There’s something strange going on at the W2 Media Centre- I smell a scandal. I’ve written about them a few times in the past- my interest in the place began during an exchange I had with their (former) executive director Irwin Oostindie. He was evasive, weasel-like, and he became quite abusive when I wrote to him (in a very friendly and positive way) asking some questions while Occupy Vancouver was debating whether to use their space.
Oostinde eventually apologized, but he’s held my attention ever since- something didn’t seem right about the W2…
Then, back in February, I noticed an incident where Oostinde had become quite abusive with Jamie Lee Hamilton. He engaged in a form of bullying I had been subjected to by people at Occupy. It’s a sinister tactic- he began unfriending people who ‘liked’ or wrote comments on Hamilton’s Facebook page. Online bullying 101.
Some really ugly things happened at the W2. First, there was the ‘debate’ on nonviolence between Harsha Walia and Derrick O’Keefe- it was probably one of ugliest instances of public bullying in the history of history of the Vancouver activist community. The debate was sponsored by Rabble.ca and moderated by Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight. Amazingly, Smith said nothing when Walia explained that her position on the need to use violence was more worthy than O’Keefe’s view on nonviolence- because she was a woman of colour. Here’s a video.
Bullying seems to have been quite commonplace at the W2. The next incident I wrote about was when a member of Occupy Vancouver was bullied by a group of people from Occupy Vancouver after he asked too many questions about the organizations finances (they have never been published, wrongdoing has been accused.) Oostinde was involved with the disgusting display of group hate- and he participated in asking the man to leave. Here’s a video.
The last bullying incident I’m aware of at W2 was bullying they directed towards me. You see, I wrote a story questioning the W2’s decision to host a sadomasochist night on their premises. The party had ‘kissing booths’ that I’ve confirmed people have been used for sex and drugs. W2 went all Lauren Gill on me and responded to my article with accusations that I was mentally ill. Classy.
So, a couple days ago I wrote another story on W2. I discovered that they had bought a table at a Vision Vancouver fundraiser at the (to use Jeff Lee’s word) swanky Westin Bayshore. W2 get’s it’s space for free from the city. Isn’t it a conflict-of-interest for W2 to be donating their (non-profit) earnings to the mayor’s political party? It doesn’t pass the duck test- if it walks like corruption, and it quacks like corruption it deserves some investigation.
I’ve noticed a pattern when I get near to corruption in Vancouver- all of a sudden I find people in the Vancouver countering what I’ve written. This happened with my story about the W2’s sex/drug parties- Sean Orr wrote a short piece in Scout Magazine trying to ridicule what I wrote. In the end, he conceded that there may be a problem. Curiously, Orr was also involved on a hatchet-job on Ryan Elson as part of Zoe Blunt’s bullying.
Late last night, about 23 hours after I published my last story on W2, Katie Hyslop of Vancouver’ Megaphone magazine wrote an article that was a good first-step in distancing the mayor and the city council from Irwin Oostinde. She explains how the city served an eviction notice “which was dated for November 23”. The locks have been changed- and the only remaining staff member is the events coordinator. And, apparently, Oostinde has been future endeavoured.
Hyslop interviewed Vision Vancouver city councillor Kerry Jang who explained that the problem with the W2 is that “It wasn’t making any money”. This is interesting on a couple of levels. First, notice how the quote comes from someone at Vision- this is curious, was he her original source? Next, if the W2 wasn’t making any money, how could they afford to donate the cost of a table at a Vision fundraiser?
Considering the conflict-of-interest, it seems to me that it would be prudent for Vision to return this money…
There’s one sentence in Hyslop’s article that really caught my attention as it appears to be an effort to cover for one of W2’s major failings- the fact it appears W2’s focus was a lot less on the people of Vancouver’s DTES, and a lot more about being used as a space for NDP/Vision politics:
“Since moving into its current space, W2 has employed several Downtown Eastside residents”
This is so weak that I don’t know where to start. It reminds me of the stories of a southern white’s only country club claims they aren’t racist because they hire coloured people. It’s transparent- and it seems to be a veiled attempt to cover some ass. This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve caught Hyslop playing politics- I previously caught her pimping out for David Eby with a twisted account of the Darrell Barnes incident.
I also got an interesting response from Kevin Dale McKeown (formerly of Charlie Smith’s Georgia Straight):
I agree with McKeown- the fact that there was a sex party isn’t the most important part of this story. The sex is just sundry to some of the much more serious problems with the W2. The fact that W2 donated to a Vision fundraiser is infinitely more perverse than anything that occurred in party’s ‘kissing booths’. That said, Gregor Robertson’s lack of a response to the situation was problematic.
I would, however, like to call McKeown on his bullshit. I’ve shared the story of the ‘kissing booths’ at the W2 with eight gay men- each of their first reactions were that the booths were used for sex and drugs. I’ve also spoken with someone who was there that night- they confirmed, saying they did just that. I’ve been reading some of McKeown’s stories tonight- he’s written a lot about the gay men’s sexual scene, he’s not naïve. In this case, he’s most certainly insulting our intelligence.
There’s something seriously wrong with the W2 and it appears there’s a lot more to the story than meets the eye. There’s been no official reason given for Oostinde’s being let go, everything happened quickly, and it was all kept quiet until I published a (very well-read) article about W2’s campaign donations to Vision, W2’s focus on NDP/Vision politics, and how they missed their mandate to serve the people of the Downtown Eastside.
W2 is a 10,000 square foot space in prime real estate in downtown Vancouver- by getting this space for free, Oostinde was able to secure a subsidy from the city worth 100’s of thousands of dollars. Oostinde raised money and donated it to Vision, it’s rumoured that W2 could be in a significant amount of debt. It’s time to bring in an independent auditor to examine W2’s activities, funding and spending.
And, Vision needs to give-back the money that W2 donated to their fundraiser. It can be their first test in proving to us that there’s been no funny business here. Next, it’s time for some Freedom if Infomation requests…