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

What is the percentage representation of women of the City of Windsor’s Council, Advisory Groups, Agencies, Boards, and Committees?

Before I answer that question, let’s break down the numbers first.

The City of Windsor has one mayor and ten councillors, each of whom represent a ward. City Council generally meets twice a month.

Councillors sit on four standing committees that meets once a month. They are:

1. Corporate Services Standing Committee
2. Development & Heritage Standing Committee
3. Environment, Transportation & Public Safety Standing Committee
4. Community Services and Parks Standing Committee

There are a number of Advisory Committees that report to a designated Standing Committee. For example, the Advisory Committees reporting to the Community Services and Parks Standing Committee are:

The Agencies, Boards and Commissions reporting to the Community Services and Parks Standing Committee are:

  • Windsor Public Library
  • Windsor Essex County Health Unit
  • Windsor-Essex Community Housing Corporation
  • Roseland Golf Club Board of Directors
  • Willistead Board of Directors

These committees do much important work. One of the reasons why I really appreciate my city councillor, Chris Holt, is that he regularly highlights the work of these groups and encourages residents to engage with them.

While the City of Windsor’s Open Data Portal has a spreadsheet of the contact information for the elected officials of the city, the membership of all of the advisory boards, agencies, committees and commissions are spread around the City of Windsor website. So I tried to bring the information together in a table.

Please note: my table is not complete. I don’t know who the reps are for the 9 BIAs in the city and I’m still looking for the membership lists of the following:

  • Street and Alley Closing Committee
  • Willistead Board of Directors

And then I turned the table above into a network / graph using the wonderful Graph Commons:

network graph of membership

My goal of this graph was not to visually demonstrate board interlocks but to better represent the scope and the size of all the representatives of our city government.

And I also was curious about the gender make up of this collective.

At the moment, my table lists 43 organizations, which looks likes this:

There are 158 people who are members of these organizations. 101 are male. 57 are female. That’s 36%.

If you use the filter option, you can select for gender and see which committees have the most women on them – the Community Public Art Committee, the Housing Advisory Committee and the Windsor Cycling Committee – and which committees have one woman or none.

Graph of city membership of women

And this is what the graph looks like of only men:

Men on committees and council

I would like to know the best way to suggest to council when they select for the next set of resident representatives they should do a better job in regards to gender parity on more boards.

‘We must speak with one voice’ is just another way to say ‘you must be silenced.’

The politics of the City of Windsor is in a dismal state. In Windsor, it is not good enough for the status quo to keeping on winning. Those who voice criticism or exercise their legal right to challenge decisions must be silenced so that the city can speak in a united voice.

Those who suggest that it is essential that we need to speak with only one voice are not those opting to take a vow of silence. They are those already speaking and don’t want anyone else to interrupt. We should be deeply concerned that the mayor and some of our city counselors repeatedly choose to try to gag the voices of residents elected to speak to and work for our interests.

Last year, the Integrity Commissioner stated that Councillor Rino Bortolin publicly made a false remark and he was rebuked by City Council for criticizing City Council decisions, in contravention to 16.4 of the Code of Conduct [pdf] that the City of Windsor revised in 2014.

(Council’s interpretation of the Code of Conduct is being challenged through the process of Judicial Review. It is absolutely normal and necessary that the law allow for decisions to be challenged. That is how our legal system works.)

This year, the Mayor held a press conference and made the false remark that Windsor BIAs cannot use their funds “to fund a third-party appeal of a city decision” for their own interests. When the BIAs being targeted sought legal counsel they found precedent from other BIAs in the province that proved the Mayor wrong. Eventually the matter was resolved informally.

However, when the budget approval of the Windsor BIAs were brought to council, Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk asked to amend a forthcoming report from the City Solicitor on BIA governance so that it would include the possibility of bylaw language from the City of Toronto that states that BIAs cannot take a position that contravenes the decisions of City Council.

