Last year I wrote about a police wellness check gone wrong, in which a young woman was dragged half-naked in handcuffs through her building by a police officer. While the woman was apprehended under the Mental Health Act, a story about the matter in the Kelowna Daily Courier used the word “arrested” multiple times, including in the headline. I emailed the paper to point out that being mentally ill was not a crime, the woman in question was apprehended under the Mental Health Act, not arrested, and stigma is not helpful. I received a response from managing editor Dave Trifunov, who got defensive about me pointing out that his reporter hadn’t done his homework.
Fast forward to now. I was poking about on Twitter and happened to come across an unbelievably ignorant opinion piece by Mr. Trifunov that appeared in the Courier on October 9, 2020, titled “Goodbye downtown Kelowna, we might not miss you.” Bring on the stigma, but with a different target this time.
In the article, the managing editor writes about being pleased that the paper’s offices will move out of the downtown core. Why? Well, that’s where the ignorance comes in.
He uses terms like “druggies,” “crackheads,” “Kelowna’s undesirables,” and “vagrants.” But really, why limit yourself? If the homeless population of Kelowna wasn’t predominantly white folk, he could trot out ni**ers, sp*cs, ch*nks, and p*kis. That’s good journalistic use of language too, isn’t it? If you’re going to get down in the gutter, might as well go all in, n’est-ce pas? Go big or go home… And don’t forget for a second, you pompous ass, that you actually have a home.
About a man he estimates to be in his 60’s, Trifunov writes: “I’ve watched him shoot up heroin. At 5:30 p.m. On a sunny August day.” Gasp! How dare addiction have the gall to show itself on a summer afternoon? He also writes that it is “sickening” to watch someone lie in the fetal position after shooting heroin. Well isn’t that just sad for him and his delicate sensibilities? Addiction should happen in dark holes where no one has to be exposed to it, I suppose.
He proudly writes of a paper employee who, upon catching someone reaching into another employee’s car, “put the man into a chokehold” until police arrived. I sure hope that employee was arrested when the police showed up.
Mr. Trifunov makes a half-assed attempt at being something less than a complete ignoramus, but it doesn’t work:
We admit to feeling incredibly conflicted. These people need help, but there are more of them than ever, it seems. What’s going on? I know that calling people “vagrants,” “crackheads” and “addicts” will make some of you angry at me, but – frankly – I’m fed up with the whole mess.
And what are we supposed to think of these “Journey Home” buzzwords when our staff was afraid to leave the building at night?
I contemplated writing to the paper’s owner to express disgust. However, the Kelowna Courier is published by Continental Newspapers, which is run and partially owned by David Radler, who has previously been convicted of fraud, so that would probably be a waste of time.
Small town, small minds?
Kelowna is a hokey little city that has grown to a population of 132,000 but still retains much of its small-town close-mindedness. I used to read the Courier whenever I was staying at my Grandma’s place, because she had a subscription. The Courier has always kind of squeaked in as a barely second-rate paper, but this garbage knocks it down a few more pegs.
If anyone’s looking for lamestream media, it’s here, proudly voicing the stigma-fuelled ire that probably a lot of the paper’s readers feel towards the local homeless population.
We are all human. We all have our struggles. Having a home and not having an addiction doesn’t make someone a better person. Having a home, not having an addiction, and using one’s privileged position to start trash-talking people who don’t have homes and do have addictions is just pathetic. Someone needs to plaster signs all over that office: “There but for the grace of God go I.” I may not be religious, but it’s appropriate.
You can find more on mental illness stigma on the Stop the Stigma page.