Here is a link to the Ryan Jespersen show where he, along with J’Lyn Nye, Lynda Steele and Todayville contributor Ilan Cooley discuss this topic, the impact it has on them, but more importantly, the impact it has on society as a whole.
Click here to listen to their discussion.
Ilan Cooley is an Edmonton based entrepreneur and writer. She is a an avid traveller, rescue dog mama and advocate of kindness and community.
The Untold Toll of Online Trolls
By Ilan Cooley
The concept of mean tweets has become a late-night talk show punchline that comes with a built-in laugh track, but for some Canadian media celebrities, being on the receiving end of social media bullying is no laughing matter.
“It is always a shock to be called a cunt and a big pig,” says award-winning broadcaster J’lyn Nye. As the co-host of a talk show on Edmonton’s 630 CHED radio, her career spans two decades. “I believe whole heartedly that we, as a society, have devolved. We don’t know how to have a respectful debate.”
Like Nye, Lynda Steele is a veteran broadcaster. She works as a talk show host at CKNW radio in Vancouver. Both women previously worked in television, and both say they have endured vicious criticism throughout their careers. They believe gender impacts the kinds of attacks they receive from the public. Comments range from criticism about hairstyle, makeup, or clothing choices, to remarks about weight.
“The hateful comments were never directed at the male on air staff, only the women,” says Steele. “We all got our share of the nastiness. The attacks were almost exclusively from other women. I can only assume they have low self-esteem and feel the need to tear other women down to feel better about themselves. Or maybe they’re mentally ill.
In talk radio, it’s the opposite. The haters are older men. I suspect they are misogynists who are incensed that a woman has a platform to offer her opinion for four hours straight every day. It makes them crazy. You try to develop a thick skin about it,” she says. “But sometimes it’s exhausting, frankly.”
Dr. Tami Bereska, a sociology professor at MacEwan University, says celebrities are often in a difficult position because they need to immerse themselves in the social media environment in order to remain popular and maintain a fan base.
“They are especially at risk,” she says. “The anonymity enabled on some social media platforms gives people the courage to say things to others that they would never say in a face-to-face interaction.”
“The worst go right to the lowest hanging fruit,” says Nye. “The cunt comments. I have male co-workers who are called “asshole,” but they don’t get the viscous vitriol the women I know get. I believe they simply can’t handle a strong, successful, opinionated woman.”
630 CHED host Ryan Jespersen says he is often verbally attacked by listeners, mostly online. Like Nye and Steele, it is Jespersen’s job to voice his opinion live on the air, and to discuss current affairs, and news headlines. He says he is more susceptible to negative comments working in radio than when he worked in television. He believes the catalyst is the explosion of social media. “There’s also the anonymity factor.”
Bereska says anonymity can cause people lose sight of their fundamental beliefs and values, and instead act in the same ways they see others acting in that environment. “As more people begin commenting on the same story, post, or tweet, group polarization occurs, wherein comments become more and more extreme; hateful comments become even more hateful, and critics of those comments become even more critical.”
On Twitter, user @JohnnyJesus took aim at Jespersen, saying, “You’re a no name AM radio shit for brains standing up for the most disgusting anti-Alberta government one could ever imagine. Fuck off.”
“I see moronic stuff thrown at me every single day,” says Jespersen. Without accountability for their comments, some people have turned social media platforms into the new bathroom stall smear campaigns.”
Unfortunately, some people go further than name calling. “We called the police and they took it from there,” says Jespersen. “It’s happened on two occasions. You’ve got to take that stuff seriously.”
Nye believes the people who feel the need to attack others on social media are in effect poisoning the well of society. “It’s become a cesspool for trolls and anonymous keyboard jockeys.” She says since being in radio it is the worst she’s ever seen it. “I used to get upset and react, now I realize the person sending the comment has an issue.”
Facebook user Shawn Lipon does not shy away from expressing his opinions on social media, and does not conceal his identity there. He is vocal about his disdain for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and hurls insults at anyone he perceives to be liberal. Lipon says his motives range from a desire to bring about change, to seeking attention, or just being bored. He finds entertainment in triggering people into a debate that “keeps them up all night.”
