Police Service – Business Plans

The consultation dates are

  • Saturday, Feb. 29 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Libro Centre (3295 Meloche Rd.) in Amherstburg
  • Monday, March 2 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at MacKenzie Hall (3277 Sandwich St. W.) in Windsor
  • Thursday, March 5 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Const. John Atkinson Memorial Community Centre (4270 Alice St.) in Windsor
  • Monday, March 9 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the WFCU Centre (8787 McHugh St.) in Windsor
  • Wednesday, March 11 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Windsor Water World (400 Wyandotte St. E.)

Questions about the community consultation sessions are to be addressed to Inspector Tammy Fryer at, or by phone at 519-255-6700 ext. 4440.

You might want to ask Windsor Police Service why they cannot follow the example of Sarnia Police who offers a simple webform for residents who have video cameras to facilitate information gathering in case of an emergency or criminal activity that requires a formal investigation.

To my mind, the Sarnia approach is much less risky than partnering with a behemoth of a company who 1) already indefinitely retains information of who enters and leaves the homes of Ring owners as well as footage from their Ring cameras; 2) once planned “Watch Lists” built on facial recognition of Ring footage of those deemed suspicious, 3) currently shares Ring user information with a variety of third-party trackers (including Facebook), 4) restricts sharing between neighbours using its app to only matters of crime and safety, 5) once contemplated that all Ring cameras would automatically record footage in response to 911 calls and 6) has had unreported data breaches and repeated reported data leakages of personal information from their Ring system because the company refuses to add additional security features on their devices. Oh, the irony.

When Windsor Police Chief Pam Mizuno was interviewed for the podcast Straight Outta Windsor, she was asked, how do you measure success? Pam states that there are statistics such as the crime rate which help give indication of success but she also goes on to say that public trust in the Windsor Police Service is very important as well.

An important aside: there is no substantial evidence that Ring cameras reduce the crime rate.

In 2007, David Murakami Wood, currently Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies at Queen’s University, helped write a report on the spread of CCTV for Britain’s information commission. Murakami, then at Newcastle University, told the New York Times that, “the idea of CCTV as a deterrent for something like this is no longer accepted.”

CCTV cameras don’t deter crime, so why does Ottawa want them?, Canadian Lawyer, Michael Spratt, 19 Jul 2019

Not only do I believe that a partnership between Windsor Police Service and Amazon’s Ring Service would erode public trust in our police services, I am very afraid that it could greatly harm the trust that we have between neighbours. It would make me feel less safe.

Why have the floodplain maps of Essex Country not been updated since the 1970s?

Over the Winter Break, I found myself with delicious stretches of time in which I had nothing that I had to do. I played board games with my family. I read books. I also carved out a little bit of time to do some civic engagement. From the Detroit River Cleanup The Current newsletter, I learned that…

The City of Windsor released their  2019 Draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Climate Change Impacts in Windsor – A Technical Document. These items are tabled for public comment until January 20, 2020, and any comments can be sent to

This is not going to a blog post about this report. Instead, I want to focus on one specific matter it touches upon that I simply cannot understand:

With flooding remaining widespread across the local area, the Essex Region Conservation Authority has called on the need to update flood mapping throughout Windsor and Essex County.

New modelling and land surveys, potentially at a cost of between $8 million to $15 million, needs to be done to better understand challenges that lie ahead in future years for every local municipality impacted by flooding, said Tim Byrne, ERCA’s director of watershed management services.

Flood mapping would allow areas of concern to properly prepare — including setting municipal budget funds aside — so flooding as it occurs can be properly addressed, he said. It would provide blueprint support for municipal planning, road building, infrastructure construction and residential development.

The last time flood mapping was completed in this region was in the late 1970s, Byrne said.

