Let’s show the world


Put liquor, drugs, testosterone, jerks and sports fanaticism together in one four block space.  Mix, then add Don Cherry.

Is anyone surprised a riot occurred?

Vancouver is no different than any other large, metropolitan area in the developed world.   And we’ve just learned that the things that cause riots in those other cities cause riots here.

So learn from it.  Maybe it’s a bad idea to put 100,000 young men downtown with bars open all day.  Maybe hockey’s no different than soccer and other sports where fanaticism leads to idiocy.  Maybe people from the region and province who want to party safely downtown should pay.  Maybe the bar owners and hockey franchises should, too.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Figure it out before the next playoff.

But there’s another lesson Vancouver needs to learn from the riot.

We’re not exceptional.  Vancouver is no different.  The same problems there are the same problems here.

We are not special.  But we think we are.  That’s our biggest problem.  We’re like the Americans of Canada, too full of our exceptionalism to see what’s really going on all around us.

You don’t have to dig deep to see a lot of Vancouver’s problems sitting in the trash today along with the burned jerseys.  Daphne Brahmin has a good column in today’s Sun that looks at some of the issues made evident by the riot, particularly the enormous and still growing economic divide that more than anything dominates our city.

But it doesn’t end there…  From housing and homelessness to cultural infrastructure and architecture… from environment to playgrounds and modern transportation to our corporate culture Vancouver is just plain mediocre.  We are not the best place on earth.

There is more community spirit in Brooklyn than the whole of our city.  Montreal is more fun, more alive and greener.  Chicago has better public spaces and Portland has better bookstores.  Barcelona protects and renews its heritage and Recife houses people.  And just about everywhere has better public transit.

What do we do instead?

If you think about it, since 2001 – and under the direction of the BC Liberal government – Vancouver’s spent a lot of its money and most of its energies building a city that’s dependent upon short lived spectacles and mass gatherings.

It’s a case of exceptionalism run wild: We are the “best place on earth…”  so “Let’s show the world.”

And the day before yesterday we had a riot when it went wrong.   We showed them.





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8 Responses to Let’s show the world

  1. Paul Willcocks says:

    I was on the 9 a.m. ferry game day, which was jammed with – mostly – young men going to drink and watch the game. One noted he had been over Friday and that crowds were lining up at 2 to get into bars to watch the game on TV, and that if you were not drinking you were asked to leave. Which means tens of thousands of drunk people spilling on to already crowded streets at the same time. The riot was highly predictable, and we really need to think about alcohol’s role.

  2. trevor says:

    Daphne Brahman may have missed the key point when she suggests “integration” is the main problem underlying the riot. Google “Nathan Kotylak” if you want to see one of the faces of the riot – white and privileged. The desire to be part of spectacle, either directly or as witness, isn’t unique to Vancouverites and this riot wasn’t an expression of frustration by some disenfranchised citizens (“protesters” as CBC commentators were calling them Wednesday night during live broadcast). Allowing a crowd of that size to assemble in the high stakes context of a final Stanley Cup game (and liquored up as Mr. Willcocks observes) without appropriate security force was irresponsible.

  3. mariner says:

    This is the hallmark of the BC Liberal government – “TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE” and not inclined to acknowlegde same, but blame everyone/every thing else.

    Thank you

  4. Linda says:

    Some of the rioters came prepared. They had face coverings and gasoline. The riot was deliberate, and the drunks fell right in with the other prepared rioters. There were cells of rioters, smashing windows and looting, for city blocks. Vehicles were set on fire.

    It was said, the police have to protect the public, before the vandalism. Had the police split up, to go after the separate groups of rioters, they could have been overwhelmed, by sheer people power. The police, were totally out numbered. I think the police did a commendable job, without using deadly force. Innocent by-standers, could have been in harms way. The next big event have some soldiers available, to back up the police. The police just don’t have the numbers, to control a huge mob, unless they do use deadly force.

  5. James King says:

    Well put Ian. There have been a few similar thoughtful comments at the Tyee on the subject – they could use your input there too – if you’ve a mind to post them there.


  6. Alex in Jp says:

    Preventive action was the necessary cure in this case. I am completely unaware of the general mood of the people leading up to the big game but maybe City of Vancouver probably could have done a lot more to prevent this. It is naive to think you can solely rely on an outnumbered police force to keep things in check for a crowd this large. For example a week long campaign (or more) informing people that all incidents of violence or riot inciting would lead to criminal charges. City council could also have involved citizens by offering rewards of $100.00 for photographic evidence of people involved in rioting. These days people carrying cameras in their front pocket is the norm. That reward money would have likely been a portion of the cost of damages. It’s just one idea.

    On another note it was nice to see the good folk cleaning up next day.

  7. kootcoot says:

    “From housing and homelessness to cultural infrastructure and architecture… from environment to playgrounds and modern transportation to our corporate culture Vancouver is just plain mediocre. We are not the best place on earth.

    I really enjoyed your comparison to USA style exceptionalism in this post. That “Best Place on Earth” motto has ALWAYS bugged the hell out of me. BC used to be, and could again be a very nice place, but in a world that includes Tahiti, the Himalayas and Andes, and Yosemite Valley, no one place can be the best. That motto is as absurd as the Boston Bruin fans chanting “USA, USA, USA” after game seven last week. But then we are turning more and more into Americans everyday, as we are being sold down the river to them and their corporations (which aren’t that American, when it comes to keeping jobs or profits onshore or paying taxes – ANYWHERE)!.

    The most exceptional thing about Vancouver and BC is the child poverty, the lack of regard for the environment and parks and the corruption which must make Quebec and Chicago jealous………..

  8. trevor says:

    Hi James King, I’ve been reading Ian at the
    Vancouver Observer
    for a while, and have enjoyed his observations. Yes, you have to endure the ceaseless Suzuki worship at the VO, but the same thing is true at The Tyee.

    Also interesting to see the readership numbers at the VO continue to grow, while The Tyee’s numbers are slumping. Ian’s contributions might have something to do with that!

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