While it may not be possible that this sort of restriction on language can be adopted as the City of Toronto has powers, outlined in the Toronto Act, that are greater than the other 443 municipalities of the province, whose governance is described in the Municipal Act, it is still shameful that Kusmierczyk is pursuing legal language to curtail the activities of concerned business owners and operators in the City of Windsor. It also feels strangely out of character that he is seeking to eliminate the speech of entrepreneurs while simultaneously being employed as Director of Partnerships at WETech Alliance whose purpose is to develop new and existing businesses in the Windsor Essex region.

And yet, despite the fact that the city is only supposed to act as the conduit by which BIAs can receive and distribute the levee funding of all the businesses in the designated area, the Windsor City Council has a history of over-stepping their responsibility of overseeing the budgets of our local BIAs. Last year the previous Windsor City Council threw away hundreds of hours of labour, tens of thousands of dollars, and extinguished much goodwill when it refused to fund a streetscaping project of the Wyandotte Town Centre that had been in the works since 2013. The reasons given why the project could not go forward were flimsy at best. Perhaps the BIA’s plan would interfere with the mayor’s visions for districts in the city. According to reporting, the Wyanotte Town Centre’s BIA’s members wanted their area to be marketed as a World Marketplace whereas the mayor wants it to be districted as Middle Eastern.

Why is the mayor’s office setting up a separate system to invest in various areas of the city to create themed districts when BIAs already exist to do this work? Don’t the people who work and invest in these neighbourhoods have a better understanding of what their needs are? I can think of no better reason why the mayor’s office involvement in theming neighbourhoods should be minimized than the fact that the mayor wants to add ‘Asian’ flair (presumably pagodas and dragon gates) to the other end of Wyandotte Street and call it Asia Town. As someone of Asian flair, I find this proposal ahistoric, cartoonish, and othering.

It is very telling that when the mayor called a press conference to threaten three Windsor BIAs with dissolution, he referred to both a silent majority and a loud minority.

The mayor and some of our city councilors would rather silence the hundreds of entrepreneurs and business people who volunteer their time and contribute their hard earned money to make Windsor a more attractive place to shop, work, and live, rather than allow BIAs to act independently of the city, as they were intended to by law. They would rather curb all future speech of BIAs because they take issue with the BIAs in the present, who are supporting legal action that is in the interest of their membership.

And that might happen, unless we speak up.

Rebuilding from a Teardown

My last post wasn’t intended to be about the public viewing of a professional basketball game. I meant for that story to be an introduction to the related matter of the freedom of speech of Windsor BIAs in the larger context of how politics is currently in play in Windsor. And in that story I wanted to bring in insights that I picked up from Dave Meslin’s Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy from the Ground Up.

But then I decided I didn’t want to cloud my positive review of Dave’s work with my take on what I see as the negative political scene in Windsor.

Teardown is not a tightly executed manifesto that diagnoses a particular social ill and then prescribes a strict regime for its cure. Politics is messy and to a certain extent, so is Teardown. Each chapter of Teardown takes on a different perspective of politics in Canada today. Sometimes a chapter resembles a case study, as when Meslin recounts his experiences fighting illegal billboards in the City of Toronto. Sometimes a chapter more closely resembles a lecture in political science, as when Dave explains the different models of voting reforms we could pursue in order to move past the first past the post system. Sometimes Meslin recommends getting involved in political parties. Sometimes Meslin suggests that the current structure of the political party is irremediable. This diversity of tactics and perspectives is not a failing of the book. It is an expression of the variety of the work and the experiences, both in politics and in active citizenship that Dave has shared with us.

I recommend the book and as I am confident that readers will find something that strongly resonates with them (for myself, that was Meslin’s critique of how Canadian political parties organize their get out the vote campaigns). We all know our political system is in a deeply and maddeningly troubled state but we don’t all understand the reasons why as well as Dave Meslin. I also recommend this book because I strongly believe in what I think is Dave Meslin’s overall message: we need to find more ways to share more power with more people. The winner take all mentality of our current state of politics is at the heart of most people’s dissatisfaction and our current dismal state of citizen participation.

