Community News, Human Interest, Published Articles

From pastor to comic

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Going from pastor to comedian is quite the professional leap.

That’s the career trajectory of local comic and reigning Mad Hatter Comedy Club roast battle champion Troy Patterson, but he says the two career paths aren’t as different as you’d imagine.

“What I love about comedy isn’t any different than what I loved about the church – I get to address the issues but there’s no walls. There’s no boundaries I have to stay within. There’s no words I can’t say,” Patterson, 42, told the News.

“I still get my congregation every week. I still get my microphone and platform. I still get to tell a sermon.”

Religion is the family business for Patterson. His father and both grandfathers were pastors, and one of his great grandfathers taught Sunday school.

“To be that bright, shining star for my dad, I felt I had to go into the ministry,” he said, adding that religion is a subject he generally doesn’t broach with his family, with whom he’s on good terms, since leaving the church.

Patterson, who works by day as a house painter, began preparing to be a pastor when he was 16, a year after he gave his first sermon.

He describes his younger years as being the leader of a “tongue-talking devil-casting … hardcore evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic movement.”

By 2012, he began having his doubts and started a three-year “deconstruction process.”

He began visiting other houses of worship – mosques and Catholic churches – and realized all religions fulfil the same social purpose.

“You see that in every religion. There’s some guy there who’s trying to represent love and peace,” said Patterson. “The other guy’s just selling religion. It’s the same people. It doesn’t matter what religion.”

If there’s a specific event that spurred his loss of faith, it was his divorce in 2007 and ensuing “spiritual abuse” he received from fellow congregants at his church in Calgary, who questioned his commitment to the faith.

“It was cold and when you go through a divorce, you don’t want cold. You want warmth,” Patterson said, adding that his ex-wife also left the church. “You don’t want all that extra guilt and shame.”

But, he adds, it wasn’t all dark and grey.

“The people that hurt me the most after my divorce were Christians, but also the people who helped me the most were Christians,” said Patterson.

He took the stage for the first time at a Calgary club in 2009, but moved back to the Hat – where he was born and raised – a couple years later.

In October 2014, after hitting the stage maybe six times since his debut, Patterson showed up to an open-mic night in Redcliff hosted by Stephanie Foley, who opened the Mad Hatter downtown last year, which is how he got his foot in the door of the local comedy scene.

“I had been writing in secret,” he said. “I had two chalk boards in my kitchen and that took up most of the walls, and I would sit there and write jokes. I loved writing jokes, (but) I was nervous about performing.”

He says comedy is like therapy for him.

“Pain keeps me on that stage,” said Patterson. “On the one hand, I am trying to make you laugh, but on the other hand I am in pain and I want that pain to be seen and validated by others.

“When I look inside myself I feel a deep sense of rejection and I feel lost. So making other people laugh, in turn, makes me feel accepted and found.”

Besides its therapeutic value, he also sees comedy as a sort of rebellion against his religious upbringing.

“If you were raised in the church, nothing’s more exciting than getting up on a comedy stage on talking about your dick.”

Canadian Politics (Provincial), Published Articles

$25 a day child care praised by PIA

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Public Interest Alberta, a left-leaning think tank, released the results of its 2018 child-care survey Wednesday, which praises the government’s $25/day subsidized Early Learning Child Care Centres program as “pointing the way forward” for the province’s child-care needs.

“In addition to providing more affordable care, these survey results show that the ELCC Centres receiving public funding are doing measurably better in providing higher quality care with better-trained and qualified staff,” said Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta. “They are also providing more care spaces for infants and children with disabilities, which can be very difficult for families to find.”

Of all the child-care centres surveyed, PIA found that 49.23 per cent serve infants, 62.54 per cent serve children with disabilities and 31.11 per cent serve children who’ve been expelled from other programs due to behavioural issues.

Of the ELCC Centres, 65.88 per cent serve infants, 74.68 per cent serve children with disabilities and 38.96 serve children with behavioural issues.

However, ELCC facilities are far more likely to have a waiting list, with 88 per cent compared to 59 per cent for all daycares in the province.

According to Jennifer Usher, the co-ordinator of the Medicine Hat and District Child Care Association, there are four ELCC Centres, out of 24 child-care centres in the Hat.

“As part of the child-care community, we’re very happy for the government to be investing in early childhood (education),” she said, adding that low-income families that qualify for subsidies pay just $4 a month for ELCC services.

PIA’s survey also notes that ELCC Centres are more likely to have highly-qualified staff, which Usher attributes to government funding the ELCC facilities receive.

She said the government should look at what assistance it can provide to centres outside the ELCC’s purview to level the playing field.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA and opposition finance critic Drew Barnes says he’s in favour of $25-a-day daycare, but questions the value of the program’s universality.

