Category Archives: Indigenous Canada

A brief, belated summary of the ugly truths of Vancouver 2010

Vancouver 2010Though I admittedly tuned-out much of the noise associated with the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, I did pick up a range of links that people pointed me to in one way or another, looking at the typically less-publicised impacts of the Games, namely on Indigenous peoples and the poor and homeless populations of British Colombia.

Here are some of the most poignant journalistic gems:

Toban Black’s deconstruction of the portrayals of a single, homogenous Indigenous culture in Van2010 marketing and branding, on Racialicious.com

“The harmonious vision conveyed through ‘indigenous’ packaging around the Olympics is an extension of mainstream Canadian visions of an outright “multicultural” “mosaic” in this country — where some claim that there is a complete lack of systemic racism, as well as equally proportioned room for all ethnic groups.”

The Guardian ran a story on the expected financial disaster of the Games, and the impacts of it on public services.

“While the complete costs are still unknown, the Vancouver and British Columbian governments have hinted at what’s to come by cancelling 2400 surgeries, laying off 233 government employees, 800 teachers and recommending the closure of 14 schools.”

Even the neo-liberal National Post wrote about the  rule of private companies over public services, during the lead up to the Games:

“Even Libraries have been put on notice to ensure that they’re complying with all registered Olympic sponsors and partners. Librarians have been asked to help ensure corporate brands like Coke and McDonald’s get exclusive coverage during the Olympics.”

Vancouver’s alternative staple, The Georgia Straight, covered some of the criticism around the lack of investment in supporting the city’s ever-growing homeless population.

“One homeless person, on average, dies every 11.4 days in B.C., according to housing activist and Olympic critic Am Johal.”

Britain’s often-sensationalist Telegraph caught wind of the poverty in Vancouver’s down town eastside, and gave it a story, demonstrating the contrast of the Olympic glitz, and the day-to-day realities of a shocking number of Vancouer residents.

“There is a jarring contrast between the harsh realities of life on the streets of North America’s most desperate Skid Row and the sporting extravaganza that is being celebrated in city just named the most liveable in the world for a third successive year…

In an alleyway near the corner of Hastings and Main streets, addicts openly smoked crack pipes and shot up heroin, others slumped listlessly in doorways or mumbled incoherently, and streetwalkers propositioned passers-by in a hope of financing their next hit.”

Another progressive mainstay, Vancouver Media Co-Op, ran a piece of the dual histories of activism and neo-liberalism in the city.

“Vancouver has, in recent decades, been a paragon of neoliberalism, has always had a colonial relationship with the Indigenous peoples whose land they’ve stolen, and is home to the most impoverished neighborhood in the country.”

Some of these issues seem endemic to Olympic Games, the world over… thus far I have seen very little in the way of an anti-London 2012 movement in the works, but am hoping this will change.  Canada’s existing inequalities put the contradictions of the Olympics industry in no unclear terms – let’s hope London and other cities who have struggled to win the ‘opportunity’ to host the Games can learn something from the Vancouver experience.

Another Dirty Secret – 100s of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

Amid the spectacle of the torch relay and opening ceremony ushering in the 2010 Olympic Games Indigenous women and their allies prepare for the 19th annual Memorial March in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The event is held on Valentine’s Day and is an important time for the community to express their love for the over 70 women (about 1/3 Indigenous) who have been disappeared from the neighborhood. Led by elders and family members people visit the sites where women’s bodies were found or they were last seen – healing ceremonies are conducted, people cry and remember their mothers, aunties, sisters, daughters, friends.

While the arrest of one particularly heinous serial killer did put the spotlight on Vancouver, there is no safe place for Indigenous women in this country. They are at least five times more likely to be murdered than their non-Indigenous sisters.

Until Amnesty’s Stolen Sisters Report was released in 2004 and due to the tireless efforts of Indigenous women at the grass roots level the subject was pretty much off the media grid. Family members reporting missing loved ones to the police received no help, were often told that their daughter/mother/friend was probably “just out partying and would eventually turn up”. If they were eventually found, bodies often mutilated and dismembered the cases most often went unsolved and unreported. Articles that were published were notoriously racist and never hesitated to categorize the victim as a drug addicted prostitute or drunk – this being the case or not.

While the murders have not ceased, the Native Women’s Association has identified 520 women in the past 30 years, but some progress has been made with regards to the societal indifference surrounding the epidemic violence directed at Indigenous women. When two young girls were found dead near Winnipeg last summer it actually made the national news and there is talk of the creation of special task force.

In the past five years, Memorial Marches have sprung up around the country choosing February 14th to coincide with Vancouver’s event in order to express the bond of sisterhood and solidarity between communities. This year Marches will be held in Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, London and Sudbury.

February 14, 2006; Toronto

February 14, 2006; Toronto

Some more thoughts on the systemic nature of the violence as part and parcel of ongoing colonization and Indigenous women’s activism here.

And if all this hasn’t made you wary of applauding the Canadian colonizer state and those games taking place over the next two weeks check out these videos and follow the links to learn about the social, economic, environmental impacts the mega project is having and why No Olympics on Stolen Land is a cause to be embraced by all social justice seeking folks everywhere.

MONTH OF ANTI OLYMPIC RESISTANCE UNLEASHED
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Resist 2010: Eight Reasons to Oppose the 2010 Winter Olympics.

All My Relations
Audrey Huntley is of mixed European and Indigenous Ancestry. She is the co-founder of No More Silence, a Toronto group dedicated to illustrating the systemic nature of violence against Indigenous women as an intrinsic part of ongoing colonization and genocide. She also makes documentaries and currently resides in Vancouver with her WolfDog Morty. She is @AudreyHuntley on Twitter
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