Correction: This article originally listed Rich Coleman as being married to Janice Abbott- this is, of course, wrong. As I wrote back in 2012, her husband is Shane Ramsay.
For the past three years, this site has been pointing out the corruption in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), the neighbourhood that brought us the phrase “poverty pimp”. Your Humble Narrator has shown how Vancouver Coastal Health paid double the going rent for the INSITE/ONSITE injection centre; how tax dollars are being used to fund street activism at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (where reports indicate that drug dealers operate on their premises); how INSITE failed during Occupy and let a young girl die; the conflict of interest of how the Atira Women’s Resource society’s leader Janice Abbott is directly funded by her husband Shane Ramsay at BC Housing; and how the W2 Media Centre was used for sadomasochist parties.
So, when it was revealed in an audit that the directors at the Portland Housing Society (PHS) used their charity’s money for luxury travel, restaurants, and spas- it really wasn’t much of a surprise. Let’s face it, we all knew this was happening (albeit, who would have guessed so blatantly!).
If there’s one value to a scandal of this magnitude, it’s that they’re perfect ways to identify who the weasels are. This month’s scandal is no exception- enter NDP MLA Jenny Kwan, and her friend Ellen Woodsworth…
As most readers are probably aware by now, PHS’s audit exposed that Jenny Kwan was the recipient of $35,000 worth of luxury travel- including (adding insult to injury) a family stay at Disneyland, the “Happiest Place On Earth®”. Kwan put on the performance of the year after she was exposed for participating in this abuse- claiming that her ex-husband Dan Small (a now resigned director at PHS) lied to her about where the money was coming from.
What Kwan didn’t explain was how she thought it was acceptable for PHS to fund her husband’s expenses at some of the world’s finest hotels. Regardless of whether she’s telling us the truth, Kwan is most clearly guilty of the worst kind of bad judgement- how many people in living in poverty could have been helped had they made more economical choices?
To put this in perspective, Kwan and Small once stayed in a London hotel room that cost $900 a night- checking out Hotwire, one can find a room tonight in Knightsbridge (near Harrods, a great location) for $140. Your Humble Narrator has slept dozens of hotel nights in London and (even when working as a director in a Big-5 accounting firm) never spent more than $450. There’s simply no excuse for someone working at a charity to travel in this fashion. (Bev Oda would blush, her London hotel room only cost $665)
Jenny Kwan knows better than most of us how much corruption exists in the DTES poverty industry, she’s as attached to it as a person can be. In fact, she’s closely connected to each of the five corrupted organizations listed at the beginning of the story. How doesn’t she know this is happening? If she can’t see there’s corruption in the DTES, that’s reason enough to ask for her resignation.
A real leader, one qualified to be a Member of the Legislature, wouldn’t be in this position; instead of being questioned for their part for a financial scandal, they’d already have been working on the solution. Some credit (but not absolution) should be given to Kwan for paying back the money- but she also took a leave of absence just two days before she’d have to ask some hard questions in Victoria. No credible leader would ever behave this way.
Though it was entirely predictable who’d be standing behind Kwan and the now resigned PHS directors, it’s still quite fascinating to watch. The list is a like a who’s who of the anarchists and other miscreants covered about on this site who’ve been making a farce out of the activist community: Mathew Kagis, Rachael Goodine, Kim Hearty, Nicholas Ellan, Sarah Blyth, Sarah Beuhler and more.
Ellen Woodsworth is a former COPE city councillor who has close relationships with people in Vancouver’s anarchist community. Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight once referred to Woodsworth’s faction of COPE as “COPE Classic”, as opposed to the other (less radical) side he called “COPE Light”.
Looking into her history and relationships, it looks like Smith was right on the money- Woodsworth has engaged with Occupy Vancouver, the anarchist group Food Not Bombs, anarchist violence advocate Harsha Walia, the Woodwards Squat, and she curiously underplayed the possibility of violence during the 2010 Olympics (standing up against a very valid police investigation).
Knowing this, it should be no surprise to hear that Woodsworth is connected to the World Social Forum- the body that’s responsible for the resurgence of activist violence since the Seattle WTO.
Woodsworth has been one of Jenny Kwan’s most vocal and prominent supporters since the scandal began. She’s made postings on her Facebook page, some tweets, and she appeared on CKNW radio today. Here’s the justification she gave for supporting Kwan:
“There were two trips, and I know that one trip was when her ex-husband was dealing with possibly end of life issues. I’m not attempting to say that what was done was right. What I’m saying is we have to look at the biggest picture we can- which is what is her track record over 20 years.”
One could use the same logic to say that Bernie Madoff isn’t such a bad guy- after all, he has years of experience in financial services and lots of people benefited! Also, notice how Woodsworth tried to flip the listener’s ‘pity’ switch- hey, if there were “end of life issues” involved, who cares that Kwan was too naïve (or corrupt) to realize it was a bad idea to stay (on the backs of the poor) in one of Austria’s most beautiful hotels! (Your Humble Narrator prefers the Hotel Sacher next door, delicious cakes!)
Now, if Woodsworth was just any old political hack, we could probably just ignore and laugh it off- we all know how loopy the people of “COPE Classic” can be. But there’s more at stake now, Woodsworth has stepped away from politics (in a way) and is currently running for the Board of Directors of the Vancity Credit Union.
If you’re the observant type, it’s likely you’ve just spat your drink out all over your computer’s monitor (either laughing or in disgust). If you’re not (while the others are getting out their screen wipes) please take a moment and think of what having Ellen Woodsworth on the board could mean for the future of Vancity. If she’s standing up for Kwan, how will she react to someone who defrauds Vancity? What if they’re great activists and part of “the movement”?
Ignoring Woodsworth’s deep relationships with some of Vancouver’s most disturbing anarchists (and her participation in an foreign run organization whose goal is to ignite revolutions), how could a banking institution EVER let someone on the board who would advocate for Jenny Kwan to stay in office? It would call to question the sensibility of Vancity’s members.
Jenny Kwan and Ellen Woodsworth are both part of the problem- they’ve been engaged with the corrupt elements of the DTES community for so long that they’ve appeared to have lost sight of what is right and wrong. People are suffering in the DTES, people are dying.
It’s time to clean house…