Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On charity: giving wisely

Every year, Canadians give an estimated $10 billion-plus to charity. But how do you know that your donation is making a difference?

There are more than 160,000 registered charities and non-profits across the country. The vast majority operate honestly -- but some do break the rules. In the last year, nearly 600 Canadian charities have been shut down for failing to keep their books up to date. Another 40 have had their status revoked because they weren't doing the work they were supposed to do.

On tonight's edition of @issue (airing at 8 pm ET/PT), host Karyn Pugliese investigates the challenge of giving wisely. Among her guests: Newfoundland filmmaker Christopher Richardson, whose documentary Where's My Goat? offers a lighthearted but incisive look at the subject. Having adopted the practice of "ethical" gift-giving -- he buys goats for Third World families as a thank-you gift to clients -- Richardson began to question whether his donations were actually helping people on the ground. The film follows him as he travels to Zambia in search of one of the goats he bought online. Here's the trailer:

Tonight's @issue also examines the work of Charity Intelligence Canada, a group that evaluates the effectiveness of charitable organziations operating across the country. Charity Intelligence publishes a list of recommended charities and social enterprises.

The Revenue Canada Charities Directorate is also an invaluable source of information on issues related to charitable giving.

Monday, February 14, 2011

In search of asylum

Most of us suppose that refugees come predominantly from violent, war-torn nations in Africa, the Middle East or Asia. Few would guess that Hungary, a relatively prosperous country in central Europe, produces the third-largest number of refugees to Canada.

As host Kevin O'Keefe discovers on tonight's edition of @issue (at 8 pm ET/PT), the Roma people of Hungary -- often tagged with the inaccurate and offensive term "Gypsies" -- are subject to systemic discrimination in education, housing and employment. According to a report issued last November by Amnesty International, they have also become a target for racially motivated violence.

Canada's response to this growing crisis has hardly been exemplary. Of the 1,600 refugees from Hungary who came to this country last year seeking a better life, barely one percent were accepted.

For more on the Roma in Hungary and Canada, visit the Roma Community Centre in Toronto.

This home in Hungary was the target of an anti-Roma attack.
© Amnesty International

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Where angels fear to tread

Louis Theroux, in a still from the documentary The City Addicted to Crystal Meth, airing March 29

Intrepid British television journalist Louis Theroux has a reputation for burrowing deep into unusual and often hidden subcultures - from neo-Nazis to religious recluses, survivalists to white supremacists. His willingness to immerse himself in these worlds has extended to the point of accepting a (fully clothed) walk-on part in a gay skin flick while investigating the San Fernando Valley porn industry, and undergoing liposuction for a documentary on plastic surgery.

A disarmingly gracious interlocutor, he has a way of getting his subjects to reveal more of themselves than they intend - sometimes to their regret. Jimmy Savile, a flamboyant British entertainer who got the Theroux treatment on the BBC series When Louis Met ... has described him as "the pirhana fish of interviewers."

On Tuesday nights (at 10 pm ET/PT), starting Feb. 22, ichannel is presenting a series of six Louis Theroux documentary specials produced for the BBC. Darker and tougher than any of his past projects, these hour films follow Theroux as he tours the places angels fear to tread - from the crime-ridden streets of Johannesburg to a California institution for dangerous paedophiles.

Here's a sneak peek at the lineup:

Feb 22: "The Most Hated Family in America" - Louis gets to know the family of anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps, founder of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Along with his followers, Phelps has become notorious for picketing the funerals of U.S. servicemen and others to protest America's tolerance of homosexuality.

March 1: "Law and Disorder in Johannesburg" - Louis travels to Johannesburg, a city increasingly besieged by crime. Despairing of the capability of the police and courts to protect them, many residents have turned to private security firms offering protection for a price. Do these private police, with their sometimes brutal methods, really represent a solution - or are they just another part of the problem?

March 8: "African Hunting Holiday" - Hunting in South Africa is a blossoming tourist industry, with the cost of a trophy ranging from $250 for a baboon to as much as $70,000 for a rhino. Louis Theroux travels to Limpopo Province to enter an elite world of hunters who pay top dollar for the chance to shoot Africa's big game. Along the way he meets a seven-year-old out to bag a springbok, a CEO intent on bringing home the head of a hippopotamus, and an Evangelical who preaches a macho do-or-die gospel of self-actualization through hunting.

