Olympics: Housing and Promises, Land and Justice.
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Olympics: Housing and Promises, Land and Justice.

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John Ahni Schertow
June 6, 2007
 

When one thinks of the Olympics, we conjure up images of honour, integrity, and fair play.

It’s a time when athletes from around the world gather to challenge themselves, to try and set new world records, and to even ‘bring home the gold!’

As citizens, we’re led to believe it’s a privilege to play host for the games. We’re endlessly encouraged to attend and share in this new-found Olympic pride; and as tourists we’re even given the chance to take some of it back home with us—in the form of t-shirts, key chains, and gastroenteritis.

From beginning to end we’re led to believe it’s a celebration; a time of tradition, a time we get to feel safe and be full of pride and excitement.

Such feeling is rare these days, isn’t it?

Having never attended an Olympic game myself, I can’t imagine putting a price on something as special and even sacred as this. But even so, I would like to try…

2 million. According to a recent report (pdf) by The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), in the last 20 years alone over 2 million people have been displaced by the Olympic games.

Still feeling that Olympic Pride?

2010: Let the Games Begin

According to the profile on Vancouver from the above-mentioned website, Vancouver has pledged itself to be the first socially sustainable Olympic games.

All sorts of promises and assurances have been made so far—and yet for some strange reason over 700 units of low-income housing have been lost since the city was chosen to host the games. On top of that, several single residency hotels, inhabited primarily by people with low or no income, have been destroyed and converted to accommodate the pending onslaught of tourists.

The fact sheet also mentions how some of Vancouver’s promises are on the way out the window, along with the cribs and kitchen sinks, via proposals to cut funding for affordable housing programs.

What in the world is ‘socially sustainable’ about this?

Nothing, obviously. That is unless we acknowledge the needs of privilege and the interests of those who have it; In which case ‘cutting out the loose ends’ is not only socially sustainable, but it’s the perfect solution…

Think about it… they’re fulfilling the silent expectation to achieve an absolute state of moral, social, end economic bliss; they’re setting themselves up for years to come too, while helping to make the city nice and pretty, which is of course the ultimate tell-tale sign of a Just and Strong Nation.

Cleanliness is next to godliness right? They just have to make sure everything’s cleaned ‘just right.’

Trailer from “Five Ring Circus”


Playing Dirty: the Game of Justice and Development

I suspect the 2010 Olympics will not have the steady clean identity expected of them, however. I mean, just have a look at the image to the right… that was real!

But beyond this racist garbage, there’s a much more serious matter at hand, as the 2010 Olympics are being built on unceded Indigenous Territory without the prior consent of the original inhabitants.

Now that might not sound like a big deal to you, particularly if you consider yourself a tourist or a citizen, but I tell you if someone just randomly came over to your house, forced you out, and then destroyed it to make way for some development project, well you’d be screaming bloody murder, wouldn’t you?

Land is being destroyed. Livelihoods are being infringed upon. Elderly people are being arrested. Sacred spaces are being lost. And all sorts of dirty deeds are gettin’ signed….

But hey, it’s all good right? All in the name of peace, security, goodwill and development? And everybody sort-of wins; I mean, providing we ignore the disenfranchised and impoverished. That shouldn’t be too difficult.

Ready, set, Olympics!

Ahni.

ps, If you’d like to learn more about the issues just mentioned, please continue reading the articles below. The second one in particular explains everything in depth

The Olympics Land Grab, by Naomi Klein

“I’m going to stop them,” Rosalin Sam of the Lil’wat Nation told me. “I’ll lay in the path of the machines if I have to. I have to protect our land.”

Sam is referring to the planned construction of the Cayoosh Ski Resort on Mount Currie, a 30 minute drive from Whistler, the heart of the Olympic competitions.

Currently, Mount Currie is pristine wilderness, a habitat for bears, deer and mountain goats. It is used as a traditional Native hunting ground, as well as a source of teas, berries and medicines for the eleven Native bands that claim it as their territory. “Some people go to church, we go to the mountain,” Sam says.

Her objection is not to the Olympic games themselves, but to the role the games are already playing in the transformation of British Columbia’s economy. With resource industries like fishing and logging in crisis, the games are being positioned as a 17-day globally televised commercial for BC’s new economy: winter tourism. (read the full article)

No Olympics on Stolen Land

(the following is a heavily trimmed version of the original article, which can be read here)

The 2010 Winter Olympics, to be held in Vancouver-Whistler from February 12-27, 2010, is today a very real threat to Native peoples, the urban poor (many of whom are also Native), and the environment.

While cutting social services, healthcare, education, etc., the BC Liberal government is at the same time providing billions of dollars to construction companies & other Olympic-related industries. The capitalists are making millions, while the poor are literally dying in the urban & reservation ghettos.

Already, more land has been destroyed for the expansion or construction of highways, ski resorts, & Olympic venues. Billions of ‘public’ money is also being spent on new bridges, port facilities, railways, as well as urban transit.

Most of this work is directly linked to 2010, to improve transportation & other infrastructure in preparation for the games. {…}

Stolen Native Land
BC is unique in Canada in that most of the province is unceded, non-surrendered Indigenous territories. According to British & Canadian laws, sovereign Indigenous territories were to be legally surrendered to the Crown prior to any trade or settlement. This was set out in the 1763 Royal Proclamation. In accordance with this, the British, and later Canada, carried out a series of treaties in its westward expansion across the prairies, and the northwest territory. These included the Numbered Treaties (such as Treaty No. 1, etc.).

In BC, aside from a small number of treaties on Vancouver Island (the 1850’s Douglas Treaties), and Treaty No. 8 in the northeast portion of the province, all of BC remains unceded Indigenous territories. {…}

Native Opposition to 2010
2010 Olympic organizers knew they had to gain the support of Native peoples in the region to avoid charges of racism as well as protests. They also saw Native culture as a good way to promote the Olympics & tourism overall.

Their primary agents to accomplish these goals were the Indian Act band councils, primarily the Squamish & Mt. Currie, but also the Musqueam & Tseil-Watuth.

In 2004, these bands formed the Four Host First Nations Society to “take advantage of all opportunities including economic, and establish a clear First Nations presence in the Games while protecting aboriginal rights & title” (November 24, 2004, press release). Chief Gibby Jacobs of the Squamish band is himself a board member of VANOC.

In 2003, even before Vancouver was selected as the host site for 2010, the Squamish & Mt. Currie bands were given $20 million in money, land, and facilities, including a Native cultural & craft center to be built in Whistler itself. This was a clear move to buy off not only the band council, but also segments of the community with promises of jobs in construction & services. The deal committed the two band councils to participation & support for 2010 {…}

Due to their ‘leadership’, as well as multi-million dollar Olympic propaganda, many Native people in general see the Olympics as a huge money-making opportunity (which is, after all, its real purpose). Some plan to mass-produce artwork, or t-shirts, or jewelry, or food, etc. for 2010 tourists. Others are already working in the construction industry. {…}

While a few benefit from jobs, and even fewer make millions in profits, the real Olympic legacy for future generations will be ecological destruction. (read the full article)

More information

For info about the Olympics, see 2010watch.com and No 2010.
Or, see here to learn about Sun Peaks, and here for Sutikalh

You may also be interested in reading this article, the death of Harriet Nahanee: Collateral Damage of the Olympics

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