The complexities of occupation


Last Friday I was surprised when a pair of scruffy looking young men appeared at the door to my office at City Hall — which overlooks the “occupation” in Confederation Park.  They told me that they were from Occupy Ottawa and looking for Crime Prevention.  My heart sank for a moment as I thought they were going to occupy my office but in fact they were looking for help.

They looked embarrassed but admitted that they were having health and safety issues, well, drug and mental health issues, well actually they had fellow occupiers who upset the others by self mutilating then refusing to seek treatment and well, they were afraid of the skin head (or skin heads, I wasn’t sure).  

Having recovered from my surprise, I was feeling cheeky, so I suggested that they call the police about the drugs.  But they seemed to have ideological issues with that.  So I did try to be helpful and referred them to the homeless outreach services and the mental health crisis team.  But really they seemed to want someone to just take some of their problems away.

I tried to explain to them that people have rights and that includes the mentally ill, even if that is inconvenient.  They wanted professionals to deal with their problems, but I had to explain that unless there was a situation of imminent, serious, danger, little can be done unless a client agrees.

If they get nothing else, the Occupiers will learn some tough lessons about the complexity of social issues especially issues of homelessness, drugs and crime.  If they have nothing better to do, it’s probably more productive than playing video games in their parents’ basements. 

But what I don’t get, I really cannot accept, is why they feel that being inclusive means including skin heads who are known for violence, racism and homophobia.  I have a really fundamental problem with that.

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