First of Four Interventions, this one to Dave Baker

Published here; http://www.radicalpress.com/?p=9782

23 July 2016

To Dave Baker;

I am dumbfounded by the decision you deliver on behalf of some unnamed authority. To Ms. Monika Schaefer you write, “We have considered your application for a busking permit in Jasper. In light of your recently publicly proclaimed non-inclusive beliefs we have decided to decline a permit to you at this time.”

Please clarify who is included in this “we” on whose behalf you claim to speak? Who takes responsibility for the decision to violate core provision of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the core community of Canada’s Jasper National Park?

This unilateral decision extends the so-far-unaccountable decision of those in Jasper’s Canada Day Committee to silence Monika Schaefer’s violin playing last July 1st. Because some Jasperites apparently threatened to disrupt the event, presumably in response to Ms. Schaefer’s peaceful video expression, the precedent was set that Jasper is a place of censorship where freedom of expression and conscience can be subordinated when threats of violence arise.

Now comes this gross violation of fundamental principles of Canadian decency, not to mention the rule of law, as dictated by whatever authority it is on whose behalf you, Dave Baker, claim to acting in handing down this truly reprehensible arbitration.

Canadians should know that because of the treatment by officialdom of Monika Schafer, a very active and contributing 35-year citizen of the community you share with her, Jasper should not be considered a safe place suitable for hosting international visitors. From what I have been learning, Jasper seems to be a place where intolerance and arbitrary measures go forward founded on nothing more than the political opinion of unaccountable decision makers.

So far Monika has been disinvited from her invited Canada Day performance. She has, as reported in The Fitzhugh, been banned from the Jasper Legion No. 31 seemingly on the unilateral say so of Ken Kuzminki. She has been refused by The Fitzhugh newspaper a right of a full response. Her censored full response to the original smear piece against her was considerably shorter than Paul Clarke’s report. Now you and those unnamed individuals for whom you claim to speak have decided to discriminate against Ms. Schaefer because of her beliefs. Characterizing her opinion as “non-inclusive” you have determined she is ineligible for a busking permit to play music in the Jasper town centre.

Your decision is exclusionary as well as discriminatory. The actions taken by you and others are thought to be “justified” on the basis of personal opinions about her video, a 6 minute item that some dislike and many more like. At last count of the 70,000 or so views, over 1400 individuals registered a “like” of the video while almost 600 voted thumbs down.

Given the way Jasper authorities are dealing with this controversy so far, should those that express “like” for the video be banned from Jasper National Park? Should entry into Jasper National Park be conditional on expressing dislike with Ms. Schaefer’s “Sorry Mom” video? Should entrants to the park have to go through screening for political correctness? Should all existing residents be subjected to a thought test like that to which Ms. Schaefer is currently being subjected?

Will the next step be to require Ms. Schaefer to wear some marker, say with a Germany-related symbol, to announce to visitors that she is the punished Jasper citizen whose ideas are so verboten that her violin playing in the streets of Jasper has been prohibited? Will all applicants for a busking permit be subjected to Internet checks to make sure everything they have published is consistent the Values and Principles Statement emanating from the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts. To do any less would be discriminatory.

I await your indication of who is behind the decision to ban Monika’s beautiful violin playing from the streets of Jasper because she dared speak her mind on a controversial issue that should be treated with nuanced responses rather than with the authoritarian approach that you express in your terse statement to her. How many benefit events in Jasper have been graced by Monika’s legendary violin playing, now transformed into a political football to be thrown around for the self-interested political advantage by Jasper’s self-appointed arbiters of community values and tastes.

Yours Sincerely,

Tony Hall
Professor of Liberal Education and Globalization Studies
University of Lethbridge

Second Letter to Dave Baker

1 August, 2016

Hello Dave Baker;

Monika Schaefer’s note to you reminds me that those responsible for taking exclusionary, arbitrary and discriminatory action against her are so far evading any accountability for actions that in my opinion reflect poorly on Jasper National Park. As I see it the federal government has a trust responsibility to protect the pristine ecology of our National Parks. This trust responsibility should extend to protecting the environment for free speech and open debate in interactions among citizen visitors and citizen residents of these protected federal territories held by the federal Crown in the public interest.

