Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Quarotchety for Canada’s Governor-General

Mike Klassen, columnist for the Vancouver, BC tabloid 24 Hours, suggests that the 2010 Olympics mascot Quatchi should be Canada’s next Governor-General. Since the GG role is primarily for ceremonial purposes, he reasons that a stuffed toy could do just as well as a human. Besides, he adds, with Quatchi in place at the official GG residence, Rideau Hall, the Canadian government could turn it into a Disneyland-like attraction with theme rides based on the Olympic mascots. (Stephen Harper would be fighting to get into “It’s a small world.” He’s made being prime minister into enough of a game, he doesn’t need the rivalry.)


But I think that Quarochety, Quatchi’s twin sister (see my earlier posts), would make a far more effective Governor-General. First, she’s female, like our excellent Michaelle Jean, and unlike her shy brother, she’s not afraid to speak her mind. She’d make a great advocate for Canada and her ever-present smile would make the perfect addition at official functions.


Quite simply, Quarotchety will be around to take on the GG responsibilities; her brother Quatchi won’t. Quatchi and his fellow mascots, Sumi and Miga, were recently on death row, thanks to VANOC. The city’s Olympic organizing committee has essentially murdered its three innocent mascots as per IOC rules; symbols of Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic games aren’t allowed to exist. That’s life in today’s harsh, commercial world: one minute you’re a global media darling, the next you’re a targeted pariah slated for death.


I’m shedding no tears for this loss of corporate Olympic symbols, even though it might cause some grief for poor Quarotchety to lose her twin brother. My vote’s for you for GG, Quarotchety.

May 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm Comments (0)

Mary Walsh is right

With a horned Viking hat, fake metal armour and scads of improv confrontation, actor/comedian Mary Walsh has challenged and discomfited some of Canada’s top politicians. Beyond her satirical Viking role as Marg Delahunty on CBC Television’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes (a show that Walsh created), she recently lashed out at the federal government for its indifference to child poverty.


If senior government had made the same financial commitment to abolish child poverty as it did to Olympic athletes, Canada would be a far different country, Walsh told the March 8 annual general meeting of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation at the Hyatt Hotel in Vancouver.


“We got the most gold ever won by a host country and they say that cost about $4.2 million per medal,” the keynote speaker said of Canada’s 14-gold-medal achievement. Walsh charged the federal government with failing to fulfill its commitment made decades ago to eliminate child poverty by 2000.


“If they had thrown money at that then, I think we could be looking at a different country today,” she said.


For the past six years, British Columbia has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada, with a shocking rate of 18.8 per cent in 2007, the last available annual measurement. Pitted against the $58.8 million spent to earn Canada’s gold medals, what does this say about our national priorities?!

March 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm Comment (1)

The black-sheep mascots live on


Fourteen gold medals. A dramatic spike in Canadian pride. And a lot of half-price Olympic mascot merchandise.

In Vancouver’s post-apocOlympic world, Quatchi and his gang are now unemployed. His activist twin sister Quarotchety (see earlier posts) was horrified to come across this giant mutant version of herself during the Games. She probably felt the same way actor Glenn Close did years ago when a swarm of female fans, who had had plastic surgery to make themselves look like her, swarmed her.


But Quarotchety was thrilled to learn of a distant cousin Squatchi, introduced to Vancouver by some intrepid resident. Set free from Vanoc’s corporate family tree, the black-sheep part of the sasquatch family is growing . . . Who knows where they’ll turn up next?


During the Olympics, various television networks certainly took visual advantage of the scenic magnificence of Vancouver and Whistler. If I had never been to this region and saw the many gorgeous images shown on TV, I would be thinking: Wow, that place looks fantastic. But few media outlets provided much critical coverage of the Olympics within Vancouver’s total social-cultural context. That was hugely disappointing, but not at all surprising.


An acquaintance from South Africa said that the Olympic flag-waving  fervour on Vancouver’s streets marked the first time she had ever seen Canadians show passion. I confess to enjoying the Go, Canada, Go signs, the many flags displayed, and the nationalistic spirit that grabbed we usually reserved Canucks during the Olympic hockey games, in particular.




