Heather Boyd

Blog

(posted on 8 Sep 2019)

I’m now living in a Police State

I am a resident of the Exchange District and have been here for 12 years, many things have changed in that time period to both the Exchange and the Downtown that impact the quality of life in the area.

I am an artist and believe in an urban life style, this means living in a neighbourhood that supports a community; this includes access by foot to local coffee shops, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, community spaces, parks, shops, grocery stores and libraries.

Since my move here I have been an advocate for a number of issues that I think would improve the quality of life in the area. The current cause is to remove the security checks at the Millennium Library. This is just another example of the xenophobic policies, backed by bogus statistical information and enforced by the Downtown and Exchange Biz and supported by the police and our politicians. Their constant efforts to cleanse the area to keep out “undesirable” people, to attract developers and tourists has had a very negative effect on the quality of life in Winnipeg’s core area. What about the residents of the area: the artists, the seniors, the low-income residents and all the condo owners that invested in the area?

One of my projects was a campaign to “return the benches to the exchange”. In 2012 the benches were removed from the Exchange area. There was as excellent article about this in the “Uniter”. “ Long time visitors to Albert and Arthur Streets may have fond memories of hanging out, sipping coffee, and gazing at the historic buildings that give the area its distinct flavour. …According to Brian Timmerman, executive Director of the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone, the benches were removed to end “nuisance behaviour” such as people openly drinking…If customers see somebody drunk, in their minds they think this area is unsafe. Its dangerous, …there weren’t any threats or assaults or anything like that. It just made people feel uncomfortable.”

So, the benches were all removed. I put up posters around the area, I wrote letters to the Exchange Biz and my city councillor, after several years and endless inuendo about “safety” in the area, Brian agreed to install one bench on Albert Street on a test basis, there it sits in an area of Albert St that sees very little foot traffic.

Just an example of how the perception of safety trumps all. A quote from Jane Jacobs: “ the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the numbers of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.”

OVER

 

 

Another example of this policy is the installation of spike rows around the planters on Portage Ave, mainly around Dollarama and Mountain Equipment co-op where people like to congregate. The security checks at the Millennium Library are just a continuation of the attempted “cleansing” of our downtown.

Other items that contribute to the killing of street life in the downtown.

  1. Not opening Portage and Main to pedestrians. Dehumanizing concrete barricades are the main feature of Winnipeg’s historic centre.
  2. Market Square in the Exchange, an example of concrete, steel and butt-crunching seating. What happened to sitting on a comfortable bench under the shade trees, looking at the now non-existent flowers and watching people enjoy themselves.
  3. Create a standard for surface parking lots that incudes maintenance of fencing, seating, creation of greenspaces and trees. This is something that has been on the city agenda for over 5 years and keeps getting differed.
  4. Replant and maintain the trees in the area. Create mini green spaces.
  5. Lack of Public washrooms.
  6. A community centre.
  7. Retrain the Biz Patrols, so that they interact and assist people. Currently they march around the area in their pseudo military black uniforms looking right through you, only stopping occasionally to harass people they consider undesirable.
  8. Re build the Alexander Docks.

There are of course more items that could be added, but this all relates to the systematic dehumanization of the core area.

Heather Boyd