All posts by marco

About marco

Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

It’s kind of about race

itsaboutraceConservative MP and former PMO director of communications John Williamson, M.P. New Brunswick Southwest, said something at the recent Manning Networking Conference (a gathering of conservative political types):

Of course, a firestorm erupted (still going), mainly on social media, but also captured in the media, about this statement: “I’m going to put this terms of colours, but it’s not meant to be about race, it makes no sense to pay ‘whities’ to stay home whil we bring in brown people to work in these jobs.”

Did he apologize? Yes. In fact, “unreservedly.”

But, then, and clearly with intent (see the 1 of 3 start to his tweet), he was #sorrynotsorry.

It was, of course, no longer an apology, but 2 out of 3 messages justifying his statement. So, of course, he had to be schooled. Who better than Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

And, while the social media firestorm unleashed on the MP is somewhat entertaining, there is an underbelly of clear racism that many deny as simple “awkwardness,” since he couldn’t have possibly meant any offense </sarcasm>.

There’s plenty of good exchange rebutting this opinion, with Stephen Maher expanding on his perspective. But, it is Mayor Nenshi, I think, who provides the nuance I think is essential for people who think this is just a “careless word” or two…

NGOs continue to be the most trusted institution in the world. And, yet…


The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer came out a couple of days ago. In a global environment of declining trust of the key institutions they focus on (government, business, media and NGOs), NGOs continue to shine. In fact, NGOs have been the most trusted global institution in the Edelman study every year since at least 2008.

View their 2015 presentation for all the info:

Take a look through some of their findings. There are interesting and useful lessons for Canadian NGOs there. A few highlights (to me, anyway):

In terms of who you trust, Edelman looks at two groups – content creators (or authors): “trust in information created by each author on social networking sites, content sharing sites and online-only information sources,” and spokespeople.

Among content creators, friends and family come first (which, let’s be honest, may well indicate why so many of us are so ill informed…). An academic expert is the second most trusted. Which suggests, as so many NGOs focus on, evidence-based policy is still very important, useful and influential (although, arguably, typically consistently ignored by our government policy-making-overloads, especially at the federal level).

Among spokespeople, academic or industry experts come first, then a company technical expert (which is really, really interesting when you factor in the decline in trust in businesses, in general), then a person like yourself (i.e. family or friends), and then NGO representatives. Interestingly, trust in NGO representatives actually went up globally from 54% to 56%, in spite of trust in NGOs going down.

trustinbusandgovTrust in Canadian government is down only slightly (What? Really? I know…) from 51% to 49%. Trust in local/provincial vs federal government is slightly higher (53% to 50%), which isn’t all that surprising. But, wow, we really, really stopped trusting business in Canada – down from 62% to 47% this year.

Globally, in all business sectors Edelman looked at, those polled indicated that they would like to see more government regulation of business.

Interestingly, Canada is one of only 11 countries that are below 50% in trust of both government and business.

There are some voids of potential for NGOs to fill, don’t you think? An opportunity for us to jack this news and show how NGOs have the leadership, ideas and innovation Canadians should be paying attention to?

16keytrustattributesEdelman’s 16 key attributes to building trust are certainly worth a look at by all NGOs. There’s a lot of common sense there, and some good attributes we should all be aspiring to in our work and leadership.

Edelman Canada hasn’t posted a Canadian deep dive of the data yet, but you can see their thoughts on trust on their site.

One really, super incredibly, fascinatingly disconnecting conclusion about why trust in NGOs decreased slightly this year, globally, is: “”There’s a feeling that NGOs are now acting too much like business. They’re too focused on fundraising and the money,” Ed Williams, chief executive of Edelman UK and Ireland, said at the launch of the public relations firm’s 15th annual trust survey.”

I had to read that a couple of times. Seriously. After literally decades of being pounded and hounded by the message to be “more like a business” there’s a sense now that NGOs might be too successful at that?

Truly dizzying.

Charities in Canada and the Big ChillNGOtrustcanada

Globally, trust in NGOs declined as well, down from 66% of those polled trusting, to 63%. In Canada, however, trust stayed the same, at 67%.

However, in Canada, there’s a current chill on NGOs, particularly charities, by the federal government. For some commenters, it appears to be a concerted campaign to discredit charities that have been vocal critics about government policy: “The CRA’s special political-activity audit on charities was announced by the government in 2012. Critics say it has unfairly targeted charities whose goals don’t line up with Harper government policy.”