While watching the men’s and women’s gold-medal hockey games at the home of friends, a group of us waved our flags, stuck up a Go, Canada, Go sign under the television, and activated various silly noisemakers whenever Canada scored. My husband Frank, an American, said that I could never again tease him about how patriotic Americans are. Admittedly, the sports hoopla was gosh darn fun.


I loved hearing spontaneous bursts of O, Canada sung by boisterous fans in the streets. It was great to see people swathed in the Canadian flag. Why can’t people get as excited about social and political issues that affect their lives on a more long-term basis?


I am pleased that B.C. Housing found shelter for bout 40 homeless people who had erected a tent city on Vanoc-leased property at 58 West Hastings Street during the Olympics. But why did it take coverage of the issue in international press before staff  took action? Many advocacy groups on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will be watching to see how the city and province respond to homelessness in this globally glorified city. (To find out more about the red tent campaign, see www.redtents.org.)


During the same week that Vancouver’s homeless erected the tent city, which bore red tents that said “Housing is a right,” visitors to Vancouver bought millions of dollars worth of luxury suites. Three sold in two high-end towers specifically for the Olympics. One included a $22.3 million penthouse under construction in Coal Harbour, beside the building that operated as the Olympic International Broadcast Centre.


I was shocked to find out that Vanoc donated $300,000 to the Haiti earthquake relief effort. That’s a laudable gesture of corporate social responsibility, but why couldn’t they have used some of that money to help alleviate the homelessness issue in Vancouver? While reaching out to other countries in the world, we can’t forget about our own folks and faults.

March 11, 2010 at 9:19 am Comments (0)

The genetic range of B.C.’s spirit bear remains unprotected

                                                                                                   – photo copyright Heather Conn

British Columbia’s spirit or kermode bears — a rare genetic white form of black bear — are protected from hunting, yet their black-bear parents aren’t.


Ian McAllister of the B.C. conservation group Pacific Wild says that less than two per cent of the “genetic range” of spirit bears are protected from trophy hunting. These white bears, unique to Canada, are found only in north-central coastal B.C., on Princess Royal Island and several river habitats, including the Skeena and Nass valleys. Their highest concentration is on Princess Royal Island, where roughly one in 10 black bears is white.


Yet McAllister points out the hypocrisy of making the spirit bear such a popular public icon for British Columbia and Canada when its genetic legacy does not even enjoy protection. He recently told The Vancouver Sun: “How can British Columbia be celebrating the spirit bear in the opening Olympic ceremony and as an official mascot to the Olympics when trophy hunting is allowed in over 98 per cent of the animal’s genetic range?”


As a further insult, the British Columbia government in 2006 trademarked the name “spirit bear” — a term used for generations in the oral history of certain coastal B.C.  First Nations — for commercial use. Then-Finance Minister Carole Taylor said that the province  registered ownership of the name so it could legally use it on government publications. This gives the B.C. government legal power to sell the right to use the name “Spirit Bear” to private companies to generate revenue.

For more information on B.C. trophy hunting of bears, click here.

 For more information on the trademark issue, click here.


March 1, 2010 at 11:59 am Comments (2)

Colbert to Canadians: “I take it all back”

                                                                                                                       — Heather Conn photos

Stephen Colbert looked right at home sitting on a taxidermied moose, under a spray of fake white snow, waving a large Canadian flag. The crowd of about 6,000, gathered Feb. 18 at Vancouver’s Creekside Park to watch an outdoor taping of the Comedy Central show Colbert Report, made him do it. Sortof. A repeated chant of “Get on the moose” prompted the improv-loving comedian to give up metaphorically his bald-eagle mount, an image on the stage’s banner backdrop, and hop on the hoofed Canadian icon instead.

“If anything happens to me, it’ll be your fault,” he quipped to the audience packed around the stage, safely behind barriers.


Colbert, in Vancouver to provide offbeat Olympic coverage and support the U.S. men’s speed skaters, clearly loved that Canadians can take a joke. After having called them “syrup-sucking iceholes” on his show, he confessed: “I take it all back.” He joked about needing an English-English dictionary to understand Canadian terms like “riding” for a political district. His stage manager and crew wore white T-shirts with a red maple leaf emblem that read on the front: “Icehole Crew.” The back of the shirt said: “Colbert Nation eh!”