Right now the withholding of a busking permit from Ms. Schaefer amounts to a federal prohibition on her freedom of expression through the playing of her violin in a manner consistent with her countless performances that have contributed enormously to cultural vitality of Jasper National Park over decades. How is it that the Thought Police have been allowed to seize control of Jasper National Park in total disregard of, and contempt for, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Is Ms. Schaefer’s German heritage a factor in the onslaught of discriminatory treatment currently pointed at her by you, your colleagues and/or supervisors and by others? My concern about the role of Ms. Schaefer’s background and heritage arises because of the specific nature of issues emerging from the video in question. Is there some misguided assumption afoot in Jasper National Park that Germans collectively are indisputably guilty of a collective crime and should be subject to some sort of collective punishment? Is there some sort of prejudice afoot here based on a misguided perception that German interrogation of the historical record of WWII must be quashed?

Ms. Schaefer controversial video has not been evaluated in any independent process, federal or provincial, of arbitration. Why have you and others taken it upon yourselves to set yourselves up as judge and jury in this matter? What kind of dangerous precedents are you setting by taking such authoritarian action without even rudimentary regard for the requirements of due process, accountability and the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression, conscience, and association? Can you not see that your treatment of Ms. Schaefer runs against the provisions of many international instruments including the UN Convention on the Protection of Universal Human Rights ratified in 1948?

There is no basis for the exclusionary, arbitrary, authoritarian and discriminatory treatment extended to Ms. Schaefer in Jasper National Park by the Royal Canadian Legion, the Canada Day Committee, and also by whatever group or authority you claim to represent with the wording of your cryptic E-Mail message accusing the original recipient of being “non-inclusive.

Thanks in advance for providing the explanations that should be forthcoming.

Yours Sincerely,

Tony Hall

Third Intervention – this one to Town Manager

16 August, 2016

Mark Fercho,
Chief Administrative Officer,
Municipality of Jasper

Dear Mr. Fercho;

Earlier today I visited the administrative headquarters of the Municipality of Jasper. I sought a meeting with the Mayor of Jasper, Richard Ireland, to discuss the political background of the decision by Jasper Town Council through its “licensee,” Jasper Habitat for the Arts, to deny Monika Schaefer a busking permit. Initially I was directed by the person at the desk to consult Marianne Garrah of Habitat as the person responsible for making the decision about the criteria employed in deciding who can or cannot get a busking permit.

I responded that the very consequential nature of the decision in Jasper’s first round of applications for a busking permit involves parties far above Ms. Garrah in the complex of federal, provincial and municipal responsibility when it comes to arbitrating issues touching on free speech and free artistic expression in Jasper National Park. At this point Natasha Malenchak intervened and suggested I put my case before you to bring before town council. I am following Ms. Malenchak’s advice.

I live in Lethbridge Alberta but I visit Jasper from time to time where I touch base with my friend Ms. Schaefer. Currently I am in Jasper visiting until the weekend so a meeting with a responsible party, ideally Mayor Ireland, would be great. I will be in the backcountry until Thursday afternoon, but I am available Friday afternoon or Saturday anytime. I would also be prepared to travel to Jasper at a time of mutual convenience to discuss this matter, one which I see as being of national and international significance. As you can see below, I have intervened twice on this matter in writing. In the first instance my letter was published on an Internet site copied below.

I notice that Mayor Ireland has gone on record politically on this matter. His position and that of the municipal council is reflected in a news story and in an editorial, both penned by Bob Covey, Editor/Publisher of the Jasper Local (15 Aug. 2016). I see Mayor Ireland being quoted as saying with respect to the denied busking permit, “Council is not in a position to tell licensees who they should hire.” That way of characterizing what has happened does not seem to me logical or coherent. Those with busking permits surely are not “hired” by the Habitat. Passersby who may choose to recognize their approval of the buskers are surely the parties doing the “hiring“.

If Habitat is to be defined as a “licensee” does the license grant this non-elected body the authority to decide who can play or not play music based on arbitrary decisions about muscians’ thoughts, ideas and public statements? If that is the case, Council should certainly revisit the wording in the license, now that it has become apparent the license is being applied in ways that grossly contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Part of the Constitution Act, 1982, this Charter defines itself as part of Canada’s “supreme law.” What other licenses is Council granting that may lend themselves to arbitrary, discriminatory and exclusionary decisions such as those on display in the Schaefer/Jasper National Park fiasco?

Surely technical proficiency in creating music should be the sole legitimate criteria in deciding who is, or is not, eligible to receive a musical busking permit.

