Thursday, November 10, 2011


As you realize, Bear has been very involved in "Occupy Saskatoon." One of the roughly 2,000 Occupy groups around the world.

Monday night, Bear and other "Occupiers" were at the regular meeting of Saskatoon City Council. We had a chance to chat with Council. And found some fairly enthusiastic response. (Meaning the Mayor, I think, actually had to bite his tongue.)  Truth is, you see, we got "in their face." We did it gently. That's the Canadian way. But I mean, really, when we've exposed the need, and are acting on it (housing homeless people), I think we have every right to speak up.

You already know Occupy Saskatoon had been "occupied" by a bunch of homeless people. So, their welfare and future became an immediate concern. Yes, in Saskatoon one can have a job and be homeless at the same time. Such is the price of rent (unless you want to share your place with rats, cockroaches, and bed bugs).

We weren't there to "fight city hall"; we were there to have a conversation with City Council. After all, we are "Occupy Saskatoon: Join the Conversation." (That's our full title.) Our goal is really to occupy peoples' minds, with questions of fairness, health, reasonable incomes and appropriate living standards for all. And then have a conversation.

But earlier today, we got the word that the City was planning to evict us from our location. It's a city park, with about as much bush as grassland. Great camping site; lots of protection from the elements. The word we received was that the police would be there at 6:00 p.m. for a "conversation." So a whole hockey sock full* of us were there to take on the . . . not police?!

Nope. Nary a constable nor sergeant to be seen. Nor the Inspector (Captain, for you Americans), who had talked with us last week.

Instead, a man from the Salvation Army's centre and a very friendly elected Councillor for the city (who used to be a community organizer in his past life).

Hmmmm. What is this? Two people who like us? Two people who support us? Two people who want to work with us? Wonders never cease!

Turns out that the City doesn't want to evict us; the major concern is for our health and safety. A "Won't you come in out of the cold?" gesture. Which was, obviously, not what we thought we would face.

So we did the very Canadian thing. We stood around the camp fire and had a friendly chat about the whole situation. And discovered some possible solutions. (No, we didn't quite get to singing "Kum by yah"; I left my banjo at home.)

We've agreed we're going to keep framing the conversation in "health and safety" language. Because that's what it is; that's the issue — people's health and safety.

"The System" could end up housing a bunch of Occupiers. Perhaps in the same place, to keep our community together. Which might even give us all some meeting space. I suggested (later) that we should call it "Occupy Saskatoon House." And when it gets too full, because of the extra people who come in, we'll let "the System" find a second house for those who won't fit in the first place.

Who? Me? Subversive? Perish the thought. 

Yes, I know; I should be hibernating. But, uh, well, I'm having way too much fun. We're actually starting to solve an immediate problem. Emphasis on "starting." Nobody has had to admitted defeat. Nobody feels like a loser. It's not "them and us"; it's "us and us." I mean, why quit when you're making progress?

Makes the ol' Bear's heart feel good.

* That's Canadianism for "a whole lot." Anyone who knows how much protective gear one wears when playing ice hockey, and how big a sock one needs to cover said gear on one's legs — such a person understands entirely. ;))


Lydia said...

Your Occupy reports are simply fascinating. This one really gives me hope! It is a far cry from what is expected to occur in Portland on Thursday at 10:00 a.m.
HERE's the report. Read it and wish them luck....

Unknown said...

Good for you Bear! The direction you are headed in could be the benchmark for the rest of the country. I fear the Occupy groups in Toronto and Vancouver aren't fairing as well.

potsoc said...

Everywhere, at least in Canada, the Occupy camps are annexed by the homeless. In Montreal, about 30 000 homeless, the Occupyers even had to set up their own Security squad to deal with them and maintain order in the camp. Food and sanitation are a big problem not withstanding our coming winter. The camp has currently 200 tents set up and some "permanent" structures are now being built on Victoria Square despite City orders not to do that.
So far the police has been tolerant and the firemen very watchful.

Rob-bear said...

® Lydia: Thanks for the update on Portland. I used to think Portland was quite a progressive and interesting community.
I guess community leaders (elected ones) can take only so much embarrassment. Sigh!

® Jacqueline: Thanks. We have consciously tried to work with the "officials" all the way along, by doing things like keeping open communications with police.
More than any part of Canada, I think, Saskatchewan has been built through co-operation. We want to keep it that way.

About Last Weekend said...

Good on you - that is fantastic. of course the Canadians sound much more socially conscious than many other cultures and I'm sure even "the system" there has a heart. I'm so glad there are many positive things coming out of these protests.

