William “Bill” Simpson with Carnegie Center in background

    When agreeing to sponsor Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics, Acer, a manufacturer of laptop and netbook computers,would have been aware of well publicized complaints against the City of Vancouver of human rights abuses targeting computer users and bloggers. Acer has therefore been asked to pull out as a sponsor.  The request was made to Acer’s public relations representives Stella Chou and Henry Chang in their “Branding Division”, and to Andrew Chang in the Shareholders Division, by an advocate for member #1806 of the City’s Carnegie Community Center in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Carnegie Center is just a few blocks east of the 2010 Olympics media center, a Center where there is documented evidence that the City is persecuting bloggers and users of public computers.

      By entering into a sponsorship agreement essentially endorsing the City of Vancouver and it’s Olympic Organizing Committee [VANOC], says member #1806, Acer is contradicting it’s advertising claims: “Empowering People….Our long-term mission is Breaking the barriers between people and technology….” Under two successive City managers — Judy Rogers who was both City Manager and the City’s representative on VANOC, and Penny Ballem who is the current City manager and VANOC representative — the City of Vancouver has been accused of “maliciously” creating barriers between residents of the low income Downtown Eastside and technology.

        An internet search by Acer staff would have revealed the City of Vancouver’s record of orchestrating a ‘witch hunt’ for bloggers.In late 2006, City management began interrogating Downtown Eastside residents using services at the City’s Carnegie Community Center, Canada’s most used community center sometimes called the “livingroom” of the Downtown Eastside, encouraging them to turn in bloggers. One volunteer at the Center says he was interrogated by City management and encouraged to turn in a longtime friend and neighbor, but he told them she wasn’t a blogger.

          An internet search would have revealed that the City knowingly subsidizes the Carnegie Newsletter which has earned a reputation for whipping up hostility toward a suspected blogger, calling him: “blog bozo”, “pest”, “slimy”, “a four year old spoiled brat pissing his pants”, “neighborhood snitch”, a “dismal excuse”, a “blank”, a perpetrator of “fraud”. (Eventually the newsletter editor printed a retraction of the fraud accusation, admitting libel.)

            An internet search would also have revealed that being suspected of blogging or being linked to a blog is considered grounds by the City of Vancouver to ban a citizen from City premises and public library computers, even if that citizen, as in the case of homeless William “Bill” Simpson, is an elected official.  (Vancouver lawyer Gregory Bruce sent the City a letter warning that their actions toward Simpson were “contrary to the rule of law”.) See Mainstream Media Picks Up Banned Blogger Story.

              An internet search would have also revealed that the City of Vancouver not only takes retaliatory action against bloggers but against Downtown Eastside residents engaging in other forms of free speech, regularly banning such individuals from Vancouver Public Library computers as punishment. The City denies Downtown Eastside residents a fair hearing before they are “sentenced” to be banned from accessing computers.  It is not uncommon for a resident to be convicted and sentenced without ever being given an opportunity to defend themselves.  The right to appeal such a sentence is rarely recognized.  And there is documented evidence to support allegations that City management has fraudulently manufactured evidence and witnesses in some such cases.

                Most Downtown Eastside residents banned from computer access or targeted during the witch hunt for bloggers have limited education and money and have not pursued their complaints against the City of Vancouver beyond the initial stages. Just one victim of these abuses, member #1806 of the City-operated Carnegie Community Center, continues to seek redress. She has been banned from public library computers situated throughout the Carnegie Centre branch on multiple occasions during the past decade. Years ago, she was banned from the computers after she complained about the supervisor of the sign-in sheet repeatedly pestering her to go home with him to watch pornography, etc. Last summer, she was again banned from computers for daring to talk back to the same man, and found the earlier case in which she had complained of sexual harassment being dug up to be used against her.

                  Exasperated, member #1806 attempted to free herself from reliance on the City of Vancouver computers by saving $430 and purchasing an Acer netbook in February 2009. She then needed to rely on Carnegie Center and the Vancouver Public Library/Carnegie branch only for WiFi access. Yet she continued to experience harassment, apparently because she had dared give an interview to a blogger about previously being banned from Vancouver Public Library computers. The harassment escalated to a point in June 2009 where she has ceased going to Carnegie Center.Member #1806  says she would never have purchased an Acer netbook if she had known that Acer was glossing over such harassment and entering into a sponsorship agreement with the City of Vancouver.

                    When people in internet cafes ask her what she thinks of her Acer netbook, she explains that she likes it’s light weight and carries it everywhere, but that the mouse pad began to malfunction after a few months, the space bar and forward arrow key developed glitches that come and go, and some of the letter keys are beginning to stick. She also makes a point of asking that they postpone purchasing an Acer until the human rights complaints being concealed behind their sponsorship agreement with the City of Vancouver are resolved. Her friend had an Acer but when it got stolen, he listened to her and purchased an “Eee” netbook instead, which he is happy with.

                      Penny Ballem is aware of the case of member #1806 and of concerns that Acer is profiting from a sponsorship relationship with the Vancouver Organizing Committee while the City of Vancouver has taken no action to curb harassment of computer users. But Ballem did not respond to my request last week for comment as this post was being written for BNN.

                        The only peep out of Ballem on this case was in a June 6, 2009 email to an advocate for member #1806, in which she stated that she had been thoroughly briefed on the case of member #1086 and that the two should now meet.  ”I think the best way for me to address this is to offer to meet with member #1086 to review the issues and any appropriate next steps,” Ballem wrote.  Member #1086 has since made three attempts to set up a meeting with Ballem, repeatedly leaving her name, telephone number, and email address with Ballem’s secretary.  Ballem has ignored her.  Member #1086 is not at all surprised.  She was subjected to similar stalling by the previous City manager Judy Rogers. (See article “Alleged Human Rights Abuser on Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics Committee”.) She is also not surprised that Ballem’s briefing on the case was by a City staff person against whom there is documented evidence of lying in this case. Judy Rogers was similarly selective in who she spoke to.  Member #1806 has this take on it: “All they care about is damage control.”

                          Acer claims on it’s website to advance the “core values” of being “ethical and caring” and to be committed to “Meeting global standards on human rights….”  Says member #1806, “Nows the time to prove it.”

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