Is it at all possible that part of this chill comes as a result of the overwhelming trust Canadians have in NGOs over government and business? Regardless, it seems like something Canadian NGOs can more actively celebrate and harness.

So, why aren’t NGOs celebrating this trust?

I’ve written about a couple of previous Edelman Trust Barometer reports previously – 2012  and 2014.

I’m not sure how seriously the Trust Barometer is taken. This year it was announced at the Davos World Economic Forum, so I assume it’s got some profile among global influencers. But, what confuses me every year is the complete lack of booming coverage from NGO groups, influencers, bloggers, etc.

I mean, a respected global PR firm is telling the world, since at least 2008, NGOs are the most trusted institution in the world. And, what are we doing with this victory? As far as I can tell, nothing.

I find that incredibly bizarre.

I’m going to quote myself from last year, because my concern about us not harnessing this excellent news remains: “why not spend some time first on the celebrating and making this an information campaign about how awesome NGOs are? Why not let Canadians know what they have already told us – you trust us, you really trust us! Let’s thank them for that trust. Let’s tell them what we’re going to do with that trust and how they can be part of what we do.

Let’s at least take the data and run a little wild with it for a while, OK?”

Clearly, I’m not the influencer to make this happen. But, some of you are. Could you do something with this good news? Please? Pretty please?

(images are screenshots of slide from Edelman Trust Barometer presentation slidedeck. Check out the main presentation deck and other presentations, including country-specific presentations)

Difficult conversations about policing need to actually start



The police don’t want to hear that they’re doing anything wrong. They don’t want any “anti-police rhetoric” ((Cool the anti-police rhetoric: McCormack). They want us to obey (Police Officer: ‘if you don’t want to get shot…just do what I tell you.’). We’re supposed to trust that their interests are our interests. But, trust. They don’t really have it any more, do they?

“The police has no right to expect the public’s trust if it’s not willing to put the public interest ahead of their own sense of loyalty toward their fellow officers.” (Matt Gurney: Officer Bubbles makes good)

That’s from 2012. After the G20 in Toronto. Since then, across the United States and in Canada, trust in police has only eroded further. But, the message from police continues to be: stop questioning us.


Stop protesting.


What message does it send to us when that’s the only thing the police tell us?

There’s a problem

This year, it looks like something changed. People most directly impacted by this problem (police brutality, misconduct, dominance and a system that doesn’t care to make police accountable) are rising up to tell us that they’re not going to take it any more.

It seems important to listen to them, amplify their voices and join them in changing a system that doesn’t actually work for any of us.

Jay Smooth:


BREAKING: Questioning & protesting police conduct isn’t “anti-police rhetoric”

Important, too, in Toronto, where we have a Police Association president who is so quickly ready to deny legitimate concerns of police conduct and silence dissenting voices: “These difficult conversations absolutely need to continue but we now know that there are consequences when individuals, groups and politicians post irresponsible anti-police rhetoric, for the sole purpose of inflaming an already volatile situation” (Cool the anti-police rhetoric: McCormack).

If Mike McCormack followed his own advice, there may actually be space for a real conversation. But, we know his claim about having “difficult conversations” is simply completely disingenuous. As it is, he needs to simply get out of the way and let someone else handle the police perspective. He’s not the person to even remotely lead a public conversation about whether policing needs to change (spoiler alert: yes, yes it does).

Difficult conversations about policing, with police, simply don’t happen.

In case you missed it, the message and conversation is quite different: Police Officer: ‘if you don’t want to get shot…just do what I tell you.’

When there is a community conversation, police simply reject the evidence, even when it’s clearly, respectfully and coherently placed before them (Police Chief Bill Blair Rejects Damning Report on Carding). When the evidence is damning:

“Ninety-three per cent of survey participants said they were unaware of the new policy; of survey participants who had been carded, nearly half said police had spoken to them disrespectfully; a third of respondents said police told them they fit the description of a criminal suspect; one quarter of those carded said they feel as if the police are constantly watching them; and one quarter said they avoid going out at certain times because of police.”

the response is to double down on the rhetoric: “There are many facts that contradict the conclusions of this report,” said Blair following a presentation by the report’s author.”

