Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Winnipeg revolution, Cameroon election

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Good news for intellectuals, debaters and general rabble-rousers – dissent in Winnipeg is alive and well.

I’ve always told people the reason I got involved in journalism wasn’t the writing as much as the interviewing and observing.

It’s navigating those conflicts between peoples and person that add a crackle to the air and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

Anyway, I’m hoping the next two weeks should give plenty of opportunity for robust debate – at three public events I’ll be at on different areas on areas of crime and politics.

One which I’m especially interested in – has already erupted online, after a Facebook group was started in opposition to a Downtown BIZ-organized panel on downtown safety at the Lo Pub.

The panel is Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will have reps from the police and Downtown BIZ, plus some people who have expressed anger at some of the parties involved (the panel will also include me in my capacity as a crime reporter for the Freep).

Here’s a sample of why there’s opposition to the panel:

"We must interject our opposition to the Winnipeg Police Service and BIZ Patrol’s treatment of those in poverty, of sex trade workers, of the original people of this territory, of newcomers, of street-affected people, of queers, of youths, of People of Colour, because it is certainly not going to be brought up if we aren’t there... It is also encouraged that you call the Lo Pub and let them know how you feel about them offering up their space to the Business Improvement Zone. Please be respectful in your communication. Jack, one of the owners of the Pub, has indicated that he is willing to talk to people about this issue. Please ask for him. Serving staff do not need the added stress of having to deal with decisions that were made without their consent or consideration."

While I think the opposition mounted to the venue is misplaced (like, how cool is the Lo Pub for hosting public debate which allows us all the chance to air our opinions and insight and learn from each other in a downtown setting, rather than an airless, plastic debate waged through scripted press releases and Twitter?) -- I admire the spirit behind the protest.

If I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek and slightly cavalier, I’d liken it to writing a story where you "blame the knife" after a crime occurs. Pointless.

(By the way, um, as a feminist crime reporter who likes to see crime through a post-colonial and social lens and can drive people CRAZY with questions, I can tell you I don’t think the whole panel will be toeing the line, so to speak)

Regardless, I am pumped to see what transpires over the public dialogues ahead. I respect people who are willing to put in the time and energy to voice their opinions, however controversial – as well as those who are brave enough to deal with public criticism. Believe it or not, we all have this in common. I swear.

Next comes a public forum on the St. Vital byelection being hosted by the Provincial Council of Women at the Norberry-Glenlee Community Centre on Wednesday Nov. 23, featuring candidates who are gunning for a seat on city council. The election is Saturday Nov. 26.

And then, on Thursday Nov. 24, the Commonwealth Journalists Association will be hosting its inaugural meeting at the Free Press News Cafe at 6:30 p.m. – entrance is $10 at the door and $5 for students.

(Part of the meeting will be chatting about a recent elections monitoring trip I did in Cameroon on behalf of the Commonwealth, which was an incredible experience I’d like to see more Canadian journalists experience – very humbling and awesome and something I’ll write further on after the final report into the election findings has been released.

P.S. Please forgive anything that seems self-promotion-y here. The events should be about the big picture, not moi! Bet we all agree on that, too.

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About Gabrielle Giroday

Gabrielle has handled the police and crime beat for the Winnipeg Free Press since 2009, meaning she’s seen the best and worst humanity has to offer.

Covering the crime beat in a city known for its homicide rate and violent crime can be challenging, but Gabrielle tries to look at the more complex factors that drive violent events. She began the beat after originally joining the Free Press in June 2005.

Her previous experience contributing to the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business magazine, the National Post, Maisonneuve magazine and NOW Magazine. She was also a member of the editorial board of the Queen’s University Feminist Review, and completed a degree there in politics and English. Some of the Toronto native’s favourite adventures include hitchhiking in the Cuban countryside during a stint studying in Havana, and hanging off the back of a jeep climbing the Kanchenjunga mountain in Nepal.

Gabrielle also felt privileged to write about the first-time elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the summer of 2006, and received a grant from the Canadian Association of Journalists and Canadian International Development Agency to write about sexual violence there.

She recently went to Cameroon in fall 2010 as part of an expert election monitoring team, on behalf of the Commonwealth.

When she’s not chasing a story, Gabrielle can be found jogging every morning by the Legislature and down Portage Avenue.

She’s always enthusiastic about stories that involve investigating the road less travelled or the opinion less broadcast.

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