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Chris Shaw was right

Chris Shaw, UBC prof who dared to speak out

Chris Shaw, UBC prof who dared to speak out

My apologies to the early 2010 critic, now stalked by cops. He tried to tell me the Olympics were a bad bet.

Dr. Chris Shaw is a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of British Columbia. In his field of neurological disease research, he is the author of more than 200 published research articles, reviews and abstracts, and the editor of three books.

Shaw has also opposed the 2010 Games from the start — he thinks the process is flawed from a number of points of view.

In my encounter with him on air a few years back I didn’t support him. Chris has been proven to be right. One point of his correctness I wish to deal with today is the security issue — specifically, I’d like to address the billion dollars being spent on it and the raw theft of our civil liberties.

First this mea culpa.

Chris, you were right and I was wrong — and I apologize. I, of all people, should have been able to spot the barnyard droppings, but I got caught up in the massive municipal masturbation and forgot my role. I unreservedly apologize.

What’s the Charter for, anyway?

Now down to cases.

Canadians are being denied one of their most basic rights — the freedom to assemble and protest. Here, in admirably unadorned english, is what the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says under the heading of “Fundamental Freedoms:”

Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association

Chris is being investigated by the authorities because of his outspoken views and I strongly suggest that after you read this, you check out the story broken by The Tyee in this article by Geoff Dembicki entitled “Police Question Friend of Olympics Critic Chris Shaw.” The subheading reads: “Nursing student surprised at school by intelligence officers. Councillor calls it harassment.”

It is harassment. There is nothing in Dr. Shaw’s history to suggest he would ever harm anyone. Quite the opposite, in fact — a reality which I can personally confirm by his actions at protests we have both attended.

Gross denial of rights

The harassment was not, mind you, directed just towards Shaw but also towards his friend! We have here the “rat on your friends and family” technique normally associated with police states. This police behaviour (like much of the police force’s behaviour these days, I’m sad to say) is absolutely unacceptable in any country that means to support civil rights.

What we have here is a gross denial of the rights belonging to Chris and to all of us. What’s the point of having the right to assemble if you cannot peacefully protest?

This is not a rhetorical question because there is an answer. The security measures of these Olympics have dick-all to do with security — and everything to do with keeping bad images and sound bytes from worldwide newspapers, radio and TV stations. It’s not about citizens being “protected.” Its about the sales image of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It’s reminiscent of that song we sang as kids called “Home on the Range” with its line “and ne’er shall be heard a discouraging word and the skies shall be sunny all day.”

Put up a sign, police can invade your home

And get this!

Vancouver’s municipal government, as part of a deal with the IOC, has recently passed bylaws to effectively ban protest signs — giving police the right to enter your home and flush them out!

Here’s the news story in case you missed it.

VANCOUVER (Canadian Press) — Vancouver’s deputy mayor is defending the likely adoption of new powers that would allow the city to “swiftly” seize illegal signs during the 2010 Games.

Coun. Geoff Meggs rejects the suggestion by civil liberties groups that the new laws will stifle free speech, having repeatedly said it’s instead aimed at curbing ambush marketing.

The law would impose penalties of up to $10,000 in fines and six months in jail for violations during the 2010 Games.

While it would have to be an extreme case where maximum penalties are levied, Meggs says he’s supportive of the high fine alone as an “important” deterrent.

Is well-known social democrat Geoff Meggs truly ready to fight “ambush marketing” by allowing policemen to bust doors down while looking for signs that offend the IOC? The man whose provincial party, the NDP, has always instinctively supported free speech and civil rights? The man who has always stood up for the rights of people when dealing with Big Business — which the IOC surely is? Et tu, Geoff?

What kind of democratic government would grant police the right to enter your home, look for signs that offend the IOC, seize them and fine you $10,000 per day?

Soviet Union déjà vu

There have been nasty precedents, of course, in other countries — countries that decent nations like Canada have stood up to, often with force.

It would be horrible enough if our governments were doing this on their own, but they’re doing them at the request of the IOC! This arrogant group of unaccountable jock wannabes in three-piece suits is terrorizing decent Canadians who just want to protest the Olympics where they’re actually happening — not in some “special” zone convenient to the IOC.

What these law-abiding citizens want to do is give meaning to Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What’s the point of even having a right that the government and the IOC can deny when they find it awkward? Being awkward is what protesting is all about!

