Olympic 'Spirit Train' met with protesters
Published: September 22, 2008
Source: The Canadian Press
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MOODY, B.C. — A cross-country rail trip aimed at boosting enthusiasm for
the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was disrupted Sunday by noisy
demonstrators protesting the Games' impact on the environment, the
homeless and aboriginal rights.
About three dozen protesters attempted to drown out a ceremony marking
the departure of the Canadian Pacific (TSX:CP) Spirit Train in Port
Moody, east of Vancouver.
As protesters repeatedly yelled though bullhorns and banged pots, the
band on a railcar stage turned up its volume to match the demonstrators'
Scuffles erupted as police officers tried to hold back protesters. One
man was arrested and carried away by his arms and legs.
Sgt. Ken MacDonald of Port Moody Police said a man and a woman were
arrested for assault. They were pulled from the banner-shaking crowd in
front of the stage after a woman and her two children were surrounded.
Giving her name only as Gina, the woman said she was trying to take her
four-year-old daughter, Parisa, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, to see
the band when protesters closed in on them.
With several hundred people attending the event, the protest group
yelled slogans about stolen native land and housing.
B.C Finance Minister Colin Hansen, whose portfolio includes provincial
responsibility for the Games, played down the impact of the protest.
"I think this particular group have totally discredited themselves from
their past antics," Hansen said. "They claim to be proponents of First
Nations rights, yets they're shouting down an aboriginal band that's on
"The vast majority of First Nations in British Columbia are supporting
The train is staging a 10-city tour. Anti-Olympic activists have pledged
to meet it at every stop.
A group calling itself the Olympic Resistance Network says the Olympics
will displace Vancouver's homeless population, hurt the environment and
perpetuate the "theft of indigenous land."
Group spokesman Garth Mullins said a lot of voices were being left out
of the Spirit Train festivities.
"We're trying to join the discussion on what the Olympics are all about
and the impacts they're going to have on the environment, especially on
homelessness in Vancouver, on property values, on the incredible
acceleration of development," he said.
The federal government has worked to counter such criticism, signing
agreements worth billions of dollars with the four bands whose
traditional territories are home to the Games.
James Moore, secretary of state for the 2010 Olympics who is seeking
re-election for the Conservatives in Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam,
said he was disappointed by the protest and arrests.
"People can debate and have their disagreements - they have the right of
free speech," he said. "Obviously, it's disappointing for the community.
"I don't think the protesters are doing themselves any favours. Our
community doesn't need or deserve this."
The Spirit Train is scheduled to stop in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon,
Winnipeg, and four Ontario communities - Thunder Bay, Sudbury,
Mississauga and Smiths Falls - before ending its journey in Montreal on
The train will make a repeat journey in the fall of 2009, and possibly
after the Games as part of a tour for medallists.
CP Rail paid somewhere between $3 million and $15 million to be the
official rail freight services supplier to the 2010 Olympics.
CP spokesman Mike LoVecchio said the company repsects the right to
protest, but the show will go on.
"The bottom line here is we've got a show to produce, we want to produce
that show," LoVecchio said. "We want to bring the Olympics and the
Olympic spirit to Canadians across Canada, and that's what we're looking