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The Radical World of Roller Derby

November 12, 2015 1:52 pm
The Radical World of Roller Derby

Roller derby is a sport like no other. Fast, furious and incredibly competitive, it comes as no surprise that roller derby has gained popularity over the years.

Sports promoter Leo A. Seltzer first invented the sport after reading an article in Literary Digest. The piece indicted that 93% of Americans had roller-skated at some point in their lives. Seltzer then developed a new marathon competition, modeling it after dance marathons and bike races.

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The Sirens in action. Photo courtesy of Paul Thompson.

Seltzer’s first derby competition debuted successfully at the Chicago Coliseum on August 13th, 1935. Not long after, sportswriter Damon Runyon encouraged Seltzer to develop the derby into a competitive game. Runyon also suggested more contact between the players and more rules. Roller derby as we know it began to enter into the mainstream, through television coverage and a collection of sponsorships.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Natalie Campbell (or also known by her derby name, Drunky Brewster), has been playing flat-track roller derby in Ottawa for eight years. Campbell was initially approached in a bar about joining the first derby team for Ottawa’s league, the Rideau Valley Roller Girls. As someone who is typically up for anything, Campbell decided to give derby a try.

Since then, Campbell has been an active force behind the local league’s growth, and describes the RVRG as a precursor of modern flat-track roller derby. With the league, Campbell has watched the sport grow, change, and legitimize itself in the sporting world.

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The Prime Sinisters in action.

There are three home teams in the RVRG: Slaughter Daughters, Riot Squad and Prime Sinisters. The teams play against one another for the annual RVRG home team championship and participate in tournaments designated for home teams each year.

Two all-star teams also make up the RVRG: Ottawa’s B-team, The Sirens, and the A-team, The Vixens. The Vixens are currently ranked 42nd in the world.

The Vixens represent the RVRG internationally and Campbell is their bench coach. This September, they competed in the Division 1 Championship Playoffs in Dallas, TX. The Vixens faced off against teams from all around the world, from Australia to Sweden to the US.

Empowerment is another huge part of roller derby. All body shapes and athletic capabilities are accepted and welcomed into the sport. 

“I think part of the appeal for women is that we see a wide range of body shapes on the athletes, even at the higher competitive levels. That’s not to say that fitness isn’t a huge part of it, but there’s not a ‘typical’ body shape to the athletes,” says Campbell. “In this sport, there are advantages to being tall or short, or to being large or small.”

In the end, it is the skating, footwork, agility and power behind hits that count the most.

One challenge for derby members is trying to maintain a work/life/derby balance. Members are required to participate in a minimum of two practices a week, which last about two to three hours. Approaching playoffs, members are required to practice up to four times a week. 

Along with practices, the team members are also responsible for the administration, promotion and running of the league. The sport’s camaraderie is a massive benefit.

“I’ve met some amazing women and men through playing roller derby. (These are) people I would have never met if it were not for this one quirky thing that we all enjoy.”

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The Vixens

In order to introduce newbies and derby hopefuls to roller derby, the RVRG has organized a Fresh Meat program.

The program is a three to four month session that teaches skating basics and accepts about 20 to 30 men and women.

In order to graduate out of the Fresh Meat program, the skater needs to demonstrate a set of skills called the Minimum Skill Requirements. After graduation, the skater is accepted as a full league member and can join in on regular practices, start full-contact scrimmaging and can be recruited to a home team.

While it may seem very intimidating at first, at its core, the RVRG are still a community sports team.

“There was a mythology or hype behind roller derby for a long time about the girls being tough and brash. (However), there are a lot of shy and introverted players who find their place in the league.”

When asked for advice for the derby curious, Campbell’s advice is simple:

“Just do it. There’s really nothing to lose. Don’t give up if skating doesn’t come easy to you. Not everyone progresses at the same speed, and the league is made up of skaters of a huge variety of skill levels. There’s room for everyone.”

You can learn more about the Rideau Valley Roller Girls by visiting their website.

Why Police Fear Evidence-Based Research

11:21 am
Why Police Fear Evidence-Based Research

While almost every sector of society in the 21st century recognizes the importance of evidence-based decision making, police organizations are caught up in outdated policing approaches that are devoid of empirical evidence.  The major reason police are so resistant to the new regulations on carding announced by the provincial government is the fear that they will be subject to increased scrutiny.  

In short, it’s not carding that they fear but evaluation and evidence-based policies that will be able to measure their effectiveness.  Jeff McGuire, president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, argues that the new carding regulations will strain ties with the community and lead to an increase in complaints against the police. This is as devoid of empirical evidence as the misguided argument that carding helps police solve crime.

So why do police fear evidence-based approaches to policing?  First, police organizations in the past have functioned with relatively little outside scrutiny as to how they conduct their operations.  This independence has helped them avoid being evaluated and criticized for the way they police the community. For example, it’s a well known fact among academics that police organizations are very wary of letting researchers carry out empirical research on how they police.  This resistance is one of the major reasons there have been so few studies that look at police use of force, racial profiling, carding, police community relations and race relations, to name just a few.

Second, police organizations are generally very conservative and are more interested in preserving the status quo than making major changes to how they police.  This abhorrence to change comes from the fact that many police chiefs came up through the rank and file where compliance and conformity is rewarded and innovation and creativity is discouraged.  Staying the course is easier than adopting new methods of policing and it’s so ingrained in the police culture that any change is actively discouraged.