ERCA extends flood watch, calls for updated data mapping across local region“, Dave Battagello, Windsor Star, July 16, 2019

I intended to write a review of the draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan, but shortly after I started, I remembered reading the Windsor Star article quoted above. I broke off my reading to search for the word map in the Climate Change Adaption Plan and found this:

According to this document, The City of Windsor will encourage and support the completion of floodplain mapping of our region but the responsibility for this project appears to sit with the Essex Region Conservation Authority. So I went to check their budget to see if floodplain mapping would be addressed in ERCA’s budget, which was recently released.

When I reviewed ERCA’s budget, I immediately realized the problem at hand. To update our floodplain maps will take between $8 to $15 million dollars. ERCA’s total annual budget for 2020 is just over $10.5 million.

Last year, the Ford government cut their funding towards flood management.

Doug Ford’s government tabled its first budget last Thursday. The next day, the Ministry of Natural Resources informed conservation authorities about the new funding formula. For ERCA, the change represents the loss of $100,000 annually. In previous years, ERCA received $202,000 from the province for flood management and that amount is matched through municipal funding for a total flood management budget of $404,000.

Ford government slashes ERCA flood management funding“, The Windsor Star, Mary Caton, April 17 2019

The province only funds between two and three per cent of ERCA’s annual $7.8 million budget, but according to Wyma the Ontario government has regulatory control over conservation authorities.

Local municipalities fund about 30 per cent of the budget and the remainder is through federal grants, fees for service and individual sector support.

ERCA faces provincial funding uncertainty“, The Windsor Star, Jennifer La Grassa, September 16, 2019

Just short weeks ago, in November of this year, the City of Windsor proclaimed that we are experiencing a climate emergency. Essex County did the same and then, so did Amherstburg Town Council. I hope these declarations suggest that the City of Windsor, along with the other municipalities of Essex County, are ready and prepared to significantly invest in ERCA so we collectively can better understand, cope with, adapt to, and mitigate the effects of increased flooding in our region.

Otherwise we are going to keep running into scenarios like this one:

Restoration efforts on Peche Island trails that became submerged by a rising Detroit River will keep visitors’ feet dry for now, but rising lake levels could flood the paths again.

In an effort to combat the waterlogged walkways, which forced the City of Windsor to delay municipal boat tours to the island by two weeks, city workers have elevated affected trails with gravel by about seven inches (18 cm), said Trese MacNeil, the city’s co-ordinator of community sports services, recreation and culture. Workers also slightly rerouted some trails to keep them dry with “as little impact to the natural environment as possible,” she said.

The trails are now safe to welcome the first shuttle riders of the season on Wednesday, MacNeil said, but there’s “no way of knowing” if water levels forecasted to rise will flood the fixed paths.

City restores flooded Peche Island trails in advance of boat tours“, The Windsor Star, Taylor Campbell, July 2, 2019

No way of knowing if water levels will flood the fixed paths? I have a hard time believing that. There are GIS (Geographic Information Systems) that do this exact type of modelling. But these systems can only model information that has been captured and prepared. Or in other words, mapped.

We need to update our out of date, 40+ year old floodplain maps.

Addendum: It appears that Lakeshore has started contracting this work. They have “budgeted $40,000 to have Stantec Consulting Ltd. and Zuzek Inc. analyze and map municipal shorelines.” Work that that haven’t been done since 1976.

With new cameras, are we enabling facial recognition in the City of Windsor?

These are questions that activist Mariame Kaba regularly asks herself when she is outraged about injustice [ht]:

  •     What resources exist so I can better educate myself?
  •     Who’s already doing work around this injustice?
  •     Do I have the capacity to offer concrete support & help to them?
  •     How can I be constructive?

In this spirit, I’m going to dedicate one hour of today to look into the plan from the City of Windsor to use about $450,000 of that total to upgrade its camera technology from analog to digital, and look at installing new cameras across the city. I’m not so much outraged as concerned about surveillance cameras downtown. I’m worried that we are building an infrastructure that will support facial recognition in the city of Windsor.

What resources exist so I can better educate myself?

