Thursday, February 18, 2010

Here's to the ignoring the elephant in the room

I posted this photo a few days ago with the intent on writing a story beside it, explaining what exactly is going on. I just haven't found the time yet to do it.

I took this picture last Sunday downtown. The whole city is crazy with Olympic fever right now, and everywhere you look people are wearing Canada T-shirts and having their faces painted, or dancing in the streets. It's a giant, two-week long party and I just happen to be a part of it.

So is Sylvain Mameu, the man holding up the sign that reads, "food". He is a small part of the Olympics... though, perhaps he should be representing a very large part.

Poverty in Vancouver is at its worst, and while protesters have done everything they can to get media, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and government to recognize the larger issue, it is repeatedly put on the back burner as corporations swim in a pool filled with money.

I'm not cynical about the Olympics. On the contrary, I think Vancouver is doing an amazing job and I think the city vibe has never been more exciting. I just find it really sad that the majority of people don't take the time to smile, talk or even drop a quarter into this man's hat to help him out, especially seeing as the system is designed for him to fail.

Sylvain told me that he wasn't always homeless. He moved to Vancouver and raised his children here, he lived in Horseshoe Bay, he worked. And then it just... happened. His hands are cramped and aching with arthritis, his teeth are rotting out, and his body seems so frail that it could break in two at any second. He said to me that if a man doesn't feed his dog or cat, he is charged with animal cruelty and can even face jail time. And yet, here the government is, neglecting its own people right down to the core.

Is that cruelty to humans? If we have the resources (which we most certainly do, having spent $6 billion on the 2010 Olympics), and we have the knowledge, why does it seem like such a challenging task to create homes and programs for these people to help get them off the street?

I don't really understand it, but it makes me sad. Really, because I as one person can't do anything about it. I can't bring him home, and help get him on his feet. All I can do is smile, and take a photo of him on this street, and embarrass him as he gets down on his knees and begs for change.


  1. totally agree.
    the olympics should be a time to shine light on such poverty.


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