monika

November 2, 2016

Mark Fercho
Chief Administrative Officer, Jasper Alberta

cc to Mayor and Councillors, and the Habitat for the Arts staff
bcc list extensive

Dear Mr Fercho,
 
To follow up after my appearance at yesterday’s council meeting, I am requesting a space on the agenda of a town council meeting in the near future. The purpose of my presentation will be to address the busking issue.

I am confident that we will resolve this with a positive outcome, and I look forward to letting people around the world know, who are watching closely. I fully expect to be playing my violin on the streets of Jasper come Spring 2017.

Background

It is hardly a secret that I have been denied a busking permit during the summer of 2016 for the alleged reason of my “publicly proclaimed non-inclusive beliefs”. The Jasper Community Habitat for the Arts was given the authority to sell busking licenses on behalf of the town, and Habitat employee David Baker denied me the license. During the summer I tried unsuccessfully to have a meeting with David Baker to discuss the matter. On August 16th Prof Anthony Hall was informed by staff in the administrative office that it was Marianne Garrah who was responsible. Both Dave Baker and Marianne Garrah are on copy of this email.

My appearance at the council meeting on November 1st was unscheduled. Thank you, Mayor Ireland, for giving me a moment to speak.  I politely stopped talking when Councillor Wall intervened after about 2 minutes, and said I was out of order because I was not on the agenda. I would like to point out, however, that many rules and conventions have been broken all summer long in prohibiting me, a long-time and upstanding citizen of Jasper, from busking. I feel that I would not have been out of line had I insisted on another 5 minutes of Council’s time thereby slightly bending “the rules”.

Everyone knows the story, and there has been a stunning and shameful silence from Council on this matter. It is high time that we have a frank discussion of what exactly went down in Jasper Alberta Canada in the summer of 2016 with regards to freedom of expression and inclusiveness (NOT!) of someone that has a “politically incorrect” view of history.

Broken Rules

What might I be referring to when I suggest that many rules and conventions have been broken? Since we are in a National Park in a World Heritage Site, let us start big. 

Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on Universal Human Rights (UNDUHR): 

“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.”

Let us continue with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms section 2, which ensures freedom of thought and expression:

 “2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.”

Now let us look at some of the statements in the Habitat’s own Values and Principles statement, which had been forwarded to me along with the curt email denying me a licence, as if to say that I contravened their values and principles.

“…We believe that learning never stops 
… We embrace new challenges and ideas…
We help each other grow through knowledge exchange and support.
We respect diversity…”

With respect, I say that it is the Habitat staff themselves who seriously breached their own Values and Principles.

The Situation with Monika Schaefer and Busking in Jasper

I am a peaceful and innocent person. It is as simple as that. I have not been charged or found guilty of any crime. Where is the accountability of the licencing agency passing judgement on who should or should not receive a licence, based on what? Whatever happened to the notion of “innocent until proven guilty”? The Habitat and town treatment of me in Jasper is more akin to a witch-hunt. 

This denial of busking permit was not the only shutting-out of me since June 2016. Canada Day gig was cancelled, and Parks Canada prohibited me from playing at their music nights, all due to protests being threatened. Don’t we have a police force to keep the peace? I am banned from the Legion of all places – haven’t we been told that the veterans fought for freedoms, including freedom of speech? Public declarations were made by at least one prominent individual that Monika Schaefer is not welcome in Jasper. Does that kind of public declaration not pose a potential danger to me? What shameful behaviour in a country that boasts freedom of speech!

More to the point of this letter, what exactly do my political and historical views have to do with playing music in the streets? NOTHING!

Should the busking permit not be more appropriately based on performing ability? I have proven myself many times over in that capacity, judging by all the requests to play my violin at fundraisers over the years and decades in Jasper. 

I obviously broke a sacred taboo. Never question the singular event known as “The Holocaust”. Even if the official historiography has changed many times over the decades, and even if the so-called holocaust historians themselves have admitted many lies, for example the soap, shrunken heads and lampshades, even if, if, if…, one may not question anything about this event! This makes it a religious dogma. Take note of 2(a) of the Canadian Charter above, freedom of conscience and religion. Take note of 2(b), freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

Interventions

Here is one person’s intervention on my behalf.

I know that there were many letters by others as well. Some of those were copied to town council, some were only sent to Dave Baker. Some were copied to me, and some were not. Many were supportive of me, and undoubtedly some were not. Yet others may have posed as being supportive, but were in fact undermining me by throwing in some kind of poison pill such as profanity or insults. That is a strategy that is used by agents or trolls who do not support the cause. I have learnt many things in the last few months about how these things work. 

Who knows if Dave Baker gathered and compiled the letters of intervention or not? Those which were not copied to others could easily have been dismissed and ended up in the trash. We have no idea of accountability. Nevertheless, I am quite sure that you are aware that many people from far and wide wrote in support of me, and are watching what happens in this little “Gingerbread Town” of Jasper. Yes, we live in a nice little fairy tale town. Folks don’t like anybody to rock the boat, as they might get wet.

Busking Pilot Project Trial

Sometime between August 16th and 19th, you responded to Anthony Hall’s third letter of intervention on my behalf. It was a short letter which did not specifically address any of the issues that Anthony Hall raised, nor is my name mentioned. Here is the contents of the letter as a reminder, and for the councillors to review.

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

I wonder what kind of questions you are seeking answers for when you solicit feedback. Are you asking for the musician’s ideas on politics or history? Or might you be asking more relevant questions such as those suggested in Anthony Hall’s letter of August 19, 2016: 

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?

When is this survey to take place? Who is designing the survey? Or is it simply a compilation of feedback already garnered? Who is being targeted for questioning? Who is it accountable to? Will it be public and transparent?

Request to Speak

I am asking for an opportunity to address council, in a regular council meeting. It is my request as a 35-year long resident of Jasper no less, to speak to these issues, and have it be put on the public record.

thank you,
Monika Schaefer

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