The city of Windsor is a case study of a dismal state of politics. We have a political leadership that has no interest is sharing decision making with anyone else. In Windsor, it is not good enough for the status quo to keeping winning. All those who voice criticism or exercise their legal right to challenge decisions are silenced so that the city can speak with one voice.

That’s the topic of the next blog post.

Teardown politics at Windsor City Council

I don’t watch the basketball but I am so happy to see so many Raptor fans so happy that they are in the NBA Finals. I was born in Toronto. Raptors fans look like Toronto. I am so delighted that Young Canada is embracing basketball. (When it comes to hockey, I’m that girl in The Tragically Hip’s Fireworks).

And yet, this past Monday, Windsor City Council declined to support a public viewing of the NBA Finals game, other than waiving the rental fee for Charles Clark Square.

The City of Windsor has, over the last 10 years, given the Detroit Grand Prix over $500,000. In 20015, the City of Windsor approved a Sports Commissioner with a salary of $120,000 a year plus $200,000 for bidding fees for a three year contract. The City of Windsor dedicated $3 million dollars to host the 2016 FINA swimming championship. That tally included $9,500 for the costume of the FINA mascot.

And yet Windsor City Council couldn’t find $10,000 to help provide the staffing and policing to ensure that Raptors fans would be both safe and happy as they gathered together downtown to watch them play.

This is post isn’t really about basketball. It’s a lament. It is so entirely disappointing when politics is played like a game that must have a winner and a loser.

Why didn’t the City of Windsor Administration not get behind a bid to host a public viewing of the Raptors in the finals? All signs suggest is that they did not want to give the Windsor BIA a “win.”

Some days earlier, the mayor of Windsor threatened various local BIAs to withhold their funding because they had spent funds on advocacy that the City administration takes issue with. But just before the City Council meeting that would have brought this issue to a vote, both parties sat down together and the City and the BIAs in question, found a compromise.

The work of finding a way forward when two or more parties disagree is good politics. Sitting down together and talking to each at the same table and not issuing public threats through the media is good politics. Supporting other organizations that are able to act on opportunities for the benefit of all is good politics.

Not letting someone else win because you perceive it as a loss? That’s being a spoilsport. And then we all lose.

Fostering a more generous city

I have not yet told you, dear reader, why I decided to create this blog you are currently reading. There is a reason and that reason isn’t particularly obvious and so I feel it would be good for me to let you know what is the purpose of all of this effort.

The name of this blog, The city is here for you to use, is an homage to an essay and book written by Adam Greenfield. It is also the name of a song by The Futureheads.

I will go to another place, nowhere special just another town
You should come to the other place, make it special and make no loss
Make it special and make no loss
Cover the cost, cover the cost,
Cover the cost, cover the cost, cover the cost, cover the cost
Cover the cost, cover the cost, cover the cost, cover the cost
These extra expenses make brilliant senses
All you have to do is take your chances
Cover the cost, cover the cost, cover the cost, cover the cost
These extra expenses make brilliant senses
Extra extra
These are the things that make it better
Are you ready for the city? is the city ready for you?
Don’t you know you have to choose? the city is here for you to use
Are you ready for the city? is the city ready for you?
Don’t you know you have to choose? the city is here for you to use
Are you ready for the city? is the city ready for you?
Don’t you know you have to choose? the city is here for you to use

Songwriters: Barry Hyde / David Craig / David Hyde / Ross Millard
The City Is Here for You to Use lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

I love the phrase the city is here for you to use because when I read it I think of a generous city that – no matter who you are or how much money you have – you can enjoy public parks with water fountains, public bathrooms, public concerts, wild spaces and trails, safe schools, playgrounds, and park benches. When I think of the phrase, I think of cities like Montreal, Portland, and Copenhagen.

