The Olympic opening ceremonies

So, the opening ceremonies took place Friday night, and the only word that I could come up with to describe the whole shindig was hypocrisy. Yes, it was nice that they acknowledged the First Nations, but to make it sound like we are all one happy Canadian family is wrong. I am all for Olympic sport, but in the way it was back when it was about the sports and not the big business. VANOC (Vancouver Olympic committee) really screwed the pooch when they first started planning for these Olympic Games.

Since they first got the bid for the Games, the city of Vancouver has done everything in its power to hide what it considers the ugly underbelly of the city. It has tried to cover up high rates of unemployment and the homeless. It’s also done its best to portray a warm and fuzzy police force when in fact, the downtown east side has suffered considerably since the games began, and the poor have been pushed out of the city and treated inhumanely by the city of Vancouver. Not to mention what has happened to the sex workers working the downtown east side. Let’s face it – the Olympics is about celebrating humanity, yet the Canadian government and everyone who’s participated in hosting these games have done their level-headed best to hide the truth of what they’ve done to the poorer people of this country.

First Nations are not one gigantic happy family within the Canadian mosaic. They are one of the poorest societies on the planet. The amount of money that the Canadian government has spent on hosting these games could have cured many of the ailments First Nations are facing today. First Nations would have had better housing, better water, better infrastructure, better safety. Unfortunately, big business once again won out.

The only way VANOC can actually improve their image among the poor people of the country is if a lot of the housing that they’ve built to house Olympic athletes, their trainers and coaches, could become low-cost housing for the poor and homeless. All of this new housing shouldn’t go to the yuppies – it should go to people who desperately need it.

This past weekend, I was at a fundraiser for one of the poorest communities in Canada, Attawapiskat. Attawapiskat, when you say poor, it makes housing in the Gaza strip look like mansions. They have had bad water for years, contaminated ground, and yet Health Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs have refused to lift a finger. The people in Attawapiskat live in shacks with very litle heat. 50% of the community is homeless. EVen the chief gave up her house so that a family of four could live there instead. There’s very little employment, and yet we spend billions of dollars hosting a bunch of athletes from around the world while hiding what really goes on in this country.

Chuck Strahl, the Minister for INdian and Northern Affairs Canada for weeks stonewalled the fundraiser, saying that we needed a designated set of questions – we can’t ask this, we can’t comment on that. Then, the day before the fundraiser was to happen, his office sent us a letter saying that he was truly sorry he could not make the fundraiser, because he and his family were taking a vacation. What I’d like to know is, how does Chuck Strahl sleep at night when thousands of Canadians really can’t? I mean, what does it take for one of the richest nations in the world to look in the mirror and truly acknowledge what goes on in this country: missing women, poor water, high suicide rates, thousands of homeless people, and third world conditions.

When Health Canada was approached about the contaminated land in Attawapiskat, they refused to declare a state of emergency, because they said there was no proof, even though there was proof. And when I say there was proof, what they did was they fired the person who had the proof. Naturally, what I just said was from a source that’s anonymous. All I can say is that the person is a health care worker who was hired by Health Canada and when asked certain questions, was told to drop it.

I would hope to see that at the end of these games the athletes take something away from here that isn’t just medals, but knowledge. Knowledge that this country isn’t as great as it claims it is. Knowledge that there are people who need help in this country. Knowledge that sure, this may be an athletic competition, but the Olympics is just like a mining, logging, or oil company that goes into a beautiful area and destroys it.

The opening ceremonies, as pretty as they were, neglected to mention that not all First Nations in this country accept that the Olympics are here. They are downright against it. They see the economic impact, but they don’t see any of the economic returns. See, I would be very supportive of any organization that came in and had an event that had an economic impact and also had economic returns, because it would mean that they were taking something, but they would also be giving something back.

Unfortunately, that’s not how big business works in most ways. Capitalism as big and as powerful as it is will eventually die because all it does it take. Big business is more like a cancer than a cure. Sure, big business gives some people jobs, puts food on some peoples’ tables, but it doesn’t really help society because it gives nothing back. The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor.

I may sound like a curmudgeon, but I am a realist. I see things for what they are. I see past the fancy suits, the expensive dinners, the shiny shoes. I see what they truly stand for, and that is greed. I will admit, one of the highlights of these games is that they are the greenest Games ever, and that is important – because it is the little things. Now if only we can get big business to start thinking about their impact, their footprint. How hard would it be for one business to help build low-cost housing. Would it truly effect their bottom line? No, it wouldn’t. But it would help their karma.

During the fundraiser, one of the speakers, Cindy Blackstock, mentioned that it wasn’t important to be remembered. It was important to have a good life, to live well, and be kind to others. Because in the end it doesn’t really matter if people remember you. Frankly, I don’t care if anyone remembers me ; just remembers the work that i did.