Works Cited

A blog about the bibliography.

Cited Podcast and our partners at The Georgia Straight and Life of the Law have won an award from the Jack Webster Foundation, the most prestigious journalism awards in BC. The award was for excellence in feature reporting in radio, and given to our 41st episode, “The Heroin Clinic.

Cited is by far the smallest outlet to be recognized by the foundation that night. Our producers Gordon Katic, Sam Fenn, and Alex Kim were honoured, as well as Travis Lupick of the Georgia Straight and Nancy Mullane from Life of the Law.

Additionally, Travis Lupick and his colleague Amanda Siebert were recognized for excellence in feature reporting in print, for their piece on the community-led response to Vancouver’s opioid epidemic. Spanning all the categories, there were four winners related to reporting on BC’s fentanyl crisis, and eight finalists total.

Gordon dedicated his acceptance speech to the drug users and activists at the centre of the crisis.

“Most of all I’d like to thank the drug users at the heart of this piece, and at the heart of the response to this crisis. I’d like to thank Kevin Thompson, Dianne Tobin, Dave Murray, Smokey D, and countless others.

Our show is a show about academic research, so we talk to a lot of smart scholars… but I think I can speak for my whole team in saying that these drug users were some of the brightest people we featured. They know this crisis inside and out; how we got here, and how we can get out of it–they’re just waiting for the rest of us to catch up.”


We published this article with CBC Doc Project to accompany our 56th episode, “‘Managd Retreat’ From the Rising Seas” The article is republished here.

By Gordon Katic

Only a 30-minute drive from the glass and concrete towers of downtown Vancouver sits a tiny homesteader community called Finn Slough. Finn Slough was once a Finnish fishing community, but today it feels like a relic from another time. Small bunk houses and net sheds, built by fisherman over 100 years ago, stand on stilts just above the water.

“It’s a tiny little chunk that’s kind of unspoiled,” says Gus Jacobson, a community elder and unofficial caretaker of Finn Slough. Jacobson’s son, Rus Jacobson, compares his upbringing to that of childhood stories. “I was probably like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,” says Rus. “You know, thirteen, rowing boats around here — all my friends were amazed!” When the weather is right, dozens of tourists flock to see the community. The quirky homes and idyllic natural landscapes make for beautiful pictures.

“Living here gives us a just a little taste of what life might have been like a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago,” says Glenn Anderson, a long-time resident. “People who come here see it as a sort of exotic wonderland, but it’s actually not always that easy to live here,” he adds.

Anderson is referring to the daunting environmental challenges of living directly on the Fraser River, including the rising waters that threaten to overwhelm the picture-perfect community. Climate change is intensifying, increasing the frequency and severity of flooding and coastal storms. The provincial government is instructing B.C. municipalities to prepare for the sea level to rise by half a meter by the year 2050 and one meter by 2100. That leaves Finn Slough residents with a difficult decision: retreat from the rising seas or find a way to defy nature and stay put?

“I want to do everything in my power to preserve what’s left.”  – Gus Jacobson

In the past year, several Finn Slough homes have flooded during seasonal high tides. On one occasion, the boardwalks connecting the homes completely flooded, meaning residents could not reach their homes for several hours. Additionally, waves from tanker traffic in the Fraser River have accelerated coastal erosion on nearby marshland. This marshland protects Finn Slough by limiting the force of waves, which already damage their boardwalks and boat pilings. As the marshland erodes, the waves become stronger. “It flows heavy and that surge comes here and it hits just like a square wall. Something’s got to give,” says Gus Jacobson.

In the past year, several Finn Slough homes have flooded during seasonal high tides. On one occasion, the boardwalks connecting the homes completely flooded, meaning residents could not reach their homes for several hours. Additionally, waves from tanker traffic in the Fraser River have accelerated coastal erosion on nearby marshland. This marshland protects Finn Slough by limiting the force of waves, which already damage their boardwalks and boat pilings. As the marshland erodes, the waves become stronger. “It flows heavy and that surge comes here and it hits just like a square wall. Something’s got to give,” says Gus Jacobson.

Tamsin Lyle is the principal engineer at Ebbwater Consulting, a firm that has consulted many B.C. municipalities on their sea level rise and flood management plans. Lyle predicts that within 50 years, Finn Slough will likely be submerged by water each day at high tide. She suggests they seriously begin considering relocation plans. “At some point, it’s probably going to be too hard to live here,” says Lyle. “When that’s going to happen I don’t know, but I suspect that Finn Slough is going to be our canary in the region.”