I think the city of Windsor can be a more generous place. We, as residents, can and should decide to give a little more individually, so that we can invest in our shared city which will provide benefits to all. I think we must do this because of global warming. But while I encourage everyone to turn and face the grim problem of climate change, I want to encourage everyone to resist the temptation to bunker down and become a prepper. Instead, I share the position of consultant Charles Montgomery, author of the book Happy City:

The message is as surprising as it is hopeful: by retrofitting our cities for happiness, we can tackle the urgent challenges of our age. The happy city, the green city and the low-carbon city are the same place, and we can all help build it.

Happy City, The Book

That is what the name of this blog is trying to evoke. But it isn’t it’s raison d’être.

I created this blog to help foster a more generous city through civic action between elections.

Voting is not enough. Residents must know that there are ways they can actively participate in the betterment of their neighbourhoods, their downtown, and their city as a whole – beyond casting a single ballot every four years.

I believe that for much of the population of Windsor, voting does not feel that it lends itself directly to improvements that they can feel and appreciate. The turnout rate for last year’s municipal election for the city of Windsor was 34.7%. Without a significant change, it is likely to get worse. To many people, I would surmise that local politics appears to be a game that only a few seem to be playing.

“To cover political life as a game played between elites tells citizens that politics is a spectacle to be watched, not an activity to be participated in.”

Lisa Ferguson tweeting about the article, Stop covering politics as a game from Neimanlab

There are ways to combat the politics as a game framing. Years ago, the Poynter Institute pioneered an alternative means to cover elections:

The idea was very simple: campaign coverage should be grounded in what voters want the candidates to talk about. Which voters? The ones you are trying to inform. 4/ This came to be called the “citizens agenda” approach to campaign coverage. It revolves around a single question. Here is the question: “What do you want the candidates to be discussing as they compete for votes?” From good answers to that everything else in the model flows. 5/

Jay Rosen: twitter, Thread Reader

In Los Angeles, the average turnout rate for their municipal election is 9%.

Some brainstorming ensued and resulted in a simple goal: Find one person unsure of whether he or she was going to vote and make that person care about the election.

“We looked over census and voting data and looked at the people that were really unrepresented at the polls,” Muller said of how the station’s potential voter was selected.

“We imagined this non-voter would have to be someone who was under the age of 44, someone who’s a non-white voter, someone who has real interests that are affected by city decisions,” she said. They settled on Al, a chef and restaurateur, because he best represented someone “who had some real stakes in this election.”

And thus, #MakeAlCare was born. The station wanted its efforts to have a wide reach, so coming up with a hashtag for social media was a must. There was a methodical approach to researching and producing the series but it was not advocacy.

141- KPCC makes one voter care, It’s All Journalism.

Likewise, I want to make you, dear reader, care.

But again, my personal mission is to not increase voter turnout. The goal of this blog is to help foster a more generous city through civic action between elections. That being said, I believe that a city that is clearly responsive to its residents will ultimately result in more civic engagement, including voting.

So why does this mission feel so hard?

One answer to this question is that Windsor has a tradition of electing Strong Mayors. This means that the most efficient way to make change in the city is to privately petition the mayor with your idea and if he likes the plan, he can shape the budget and whip the City Council into providing the votes necessary for your idea to be made manifest.

But we need to remember that there must be other ways in which concerned residents can work with city employees, with city councilors, and even the mayor to make our city a happier, safer, and more generous place for ourselves and our neighbours.

Let’s discover those ways together.

The Economic Security of Women living in Windsor Ontario

Last week I attended the Ontario Library Association’s Superconference. It marked my third and last year on OLITA Council.  OLITA is the Ontario Library Information Technology Association and it was an honour and a pleasure to serve as a part of it.

I mention this fact to give context to the following scenario. On Thursday morning of the conference, I was sitting in the Toronto Metro Conference Centre, listening to the keynote by Robyn Dolittle and how she described how she had uncovered terrible systematic problems in the police investigation of rape in Canada through her investigative reporting series called Unfounded.  Because of her work and because she made academic research on the matter of rape more widely known, police forces across the country have reformed how they keep track of sexual assault statistics and some have taken steps to provide better training of their officers.