“What does surprise me about the NDP program is (that) Alberta taxpayers are also subsidizing millionaires’ daycares,” said Barnes. “Why wouldn’t we save our hard-earned tax dollars for those who need it the most?”

He says access to subsidized childcare should be means-tested.

However, a public service like health care is “much different” and should be equally accessible to all, regardless of income, as stipulated in the Canada Health Act, Barnes added.

“People’s fear with health is that we’ll end up with two systems — private and public — in competition for our good quality front-line workers,” he said.

Barnes says his party will have a policy on child care in its platform for the upcoming provincial election.

Crime, Municipal Politics, Published Articles

Chief McGrogan denies claim negative internal survey results were swept under the rug

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Medicine Hat’s police chief and chair of the police commission are pushing back against allegations they suppressed two internal surveys conducted by the city’s Human Resources department, which cast the force’s work environment in a negative light.

“Some people don’t like the results but there was nothing hidden,” chief Andy McGrogan, who initiated the surveys in 2017, said of the internal response.

“There seems to be people (who) think we haven’t been communicating with the police commission, which we have been. It’s an internal matter and I always inform the commission of all we do, so there’s no secrets. None.”

The first survey was specifically for female officers, which had just seven responses, and the second was for all employees of the police department. Both surveys were provided to the News by local paralegal Ken Montgomery.

According to the results of the initial survey, about 42 per cent of female officers either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “Development opportunities are available equally to both male and female officers.” This is roughly equivalent to three of the seven officers who participated.

The survey also identified themes consistent among participants, including being the target of inappropriate comments and physical behaviour from male officers, a lack of trust and confidentiality, a sense that women officers are held to a higher standard than their male counterparts and a “boys club” atmosphere.

The second survey includes a word bubble of adjectives employees use to describe MHPS culture. Although ‘Awesome’, ‘Busy’ and ‘Team’ appear in the bubble, others described the environment as ‘Poison’, ‘Toxic’, ‘Cliquey’ and ‘Political’.

The results of its questionnaire portion reveal that 58 per cent of employees disagree with the statement, “Opportunities are provided equally for professional development” and 70 per cent disagree with the assertion, “The promotional process is fair and based on individual performance, seniority and merit.”

And 54 per cent disagreed with the statement that senior management, “Promotes a culture of inclusion and diversity,” although 57 per cent agreed that upper management, “Acts with integrity.”

Montgomery says he sought to obtain these documents based on issues some current and former MHPS employees brought to him confidentially.

“They’re upset and concerned,” he said, placing his allegations in the context of the ongoing discussion of bullying and harassment in the RCMP.

“If you see something wrong, you’re supposed to take a stand. I’m thinking of the good members of the Medicine Hat Police Service — past and present — who want to do their jobs right in a proper environment.”

The chief cast doubt on the veracity of allegations made by somebody outside the police force.

“He doesn’t know,” said McGrogan.

The results were presented to the commission, McGrogan says.

“There’s really nothing our governing body doesn’t know about our operations that is significant to know,” he said. “There seems to be some misconception that we have the raw data, but we did go to HR and ask them to keep the raw data and generalize.”

The results were provided to each member of the Medicine Hat Police Service, McGrogan added.

“We’ve made a number of changes,” he said, declining to provide specifics at this time.

“I can tell you the police commission knows everything I know.”

Commission chair Greg Keen said the oversight body was provided with the same survey data as MHPS members.

“From what I recall, it wasn’t just verbal. There would have been some sort of presentation given to us,” said Keen.

According to the minutes of the December 2017 meeting, McGrogan told the commission that as a result of the internal survey results, the MHPS will be updating its clothing and appearance policy, allowing officers to show tattoos and have facial hair.

Beyond that, there’s no mention of the surveys in the minutes since May 2017, when McGrogan told the commission he had initiated the second questionnaire.

In addition to the News, Montgomery addressed his report, including the survey results, to Keen, Mayor Ted Clugston and MLA Robert Wanner, among others.

Keen says he hasn’t seen any documents, but has had “some communication” with Montgomery via e-mail.

“He’s never brought up an issue with me.”

Canadian Politics (Provincial), Labour, Municipal Politics, Published Articles

Catholic Board stands by its right to ‘preferential hiring’

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

The Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education stands by its right to “preferential hiring,” says chair Dick Mastel.

Last week, Education Minister David Eggen requested the province’s 17 Catholic school boards submit their employment contracts to the ministry for review over a controversial “Catholic lifestyle” clause, which the minister says could be used to discriminate against LGBTQ employees.

In an interview with the News, Mastel confirmed the MHCBE has this clause in its contract, as is the case for Catholic schools province-wide, but emphasized that the board is co-operating fully with Eggen’s request.