Mayor Drew Dilkens tells CTV News he believes the benefits are two-fold. He notes many of the cameras will be linked to the police communication centre, and it will allow the dispatcher to assess the scene before calling in officers. “If they see that it’s an issue involving 20 people, well then that provides and warrants a different response than if it’s one or two people,” says Dilkens. Dilkens adds the cameras will also allow for better traffic management. He says the initial focus of the new cameras, if approved, would be in the downtown core.

Windsor looking to install more surveillance cameras, Windsor CTV News, Bob Bellacicco, CTV Windsor News Reporter, Published Friday, September 20, 2019.

According to the Windsor Star, “there are currently 13 municipally operated surveillance cameras in Windsor’s urban core. Another 20 cameras are to be added soon”. Those interviewed also say the cameras are there for deterrence.

The money is coming from a one-time funding from the Federal Government.

The federal Gas Tax Fund (GTF) is a permanent source of funding provided up front, twice-a-year, to provinces and territories, who in turn flow this funding to their municipalities to support local infrastructure priorities. Municipalities can pool, bank and borrow against this funding, providing significant financial flexibility.

The federal Gas Tax Fund delivers over $2 billion every year to 3600 communities across the country. In recent years the funding has supported approximately 4000 projects each year. Communities select how best to direct the funds with the flexibility to make strategic investments across the following 18 different project categories:

public transit
wastewater infrastructure
drinking water
solid waste management
community energy systems
local roads and bridges
capacity building
local and regional airports
short-line rail
short-sea shipping
disaster mitigation
broadband and connectivity
brownfield redevelopment

According to CTV and the Windsor Star, the matter of funding will come to City Council today. From item 7.2 in the Agenda as a matter of information.

THAT City Council RECEIVE FOR INFORMATION the amended 2019 approved Capital Budget inclusive of changes stemming from the formal announcement of the Federal Gas Tax one-time top-up payment and the Disaster Mitigation Adaptation Fund (DMAF) grant announcement….

Security Cameras Downtown:
This funding would be for the installation of cameras, which would enhance security in the downtown area and as well, provide benefits relative to traffic management.

That’s about 25 words and not a lot of information to go on. I particularly want to know more about what going from analog to digital means from the reporting of this story. I seriously doubt the police were developing film for their photos previously. So what do they really mean about this transition?


I believe that the City of Windsor could better spend a half-million dollars in our community than deploying cameras. I don’t see any evidence that suggests the addition of cameras will prevent the petty crimes by those addicted to opioids. Windsor Police already has a budget of $89 million and in 2018, budgeted for a 6% increase of funding. I think there are many other needs that the City of Windsor could apply the funding to that would result in a much greater return on investment for the city. For one, the Federal Gas Tax could go towards Transit Windsor which has already made it’s case that it requires significant re-investment.

But there are other matters of concern. How are these cameras going to be employed in the future? My big question is this: is this system of cameras going to enable facial recognition? Will we be informed if the police of Windsor start engaging in the practice? How can citizens with concerns in regards to surveillance be assured that fair practices are in place when other Ontario police boards don’t believe that they have to reveal their surveillance practices, “citing a provision of the law that allows an institution to withhold information that could “reveal investigative techniques and procedures currently in use or likely to be used in law enforcement.”

Who’s already doing work around this injustice?

From a cursory search on the Internet, it appears that matter of regulating technology used by police have been handled by the courts and lawyers:

“We have recognized for some time now that new technologies have the potential to eviscerate privacy rights. Government has abdicated its important role to police the police. Almost every new protection has been a result of the courts making rules. That is not an effective way to develop broad-based policy,” says Hasan. Relying on individuals who have had privacy rights infringed, especially those who were not targets of a criminal investigation, is unrealistic, he adds.

“The new surveillance state: Police can capture an astronomical amount of information through new technologies, and privacy lawyers say there is little oversight or accountability”. Canadian Lawyer, By Shannon Kari, 02 Oct 2017

Cities across the United States are currently investing in facial recognition systems, like in Detroit. Other cities, such as San Francisco, are banning the use of facial recognition. The tech is already being employed by police in Toronto and its use was recently debated in Montreal.