After her talk, I opened my phone which brought to my attention that, back in Windsor, there were several social media posts from two members of a local, government-funded technology business incubator who were complaining that the people were sharing the results of a recent research report about the poor economic status of women working in IT in Windsor, and by doing so they “were telegraphing negativity” , “were making things worse”, and “were part of the problem“.

The report in question is called Who are Canada’s Tech Workers and it was prepared by the Brookfield Institute using data from Statistics Canada.

The pay gap for women working tech jobs in Windsor is the highest in Canada’s metropolitan areas, according to a report prepared by the Brookfield Institute using data from Statistics Canada.  The report said the average female tech worker in Windsor makes around $39,000 less — or 58 per cent — than what the average male makes.

Windsor has Canada’s largest pay gap for women in jobs using tech skills: report“, Chris Ensing · CBC News · Posted: Jan 30, 2019

Windsor’s data can be found through the Brookfield Institute’s Canada’s Tech Dashboard (Cities) using the Diversity Compass filter:

I’m not going to extensively comment on these reactions to the reactions to this research because, frankly, I find them absurd. When you find evidence that a practice or a policy isn’t working, the solution is not to bury the research or the reporting of that evidence.

I believe in the power of investigative reporting to raise issues, to generate protest, to encourage the public to ask difficult questions, and to lead to the political and grassroots organizational work that is necessary to make change.

I believe in the power of the work of Robyn Dolittle. I believe in the power of the work of Tayna Talaga. I believe in the power of the work of Kate McInturff who produced four years of the Making Women Count report before she died of cancer in 2018.

It is not possible for me to re-create Kate McInturff’s index of the best and worst cities in Canada for women. But I am going to try to see if I can find the data that might show if things have improved in our city since her last report in 2017.

The Making Women Count report was a comparison of how men and women are faring in five areas: economic security, leadership, health, personal security, and education. I have already covered personal security. With the release of the Brookfield report, it is a good as time as ever to check in with our state of economic security.

Economic Security

The score for economic security is calculated based on four indicators: employment rate, full-time employment, median employment income, and poverty rate, measured as the percentage living below the low-income measure after-tax (LIM-AT). Scores are calculated based on the female-to-male ratio for employment and incomes and the male-to-female ratio for poverty rates. The sources of the statistics are the Labour Force Survey and the Canadian Income Survey (for the poverty measure)

The Best and Worst Places to be a Woman in Canada 2017, p. 83 [pdf]

In doing this series I’ve learned that while there are many Statistics Canada reports that have some account of gender, these reports are generally at the national or provincial level. There are not many at the CMA (Census Metropolitan Area) or city level. It took great deal of labour to generate the city-level statistical tables behind the Making Women Count indexes.

Case in point: Melissa Moyser of Statistics Canada produced this very useful chapter entitled Women and Paid Work from the larger Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report. But the reporting is not focused at the differences between cities. And on the other hand, there are reports from Stats Canada that look at various labour market indicators for the CMA of Windsor, but this data isn’t readily parsed by gender.

However, there is someone in the community who has parsed the local Statistics Canada data from the Windsor both thoroughly and critically, and that person is Frazier Fathers. The following is an excerpt from his most recent post entitled On Tech Wages, YQG Perception and Leadership from his blog, Ginger Politics:

These are facts from the 2016 Census for the Windsor CMA (the same geography and base data as the Brookfield’s Report):

3,710 women (compared to 2,405 men) live in our region and speak neither English nor French. – Creating barriers to accessing education, employment or services.

Median income for women after tax $27,050 (vs $40,881 for men); average $31,364 ($44,208) – they make less money.

Female income percentage from employment: 64% vs 72.6% for men – women are more dependent on government transfers for income than men. There is some qualification bias here.

81% of lone parent families are led by women. – single women are raising more kids then men.

After tax 7,300 women over the age of 15 have 0 total income (5,860 men)

52% of women live in the bottom half of the income distribution vs 48% of men.