“As trustees, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our administrators to provide a safe and caring workplace. The notion that’s around that our schools are unsafe is distressing to us,” he said.

However, he said there’s no conflict between this obligation and the board’s ability to select teachers who share the church’s values.

“We in no way waive our rights to preferential hiring and for employing teachers in a Catholic school that model our faith,” said Mastel. “We have an obligation to be different from our public neighbours. If we don’t, we can’t really consider ourselves to be Catholic schools.”

He said the board takes a “pastoral approach” in cases where staff aren’t living up to Catholic teachings.

“We speak with the teachers involved and we ask them to get right with the church or there could be job action,” Mastel said. “That’s just part of who we are.”

The chair said there was an employment issue related to this clause “some years ago,” but couldn’t disclose specifics.

“Teachers willingly choose to apply to us, to be employed by the Catholic board and to know what the teachings of the church are,” said Mastel. “Why would you apply to a Catholic board if you’re not going to abide by Catholic values? It sounds silly.”

The Alberta Teachers’ Association, which represents teachers and administrators in all the province’s public, francophone and Catholic school boards, said in a statement that Catholic schools should refrain from potentially discriminatory hiring practices.

The ATA isn’t involved in the hiring process and is unable to nullify contracts its employees have signed, but can assist teachers if the terms of their contract are enforced in a discriminatory manner.

“We do advise teachers that they must be mindful of the terms of employment that they agree to when accepting a contract of employment, however if a school board ever used these clauses to justify discriminatory practices or to disregard human rights, we would vigorously assist, defend and protect the teachers involved to the greatest extent possible,” said spokesperson Jonathan Teghtmeyer.

Canadian Politics (Federal), Global Affairs, Opinion, Published Articles

Scheer’s stance on migration pact a nod to Bernier supporters

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Conservative Party of Canada Lleader Andrew Scheer appears to be making a hard right pivot in the leadup to the 2019 election.

Scheer is practically shrieking about globalists with his fact-free attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for signing the non-binding UN Pact on Global Migration.

He claims that signing the agreement will limit Canada’s ability to set its own migration policies, which he wants to tighten, but the agreement does nothing of that sort.

The pact has 23 wholly anodyne goals — mitigating the factors that led to people fleeing their country of origin, collecting data to assist signatories in creating evidence-based policies, fighting human trafficking, co-ordinating international efforts to search for missing migrants and eliminating discrimination against migrants, among others.

The notion that the UN, or “foreign entities” as Scheer put it, are conspiring to erode state sovereignty and establish a global government is a theory right out of the Infowars and Rebel Media playbook.

In fact, the agreement explicitly “reaffirms the sovereign right of states to determine their national migration policy” and allows states to take measures to reduce irregular migration. This shouldn’t be controversial.

With competition to his right from Maxime Bernier, Scheer is clearly and shamelessly dogwhistling to potential Bernier supporters to stay in the Tory fold.

And with President Donald Trump south of the border being the first leader to pull out of the agreement, the Tories seem to be seeking an opportunity to ingratiate themselves with his Canadian apologists, rather than risk losing their votes to Bernier’s vanity project.

Former Conservative leadership candidate and Stephen Harper’s immigration minister Chris Alexander slammed his party’s fearmongering.

“Scheer’s statement is factually incorrect,” tweeted Alexander. “This compact is a political deceleration, not a legally binding treaty. It has no impact on our sovereignty.”

Alexander himself has had his dalliances with with hard right.

He stood idly by at a Rebel Media-sponsored rally against the carbon tax, where the audience chanted, “Lock her up” in reference to Premier Rachel Notley. He tried, to no avail, to change the chant to “Vote her out.”

And along with Kellie Leitch, another failed leadership candidate, Alexander spearheaded the ill-advised “barbaric cultural practices hotline” from the 2015 election. While both apologized for their role in blatantly xenophobic rhetoric, Alexander is the only one of the two who appears to have learned the lesson, given Leitch’s full-throated support in the leadership race for screening immigrants for ill-defined “Canadian values.”

Alexander is clearly no left winger, but he sees his party moving in an indefensible and dangerous direction. Is this a case of sour grapes after Alexander placed ninth in the leadership race? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

We’ve seen demagogues across the world — from Trump to Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro to India’s Nerandra Modi to the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu — stoke fears in recent years of migrants, criminals, environmentalists, Muslims or all of the above.

Scheer, who clearly seeks to join their ranks, is playing with fire, feeding into conspiratorial fantasies in a bid to win votes off the backs of migrants and those who seek to help them.

Opinion, Published Articles

Jason Kenney must take right-wing extremism more seriously

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

A mere week after pledging to create a database to screen extremists out of the UCP, leader Jason Kenney has another headache on his hands.

