When I returned home on Friday night, January 25, I turned on my television to see images of teenage ballerinas lamenting the fact that Michaelle Jean was not going to visit their studio. She had canceled the last day of her Vancouver tour to return to Ottawa.
The broadcast then panned to images of Jean being heckled in the Downtown Eastside and a video of a man being tasered outside of one of her events. The overall impression was of a neighborhood gone wild. It looked as though she had been chased out of town. The ballerina’s were sad but said that they understood.
Picture if you can for a second what it would be like to have the head of state march through your living room just to have a look. Imagine a steady stream of dignitaries parading through your misery compiling statements, reports and theories on what most can see is a basic problem: housing. It would be difficult to honor the majesty of the queen’s representative from the inside of a sleeping bag next to the Carnegie.
The Downtown Eastside is popular place these days with a bizarre type of fame. It has become a spectacle. It is a place where a Safe Injection Site is considered to be something worth seeing, where movies and television shows are literally filmed on the doorstops of buildings whose tenants have been recently evicted, where advocates are villainized for defending the poorest of the poor.
Michaelle Jean’s visit has exemplified something to a better degree than I could ever explain: Doublespeak. The ballerina’s make a pretty good point after all.