(Colbert was reportedly delighted to receive a case of Iceholes Celebration lager beer, inspired by his Canuck putdown and specially brewed byVancouver’s R & B Brewing Company. R & B co-owner Barry Benson says on the company website: ” In celebration of our icehole-ish behaviour we have decided to get even rather than get mad.”)


Before appearing, Colbert invited the Dutch oom-pah-pah group Klein pils onstage to warm up the fans with jovial, brass-band versions of songs from The Turtles’ Happy Together to Sweet Caroline, We Will Rock You, and Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore. He had discovered the boisterous musicians the night before while they performed rinkside at the Richmond Oval.


Colbert’s guests included Seth Wescott, two-time gold medal winner in snowboard cross, who picked up his latest gold this week in Olympic competition at Cypress Mountain. After Colbert asked to wear Westcott’s medal, he refused to give it back to the athlete, despite urgings to do so from the fans. Wescott, in turn, gave his host a team plaid jacket and autographed a specially made snowboard that bore Colbert’s image. (Colbert wore a navy Ralph Lauren cardigan and white 2010 track pants for the show, a nod to the designer of U.S. team uniforms in this year’s Winter Olympics.)


After his vocal support for the U.S. Olympic speed skaters and his team fundraising drive which brought in about $300,000 from fans, one would have expected Colbert to interview Shani Davis, who has appeared on his show in a satirical speed-skating challenge. But Davis was apparently offended by some of Colbert’s previous remarks and was not a guest. Colbert played a taped segment of his show onstage, which included a public apology to Davis. (That same day, Davis won a gold medal in the 1,000-metre men’s speed-skating in Richmond.)

                                                                                                         Ryan St. Onge

Other Olympic guests included U.S. freestyle aerialists Ryan St. Onge and Jeret “Speedy” Peterson. While Colbert teased St. Onge, who appeared shy in a conservative shirt and tie, about his name, Peterson appeared to hold his own with Colbert. When asked about getting kicked out of the  2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy for a drunken altercation, Peterson admitted his actions and told his host: “Sorry to steal your thunder.”

                                                                      Jeret Peterson

As if for required Canadian content, Colbert interviewed the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, Liberal Member of Parliament for Vancouver South. He teasingly asked Dosanjh what caste he was from and repeatedly mentioned India’s caste system. Dosanjh said that he didn’t believe in the caste system and stressed the equality of all. Yet, when Colbert continued trying to pin down the ultra-serious federal politician on this subject, Dosanjh appeared taken aback and possibly offended. I wondered if he even knew that such stances are part of Colbert’s shtick and on-camera persona.  


This show was the last of a two-day taping for Colbert at the park. Fans had waited since dawn for the 10:15 start time. I arrived at 7:45 a.m., joining a long line of people waiting patiently in front of Science World. A friendly female parks ranger warned us that the park had four inches of mud in places and was very slippery. She urged people not to run on the grass to avoid injury.  


Yet, once the orderly queues received permission to move towards the stage,
 hundreds started running up the hill and charging through the mud. In such a free-for-all, someone who had arrived five minutes earlier could easily have gotten a much better viewing spot than someone who camped out overnight in wait. I ended up to the right of the stage close to the front.


Following these fun shoots, Colbert toured a variety of Olympic pavilions in Vancouver, doing his usual campy and impromptu repartee, besides serving as an on-air NBC commentator and the U.S. speed-skating team’s assistant sports psychologist.


Stephen Colbert will certainly never make the podium as an Olympic gold medalist, as portrayed on this banner made by a fan, but he has made phenomenal strides in bringing Canadian and U.S. psyches and spirits together through laughter. Maybe he deserves to keep Seth Westcott’s medal after all.


Click here if you’d like to know more about my past film and TV writing.

February 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm Comments (11)

Don’t agonize — subvertise


                                                                                                                  — photo by The Blackbird

I was delighted to come across the above photo at an exhibition at W2 Community Media Arts Centre at 112 West Hastings in Vancouver, BC. A photographer and poet in the city, known as The Blackbird, created this image as an example of subvertising. (Wikipedia defines this practice as “making spoofs or parodies of corporate and political advertisements to make a statement.”)

In his accompanying artist’s statement, The Blackbird said that he was wondering: “How do I combine the cute and mascot dolls with the harsh socioeconomic and political realities of playing host to the [Olympic] Games while 1) not diminishing the mascots’ accessibility as products of popular culture intended for mass consumption and 2) not making light of serious problems such as Vancouver’s homelessness crisis, the drafting of bylaws that restrict guaranteed Constitutional freedoms in the interests of a corporate elite, and the complete militarization of a peaceful democratic metropolis?”