John Carpay, leader of the right-wing Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and a UCP member in good standing, compared the rainbow LGBTQ flag to the Nazi swastika and Soviet hammer and sickel as totalitarian symbols at a conference for the far-right Rebel Media.

“How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism?” Carpay asked the audience. “You’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s a swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms.”

Of course, the rainbow flag signifies the opposite of hostility to individual freedom. It’s a celebration of individuals’ ability to express their own sexuality.

To his credit, Kenney called Carpay’s remarks “vile,” but said it’s not his decision to kick members out of the party.

However, when an investigation from Ricochet outed Adam Strashok, who used to work for Kenney’s campaign, as being involved with an online store that sold white supremacist memorabilia, Kenney was quick to disavow him and boot him from the party.

So last week, it was his prerogative to kick members out of the party, but not so anymore, if Kenney is to be believed.

And Kenney had in the past referred to Carpay — whose organization has led the fight against mandatory gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools and who once referred to GSAs as “ideological sex clubs” — to Rosa Parks.

How does one go from comparing someone to a civil rights icon to distancing themselves from their “vile” remarks? It’s not as if Carpay’s view of the LGBTQ movement isn’t well known.

To make matters worse, Carpay issued a non-apology, in which he insisted the comparison wasn’t intentional, immediately before doubling down on it.

“In my presentation, I pointed out that civil liberties are fragile, and must be defended,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, the slogans of ‘diversity,’ ‘equity,’ ‘tolerance’ and ‘inclusion’ have been abused in ways that undermine our free society, and the fundamental freedoms of speech, conscience, religion, association and assembly. Fundamental freedoms need to be defended, regardless of where the attack is coming from.”

As is almost mandatory in this genre of apology, Carpay claims he was taken out of context, apologizing “to anyone who may have interpreted my remarks in such a fashion.”

So what is the difference between Carpay and Strashok? Carpay is an influential member of the conservative movement, who has reportedly donated funds to the UCP.

If Kenney gives him the boot, he risks supporters of the JCCF moving to Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party or the Alberta Advantage Party.

In a bizarre display of “whataboutism,” Kenney pointed to Paige Gorsak, the federal NDP nomination candidate for Edmonton-Strathcona, where incumbent Linda Duncan has announced her impending retirement.

Gorsak strongly opposes oilsands expansion, favouring instead a rapid transition to renewable energy.

Firstly, she isn’t running for the Alberta NDP, nor has she received the nomination yet.

Secondly, wanting to eventually shut down the oilsands is in no way morally equivalent to comparing LGBTQ activists to Nazis and Stalinists, even if the candidate supports a more rapid transition to renewables than many Albertans are comfortable with.

One can disagree with Gorsak — as Kenney and Premier Rachel Notley, who represents that riding provincially, do — without demonizing her, as the UCP have done with other environmental activists, such as Tzeporah Berman and David Suzuki.

By equating homophobes like Carpay to environmentalists, Kenney is demonstrating that he doesn’t take the issue of right-wing extremism seriously.

Crime, Municipal Politics, Published Articles

Former police commission chair charged with assault

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

A former police commission chair has been charged with assault causing bodily harm against a woman, in addition to facing previously reported fraud charges, the News has learned.

Both alleged incidents occurred when he sat on the commission, from 2012-2017.

Rolf Traichel, 45, is accused of assault causing bodily harm relating to an incident that allegedly occurred March 8, 2016, but the charge wasn’t filed until May 31, 2018, according to court documents.

He was released on $3,000 no-cash bail the next day.

Traichel hasn’t personally appeared in court on that charge since then.

A Lethbridge-based Crown prosecutor was assigned to the case, due to a potential conflict of interest with the Medicine Hat Crown.

An agent for Traichel’s lawyer — Jordan Henrie — made a brief Monday appearance at Medicine Hat Provincial Court, where the matter was adjourned to Nov. 19.

Traichel was also arrested for allegedly defrauding the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education — where he worked as an IT consultant — of $1 million on Aug. 8, following a six-month investigation.

He faces charges of fraud over $5,000, money laundering and possessing proceeds of crime in relation to that investigation.

Police said at the time that the fraud allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2016, which overlaps with Traichel’s time on the police commission, but he isn’t suspected of any wrongdoing against the police.

Police commission chair Greg Keen, who has sat on the commission since 2014, said he had no idea about the assault allegation against Traichel.

He was unaware of the fraud-related charges until they were announced in August, he added.

“He wasn’t charged until he was off of the commission,” Keen said. “It came as a surprise for sure.”

Medicine Hat Police Service Insp. Tim McGough, who’s in charge of the fraud investigation, declined comment on the alleged assault, citing MHPS policy.

“As practice, we don’t comment on stuff that’s before the courts,” said McGough.

The Catholic school board didn’t respond to request for comment by press time.