Third, police leaders are afraid that evidence-based research that reveals flaws in the way they police may lead to them being fired or removed from their jobs.  As a result police agencies see empirical research as a potential threat to their occupation.  This is particularly true for police leaders who have no formal education or understanding of the role that research can play in improving their organization’s overall effectiveness in policing.  Many police chiefs still have stereotypical ideas about crime, punishment and criminality that bear no actual resemblance to research evidence in the 21st century.  Some police officers still see themselves and society gridlocked in an ‘us versus them’ dichotomy when dealing with the public.

Fourth, many police organizations are ignorant of the value that evidence-based research can play when it comes to improving their relations with the public and in reducing crime.  Carding is a good example.  While some police chiefs claim that the new carding regulations will negatively affect their relationship with the community they completely overlook the enormous harm that carding has caused in the discriminatory manner in which it has been used by police to bully, intimidate and label minorities.  Police have repeatedly ignored the fact that carding is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that it is a non-transparent form of surveillance that records and retains data on non-convicted people.  It has absolutely no place in a civil and democratic country that is governed by the rule of law.

Before stepping down as the Chairperson of the Toronto Police Services Board, Alok Mukherjee outlined a new model of policing for the City of Toronto.  His policing model was not based on antiquated concepts and ideas that are 40 years out of date but rather on solid empirical evidence about policing in the 21st Century.  Most people are not aware that less than 20 per cent of a police officers time actually deals with law enforcement related activities.  In fact, studies show that police officers spend 80 per cent of their time filling out reports, facilitating traffic at construction sites, responding to noisy parties and helping mediate neighborhood disputes.  Does it make sense that we should be paying a police officer $80,000 a year for these duties when they could for a fraction of the cost be transferred to bylaw officers or other people to perform these tasks?  In the nation’s capital the Ottawa Police Service is responsible for enforcing the rules governing bicycles.  Is this a productive and cost-effective utilization of their time?  The fact is that if more people were aware of what police do with their time some people might actually start questioning the costs of policing in their neighborhoods.

Under the Canadian constitution it’s not the role of the police to make laws in society and police chiefs and police associations should not be accorded any special status, privileges, treatment or influence in directing government policy in Ontario that is not equally afforded to the average citizen.  The fact is that police organizations must change the way they police citizens in this province by adopting innovative policing measures in the 21st Century that are evidence-based, progressive and cost-effective.  Citizens should expect and demand nothing less.

The views expressed are those of the author in his personal capacity and they do not necessarily represent the position of Carleton University.

Darryl T Davies is an Instructor in criminology and criminal justice with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University.

Five of the Most Innovative Engagement Shoot Ideas

November 11, 2015 12:07 pm
Five of the Most Innovative Engagement Shoot Ideas

Getting engaged is a very important step in a couple’s relationship. Usually, the engagement period gives a couple time to plan their future together, iron out any major disagreements and discuss dreams and hopes.

It offers them a chance to get to know one another even more and marks an important new chapter in their life together. That’s why so many couples decide that they want to capture the moment of their engagement and hold onto the memories forever. If the standard engagement shoot ideas are a little too boring and just don’t appeal to you, then take a look at our innovative top five and let yourself get inspired.

Engagement 21. You’re both active and love hiking? Then your engagement shoot is the perfect opportunity to get creative with your common interest. Put on your hiking boots and climb to the top of your favourite mountain or visit your favourite spot in the woods to get some stunning pictures together.

2. If you both like science fiction and you absolutely love Star Wars, then there are tons of ways in which you can incorporate this interest in your photo shoot. Stage a lightsaber fight and have the special effects added in afterwards for an engagement shoot that is out of this world. There are specialist sites out there such as Photobox, which can provide more personalised touches to your photos.

3. The Zombies are coming! Invite some of your closest friends and family members along to your photo shoot and have them dress up as scary zombies while you and your other half run for your lives. This shoot can be done in the forest or in an urban setting and it’ll definitely be a unique memory to treasure.

4. Do you both love reading and spend countless hours comfortably sitting next to each other on the couch with a good book in your hands? Then why not ask your favourite library or bookshop if you can have your engagement shoot there? Surround yourself with countless stories and come up with your own as you embark on this new life together.

5. Revisit the place where you first met or where you had your first date. Sit near the window, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, share some of your favourite memories and let the photographer take a photo from the outside. Or head to the ice cream place where you shared your first ice cream together and take some creative snaps while enjoying your favourite flavours.

Think about what hobbies, interests and memories connect the two of you and try to incorporate them into your engagement shoot. That way you can add a wonderfully personal touch to your photos making them another great memory to treasure.

Remembrance Day

8:00 am
Remembrance Day

Photo by Sofie Sharom.

The Fields of Honour
By Frank Baile

Ranked by no rank,
Lie the fallen,
Testaments to a courage that,
Few foreknew until that time.

When something stirred in them,
Like a sign, but more,
That made each say,
There must go I!

Not all are here, just a few,
Links with comrades more briefly knew,
Then left beneath’ the crosses row on row,
That sleep they might, then wake anew.

Did we ‘break faith’ with those who died?

There is no wind,
The sky is grey,
The trees mourn their passing.



In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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