Militarization of Vancouver and Whistler

StopWar Statement

VANCOUVER (December 9, 2009) – The Olympic Charter states that the Olympic movement aims, “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” The StopWar.ca coalition in Vancouver, Canada considers that this noble ideal is contradicted by the reality of the Games which reveals a consistent, predictable and historical pattern of militarization and anti-democratic acts everywhere that they are hosted. The 2010 Winter Games that will take place in Vancouver next February are no exception to this reality.

StopWar is especially concerned with the militarization of Vancouver and Whistler during the Games, with its accompanying restrictions on the democracy and safety of our community. Enormous resources, including one billion dollars of spending, considerable military personnel and equipment, and countless thousands of police and private security personnel are being deployed. Featured among the identified “threats” to the Games are domestic protest. The Games are accompanied by the largest domestic military and security operation in Canadian military history. It includes: 40 km of electronically monitored security fencing; over 1000 closed circuit cameras; the use of military aerial surveillance; the creation of new policing forces such as VISU (Vancouver Integrated Security Unit), JTFG (Joint Task Force Games), and participation of US security and policing agencies; and finally, the use of 4500 Canadian Forces troops, many of whom will be pulled from the war in Afghanistan to be relocated in 10 military camps between Vancouver and Whistler.

Demonstration against police repression during the Olympics, Vancouver, January 22, 2010

The increased surveillance and militarization of the Olympic host communities, as well as those that the Olympic Torch will be passing through, has resulted in an assault on civil liberties that is increasing as the Games draw closer. What’s more, British Columbia is facing environmental destruction and the erosion of social services as a result of the Games.

The pattern of anti-democratic and repressive security procedures and apparatuses that follow the Olympic Games wherever they are hosted can be traced to IOC rules. Rule 51 of the IOC Charter (2007) stipulates that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” Rules and procedures such as this call into question the legitimacy of any community hosting the Olympic Games if they are guaranteed to remove the basic principles and protections of a democratic society. The Canadian agencies responsible for security have identified domestic protest groups as the most significant security threat, thereby legitimizing the use of force to suppress opposition and the effective removal of the fundamental freedoms of speech, thought, and assembly protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Like the stated goal of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Truce movement is similarly hypocritical and reveals nothing more than a rhetorical commitment to peace that is contradicted by real actions. Despite Canada being in its ninth year of waging war on the people of Afghanistan, the Canadian Olympic Truce is calling on the world community “to cease hostilities during the Games and promote the ideals of peace through sport”, however, Canada has no plans to cease causing death and destruction in Afghan society. In an ironic twist of history, we remember that the 1980 Olympic Games hosted by the Soviet Union were boycotted by over 60 countries, including Canada, in protest of the Soviet occupation and war in Afghanistan that had begun a year earlier in 1979.

The continued Canadian aggression in Afghanistan reflects a paternalistic and Imperialist commitment in which the sovereignty of Afghanistan and the ability of Afghan people to determine their own future is disregarded. In the same way, the Olympic Games reveal the true agenda of the Canadian and BC governments to disregard and further attack the struggle for self-determination and sovereignty of local Indigenous nations. Land and resource development for the Games has displayed a total disrespect for legally recognized Indigenous land, title and resources and the destruction of sacred sites. Government supported chiefs have been bought out and traditional indigenous symbols and artistic expression have been co-opted.

StopWar opposes the use of war as a means of settling international disputes. We demand that Canada withdraw our troops from Afghanistan immediately and that Canada respect and recognize Indigenous rights, title, and sovereignty on the stolen and colonized land of Turtle Island (North America).

We believe that the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games will leave a lasting legacy that is disastrous for our community and nation. We call on all peace loving people to expose and bring to the world stage our experience of the militarization that come from hosting the Olympic Games. By being vigilant and vocal about what it really means to promote a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity we can try to ensure that no nation and no community is forced to endure these conditions again.

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