Lipon says he wants to put his voice into the discussion with the hopes it will bring other people around to his way of thinking. “I want to have my opinion heard publicly,” he says. “To expose incompetence in hopes of changing opinion to that of my own. I think posting is great to voice opinion and have a say. Sometimes there is nowhere else to express opinions.”
Bereska likens the social media landscape to a battlefield, and says since deviance and normality are socially constructed, what we perceive as being acceptable or unacceptable evolves and changes over time, and is affected by larger sociocultural forces.
Nye feels we need to change the way we communicate with each other, but fears we are too far gone. She believes her bosses and managers need to stand up for employees more and adhere to the “no abuse” policy that already exists where she works. She also thinks social media outlets need to take a stronger stance enforcing their codes of conduct. “They aren’t doing a good job right now.”
Steele says the solution starts with parents. “Teach your children to be nice and respectful. Teach them about consequences.”
Jespersen encourages people to speak out. “Hold people accountable.”
Bereska suggests a solution may be possible with the efforts of both individuals and institutions. “The question is whether individuals, groups, and agents of power, such as social media companies themselves, will take a stand against trolling behaviours. Not just in words, but in actions.”
Read more on Todayville Edmonton.
Ilan Cooley is an Edmonton based entrepreneur and writer. She is a an avid traveller, rescue dog mama and advocate of kindness and community.
‘Harm Reduction’ is killing B.C.’s addicts. There’s got to be a better way
From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy
B.C. recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The resulting explosion of addicts using drugs in public spaces, including parks and playgrounds, recently led the province’s NDP government to attempt to backtrack on this policy
Fuelled by the deadly manufactured opioid fentanyl, Canada’s national drug overdose rate stood at 19.3 people per 100,000 in 2022, a shockingly high number when compared to the European Union’s rate of just 1.8. But national statistics hide considerable geographic variation. British Columbia and Alberta together account for only a quarter of Canada’s population yet nearly half of all opioid deaths. B.C.’s 2022 death rate of 45.2/100,000 is more than double the national average, with Alberta close behind at 33.3/100,00.
In response to the drug crisis, Canada’s two western-most provinces have taken markedly divergent approaches, and in doing so have created a natural experiment with national implications.
B.C. has emphasized harm reduction, which seeks to eliminate the damaging effects of illicit drugs without actually removing them from the equation. The strategy focuses on creating access to clean drugs and includes such measures as “safe” injection sites, needle exchange programs, crack-pipe giveaways and even drug-dispensing vending machines. The approach goes so far as to distribute drugs like heroin and cocaine free of charge in the hope addicts will no longer be tempted by potentially tainted street drugs and may eventually seek help.
But safe-supply policies create many unexpected consequences. A National Post investigation found, for example, that government-supplied hydromorphone pills handed out to addicts in Vancouver are often re-sold on the street to other addicts. The sellers then use the money to purchase a street drug that provides a better high — namely, fentanyl.
Doubling down on safe supply, B.C. recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. The resulting explosion of addicts using drugs in public spaces, including parks and playgrounds, recently led the province’s NDP government to attempt to backtrack on this policy — though for now that effort has been stymied by the courts.
According to Vancouver city councillor Brian Montague, “The stats tell us that harm reduction isn’t working.” In an interview, he calls decriminalization “a disaster” and proposes a policy shift that recognizes the connection between mental illness and addiction. The province, he says, needs “massive numbers of beds in treatment facilities that deal with both addictions and long-term mental health problems (plus) access to free counselling and housing.”
In fact, Montague’s wish is coming true — one province east, in Alberta. Since the United Conservative Party was elected in 2019, Alberta has been transforming its drug addiction policy away from harm reduction and towards publicly-funded treatment and recovery efforts.
Instead of offering safe-injection sites and free drugs, Alberta is building a network of 10 therapeutic communities across the province where patients can stay for up to a year, receiving therapy and medical treatment and developing skills that will enable them to build a life outside the drug culture. All for free. The province’s first two new recovery centres opened last year in Lethbridge and Red Deer. There are currently over 29,000 addiction treatment spaces in the province.
This treatment-based strategy is in large part the work of Marshall Smith, current chief of staff to Alberta’s premier and a former addict himself, whose life story is a testament to the importance of treatment and recovery.