30,120 women and girls are living in low income (LIM-AT) compared to 26,635 men and boys.

Workforce participation rate for women in the census was 56.1% compared to 64% for men.

On Tech Wages, YQG Perception and Leadership“, Frazier Fathers, Ginger Politics, January 31, 2019

I also appreciate that Frazier called out of Yvonne Pillon’s undermining the results of the Who are Canada’s Tech Workers report and of the Making Women Count series by challenging the methodology of both the Brooking Institute report and the CCPA reports, without providing any reason why.

This whole matter is not a surprise to me. It reminds of this quotation:

When you expose a problem you pose a problem.  I have been thinking more about the problem of how you become the problem because you notice a problem. When exposing a problem is to become a problem then the problem you expose is not revealed. For example, when you make an observation in public that all the speakers for an event are all white men, or all but one, or all the citations in an academic paper are to all white men, or all but a few, these observations are often treated as the problem with how you are perceiving things (you must be perceiving things!) A rebuttal often follows that does not take the form of contradiction but rather explanation or justification…

The Problem of Perception, feministkilljoy, February 17, 2014

This has happened to me. Two years ago I wrote a piece called Building a culture of critique that explained why I thought WETech Alliance’s Nerd Olympics was an activity that research has shown to turn women and other underrepresented groups away from STEM. The response I received from WETech Alliance was that I did not really understand the situation. I was told my perception was wrong.

Let us not forget that each data point in Statistics Canada is a person. The data made available to us from Statistics Canada shows us that the technology companies in Windsor are under-paying the women they employ. These women are real. They are being underpaid. It is not a problem of their perception.

The purpose of presenting local data is that it brings insight down to a level of a governance where we, the community, are able to make meaningful change. The fact that many cities in Canada do a much better job than Windsor in regards to how women fare suggests that we have the opportunity to learn and adopt the evidence-based policies and practices that they have employed. That is, we can do this if choose to read and learn from the research, rather than dismiss it.

I cannot see myself working with an organization whose president and employees publicly state that if I raise a matter of injustice related to sexism (or racism, class, or ableism for that matter) that I am “part of the problem”.

12 letters in 12 minutes

The second most spoken language in Windsor is not French or Italian, but Arabic.

In the Windsor area, 236,000 people cited English as their mother tongue in the 2016 census, compared to 230,845 in 2011. Also in the 2016 census, 13,580 people called their mother tongue Arabic, up from 10,515 in 2011. In 2016, 9,570 people said French was their mother tongue, slightly down from the 10,560 in 2011.

The next most common language in the Windsor area is Italian, spoken by 8,615 Windsor residents in 2016, compared to 9,715 in 2011.

In general, European languages lost ground in Windsor, with the exception of Spanish, while Arabic and Asian languages grew. The trend points to an increasingly multicultural community in Windsor, often billed as the fourth most ethnically diverse city in Canada.

Census shows Arabic second biggest language in Windsor area“, Windsor Star, Craig Pearson, August 4, 2017

Not far from where I live are a cluster of businesses of the Wyandotte Town Centre that I believe are largely Lebanese but if I interrogate myself, I would have to admit that I would not be able to back up why I think this is so. There is a lot of Arabic on the windows of these businesses. To my eyes, Arabic script looks beautiful but utterly and absolutely inscrutable.

At least I thought so until I spent a mere 12 minutes watching this video of Rami Ismail teaching half the Arabic alphabet to the audience at the 2015 XOXO Festival.

I cannot recall a time when I went from stupid ignorance to dim understanding in such a short time. If there is a word for mental whiplash, that’s what I felt. 

Rami is a game developer and he knows that there are many reasons why it is so important that games get language right.

Arabic is not inscrutable. It is nothing to be afraid of. It is the language of many of our neighbours.

Spare 12 minutes. You’ll be amazed what you can learn. If you watch the above video, you will have more understanding of the Arabic language than at least one multi-million dollar company.