I had just created a sillier, more whimsical version of subvertising with a similar Olympic theme (see my post below called “Introducing Quarotchety . . .”). It was a wonderful moment of synchronicity to discover this image taken on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It depicts beautifully the startling difference between the cutesie, moneyed version of life, as per Olympics advertising, and the reality of a dumpster diver in Canada’s showcase coastal city. What better way to convey that than use a primary Olympic icon? Well done.

February 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm Comment (1)

Introducing Quarotchety and her Olympic misadventures

Quatchi’s sasquatch face might be splashed on everything Olympian from goalie masks to scarves and hats, but he’s no match for his twin sister Quarotchety, an activist and challenger. Tired of her brother’s  shameless corporate shilling,  she has finally emerged from the “mysterious forests of Canada” to speak her furry mind on Olympics-related subjects skirted by the mainstream media. Besides, there’s nothing like sibling rivalry to get passions flowing. Quarotchety, after all, was born three minutes before her “little” brother.


                                                                                                                       — Heather Conn photos

Here she is on February 4, watching the Coastal Renaissance ferry departing Langdale terminal with Premier Gordon Campbell, political poohbahs and hundreds of other Olympic boosters onboard. Quarotchety is ticked off that she and many other taxpayers were left onshore, uninvited, while they pay ever-increasing ferry rates and will pick up the tab for this  five-ring love-in.  


Quarotchety tried to sneak on board to eavesdrop and give Gordo a grilling over Olympics spending and his budget slashing of British Columbia’s arts and school sports, but security-minded  BC Ferries personnel nabbed her. They let her go with a warning, hollering to her hirsute rump: “Go back to the forests where you belong.” She was incensed.


At Horseshoe Bay terminal, Quarotchety noticed a window painting of ski jumpers, which got her fuming over why men can compete as ski jumpers in the 2010 Olympics but women can’t.  (Since Nagano in 1998, the International Olympics Committee has denied women ski jumpers from competing.) Yet, Lindsey Van, a 25-year-old U.S. skier, holds the record for both men and women for the longest jump off of Whistler, B.C.’s normal ski jump. Quarotchety, whose mood was beginning to match the colour of the mural’s background, wondered: “How high do women truly have to jump to break that glass ceiling?”


When Quarotchety saw a stuffed polar bear during her free visit to the Olympics’ Canada North Pavilion, all she could think of was global warming, diminishing ice floes, and species extinction.  She wondered: Is this the only way that future generations will get to see polar bears — dead and under glass?

These gloomy thoughts were making Quarotchety crotchety, so she figured that she’d take a tip from Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola and “open happiness.” But that got her pondering the nine million bottles of water that Coke was hoping to sell during the Olympics and the landfill mess that would make. She felt distressed over Coke’s efforts to gain exclusive access rights to aquifers and rivers,  draining her source of natural drinking water.  Quarotchety thought that maybe she could try, like the little boy who kept his finger on the hole in the dyke, to stop this endless outflow of water, so she jumped into a Coke machine like an Olympic diver but all she did was get stuck.  


She wondered if  her awkward, upside-down position is how  public school officials feel when they host a “Coke Day” event for students and sign exclusive contracts with Coca-Cola that legally prevent them from publicly criticizing any of Coke’s products. Or how university administrators feel when they remove  drinking fountains so that Coke machines won’t have any on-campus competition. That got Quarotchety thinking again of the slashing of public education budgets.


Overwhelmed, Quarotchety decided to find inspiration from arts and culture and stopped to admire an innukshuk at the Canada North Pavilion. Instead, this made her think of how poorly Canada has treated its First Nations people and how poorly Stephen Harper and Gordon Campbell have treated  artists in this country. Poor Quarotchety couldn’t forget that  Vanoc had made all Cultural Olympiad artists sign contracts preventing them from publicly criticizing the Olympics.  And she thought that she lived in a democracy with free speech . . .


Quarotchety had to lie down to compose herself with these troubling thoughts, but the garbage fumes from the mounting trash made her wonder about the claim that Vancouver is the “greenest Olympics ever.”