The sharply contrasting policies of B.C. and Alberta allow a comparison of what works and what doesn’t. A first, tentative report card on this natural experiment was produced last year in a study from Stanford University’s network on addiction policy (SNAP). Noting “a lack of policy innovation in B.C.,” where harm reduction has become the dominant policy approach, the report argues that in fact “Alberta is currently experiencing a reduction in key addiction-related harms.” But it concludes that “Canada overall, and B.C. in particular, is not yet showing the progress that the public and those impacted by drug addiction deserve.”
The report is admittedly an early analysis of these two contrasting approaches. Most of Alberta’s recovery homes are still under construction, and B.C.’s decriminalization policy is only a year old. And since the report was published, opioid death rates have inched higher in both provinces.
Still, the early returns do seem to favour Alberta’s approach. That should be regarded as good news. Society certainly has an obligation to try to help drug users. But that duty must involve more than offering addicts free drugs. Addicted people need treatment so they can kick their potentially deadly habit and go on to live healthy, meaningful lives. Dignity comes from a life of purpose and self-control, not a government-funded fix.
Susan Martinuk is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and author of the 2021 book Patients at Risk: Exposing Canada’s Health Care Crisis. A longer version of this article recently appeared at C2CJournal.ca.
City of Edmonton defends response to homeless encampments
Edmonton homeless encampment from 2022 (Photo: Alexander Shamota, Alberta Views Magazine).
News release from the City of Edmonton
Overview of the City of Edmonton’s information in Court about its response to homeless encampments
- While numbers of shelter beds and unhoused persons vary from day to day, Edmonton’s shelters have had excess capacity throughout 2023, with even more capacity available in 2024. In periods of extreme demand, capacity can be scaled upwards immediately. A person seeking indoor shelter in Edmonton will never be left without an indoor place to shelter.
- Edmonton’s shelter system supports and accommodates persons with diverse backgrounds and lived experiences, including persons who use drugs, all genders and sexualities, all religions, couples, and persons with disabilities. Edmonton has Indigenous-led shelter spaces, women-only spaces, and specialized shelter programming for Indigenous persons who have experienced trauma.
- Outdoor sheltering poses severe dangers to the unhoused. Evidence will be presented of examples of gang victimization, armed robbery, physical and sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sanitation issues leading to disease, frostbite and cold-weather injuries, and fatalities caused by tent and encampment fires. These risks will be shown to be attributable to outdoor sheltering, not the removal of encampments.
- In the last five years, Edmonton Fire Rescue Services has reported at least seven deaths and 26 injuries from 276 fires that could be attributed to tents or encampments. This number is likely a significant underestimate due to the challenges inherent in investigating these types of fires.
- Expert medical evidence from Alberta’s former Chief Medical Officer of Health will be presented showing that encampments increase potential communicable disease transmission and fire- and violence-related injuries when compared with emergency shelters.
- Encampments can pose a danger to the community at large. Evidence will be presented of violence arising from encampments, accumulations of human feces, biohazardous waste, weapons and drug paraphernalia surrounding encampments, uncontrolled fires and propane cylinder explosions, and examples of wildfires starting at encampments in Edmonton’s natural areas.
- The number of complaints from members of the public has significantly risen over the last number of years. Between January 1, 2023 and October 22, 2023, there were 13,683 complaints from concerned Edmontonians.
- Encampment closures are evaluated on a risk matrix. This is an attempt to respond to community concerns, ongoing damage to the environment and infrastructure, as well as the inherent dangers in outdoor encampments. When camps are first assessed and again when closed, offers are made to take individuals to a shelter. As well, during the encampment closure process, opportunities are provided for individuals to connect with various community organizations supporting the unhoused.
- Evidence will be presented on the impacts associated with Camp Pekiwewin (2020). The City has been provided evidence of physical and sexual violence, gang violence, sex trafficking, sanitation and biological health hazards for occupants of Camp Pekiwiwin. Evidence provided by residents of the Rossdale community shares examples of violence and physical assault, theft of property, residents leaving the community for their own safety, vandalism, fire, and significant River Valley damage due to firewood cutting by encampment occupants.
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