I’m now looking into the work of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. and their advocacy in banning the use of facial recognition software by cities.

A communal response to bike theft

According to Facebook, the group Stolen Bikes of Windsor publishes approximately 6 posts a day. Bike theft is rampant in Windsor. And yet these thefts don’t make the news unless the situation is particularly damning.

For this post, I’m not going to go into the factors that make bike thievery essentially a risk-free crime, but instead highlight a community response to the problem from Bike Windsor Essex.

Windsor Police recommends registering your bike with their service although there have concerns have been raised in the past that the registry is not being employed by the Police as it should. If you belong to the University of Windsor, Campus Police employs a similar registry service.

I am going to recommend a third service to register your bike with: Project 529 Garage which bills itself as “the world’s largest community-powered bike recovery service.” And advocates say that the program works:

Yes! 529 Garage has already been rolled out in many cities and has a proven track record. Rates of bike theft are substantially reduced, and the likelihood that a stolen bike comes home increases dramatically. In Vancouver, bike thefts dropped by 30% in just 2 years. On Granville Island, when combined with other theft-deterrent measures, bike theft dropped by 70%. Over 2 years, Whistler has seen a 57% drop in rates of bike theft. Bikes are now routinely returned to owners in all cities that have an active 529 Garage system in place.

“529 Garage: End Bike Theft” Bike Ottawa

It’s free to register your bike for free using the 529 Garage App or website. But with the purchase of a Project 529 Shield (which comes free with membership with Bike Windsor Essex) there are additional services that you will be able to use.

One such feature allows you to release photos and a description of your bike once you report your bike stolen. Once you do so, nearby Project 529 users (who opt in for the service) will be alerted to be on the lookout for your stolen bike.

The Ottawa Police now use 529 Garage as their official Bike Registry Service. It would be great if Windsor’s Police considered doing the same.

Since living in Windsor, I have had three bikes stolen. Maybe when my fourth gets taken, I might actually get it back.

Addendum: What is the percentage representation of women on Windsor City Council & ABCs

For many years when I walked into a room I instantly counted the women. It told me a lot about what to expect from that room. One day, having lost my best friend over racial politics out of my control, I began to count people of color. That too was for safety, for understanding how my views would be taken. That too told me a lot I needed to know about the room. But it also hinted to me about a whole realm of experience I wasn’t having.

Count“, Quinn Norton

In my last post, What is the percentage representation of women of the City of Windsor’s Council, Advisory Groups, Agencies, Boards, and Committees? I came up with the number of 36%. But, my analysis wasn’t complete because I was still missing the membership of:

  • Street and Alley Closing Committee
  • Willistead Board of Directors

So I emailed 311 and found out that despite its inclusion on the City of Windsor’s website, “The City of Windsor does not have a Street and Alley Closing Committee. Street and Alley closures are dealt with at the Development & Heritage Standing Committee.” 311 also kindly gave me the membership of the current Willistead Board of Directors.

It’s not simple to edit an already published graph on Graph Commons, so I made a second, updated version with this last bit of information.

Of the 170 members of City Council and its related boards, 61 members are women. The percentage is unchanged from my original calculation: 36%

Now, you wouldn’t know it from The City of Windsor’s social media streams, but the City of Windsor is looking for interested persons to join a Development Charges Task Force:

City Council is seeking interested persons to serve on a task force for updating the Development Charges Background Study and the Development Charges By-law. Terms of reference for the Development Charges Task Force are attached. Deadline for submitting applications is Thursday, August 22, 2019.

Concerned about sprawl or the city of Windsor’s ability to pay for existing and future infrastructure costs? You might want to put your name forward.

This is what I ask: when you walk into a room, count. Count the women. Count the people of color. Count by race. Look for who isn’t there. Look for class signs: the crooked teeth of childhoods without braces, worn-out shoes, someone else who is counting. Look for the queers, the older people, the overweight. Note them, see them, see yourself looking, see yourself reacting. This is how we begin.

Count“, Quinn Norton