Priorities and Distractions: Statement from Ben Isitt, Historian and Victoria City Councillor
On June 6, 2019, Victoria City Council voted unanimously to endorse $90-million in new funding for the Regional Housing First Program — a partnership between regional, provincial and federal authorities to substantially reduce homelessness and expand housing affordability for poor people in British Columbia’s capital region. I was happy to bring this proposal forward with my colleague Councillor Jeremy Loveday, and I appreciated the foresight of our City Council colleagues in unanimously endorsing the proposal.
Not surprisingly, the corporate media was silent on this strong policy direction toward an inclusive community that upholds human rights. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is an old, unfortunate mantra in the journalistic profession.
At the same Victoria City Council meeting, a request was received from the Victoria Police Department for extraordinary funding outside the budgetary process, relating to policing of special events. City Council responded with several actions, including direction to city staff to engage the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada on the possibility of recovering some municipal expenses incurred in relation to military commemorative events in the city.
It is unfortunate that the latter decision was taken on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, marking the landing of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy to turn back the tide of fascism in northwestern Europe. However, an accident of agenda planning resulted in consideration of the Victoria Police Department request on that date.
More unfortunate, however, is the nefarious ways in which conservative political forces and their agents in the corporate media have chosen to distort Victoria City Council’s benign request for assistance from federal authorities, into a supposed affront to war veterans.
We should not be surprised that neofascist, “alt-right” formations such as the Proud Boys and more moderate conservative voices in the corporate media would prefer that citizens in Victoria and other communities focus on controversy — rather than on tackling the major challenges of our time: poverty and housing inaffordability; climate change and the ecological crisis; and the dangerous slide away from democratic participation and toward fearmongering and neo-fascist politics.
Economic elites have always resorted to distraction to maintain their powers and privileges — whether in 1930s Germany or in North America today. Anyone who is serious about honouring the veterans of D-Day and building upon the legacy of the successful victory against fascism would be wise to reject conservative media distractions — and remain focused instead on priorities for advancing human rights and upholding democratic participation in communities everywhere.
Ben Isitt, Victoria, BC, June 7, 2019
Ben Isitt is a historian and legal scholar who serves the public as a city councillor and regional director in Victoria, BC. He holds PhDs in History and Law and is the author of several books that examine the intersection between foreign policy, social movements and democratic governance in 20th century Canada and the world.