Rather than silently stew, Quarotchety decided to exercise her citizen’s right to free speech and serve as witness to the several hundred Olympics protesters of the torchy relay on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. Quatchi begged her not to participate, fearing that observers might mistake her for him and as a result, he would lose all of his lucrative Olympics merchandising contracts. But Quarotchety is a redhead, after all, and follows her own heart.


Although Quarotchety likes the cachet of phrases like “To the Barricades!”, she is committed to peaceful protest and admires the civil disobedience legacy of people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.


When some black-clad protesters with kerchief-hidden faces started stretching string across Commercial Drive at Venables, she wondered how effective this would be in stopping the torch relay. When they added a line of barbed wire, she thought: This could get ugly. Then one angry protester threw down five large rocks along the barbed wire.


The situation seemed tense and Quarotchety thought to herself: That’s not how peace is supposed to feel. She appreciated all of the signs like “Homes for all” and “Communities not Olympics” but why stop the torch relay?


Although the Vancouver police had a paddy wagon waiting on Commercial Drive, officers stood curbside and made no effort to interfere with the protest. Quarotchety was pleased to see that the protest had kept the Coke-mobile  silent and parked, so she wouldn’t have to endure its grating, blared music and dancing, youthful smile-athon.


Quarotchety was grateful that the protest did not result in any arrests or violence. It caused the torch relay to get rerouted along Clark Drive, which left hundreds of seniors, schoolchildren, and immigrant families without a chance to see the torch. They had waited along the curb for blocks, waving or wearing Canadian flags. She wondered: Was this disturbance fair to them?


Quarotchety was glad to see musicians and entertainers join the protest, putting the fun back into freedom of speech. She especially enjoyed the red-clad folks who danced salsa at the February 12 protest by the Vancouver Art Gallery. They wore shirts that said on the front: “I want to celebrate” and on the back, each one made an important statement like “Homes for All” and “Quality Public Education.” This made Quarotchety think of anarchist Emma Goldman’s famous quote: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”


Quarotchety is still worried about Olympic debt and homelessness in Vancouver and outraged that such vital considerations disappear under the “it’s-party-time” media  coverage of the Olympics. (What does she expect? Canwest Global, an Olympics sponsor now taken over by Shaw, owns most of Vancouver’s TV and newspapers.) But protest or no protest, Quarotchety is proud to be Canadian and will continue to speak up when she sees injustice and hypocrisy at work. She’ll keep razzing her brother too. And working on her anger issues.



February 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm Comments (5)

Peaceful protest displays spirit and ingenuity

When it comes to placards and protest, nobody has a monopoly on what free speech should look and sound like. At the Olympics protest on February 12 in downtown Vancouver, all manner of Canadians clamoured freely for an audience, from Burnaby, BC teachers protesting public education cuts to angry jocks yelling from a megaphone “Go, Canada, Go.” The latter, barely a handful who didn’t last an hour, waved red-and-white, computer-generated signs that read: “They say protest, we say party.” I even saw some old gents outside the Archdiocese of Vancouver wearing sandwich boards that said things like “Fear God, Judgment is coming”, “Winners Trust Jesus”, and “Winners Turn from Sin, Turn to Jesus.”

                                                                                                                 — photos by Heather Conn

A young man in a costumed top hat and tails joked that he represented “Billionaires for the Olympics” while a bagpiper said he was playing “an instrument of war” with a peaceful message. Overall, the poignant and playful event brought recognition to the suffering of the homeless and people on the Downtown Eastside and the harsh contrast of their lives to the Olympic bon vivant atmosphere.


 Dalannah Gail Bowen, a Vancouver activist and former addict who runs the Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts, challenged the audience to imagine a life of poverty in an SRO (single-room occupancy) hotel while the city fetes and feasts at a multi-million-dollar, two-week party.  A professional vocalist who is part-Cherokee, she led a plaintive song while drumming a native drum and said: “These are the cries of our people.”


David Eby, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA), said that he was incredibly proud of the free speech and tolerance displayed at the protest. Yet, he condemned police for visiting protesters’ homes prior to this event “as if there’s something illegal because you don’t support spending money on this enterprise [the Olympics].” He said: “The police should not be buying military-grade crowd-control equipment.”


