An article in the front page of the Vancouver Sun this week says that the Falun Gong are going to be allowed to rebuild their protest booth on Granville Street. Although I rejoice that the court has decided to give a public voice back to those who stand up for the injustice being inflicted on their fellow religious adherents, I cannot help at the same time to be saddened when I think about why this booth was ordered to be disassembled in the first place.
The timing appears to be more than a little suspicious. Those familiar with Vancouver will know that the protest booth has been a part of the landscape in the fair city since August 2001. To be sure the city has wanted to get rid of the protest booth for quite some time now—Vancouver’s former fearless leader Sam Sullivan started the process in 2006. These efforts met no success until last year when Vancouver was granted an injunction which required the booth to be removed. Fast forward one year and the BC Court of Appeal unanimously decides that the original judge who granted the injunction made an error.
I cannot help but find the timing of these events to be more than a little suspicious. Despite the victory of the Falun Gong in the Court of Appeal, the process ensured that the booth would be removed between 2009 and late 2010. Perhaps there was some sort of highly publicized event occurring in the ‘Greatest City on Earth’ in this time period that made the authorities want to make the Falung Gong go away—at least for a little while?
Of course the irony in this should not be lost. It has been said that the Olympics were Canada’s coming out party. It was a time where patriotism wasn’t hid underneath a shell of Canadian politeness but rather where we shouted “we’re Canadian and we’re proud of it”. In my opinion national pride is something this country has been missing for a long time. Healthy patriotism can be a sign that a country is maturing and are shoring up a sense of identity—a sense of who they are.
Unfortunately it is precisely this factor that still seems to be lacking in the Canadian psyche. Sure we are proud of our geography, diversity, and clean streets but what of our character? What is it about who we are that makes us gush with pride? It is my hope that as country we take on an identity that goes beyond politeness—surely this must not be the primary virtue! I dream of a country that stands up for justice whose citizens rail against the violation of basic human rights no matter how financially significant the abusers are. It’s time for politeness with a backbone.
“OK”, you may be thinking “I get what you’re saying but aren’t you making a little bit much out of an eye-sore protest booth in our otherwise beautiful city that nobody cares about anyway. Besides it’s not like the booth is saving any lives”. It’s true the Falun Gong booth has not likely saved any lives from the totalitarian government in China. However the cold reality is that the protest booth is one of the few public voices this oppressed group has. Unless the civic leaders were to publicly condemn the actions of the Communist Party of China or provide some other voice for this religious group their actions say that the murdering of thousands, harvesting of organs, and exile of hundreds of thousands to Chinese Gulag-style work camps (called Laogai) does not matter.
I understand that in the time of recession increasing trade with the emerging market of China is being heralded as our great escape and the road back to prosperity. However no matter how tempting and insistent is the Siren’s call there is a voice that is even harder to ignore. The blood of the murdered cries out from the ground—it’s so loud, it’s deafening….