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Poverty Olympics Postpartum

It has been almost a week since the Poverty Olympics took place at the Carnegie Centre and already the postpartum…

By Darren Fleet , in Blogs East Van Rapporteur , on February 8, 2008

The winner's circle.

It has been almost a week since the Poverty Olympics took place at the Carnegie Centre and already the postpartum has set in. Normally, postpartum refers to depression after birth, but in this case it refers to forgetfulness.

The mock Olympics were a pantomime play of sorts, a cathartic happening with interactive events and crowd participation. A character, known as Mr. Bid, circulated the room praising the BC government’s commitment to a social housing legacy. Members of the audience hissed and booed as he spoke, venting at the fact that promises and homelessness increases seem to go hand in hand.

Simulated events included the poverty line high jump, the welfare hurdles, and the buy-athalon.

The event received a lot of press, but some of the coverage was bathed in the context of what the BC government is doing, as opposed to what it isn’t.

24 hours, which often lends a sympathetic ear to issues in the DTES, focused on the message that organizers were putting forward. A photo of Itchy and Scratchy, the official Poverty Olympics mascots and symbols of the DTES bed-bug infestation, was on the front cover. National networks, like CP, were not so sympathetic. I do not mean to pick on CP, but in their coverage the message of the organizers was split with official governmentMr. Bid. promises.

The 45 million dollar raise that Poverty Olympics speaker’s said VANOC officials gave themselves was silent in CP, while the six and a half million dollars the BC government recently announced towards social housing was highlighted.

While I am aware of the need to give fair space to either side of an issue, in some cases, like global warming, it is not appropriate to give minority naysayers a proportional say.

A day after the Poverty Olympics, Feb 4, a homeless man in the DTES burnt to death when his camping stove exploded, lighting him on fire in the doorway where he was seeking shelter.

A six and a half million dollar government promise, which falls far short of the amount needed to address homelessness, is not an equitable matter compared to a 45 million dollar bonus and a man burning to death in a doorway and should not be reported as so.


  • Here’s what the Vancouver Sun had to say about their lack of coverage of the Poverty Olympics. I’d be interested in the opinions of journalism students about this response. Jean Swanson, one of the Poverty Olympics organizers

    From: Munro, Harold (VAN_Exchange)
    To: [email protected]
    Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2008 11:48 AM
    Subject: RE: The Vancouver Sun & the Poverty Olympics

    Thanks for your feedback.

    Typically we do not cover protest rallies. We find such events to be a waste of resources.

    Let me explain.

    Such events, whether hosted by the political left or right, tend to be rhetoric-filled gatherings that shed no new light on the issue at hand.

    Our preference is to assign reporters to dig into the issues, do original reporting, and present readers with the facts.

    As I’m sure you can appreciate, issues such as homelessness are complicated and can’t be reduced to a 30-second sound bite on television.

    We would much rather investigate the root causes of homelessness, in the hopes of holding politicians and others accountable for their actions or lack of action.

    That is why The Sun published a seven-part series on homelessness, including a declaration of rights for the homeless. We questioned the lack of spending by all levels of government on social housing, and raised concerns about the inadequacy of services for the mentally ill and drug addicted.

    Currently, we have two reporters investigating a follow-up series on homelessness that will include profiles of men, women and children living on the street. They started researching the series before Christmas and we hope to publish it in the spring.

    Additionally, two reporters are working on a special report (which I expect will run later this month) on the tragic lack of resources for those suffering the dual diagnosis of mental health and substance abuse.

    This follows a three-page report that we ran off the front page on the weekend about the new police study on mental health issues.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Harold Munro
    Deputy Managing Editor
    Vancouver Sun

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