 Eby called the double standard in treatment of pro-Games people to those who protested the event “an embarrassment as a free country.” He told a story of a homeless friend who tried to keep warm by a kerosene lamp after trying to find space at a downtown shelter. He was turned away and ended up burning to death. “People have a right to shelter,” said Eby. “That is a priority before a party.”


Eby  told the crowd of roughly 2,000, a diverse age and class mixture of Canadians: “Thanks for exercising your free speech rights. You’re very brave to be here. I congratulate you.”


I enjoyed seeing the creative interpretations of the Olympic five-ring emblem, particularly the one above. That same image of the faces in the Olympic rings was ordered removed from the Downtown Eastside by police last December because they deemed it “graffiti”, even though it was a painting hanging over brick. (For details, see my December 14 post “What’s happened to free speech in Vancouver?”)


As a helicopter hovered overhead, a faint aroma of pot wafted through the group. Some of the BCCLA’s hundreds of legal observers, wearing orange T-shirts, took notes and monitored the police presence; officers stayed on the outskirts of the event.  Bicycle cops in yellow jackets walked their bikes along the curb on Georgia Street. One cop told me he had received crowd-control training for the Olympics and confided: “Peaceful protest is great. Non-peaceful protest isn’t.”

(This image was taken earlier that morning on Commercial Drive.)

Crowd chants varied from “No Olympics on stolen native land” and “Homes not Games” to “Shame on Canada” and “This is what democracy looks like.”


As the protesters marched towards BC Place, where the Olympics opening ceremonies were beginning at 6 p.m., they faced barricades and a phalanx of police officers spread in a block-long line along Beatty Street. Behind these cops stood a row of 12 police on horseback, each equipped with a wooden baton about four feet long. The crowd pressed against the barricades and some protesters hurled a few things at the police, but the event remained peaceful.


Unfortunately, the following morning, a group of protesters smashed windows at The Bay downtown, which displayed figures wearing Olympic clothing and accessories with other merchandising. The police made several arrests. Such needless vandalism undermines the peaceful efforts of those who speak out against the Olympics and its out-of-control costs. How unCanadian.


On a celebratory note, I liked the Olympic logo made out of O-ring jar insulators in the window of Home Hardware on Commercial Drive near 1st Avenue.


Let’s keep speaking our minds and work to find solutions to the city’s social problems.

February 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm Comments (2)

Vancouver’s got its own Checkpoint Charlie

A German friend of mine who lives near Main Street and East 5th Avenue in Vancouver, BC said that it looks like Checkpoint Charlie around 2nd Avenue and Quebec Street. She’s got helicopters flying over her condo about every 20 minutes.

I encourage you to read the article “Class-War Games: The financial and social cost of ‘securing’ the 2010 Olympics”, which appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of Briarpatch Magazine, based in Regina, Sask. The article’s authors, Chris A. Shaw and Alissa Westergard-Thorpe, state: “Olympic boosterism has worked to exclude critical voices and suppress important public policy questions.”

They add: “Growing numbers of people oppose the host of issues that accompany the modern Olympic Games: the commercialization of sport, lack of transparency in government [some  public companies that hold Olympics-related meetings are not taking minutes to leave no record of the discussion], backroom deals for real estate and development interests, exploitative labour standards for migrant workers, promotion of corporate sponsors with appalling human rights and ecological records (including Nike, Shell, Royal Bank, Petro-Canada, Dow Chemical, Teck Cominco, General Electric, General Motors and Coca-Cola), and appropriation of public space.”

Activist Harsha Walia, in a Feb. 8 Vancouver Sun opinion piece, says: “[T]axpayers are the real sponsors of the $6 billion-$7 billion Winter Games.” A January 2010 EKOS poll revealed that 70 per cent of respondents think that too much money is being spent on this months’ Winter Games in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, U.S. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to carry the torch through Stanley Park. Apparently, he’s a good friend of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell. Did Gordo and Arnie make a deal regarding California’s “runaway (film) productions” relocating to Vancouver? Did Gordo promise a sweet I.P.P. deal for California, or a guarantee to prevent the state’s next blackout? Who knows what resources have changed hands between those two?!