Nancy said...

You are doing a great service - especially igniting the conversation. As for Canada - I think I want to immigrate.

Helen said...

Occupy Bend began on a high note but as fizzled out in the past week or so. I just returned from DC where there is lots of chatter and support for all of the Occupy folks. (depending on who you talk to)

Dear Bear, I would have expected nothing less from you. Good job.

Snowbrush said...

There is a group that's been camping here too, although they've moved around a great deal as one site closed and another opened.

Frances said...

Bear, do keep posting these updates. I hope that you are also finding away to link your reporting to those of other Occupy sites all over the place.


Rubye Jack said...

You are the best Bear guy. Keep up the good work because I can't believe "they" cooperate so much with you guys.

Amanda Summer said...

i appreciate your approach to this bear. there is always room for a conversation about issues that face us - and it sounds like you are beginning to occupy the minds of the saskatoon officials.

ReformingGeek said...

I much prefer bears having conversations than bears growling their demands and stealing all the fish.

Stay warm!

Sylvia Ney said...

Wonderful! So glad you found the support. Best of luck continuing down this road.

Diana said...

This is a great cause that keeps a bear from hibernation! It almost sounds like things may actually be moving forward. Thats good news!
Love Di ♥

Rob-bear said...

® potsoc: Thanks for the Québèc experience, Paul. Housing the homeless is a matter which we all need to address (yes, there is a subtle play on words). For some it is a matter of life and death. We continue to work on this.

® About Last Weekend: I'm not sure if it is a Canadian thing. It's just something we do. In my case, it is a normal part of my faith.
The point is that we are doing something physically, to make a difference, and needling the system in the process.
Thanks, Jody.

Rob-bear said...

® Nancy: Wonderful people are always welcome in Canada!
There's a peculiar joke up here. If a Republican becomes president in 2012, we're going to put a big fence all along the Canada-US border. It's supposed to keep the Americans from flooding into Canada.
It's dry wit, with a bit of a bite; you'll find a lot of that up here.

® Helen. Sorry that Occupy Bend folded. It takes some good planning to keep the process going.
Thanks for your kind comment.

Rob-bear said...

® Snowbrush: Yes, one sometimes has to keep one jump ahead of the devil . . . I mean the police. Sorry.

® Frances: Thanks. We keep trying to find a link for sharing stories. There is a "sort of" linke, but I don't think it works all that well.

® Rubeye Jack: Thanks. The co-operation thing is what we all live with. In this case, we talk with the police, they help us out.
I've told about 40 per cent of the local police support what we're doing. Including the Inspector (the boss). That may have something to do with what's occurring.

Rob-bear said...

® amanda: We try to bring people into the conversation every time we get a chance. I did a long interview, again, with the newspaper tonight.
Television people covered our march today, to highlight the need for shelter. "Left Out in the Cold: Action Now for the Housing Crisis," was the title of today's events.

® Reforming Geek: Well, now you know about how Canadian Bears work.
I think Churchill said something like, "It is better to jaw jaw, than to war war." That resonates in the Great White North.

Rob-bear said...

® Sylvia Ney: Thanks for the supportive comments. They are helpful.

® Diana: Thanks.
There isn't any substantial development yet, but we're talking to the right people. Talking is usually A Good Thing, to borrow a line from Winnie the Pooh (another great Bear).

potsoc said...

I read on Radio-Canada's web site that an Eileen Bear is involved with Occupy Saskatoon. How many Bears are late for hibernation out there? Of course we say that "the fruit never falls far from the tree". Or am I wrong?

Stella Jones said...

These homeless people, many with mental health issues too, have no voice. I commend you for speaking for them. I just hope your number does not include the troublemakers!

Rob-bear said...

® potsoc: Yes, Eileen is here. We're Bear-ing up under all the strain. But not related. I'm a Brown (bear), she's a Black. Sort of like an English-French thing; we're both Bears but see the world from different perspectives. (To tell the truth, I find Black Bears more puzzling than I find les québèçois.) (Sorry about the spelling?)
Thanks for your interest.

Rob-bear said...

® Star: Homeless people with mental health issues. You understand. And because of their issues, it's hard to find them safe housing. So some of our group have taken them to shelters and made sure they got a place. You have to do that sometimes.
Interestingly, when we moved from our first camp to our second one, we lost the more troublesome folks who were with us.
Thanks for your concern and support.

potsoc said...

After the initiators went home to redirect their actions, Montreal has, today, terminated the camp.