Below please find my August 1 letter to Dave Baker reproduced in full. My July 23 letter can be accessed by clicking on the link below. I must say that it was interesting to me that those I spoke to in the Jasper Municipal Office did not even mention the name of Dave Baker in assigning responsibility for the decision. His initial letter, all based on an allegation of Ms. Schaefer being “non-inclusive,” ironically offers a perfect characterization of his own non-inclusive position.

Mr. Baker couched his denial of a busking permit in language that completely excluded any reference to the actual names of the individuals in the arbitrating body on whose behalf he claimed to be speaking. His way of delivering a very significant public policy decision epitomizes the exercise of power without responsibility or accountability. It reflects poorly on Habitat and on the agency that empowered Habitat with a license of dubious legal legitimacy whose wording should, at the very least, be made public. What powers has the federal government delegated to a provincially-chartered municipality to decide who can play music in Jasper National Park?

I notice in Bob Covey’s recent items in The Jasper Local several references to “armies of trolls” apparently responding to Mr. Baker’s initial letter. I do not see myself as a “troll“. Those who have gone to the trouble of writing letters to public officials on this matter are citizens with a legitimate interest in addressing a public policy issue of significant consequence in determining the kind of society we are creating. Again it reflects badly on Habitat and on the agencies empowering Habitat in this matter to refer so contemptuously to those seeking accountability from public officials about what is going on in Jasper National Park.

I look forward to your response on behalf of the elected officials that you serve.

Yours Sincerely,

Anthony James Hall
Professor of Liberal Education and Globalization Studies
University of Lethbridge
Alberta Canada

Town Administration Reply to Tony Hall

Dear Anthony James,

Thank you for your email, your detailed comments about the busking pilot project are appreciated.

The 2016 Busking Pilot Project is intended to trial busking in Jasper and gain community feedback, this is the second summer that busking has been tested in the Municipality of Jasper. The 2016 summer busking pilot project was set for three locations in town and will end soon with the coming of fall.

Upon completion of the 2016 busking pilot project we will survey the community with specific questions about the busking pilot project. The survey results will be combined with feedback such as yours received through the summer about the challenges, successes and issues experienced during the trial run of busking in Jasper. The results will then be presented to Mayor and Council for direction.

Sincerely,

Mark Fercho
Chief Administrative Officer
Municipality of Jasper
Box 520, Jasper, AB, T0E 1E0
Tel: 780 852 6501
Fax: 780 852 5176

Jasper’s Authoritarian Crackdown on Free Expression of Ideas and Musical Artistic Expression – this one goes all the way to the United Nations

19 August, 2016

Dear Mark Fercho, Mayor Richard Ireland, Jasper National Park Superintendent Alan Fehr, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center, Mechtild Rössler;

I write to you as a group of elected and appointed officials with political and legal involvement in events that have transformed Jasper National Park into a zone of authoritarian crackdown on dissident speech and on free musical expression. The case of the denied busking permit to Jasper community stalwart, Monika Schaefer, is but one part of an insidious set of institutional recriminations. These repressive actions, which also implicate the Royal Canadian Legion, puts Jasper National Park outside the framework of the protections outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in the UN’s Declaration of Universal Human Rights, 1948.

In my view the conspicuous disregard by officialdom in Jasper National Park for key provisions of the UN Declaration on Universal Human Rights (UNDUHR) has broad implications. These implications may extend negatively to the future status of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks as a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site [United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization] .

The provision of the UNDUHR upholding the universal right of all human beings to “freely express opinions without interference” and through “any media… regardless of frontiers” has clearly been violated. This violation arises because of the actions taken by delegates empowered by the Jasper National Park Supervisor, Alan Fehr, and by the Municipality of Jasper (Mayor Richard Ireland).

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The decision to deny Ms. Schaefer a busking permit in Jasper has resulted from an effort to punish her for the contents of her video, “Sorry Mom, I was wrong about the Holocaust“. This prohibition on the longtime Jasper resident, frequent volunteer at benefit concerts, and professional violin teacher, clearly contravenes Article 19. Presumably those overseeing UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites should act conscientiously in respecting the core provisions of the UN’s primary instrument for the protection of universal human rights.

Public Consultation?

Mr. Fercho indicates there will be some process of consultation within Jasper National Park to assess the merits of current procedures regarding busking permits. He writes:

Upon completion of the 2016 busking pilot project we will survey the community with specific questions about the busking pilot project. The survey results will be combined with feedback such as yours received through the summer about the challenges, successes and issues experienced during the trial run of busking in Jasper. The results will then be presented to Mayor and Council for direction.