Stephen Sheppard, a professor of landscape planning at the University of British Columbia, has extensively studied policy options for the region. He says Finn Slough is not unique; as climate change intensifies, many areas along the Fraser River Delta may face the prospect of relocation. “Essentially you’ve got these low lying lands that are at sea level or close to sea level, and those are going to basically want to become sea again,” says Sheppard. Landscape planners like Sheppard call this “managed retreat.” Shepard says, “Managed retreat refers to a strategy where over time the community or infrastructure that is at risk to sea level rise would get pulled back — literally removed — or in essence, relocated, or they might relocate themselves.”

Over his lifetime, Jacobson says the water has risen at least 18 inches. He has developed a do-it-yourself strategy for raising the houses to meet the rising tides. Jacobson uses a small hydraulic jack to raise homes incrementally off their stilts, slipping small pieces of wood underneath to prop them up, then replacing the existing stilts with taller stilts. Each house-raising is a complicated and laborious process that can take several days, even weeks or months depending on the home.

Although Finn Slough currently has no governmental to face rising seas, engineer Tamsin Lyle suggests that this may afford them the flexibility to create community-led solutions. “They don’t have to go through 100-month hurdles and referendums,” says Lyle, “so I think they are probably both at higher risk, just because of where they are situated, but they’re also potentially much more adaptable because of how their community works.”

Finn Slough’s motto is “sisu,” a Finnish world that roughly translates into “stubborn perseverance.”

However, Lyle has doubts about the long-term viability of the house-raising strategy. Residents will have to spend more time raising and repairing community infrastructure, including the homes, docks, boardwalks, and the bridge. “There’s some amazing characters here who are going to stick it out”, says Lyle, “but at some point you’re going to get some wimpy teenager who says I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t like rowing my boat to school every day. And it’s not going to be become a viable option anymore.”

Sheppard says many small rural and First Nations communities should pay attention to Finn Slough as it adapts. Remote or sparsely populated areas may not receive the necessary government investment to defend themselves against rising waters, forcing them into the same dilemma as Finn Slough — retreat, or stay put? “I think there is a need for these kinds of examples,” says Sheppard, “to work out what is possible and what people can do themselves.”

Sitting on a log and gazing into the Fraser River, Gus Jacobson reflects on the community’s resilience. He says Finn Slough’s motto is “sisu,” a Finnish world that roughly translates into “stubborn perseverance.”

“When I quit, I will lay down my hands and I guess I won’t be able to lift my hands,” says Jacobson, “but until that day, I’ll keep plugging away. Day by day.”

We published this article with Pilcrow Magazine to accompany our 53rd episode, “What are Canadian Police Trying to Hide?” 

There is a scene in the Wire where Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin lectures one of his sergeants for not understanding policing. Good policing isn’t about fighting a war, it’s about building relationships with people in the neighbourhood. If you decide to fight a war, Colvin claims, then the people on your beat become the enemy.

“And pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your fucking enemy. And soon, the neighbourhood you’re supposed to be policing, that’s just occupied territory. You follow this?”, he asks the sergeant.”

Major Colvin made me think of Desmond Cole’s harrowing Toronto Lifepiece, where he writes of being baselessly stopped and questioned by police over 50 times. In Toronto, the practice of “carding” — stopping somebody ‘voluntarily’ and taking down their information to put in a secret police database — has disproportionately affected neighbourhoods of colour, even when controlling for crime rates. This is not community policing, this is occupation.

Yet, there is no ‘national conversation’ about policing and incarceration in Canada. Journalists shamefully ignore these issues, and my own reporting experience is a testament to that.

I am a Vancouver-based radio producer and reporter who cares deeply about poverty, health care, and social justice. Like any reporter who fits that description, I often find myself in the Downtown Eastside. There, I have heard numerous stories from drug users, sex workers, and the homeless. These people all have long relationships with the criminal justice system, but I am ashamed to say I have reported very little on it—well, the Canadian criminal justice system, that is. It seems like the problems in the United States are much more profound.