The attempt at “difficult conversation” of a real and unresolved issue (important to note timing: all of this precedes the killing of 2 NYPD officers) is to be ignored, but not for lack of trying:

“Your predecessor, Bill Blair, seemed to believe it was his job to defend and downplay the serial racial profiling and documentation of black and brown bodies in Toronto by our police. Your job is not to defend racist policing. Your job is to expose it, condemn it, and ultimately stamp it out.” (An Open Letter to Toronto’s Next Police Chief)

Even now, when Chief Blair has “suspended” carding in Toronto, correctly, advocates are unimpressed: “Suspending the practice won’t stop police from making harassing stops, it will only put an end to accountability.” (Reform carding, don’t pretend to end it: James)

All of this has happened before, all of this will happen again (daily, apparently)

I’m no expert in policing. But, I know I don’t like what I see. I know that I haven’t liked it since Robert Dziekan’ski was murdered by 4 RCMP officers in 2007, where there was no justice. I know I lost even more respect for police after the way they handled peaceful protest at the 2010 G20 in Toronto, where there was no justice. I know I can’t offer respect to Toronto Police when the Toronto Star shows them their willful racism in 2002 (Singled out). How, noting, 10 years later, not much had changed (Known to police), they took another look (Known to police: How the Star analyzed Toronto police stop and arrest data).

Third time lucky? (Toronto police ‘carding’ policy to be assessed by third-party)

I mean, it’s not like institutional racism exists in policing, right (Off duty, black cops in New York feel threat from fellow police)?

A snippet of the “difficult conversation”:

“You know, words have power. Words have meaning… I’ve heard officers refer to black people, in front of me, as chimps.

You’ve heard white officers refer to black people in Toronto as chimps?

Right. Absolutely I have.

Did you call them on that?

Of course. And, well ‘we don’t mean you.’ I’ll be very honest with you. It puts you in a hard spot. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and forget that I was a police officer and very often I did nothing or I contributed to the subculture. Because, you do. Because, you have to work with people and you’re there and there’s also a safety issue… To deal with that subculture, you have to start making witness officers accountable. They’ve sworn an oath to uphold the law, whether it’s a police officer breaking the law or a non-police officer breaking the law. I think it’s important that we start making them accountable.”

Note: “Did you call them on that?” Really? It’s just that simple, is it? It’s up to the black police officer to civilize his racist colleagues? It reminds me of how families of victims of police brutality and murder are expected to calm the public and ask them to reject violence in their response to injustice.

It’s mind boggingly ridiculous.

Police militarization is real, it’s increasing and it’s a problem

“What has happened in Ferguson has left many across the United States and Canada and around the world feeling deeply unsettled that rather than deescalating the situation, the militarized police response had the reverse effect of making communities feel less secure and vulnerable and served as a cautionary tale of how fundamental civil and human rights as well as constitutional rights can appear to quickly evaporate at the hands of militarized police.” (The Changing, Militarized Face of Policing Shatters Public Trust and Confidence)

Like I said, I’m not an expert. So, how about someone who is? David C. Couper served for 25 years as Madison, U.S. police chief (34 years total as a police officer). I’m going to suggest he has some expertise about policing. And, a recent message of his is pretty clear: A Lesson From Ferguson: It’s Time to End Domination Policing.

The title should be enough for you to click and read his article. But, if you need further prodding, from this introduction, it becomes clear both how huge a problem we have and also how many actors need to reflect on their responsibility in the chain of police misconduct:

“My narrow focus here is the police because they are the part of the system I know best. But police are only one part of a very large system of law enforcement and social control within our country. A system that not only uses police as the initial entry point, but also depends on many others such as courts, prosecutors, probation officers, prisons, and even legislators to do their part. Buttressing this giant system of social control are the attitudes and beliefs we hold about race, crime, drugs, and mental illness. These factors, taken together, form and maintain this giant system that is in need of major structural change.”

A little more:

“What’s happened in Ferguson is not about Darren Wilson or Michael Brown, or even about the city and its police department. Instead, it’s about a practice of policing that dominates rather than serves. For me, the best description of this style is domination policing. It is a method and practice designed to hold-down, control, and intimidate one group of people for the benefit of another. Policing by domination violates our nation’s principles, enduring values and Constitution. Unfortunately, it is alive and well today in America.”

Replace America with Canada and you start to see how this problem is becoming a problem for us all. John Lorinc recently captured the reality and descent of police into increasingly militarized domination policing (Armed and Dangerous: How mission creep is turning our cops into warriors).