February 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm Comments (0)

What a catalyst to honour Canada, the Creek, and community

                                                                                                                     — Heather Conn photos

Last week, on Feb. 4, I temporarily set aside my criticisms of the Olympics and celebrated Roberts Creek spirit and community with several hundred others. As local children waved Canadian flags or tissue-paper torches they had made in school, we greeted torch relay runner Caroline Depatie and her youthful co-torch runner, whose name I don’t know. (I had no idea that Caroline was going to be the torch runner; she just lives a few doors down from us in Roberts Creek and is my work contact at Capilano University in Sechelt.)

                  Roberts Creek resident Caroline Depatie


I saw how touched the young torch runner was, almost in tears, and saw her mother hug her and say: “I’m so proud of you.” How could anyone fault that heartfelt interaction? Seeing the excitement and glee of the children made me realize the positive impact that such a  global event can have on kids when the torch comes  to people’s communities. But they sure don’t need the message of competition, competition, competition and that winning is everything. Besides, where’s the funding for school sports groups that the B.C. government took away?




A poignant encounter wasn’t enough to make me forget about our — taxpayers’ —  impending debt from the Olympics, its exclusive corporate marketing deals and use of sports as a merchandising commodity, surveillance cameras, massive cost overruns, and, in the words of British historian George Monbiot, its “legacy of a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich . . .they have become a licence for land grabs.”


I wanted to wretch at the abrasive canned music of the Coca-Cola “float” that followed the torch runners, especially with its bouncy young dancers and corporate slogan “Open happiness.” I was pleased to see that few people lined on either side of Roberts Creek Road took any of the small freebie bottles of Coke handed out by young, smile-stuck shills. (Coca-Cola, by the way, hopes to sell nine million units of bottled water during the Olympics in Vancouver. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to believe that a Big Mac and Coke are the hearty, healthy breakfast of an Olympic champion — “do you believe?”)


Thankfully, we had some Roberts Creek, gumboot-clad musical talent to offset the corporate melodies of Royal Bank and Coke. Lead singer Mark Lebbell, who chairs the Creek’s Official Community Plan Committee, sang these lyrics, which he wrote himself:

Nero was getting nervous, as he sat there on the throne
People needing bread, filled the streets of Rome
He knew the crash was coming, he knew he had to act
He said: “We need a Circus, 5 Rings that will distract”


Let’s straighten out the highways, build some Coliseums
Folks will fly from miles around just to come and see ’em
Pave the Callahan Valley, clear the rabble from the streets
Invite the Northern Hemisphere, and party for two weeks


He knew from 1936 it was good for the nation
And any other country, that could afford refrigeration
As people lined up for a piece of the apple pie
He stood on stolen land, explained how televisions had rights

He said you’re gonna love it, but we’ll need 12,000 cops
Only going to cost us 4, 5, 6 billion, tops
3 Pokemon for mascots, the eagle’s the one in the middle
And climbed upon an innukshuk, and took out his fiddle



But the people realized, there isn’t any correlation
Between a giant corporate orgy, and participation or paction
We’re all for healthy living, we’re all for chasing dreams
but debt and spandex superheroes aren’t what our kids need

There was a yellow ring for Royal Bank,
One red ring for Coke
One ring for the green wash
That’s all a bit of a joke
Two for wasted time and money,
Black and blue for all
But there’s no . . .gold . . .rings for the kid with a ball


I liked the yellow gumboots that Caroline Depatie was wearing — a nice touch. Donna Shugar, chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (who was left off the invitation list for the Olympic festivities in Sechelt) encouraged Roberts Creek torch relay attendees to wear our community’s trademark gumboots. She, of course, wore hers.


I had expected to see some protest signs at the Creek event and had thought of making one of my own, but my husband Frank encouraged me to keep the community focus on the pleasure of the kids. I took his advice. Donna Shugar had shared the message “Loving kindness to all, loving kindness to all.”

That same afternoon, when my husband and I went to the Langdale ferry terminal to drop off my friend Annie, we had no idea that we could encounter another torch relay. (I confess: we didn’t read the recent media.) When we tried to pull out of the parking lot, a BC Ferries employee stopped us and told us a torch procession would be coming down soon. I was delighted to see the torch relay participant roll past us in a wheelchair.






Gee, even some of the most hardened cynics can stay patriotic to Canada. And people think that we Canadians aren’t nationalists . . .

February 9, 2010 at 8:53 am Comment (1)

« Older Posts