March 15: "Under the Knife" - Breast enhancements. Tummy tucks. Muscle implants. California, the birthplace of modern plastic surgery, is the destination in this documentary special. In a place obsessed with self-image, all it takes is a few thousand dollars and the flick of a scalpel to become whoever you want to be. As he gets under the skin of America's plastic surgery business, meeting the doctors and patients caught up in this quest for everlasting youth and beauty, Louis begins to wonder if he too might be a candidate for a nip and tuck.

March 22: "A Place for Paedophiles" - Coalinga Mental Hospital in California houses more than 500 convicted paedophiles. Most have already served lengthy prison sentences, but have been deemed unsafe for release. Their choice: remain institutionalized indefinitely, or submit to the hospital's rigorous program of rehabilitation and therapy. Louis visits Coalinga to meet with patients and therapists, and to consider whether these men - many with long histories of sexual violence - can be sufficiently changed to live freely in society.

March 29: "The City Addicted to Crystal Meth" - The impoverished rural towns of California's Central Valley have some of the worst rates of crystal meth addiction in the United States. In this documentary, Louis travels to Fresno, a city ravaged by the cheap and highly addictive drug. There, he meets men and women hopelessly mired in the madness of long-term addiction, police officers fighting a losing battle to keep a lid on the problem, and a group of ex-addicts running a rehab centre that aims to repair the damage crystal meth has done to their community.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Smoke gets in your eyes (2)

In honour of tonight's documentary broadcast WE LOVE CIGARETTES (on ichannel at 9 pm ET/PT), some YouTube goodness.

First, Tex Williams performs the 1947 novelty hit "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)" ...

... followed by this classic bit from the 1996 Frasier episode "Where There's Smoke There's Fired."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sisters in Spirit

Nearly 600 Aboriginal Canadian women have been murdered or gone missing since the 1960s. At least half of those cases remain unsolved. Are Aboriginal women more vulnerable to violence? Amnesty International and other human rights groups say yes, and are urging government, law enforcement agencies and the media to acknowledge and confront the problem.

Are Canadians turning a blind eye to the suffering of women from indigenous communities? That's the question host Karyn Pugliese investigates on tonight's edition of the ichannel current affairs flagship series @issue (airing at 8 pm ET/PT). Karyn's guests include renowned investigative journalist Stevie Cameron, whose recently published book On The Farm is the definitive account of how serial killer Robert Pickton preyed upon vulnerable women -- many of them Aboriginal Canadians -- from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Families of the victims have insisted for years that police failed to investigate the disappearances with the appropriate diligence and urgency. The provincial government of British Columbia launched an inquiry into the botched investigation last month.

Tonight's @issue also looks at the groundbreaking 2004 Amnesty International report "Stolen Sisters," which shed much-needed light on the problem of discrimination and violence against indigenous women.

Also on tonight's episode:

- Laurie Odjick from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation in Quebec talks to Karyn about the search for daughter Maisy Odjick and her friend Shannon Alexander, who have been missing since September 2008

- Writer Adriana Rolston discusses how the media have handled the story of northern British Columbia's notorious "Highway of Tears." Since 1969, 18 women have been slain or gone missing along Highway 16 in B.C. All of the cases remain unsolved, and critics say that -- as in the case of the Pickton murders -- media coverage has been sparse and indifferent, since many the victims have been Aboriginal women, sex trade workers or otherwise marginalized.

For more information on the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the Sisters in Spirit research report from the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) is an invaluable resource.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Check Out a Free Preview of ichannel on EastLink in February

Intrepid reporter Louis Theroux returns in a series of documentary specials starting Feb. 22

Here's some good news for EastLink subscribers: ichannel will be available in free preview until March 1. Check us out on EastLink channel 151. And to subscribe, call 1-888-345-1111 or visit www.eastlink.ca.

Here's a taste of what's in store in February:

Today, more than a billion people will light a cigarette. Humanity's strange and deadly romance with tobacco is the subject of the eye-opening BBC documentary WE LOVE CIGARETTES (Tuesday Feb. 8 at 9 pm ET/PT).

Is Canada's public health care system in critical condition? Host Karyn Pugliese tackles this contentious question on ichannel's current affairs flagship @issue (Tuesday Feb. 22 at 8 pm ET/PT).

Intrepid British journalist LOUIS THEROUX goes where angels fear to tread -- from the crime-ridden streets of Johannesburg to the notoriously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas -- in his acclaimed series of documentary specials (Tuesdays, starting Feb. 22 at 10 pm ET/PT).

Several characters reach a crossroads in the second season finale of the groundbreaking medical drama series ST. ELSEWHERE, starring Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon and Ed Begley Jr (Thursday Feb. 24 at 10 pm ET).