As co-founder of the Centre of Integration for African Immigrants and as the former program manager of the Ministry of Housing and Social Development-funded program hosted by the centre, I am writing to set the record straight, as per your article written by Brent Richter on Oct. 13 (New Westminster activist starts hunger strike, The Record.)
First of all, the Ministry of Housing and Social Development did not "cut" funds to the centre. The contract with the ministry was a four-year contract which expired on Jan. 31, 2011. In February 2010, the province underwent a process whereby the federal government gave responsibility to the Province of B.C. for employment services. The impact on service agencies providing employment services (including the Centre of Integration) was a reduction from over 400 service providers to just over 100.
Ms. Bond's comments were very misleading. Any "expenses being billed to the province that were not allowed under the contract" were denied under our monthly reporting system and were not reimbursed. (A disallowance could have been from something as simple as a payment for coffee and sugar to a sick day not being allowed.) The centre's contract was based on a forecasted monthly amount which was prepaid by the province to cover expenses and reconciled at the end of each month. Any differences between the prepayment and the actual expenses were either paid back to the centre or deducted from the following month's payment.
The "rent" in the amount of $6,000 was paid up until September 2011. The outstanding amount is property taxes and HST. The centre was in the process of negotiating a reduction in the property taxes (for a non-profit organization) with the City of New Westminster. In July 2011, after a meeting with Mayor Wright to discuss this matter, he advised us that he could do nothing about property taxes.
The landlord, Reliance, currently holds a deposit on the property in the amount of $30,000. All upgrades to the site were preapproved by Reliance Holdings, in consultation by Vancity.
With regards to the article dated Oct. 19, 'New Westminster police not being investigated for racism': to date Mr. Mulangu has not received a letter from the New Westminster police. He is therefore surprised that the findings have gone public prior to him being notified.
Mr. Mulangu refutes the comments made by Sgt. Weishaar "responded to 17 calls for service at the centre since January. - That includes noise complaints from citizens, that includes assaults, uttering threats etc."
The centre has been officially
closed since Jan. 31, 2011 when all staff was laid off. There have been some events held at the centre on weekends, where the police presence was obvious, despite not being called.
There was one known incident of "assault" reported in 2010 when a client of the centre accosted the executive director. Incidents of this type are not uncommon in facilities dealing with the general public, especially with clients frustrated by being unemployed.
When the condos were completed on the south side of Carnarvon Street, directly opposite to the centre, there were some noise complaints. These were mitigated by adjustments to the infrastructure, the hiring of commissionaires at events and warnings to patrons to use the side entrance on Blackie Street and to remain within the premises at all times during events.
The "issue" about noise (or lack thereof) is further corroborated by Blair Fryer, manager of communications for the city, who in your article dated Oct. 14 (Activist relying on faith) said that "a review of bylaw infractions did not turn up much. We've had a few complaints around noise but they've all been resolved."
You should also note the comment made by Daniel Belanger in the same article who stated that he/she "directed them to call the police and call the city bylaw officers every time," Belanger said. "It's after hours. It's loud.
There's people running all over the place."
To Mr. Belanger's comments, I wonder just how many complaints have been received about the pub 57 Below located on the east side of the complex. I have personally received a (one) call from a tenant in the condo who stated that he was going to do all possible to get the centre closed down.
Mr. Belanger also mentioned "it's after hours." Well, it's not! The special occasion licence allows for events until 2 a.m., plus the centre is zoned for entertainment.
Mr. Belanger also mentioned, "There's people running all over the place."
Well, I slept outdoors at 811 Carnarvon St. on Saturday night until 4 a.m., and what a noisy place.
Wouldn't you know it? There were no events at the centre! The street was noisy from revving cars (reminiscent of the movie Tokyo Drift: Fast and Furious) - some of which revved right into the parking garage of the Marinus condo, swearing women and men, drunken youth talking at the tops of their voices, buses, SkyTrains, people talking noisily as they waited for the buses - right on the south side of the street, in front of the doors of the condos and under the windows of the condo suites above.
So, please take these comments into considerations when reporting further on issues related to the Centre of Integration for African Immigrants.