Apologies come after the Games

Lately, I’ve been thinking of Network, a great Sidney Lumet movie written by Paddy Chayevsky. It makes we wonder. Is it, finally, time to be angry? Will even that question result in a visit from the RCMP? As Howard Beale said:

We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’

. . . get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!… You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’

Ok, you ask, “Now what’s happened?”

Hudson’s Bay Co. approached Cowichan Tribes in 2008 about producing up to 750 traditional Indian sweaters for Olympic team members. The community developed a proposal and arranged knitters of Cowichan descent to create the garments. However, instead of responding to the Coast Salish presentation, The Bay went elsewhere. They arranged production in eastern Canada of sweaters that resembled the Cowichan product — a “knock-off” design according to Chief Lydia Hwitsum:

Choosing a knit sweater that is both similar in colour scheme and design to our traditional Cowichan Indian sweater disrespects the fact our sweater is a unique piece of art recognized around the world and is a registered exclusive trademark of the Cowichan people.

Dianne Hinkley, an admirer of First Nations’ textile crafts, is not happy that Olympic athletes are to be provided with ersatz versions of the world famous Cowichan sweaters. She stated publicly that Cowichan’s Spirit Drummers – arranged to entertain at an Olympic torch run – may show their displeasure when the torch passes through Duncan Oct. 31.

Hinkley wildly suggested people support the First Nations knitters by wearing authentic Cowichan sweaters, vests and tuques to the torch parade. For that dangerous effort at rabble rousing, Ms. Hinkley was interrogated by the RCMP.

Of course, this is only one of many such visits mounted by the unprecedented force of arms marshaled to secure our nation from violence or, more likely, dreadful national embarrassment if anti-Olympics protesters appear on TV.

We remember 73-year-old Surrey resident Peter Scott being visited by RCMP after he mailed an irate letter to VANOC regarding a games issue described by a newspaper. Also, UBC Opthamologist Chris Shaw, his students, neighbors, ex wife and various personal and business associates have been questioned by police. An RCMP spokesperson explains that Dr. Shaw “is probably the most vocal anti-Olympics person out there.”

Jesse Lobdell of the BC Civil Liberties Association quotes RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer – COO of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit – about preparations:

The spectre of violence, according to Mercer, not only justifies the epic security budget but also a program of relationship-building visitations with suspected protesters. These visits are followed up by an interview with a suspected protester’s family, friends, neighbours and employer. This deep level of contact, according to Mercer, is done so that the police can help suspected protesters plan a lawful and peaceful protest.

Rafe Mair reminds that The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states in section two:

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  • freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  • freedom of association.

Military and paramilitary forces gathered at costs in excess of $1 billion to do we know not what. At a minimum, they intend to intimidate potential protesters, their associates and old men who write letters to public officials. Consider Chris Shaw’s charter rights in light of the RCMP statement justifying intensive harassment because he “is probably the most vocal anti-Olympics person out there.”

Is Dr. Shaw allowed freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression? Am I? Or, you?

In a Pig’s eye.

2 replies »

  1. We have been granted those rights and freedoms – but if we think we can rest on the Charter without constant vigilance, and loud voice we're dreaming.

    How sad that we should have to even contemplate fighting our own government/law enforcement to keep what they so willingly use as a weapon against us…in Canada no less. My, oh my, how far we have fallen.


  2. I'm not shocked – but not happy – that politicians and media accept the idea that “the most vocal” critic of any policy is assumed to be a potential criminal or in need of intimidation. This should be front page news.


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