Police politicization and protest

We should be concerned “how mission creep is turning our cops into warriors.” We should also be concerned about the contempt police show for us not only by how they treat us, but also in their public statements and actions, and how they abuse their power. In New York, after the unacceptable murder of 2 of their colleagues, NYPD police turned their backs on the mayor at the hospital and again one of the officer’s funerals. They join a pretty infamous group that also stages protests at funerals:

But, they’re not alone.

Toronto Police Association head Mike McCormack? Remember him, of the “difficult conversations” that “absolutely need to continue?”

“Pretty well every officer turned and gave their back,” McCormack said Saturday. “And that’s due to inflammatory comments that the mayor has been making around police and relations with the community.”

“Rightfully so,” he added.” (Canadian police in New York ‘show solidarity’ for slain officer)

Toronto police have also staged protests in full uniform before (Toronto Police Accountability Bulletin No. 24):

“The Association convened a rally from Union Station up to City Hall and, contrary to the advice of the Chief, urged officers to appear in full uniform. Chief Blair indicated that it was inappropriate for a police officer involved in a demonstration and not on duty to appear in uniform, carrying a gun and other paraphernalia. Several hundred officers joined in the rally, and close to one hundred were in uniform. The chief indicated he would take disciplinary action.”

Of course, as is typical with the ever-thickening blue line, “in lieu of formal disciplinary action, officers who had attended the march in uniform would be docked three days pay with no notation on their work record of their unwillingness to follow the chiefs order.”

During the Toronto G20, police officers removed their name tags. Clearly, they planned to act unacceptably toward the peacefully protesting public. What else can you conclude from such an action? 90 of them were disciplined. Their punishment? One day suspension without pay (seriously). When 9 were refused promotions because of actions clearly showing contempt for the public and conduct unbecoming of a police officer, they were simply supported by the Chief and police association (Police board won’t promote disciplined G20 officers). What message does this send to the public?

In British Columbia, Delta police have only recently stopped promoting and selling wristbands in support of an officer charged with murder (Delta police halt promotion of campaign supporting officer charged with murder). A police spokesperson: “We are always working to address people’s concerns, and if this is a concern for the general public, and they’d like it removed from our website, I have no problem doing that,” Hall said.” After months of selling them. After they’d basically sold out their first order of wristbands. Does it matter that Delta police still supports the campaign (B.C. police force defends wristband campaign to support officer charged in shooting death)? Does it matter that the official police website still contains a blog with an officer sharing incendiary editorials about the case (Murder charge against cop makes no sense)? Is the official police website the place for this editorializing to occur?

In case you missed it, the officer is not accused of, but charged with, murder. Apparently, the legal system is something it’s OK for the police to simply ignore. What message does this send to the public?

“Micheal Vonn, policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said that while she supports individual officers expressing their opinions about the court case, the police department should not be promoting the wristbands. “Our problem here is that the police department as an entity, as an institution, is required to stay absolutely unbiased in terms of prosecution,” Vonn said. “The public cannot understand this gesture in any other way than essentially siding with (someone on) something that is before the courts.”” (Delta police halt promotion of campaign supporting officer charged with murder)

So, the wristbands will be sold by the local police association. But, isn’t the damage done? Isn’t the institutional bias and contempt for due process shown by the police a huge problem? They don’t seem to think so. What message does this send?

Speaking of contempt, you can’t contemplate the current policing environment in Canada and not look at this obscenity:

“After she asked for his name and badge number, things got really ugly. Ms. Farrell says Sgt. Watson kicked her in the side of her knee, breaking her leg and sending her to the ground. He then punched her in the face and climbed on top of her, pressing her face into the concrete, she adds. “I thought I was going to die.”

Then, he and two other officers dragged her, broken leg and all, to a police car, and had to struggle to get her in the car because her leg wouldn’t bend properly, her lawyer, Angela McLeod, adds.

In hospital, she was charged with assaulting and obstructing a police officer.”(She was helping a mugging victim – and an Ontario cop beat her up for it)

How quickly does that simply lead to: Police Officer: ‘if you don’t want to get shot…just do what I tell you.’

Police aren’t listening, they’re not interested in listening

Back to Toronto, the racist practice of police carding, and the need for “difficult conversations.” How can a “difficult conversation” occur when the police willfully ignore clear evidence placed before them that there is a systemic problem; when their representatives simply reject findings and evidence, (Police Chief Bill Blair Rejects Damning Report on Carding), attack advocates for reform and then demand that everyone tone down any “anti-police rhetoric” (McCormack won’t back down on Mukherjee). What message does this send?