There is a ‘national conversation’ in the United States about the causes of mass incarceration and the disproportionate criminalization of people of colour. On my radio program, Cited, I have played a small role in that conversation by producing numerous documentaries and interviews that wrestle with criminal justice reform. I’ve learned that the ‘super-predators’ scare locked up African American juveniles based on the lie that there was a “demographic bomb” of irredeemable teenage criminals who would ravage America’s streets. I’ve learned that tough sentencing guidelines from the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ criminalized poor African Americans, while caucasians continued to consume illegal drugs at just a high a rate. I’ve learned that ‘three strikes’ laws, which ballooned America’s prison population, were built on a media lie of rampant inner city violence.

Yet, when I examine the statistics, it becomes clear that the Canadian criminal justice system is an even more flagrant perpetrator of racial injustice. According to the latest research, Indigenous adults make up 4% of the Canadian population but 18% of the people in federal custody, and 24% of the people in provincial and territorial custody. In two provinces, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Indigenous adults make up over 70%of the prison population. This disproportionate incarceration is dramatically higher than African Americans in US prisons. As Maclean’s pointed out, African Americans are incarcerated at 3 times the national rate, whereas Aboriginal Canadians are incarcerated at 10 times the national rate.

You may be tempted to say that Aboriginal Canadians are a special case of a particularly brutalized people, suggesting that these staggering figures have more to do with the colonial past than the current functioning of our criminal justice system. However, the problems have only gotten worse since the final residential school shut its doors. In 1996, the federal government instituted sentencing reforms aimed at reducing the Aboriginal inmate populations. The rates have skyrocketed since those ‘reforms.’

Further, this problem is not limited to Aboriginals, as Desmond Cole’s case makes clear. Black Canadians are imprisoned at three times the national rate. In 1992, Ontario created a commission to investigate systematic racism in their provincial criminal justice system. The commission found that people had a widespread belief that all players in the criminal justice system — from officers, to judges, to prison guards — treat Black Canadians unfairly. Further, in 2000, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty conducted a surveythat found over two-thirds of black youth reporting being assaulted or threatened by police. Further, in 2002 a Toronto Star investigation uncovered systematic bias in traffic stops and arrest records.

So, why is there no ‘national conversation’ in Canada like in the United States? First, we simply do not have much data. In the 1980s, the federal government ceased collecting law enforcement data related to ethnicity and policing. We know the number of Aboriginals in custody, but that is about it. Scholars are partly to blame. Up until the 1990s, Canadian criminologists were arguing whether knowing detailed crime statistics would only “foster racism.” This is why there have only been a handful of major books related to race and the criminal justice system, while American sociologists and criminologists could fill libraries. Today, Canadian scholars have changed their minds and come to the conclusion that this data is essential. Still, major bodies of scholarship on the issue of race and criminal justice have been slow to form—partly because police forces across the country still refuse to collect or disclose racial statistics.

Second, Canadians simply have not had their problems dramatized in the same way. There has been no TV shows like the Wire to demonstrate the way that Canadian drug laws criminalize the inner-city poor. There have been no ground-breaking books like The New Jim Crow or Netflix documentaries like 13 to connect the legacy colonization to current incarceration rates. I have no answer to this, other than to implore writers (and readers) to take on these stories. CBC’s recent Missing and Murdered podcast demonstrates that Canadians will follow these stories, if journalists decide to produce them.

Finally, I think perhaps the most important impediment to this conversation is our national myth of multiculturalism. Imagine a hypothetical newcomer moving to Canada. They will be told that we are an open, tolerant, and accepting people. Why wouldn’t they believe it? Indeed, research indicates that recent immigrants have the most positive attitude towards the criminal justice system. However, the feelings of recent immigrants quickly sour after living in the country and seeing the truth. As Desmond Cole says in his Toronto Life piece, “it has become a matter of survival in a city where, despite all the talk of harmonious multi-culturalism, I continue to stand out.” The longer racial minorities live in Canada, the more negative they become.

White, middle-class Canadians are suspended in a state analogous to this hopeful newcomer when they just arrive. Like the newcomer, they have fully embraced the national myth of multiculturalism. However, unlike the newcomer, they will never actually face the brutal racism of our criminal justice system. The white, middle-class Canadian will not even investigate it. Instead, they will righteously condemn the United States. ‘Thank goodness we are so tolerant and multicultural here in Canada!’ All the while, this white middle-class Canadian is blind to the very same pattern in this country.

It is time that Canadians finally have a national conversation about racial discrimination and their criminal justice system. The first and most difficult task will be to free ourselves from our fantasies. To again quote Major Colvin, “this is the world we got, people, and it’s about time all of us had the good sense to at least admit that much.”