If a right to assemble and protest exists, surely it exists on whatever public space the protesters choose. Denying that “right” is reminiscent of the fragile “rights” given under the constitution of the unlamented Soviet Union.

Here’s the deal, according to the Associated Press: “Games organizers say protests will be allowed in police-controlled ‘safe assembly areas’ within sight of the venues, media and spectators.” Get that! “Games organizers say”! The IOC has been given the right to decide where Canadians can exercise their rights and where they cannot — and what form their protests may take!

The bill, please?

And what about the bucks for this extravaganza?

The late American senator Everett Dirksen, exasperated at his government’s casual way of spending, once said “a billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money!” Well, folks, you’ve committed a billion dollars (estimated) to the Olympic Village and a billion dollars (estimated) to “security” — how do you like them apples?

Now, B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen, the man who told you B.C.’s deficit would only be $495 million (hell Rafe, he only missed it by a couple of billion) is confident. Even though Federal Minister Stockwell Day has estimated security costs will be around a billion, Hansen says that B.C.’s share will “only” be $175 million because B.C. is responsible only for the security of the Games themselves. Even if he’s right, what’s this immense sum of money for? What’s the breakdown? What information is this based on?

What we do know is this — taxpayers are paying a huge price for the security of 16 days of competitions many of us have never heard of before (name your favourite “luger,” biathlon athlete or the “sledge” hockey player.)

Fight hot air with hot air

After all of this, I feel that I should offer a bit of advice to Chris Shaw and all those who wish to protest (and I’m serious here.) Release balloons, carrying slogans, with just enough helium (or whatever they use) to float gently over the area you wish to protest.

I will go further. Since Wendy and I live in Lions Bay, right over the Sea-to-Sky, we’ll be long gone for the Olympics — but we’ll make our little condo available for the releasing of these balloons.

Since it has turned out that the Olympics are mostly hot air, let’s return the compliment in kind.

5 Responses to “Chris Shaw was right”

  1. Jeff Taylor says:

    Back when Vancouver was awarded the Olympics, I felt proud, and happy. HOWEVER, as time has gone by and I read the crap that is connected with holding these games (not to mention the extreme costs) I’m really, really re-thinking my support – ESPECIALLY with the loss of freedoms that my Grandfather went to war to fight for. Isn’t it sad that even sports id now corrupted much like almost everything else in our society these days. Thanks Rafe for watching our backs, ESPECIALLY when it come to this corrupt B.C. Liberal Gov’t. Sickening, just sickening.

  2. These bylaws would NOT stand a Constitutional Challenge: they are wholly unconstitutional. However, Constitutional Challenges cost a great deal of money to pursue, which is in and of itself a violation of our right to face a jury of our peers and to use the court system to seek justice.

    The court that is open to us all is the court of public opinion. These slime balls who abrogate rights to suit their own purposes, whether they say it’s to combat something else or not, are TRAITORS TO CANADIAN LAW.

    If you think the Olympic Security issue is a biggie, though, check out the thorough annihilation of our rights being hotly debated NOW in the Canadian Senate over Bill C-6!! Warrantless search and seizure, abolition of the laws of trespass, being guilty until proven innocent (but with no court to which one may appeal) BY MINISTERIAL DECREE, and the DENIAL OF DUE PROCESS OF LAW… these and many more are part and parcel of what is passing against ALL CANADIANS, RIGHT NOW, UNLESS YOU SPEAK OUT AGAINST IT!

    Canadians have been soft on crime, all right… soft on the crime emanating from government offices at all levels, soft on holding the government’s feet to the fire, soft on prosecuting those who offend against rights enshrined for all human beings on this planet since Magna Carta was affirmed by Edward I in 1225, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    They take our rights away and Canadians lift their heads, say “Huh?” and go back to what they were doing…. and one day, they will lift their heads and find that they have been herded into a “pen” from which there is NO ESCAPE.

    The debacle that is Olympic “Security” is not just a fiasco, it is a harbinger of things that are not simply coming towards us like a speeding freight train, but are already HERE.

  3. Karen Boies says:

    Thank you for this informative article. I am ashamed as a Canadian that the federal and provincial governments are behaving in such a manner, all in the name of Olympic Security. I am affraid that this is the tip of iceberg and we all need to stand up to protect the freedoms many before us have fought for.

  4. […] Nicholson says at Rafeonline.com: Constitutional Challenges cost a great deal of money to pursue, which is in and of itself a […]

  5. […] Dee Nicholson says at Rafeonline.com: […]

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