I take note of the fact that Mr. Fercho uses the same imperious language as Dave Baker used in informing Ms. Schaefer of the initial decision to deny her a busking permit. Both Mr. Baker and Mr. Fercho refer to some unspecified “we,” without defining who the “we” encompasses. Mr. Fercho’s way of framing the process, wherein the unspecified “we” will present “results” to Mayor and Council, implicitly distances the elected officials from direct involvement in the public-participation phase. Such exclusion adds yet another layer of insult to injury arising from an unelected body having unlimited power to give or withhold busking permits.

Does Mr. Fercho anticipate that this same agency, namely the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts, will help design the survey and evaluate the results in assessing its own handling of the pilot busking program? Wouldn’t those involved with Habitat be in a conflict of interest in evaluating their own performance?

One would logically think that the review of the busking pilot project should be asking questions such as the following:

1. Did the residents enjoy the presence of music in the streets?
2. Did the visitors enjoy this new cultural feature in the Jasper town centre?
3. How did the buskers themselves feel about the venues presented to them, including the three fixed busking locations?
4. Were businesses adversely affected, or did they profit from an increase in customer traffic in the town centre?
5. Did regulated busking contribute to keeping visitors in town longer, adding to Jasper’s financial activity?

This list is far from complete. The elephant-in-the-room question, however, is the following: How was it that a primary criterion employed by the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts involved an assessment of Monika Schaefer’s opinions on history and politics. What do her opinions on such matters have to do with her often-demonstrated ability to please audiences with her violin playing?

A key to announcing this forthcoming process would be for the Municipality of Jasper and the Jasper National Park’s Office of the Superintendent to release all relevant contracts, licenses, statutes, bylaws and policy statements concerning this matter.

What is in the “Business License?

Mr Fercho’s evasive response, in which he does not respond directly to any of my specific observations and queries concerning the treatment of Ms. Schaefer, is indicative of a government system prone to shroud itself in a cloud of obfuscation and denial. In this violation of the most basic principles of universal human rights, administrative staff are enabling those with political and legal responsibility to evade accountability for decisions and actions already taken.

In my prior communication, I referred to Mayor Ireland’s published remarks about the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts, the agency “licensed” by the Municipality of Jasper and the Office of the Superintendent of Jasper National Park to oversee the busking permit system. Mayor Ireland is on record of having told Bob Covey, the Editor/Publisher of The Jasper Local, that the Habitat for the Arts has the “business license” that includes “the authority to say who gets a busking permit and who does not. Council is not in a position to tell licensees who they should hire.

Did this business license include the granting of authority to decide who can or cannot busk based on the applicants’ opinions about history and politics? As part of the preparation for the proposed process of public consultation on Jasper National Park’s busking program, the business license to the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts should be made public. This publication should include the signatures of those that signed off on this contract. Just to be clear, I am specifically requesting that the text of this “business license” be made public.

The elected officials among you in Jasper are setting a bad precedent when you so clearly demonstrate that you are trying to distance yourselves from your own involvement in this very public political controversy. Your failure to step forward to assume responsibility for what has already transpired is helping to exacerbate community divisions.

This divisiveness is creating an inauspicious environment for the inauguration of the Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts in its new setting in the recently-completed public library. Shouldn’t we expect artists to be especially open to human creativity engendered by the embrace of diversity? What is to be said of an arts institution that introduces itself by siding with authoritarianism to constrain and block perspectives that do not conform with those of the mainstream?

What is to be said of moves by Jasper’s self-appointed censors of the arts who have decided to put a muzzle on Monika Schaefer’s musical creativity, one of her most eloquent means of self-expression in this community? What dangerous precedents are being set by giving free reign to this kind of censorship in one of Canada’s most internationally renowned national parks?

I conclude by citing Bob Covey’s recent editorial in The Jasper Local on this subject. He writes:

The leap from someone questioning the stories we’ve been told to promoting hate-speech is a large one. Based on the evidence at hand, its not one I’m willing to take… I do think that [Jasper Municipal] Council bears some responsibility to weigh in here. They say there’s no process for them to do so, but by staying silent, I think there’s a gap in leadership. It seems to me I’d rather wade in carefully than be forced to swim for it……

Yours Sincerely,

Tony Hall
Professor of Liberal Arts and Globalization Studies
University of Lethbridge

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