SCM Solidarity Statement on 2010 Olympics in BC

Passed by consensus of SCM National Board (February 9, 2009)

The Student Christian Movement of Canada (SCM) stands in solidarity with the No2010 Campaign and others speaking against the planned XXI Winter Olympic Games, to be held in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia in February 2010.

The Student Christian Movement (SCM) is an ecumenical network of student collectives engaged in spirituality and progressive social justice issues at universities across Canada. SCM Canada strives to be a healing community, embraces radical ecumenism and interfaith work, acts in solidarity with the oppressed, resists structures of domination, and works for justice in its varied forms and settings.

As the SCM, we believe that solidarity with Aboriginal peoples is an issue of particular urgency and importance due to the complex, embedded, and multiple origins of the oppression faced by Aboriginal peoples in Canada and the worsening and life-threatening conditions that are created in particular by the Canadian state, in its varied forms, and corporations and capitalistic interests. Additionally, as Christians and people affiliated with the church, we have much to stand accountable for from hundreds of years of damage done to Aboriginal peoples, life/culture, communities, and lands by the church. This was and is done through the hegemonic injection of Christianity both ideologically and lived out practically, such as through residential schools and co-operation with the state in the policing and suppressing Aboriginal peoples and identities.

The 2010 Olympics are harmful and insulting to the most marginalized and disadvantaged in our society and therefore must receive careful, critical consideration from all those who believe in and work for justice. The land being ‘developed’ or exploited for the games rightfully belongs to Aboriginal people, (particularly as BC remains largely non-surrendered Indigenous territory) who have not been authentically consulted or had their self-determination/governance rights acknowledged. This ‘development’ has had profound ecological impacts, including deforestation, loss of habitat and ecological diversity, as well as the usual toxic impacts that accompany expedited, large-scale, cost-cutting construction. The $6 Billion that has and is being mobilized for the event, including huge government grants and subsidies, is money not being spent on long-term, sustainable economic engagement and living wages, and represents tax dollars directed away from social benefits and towards a corporatization/privatization of the province. Additionally, the B.C. government has recently approved unlimited borrowing power for the Olympic host committee for the construction of athletes’ residences, contributing to soaring private profits and public debt. This situation is only exacerbated by falling property values, lowering the re-sell value of the developments after the games and reducing the ability to re-coup costs. Public debt is likely to remain as the lasting legacy of these Olympic Games, as is the case for so many others – debt from the Olympic Stadium in Montreal from the 1976 Summer Olympics was just recently paid off.

Also, a substantial proportion of the Olympic budget is directed towards police personnel and surveillance/enforcement technologies. During the games, it is likely that protestors, homeless individuals, and others who do not ‘fit’ with the airbrushed image of BC will be the primary targets. Additionally, much of the infrastructure installed for the games (ie. CCTV) and items purchased (ie. riot gear) will remain for future use/misuse, such as invasive surveillance, profiling/monitoring, and criminalization of targeted communities, such as homeless persons and youth.

The direct and indirect loss of low-income housing and the criminalization of the poor in an attempt to ‘clean up’ for the games are unjust and lead to an inaccurate depiction of Canada for international media and visitors coming for the games, in addition to causing the displacement of individuals and loss of community bonds. BC is particularly known for the deplorable situation of missing (mainly Aboriginal) women involved with prostitution, a situation which could be exacerbated by a dramatic influx of potential clientele and the lack of an effective risk-reduction strategy. While athletic competition can be an enjoyable and healthy endeavour, it can also perpetuate gendered and racialized stereotypes, ruthless competition and individualism, mobilize false and divisive nationalisms, and idealize particular ‘fit’ and ‘able’ bodies as those to be prized and idolized. Additionally, athletic achievement is increasingly tied to upper-class identities due to the time and expensive training and equipment required and the lack income generated.

Therefore, we stand in solidarity with the No2010 campaign, 2010 Games Watch, and others committed to critical examination of the 2010 Olympics and its effects, particularly those already marginalized such as Aboriginal persons.

By proclaiming God’s preferential option for the poor and marginalized, we act in solidarity with the oppressed to resist structures of domination and realize justice in this world (SCM Living Prayer Mission Statement).