What of police who want to show the public that they and many of them do not serve the public with contempt? That they, in fact, want to serve the public with justice? Don’t worry, they’ll be put back in place behind the ever-thickening blue line in due time (Buffalo Cop Loses Job And Pension After She Intervenes With Fellow Officer Choking A Suspect. Also, Officer found rat on car after assisting probe of colleagues).

“Crisis of Distrust”

It’s not shocking that people are fed up and are just not going to take it any more. The question is, when will the police realize they are a significant part of the problem and actually want to have a meaningful discussion with the communities they’re supposed to serve?

The anger towards police is real, just and requires attention. Outside of a commitment to make massive, actual change in police institutional and public attitudes, how, possibly, could the “difficult conversation” ever actually take place?

If you’ve read this far, thanks. I appreciate that you stayed with me. If you haven’t yet seen this, I think it’s worth another 29 minutes of your time:

My 3 words for 2015

Inspired by Chris Brogan, I’ve decided to commit to 3 words this year. Not so much a new year’s resolution, but, as Chris puts it, “something better, something more useful, something that would work within our thought process daily and not just for the first seven or eight days of the new year.”

Here are my 3 words.

My 3 wordsPause

This is more personal and lifestyle than anything. I’ve got 2 kids, one is 7 and, well, acts like a 7 year old would be expected to act. And, as hard as it is to remember sometimes, I’m the adult. And my responses are not always adult like. Sure, kids can push buttons and annoy, but I’m the parent.

The adult.

It’s up to me to set the tone, model behaviour and better self regulate. He’s learning, his 2 year old brother is learning from us. And, lately, I’m reacting a bit more than I (or any of us, really, like). So, I’m going to start pausing more. Thinking before speaking. We’re always able to resolve whatever happens, but wouldn’t it be nice to not have to resolve it, but to constantly have learning moments together? Pause. Then speak.


Harold Jarche has developed a great Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) approach that I admire and try to emulate. Part of its core is the Seek, Sense, Share framework.

I’d like to think I’ve got the Seek and Share parts down. In a couple of subject matter areas, I’m a decent resource for some. And, I’ve spent a good chunk of time building, refining and implementing solid information finding and sharing approaches. I find it’s working nicely.

What I’m not doing so actively, or as in-depth as I think I’d like to, is the sensing. It’s not that I’m not making sense of what I’m sharing. I have many filters and share what makes sense. So, there’s a low level of sense making going on, sure. But, what I’d like to do more of, what I see people I admire doing. Truly diving into sense making, writing longer form pieces/articles. Pulling threads together so that the sharing isn’t just aggregation or low level curation, but really putting an editorial spin and thoughts on a subject where I see threads that can and should be pulled together. I’ll still share in the aggregate on social media, like I do now. But, I want to write more, see if I can actually pull threads together and share them in a more meaningful way.


Technology has become an important tool in my work, and in my life. To the point that it’s perhaps a bit too all encompassing. This isn’t a new problem for anyone, least of all me. And, in some ways, I don’t see it as a problem for me, even now. But, I know that I’m picking up my smartphone a bit too often.

I’m constantly looking for information, sharing, making connections. And, it’s good. It’s part of my work. It keeps me connected to friends and family. But, I’ve also become that parent on the playground or drop-in who pulls out his phone a bit too often. Sure, sometimes I’m taking pictures of my kids and sharing them. But, I’m also seeking, finding information to read and share. And, well, the kids notice.

My oldest son tells me to put the phone down. Which means it’s become a problem. So, disconnecting for me means not picking the phone (the most convenient technology) up in the first place. It’s pretty heavily connected to my first word – Pause. It’s likely that my constant connecting is linked to the issues I have that require me to commit to pausing. So, we’ll see how it goes…

Thanks, Chris Brogan. This approach is helpful. I’m committed. It’s doable, measurable, meaningful. I got this.

Daily Reads/Micro Thoughts Summary

diigo (feed #12)
Shared 6 links.

Daily Reads/Micro Thoughts Summary

diigo (feed #12)
diigo (feed #12)
Shared 5 links.

Daily Reads/Micro Thoughts Summary

diigo (feed #12)
Shared 19 links.

Daily Reads/Micro Thoughts Summary

diigo (feed #12)
Shared 11 links.
diigo (feed #12)
Shared 2 links.

Daily Reads/Micro Thoughts Summary

diigo (feed #12)
Shared 12 links.